Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: 04 April 2017
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Elle is a huge fan of Starfield, the sci-fi show she and her father used to obsessively watch together before he died. Stuck with Catherine, her stepmother, and Chloe and Calliope, her evil twin stepsisters, Elle truly lives like a modern-day Cinderella. The only solace she has are late-night reruns of Starfield and her Starfield-themed blog Rebelgunner. A Starfield reboot is announced and Elle is thrilled until she hears about the casting of Darien Freeman, the teen heartthrob star of the OC-style show Seaside Cove. Furious that her favorite show is not only about to be ruined by an actor who has probably never even seen Starfield, Freeman will be filling the shoes of her hero Prince Carmindor. Soon Elle discovers that a cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon is the ticket to all her problems, but only if her family doesn’t ruin her chances.
Darien Freeman is secretly a massive geek. He has been a huge Starfield fan ever since his lonely childhood in Los Angeles and he knows every episode and every line. He has managed to land his dream role, Prince Carmindor, however the die hard Starfield fans are furious at his casting. Knowing that he has to prove himself to the fans, especially the outspoken author of Rebelgunner, Darien decides that he’ll judge a cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon as part of the press tour for his new film and can redeem himself to fans, face his past, and assert some independence.
I knew I had to read this book as soon as I learned about it. A geeky twist on the classic Cinderella story, Geekerella was everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s not just a fun and fluffy retelling of the fairy tale — although I did manage to read it in a single day — it investigates the things that make geek culture so wonderful and so problematic. Elle is more than a Cinderella stand-in. She’s not the most beautiful girl in the room, but she’s a smart, funny, and strong young woman. Despite the years of emotional abuse at the hands of her stepmother and her stepsisters, she is not broken. Her passion for Starfield is something I think a lot of us can relate to in some way. She’s just a normal girl — she could be you or your friend or that quiet girl who sits at the back of the class.
Elle was great. but I really, and quite unexpectedly, loved Darien. His whole character and story line were incredibly well done. Far from the passive prince, Darien struggles with his controlling father/manager, his fame and the consequences it brings, and his identity as a public and private figure. I thought he had so much depth and his story can teach us a lot about not making assumptions and judgements based on how a person looks. He was a true, modern Prince Charming.
The elements of the Cinderella story are all present in Geekerella, but with a modern twist. The fairy godmother is a punk rock girl, the carriage is a pumpkin-shaped vegan food truck, the ball is a fan convention, and Cinderella’s iconic dress is a cosplay. Poston manages to weave the familiar elements of the classic Cinderella tale together with modern touches and creates something new and relevant to her audience.
The best part of the book for me is how she tackled the darker side of fandoms. It’s easy to write a love letter to geek culture, but much harder to acknowledge that it is problematic in a number of ways. Elle is far from a perfect character. She easily falls into the ‘you are not like me therefore there’s no way you are a fan/worthy of this thing I love’ character type. She has absolutely no confidence that Darien can play this role because of his rise to fame in a cheesy teen TV show — it actually reminded me a lot of the backlash against Heath Ledger when he was cast as The Joker. She isn’t the only one; Dairen is approached by an angry fan early in the book and the online backlash, led by Rebelgunner, is high. Poston also challenges the idea of the ‘fake geek girl’ that many women face in the geek community, particularly at cons.
Filled with the power of fandom, friendship, and self-worth, Geekerella covers the heartbreak of losing a parent, the loneliness of being an outcast, and the power of fandom and friendships. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever been a part of a fandom, thrown themselves into the weird and wonderful geek culture, or has been treated unfairly by their peers because of what they love. Additionally, make sure you take a look at the acknowledgments at the end.
Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite!