I was lucky enough to read Holly's debut novel Geek Girl earlier in the year, and absolutely loved it. So when time came to read Model Misfit, the second book in the series, I was in!
YA contemporary Thursday/contemporary Thursday is when we review the latest and greatest books!
Paperback, 356 pages
Published September 26th 2013 by HarperCollins Children's Books
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Harriet knows that modelling won’t transform you. She knows that being as uniquely odd as a polar bear isn’t necessarily a bad thing (even in a rainforest). And that the average person eats a ton of food a year, though her pregnant stepmother is doing her best to beat this.
What Harriet doesn’t know is where she’s going to fit in once the new baby arrives.
With summer plans ruined, modelling in Japan seems the perfect chance to get as far away from home as possible. But nothing can prepare Harriet for the craziness of Tokyo, her competitive model flatmates and her errant grandmother’s ‘chaperoning’. Or seeing gorgeous Nick everywhere she goes.
Because, this time, Harriet knows what a broken heart feels like.
Can geek girl find her place on the other side of the world or is Harriet lost for good?
I was feeling that way when Holly Smale's sophomore novel Model Misfit showed up on NetGalley, and I eagerly requested it. I fell in love with Geek Girl earlier this year, and I figured that if anything could get me out of my slump, it would be Holly's delightfully off-beat Harriet Manners.
I was right. This is a sparkling, laugh-out-loud funny sophomore novel, and I insist that you read it immediately. Or I'll send Yuka after you! (Kidding!)
Things that worked:
Harriet's grown in leaps and bounds since the first novel, but not in a way that diverts from her true self. She's still delightfully nerdy, still prone to randomly rattling off random factoids when she's nervous, and still true to everything important in her life, from studying for her exams, to her family, and her friends.
However, she's also been exposed to the real world more now, and realizes that things aren't always how she idealizes them to be. She stands up for herself, and doesn't accept being bullied sitting down. She campaigns to get what she wants, though albeit, in her delightfully own quirky way. This only develops further when Harriet is sent to Japan on an important modeling assignment, she starts interacting with people that force her to learn how to overcome obstacles with humor, intelligence and understanding, and grow up even more.
Like Cath in Fangirl, I think readers, particularly younger readers, will relate to Harriet universally. There's a little bit of Harriet in all of us, and Smale has found that thread of universality perfectly.
As for the secondary characters - they're still completely amazing. Loved Nat, and the fact that she's protective of Harriet, but won't also hesitate to tell Harriet when she thinks that Harriet is wrong. Harriet's family members and modeling family members are all still delightfully, hilariously quirky, including some new additions.
* The writing
I never laugh out loud when reading, but Smale definitely had me laughing with her dialogue. Smale writes with an ease and intelligence that - and I hope you'll forgive me for this comparison, Holly! - strongly reminded me of Douglas Adams. It's the type of witty, intelligent humor that shows an author who is genuinely interested in the world around her, and is happy to share her joy in the world via her character.
* The setting
Smale brings Harriet to Japan in book two, and we get to see a completely foreign world unfolding in front of Harriet's eyes. Loved the fact that Harriet fully embraced the fact that she was in a foreign country, marveling over all of the new sights and experiences, while also thoughtfully admitting to herself that she was still homesick.
While the overall overview that the reader got of Japan was awesome, the underlying lesson that it's smart to embrace cultures, and to enjoy the fact that you're in a foreign environment that you can learn from, is a fantastic one.
* The romance
Holly Smale absolutely rocks, because Harriet's relationship with Nick is a thing of beauty.
Smale wonderfully captures every typical thought that girls have when dating for the first time (or even the tenth, fifteenth time), and shows that no matter how beautiful or how talented you may be, you'll still experience those same insecurities when you're working with someone that you really like.
I loved that the relationship was difficult, and I loved that Harriet's friends and family were fiercely loyal and protective of her as she tried to figure things out. Smale has created relationships that are perfect examples for teenaged girls, and I'm hoping that educators/parents will take advantage of this for their students/teen.
* The ending
Without giving any spoilers away, the book could have ended a way that is standard for novels in the genre. However, Smale draws everything out in a way that shows that no matter how old people are, they can still learn from the situation.
Things that didn't work:
I recommend this book to everyone, but especially for those who enjoy a healthy dose of excellent contemporary YA.
Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of Model Misfit from HarperCollins UK via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
About the author:
As a teenager, she also did a little modelling in the hope that eventually she would be sent somewhere exciting.
Holly has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Shakespeare, and currently lives either in London or @holsmale.