What can I say about Holly Smale? She’s one of the nicest, most genuine authors I know on Twitter. Her debut novel, Geek Girl, has actually been out for a little while now (in fact, the sequel Model Misfit came out in September), but because my reading pile is astronomical, I’ve only recently gotten through it!
Harriet Manners is a Geek. She’s always been fascinated by facts, horded knowledge & had a passion for spreading her love of school, & she’s always been clumsy, lacked grace & struggled to make friends. She’s come to terms with it, it isn’t the most fun existence, but it’s who she is. After all, things will be better when she leaves school for University, right? So for the time being, she takes the bullying of her arch-nemesis Alexa, supported by her father, step-mother Annabel & her best friend Nat. However, during a school trip to a fashion show, something unbelievable happens: Harriet Manners, uber-geek, is discovered by a fashion company. They want her to be a model. It’s nothing Harriet has ever dreamed of before, but she soon realises it could be the perfect chance to reinvent herself & change her life. People would stop seeing her as the shy, awkward walking encyclopaedia & see her as a graceful, fashionable model. The only problems are: Annabel, who is vehemently opposed to the idea of her teenage step-daughter juggling school & a modelling career, & Nat, who has dreamed of a life as a professional model ever since she could walk. Harriet is going to upset some of the people closest to her to try & change her world, but it’ll be worth it, right…?
I inhaled Geek Girl. It was a total joy, funny & light, whilst still managing to work in some important & strong ideas. Harriet Manners is a girl I could really relate to, as an awkward, clumsy teenager who ardently hoarded facts like a dragon hordes gold, I was immediately on her wavelength. I felt a lot of painful familiarity with her good-natured desire to make everyone happy, & her tendency towards self-blame at every given opportunity, & so that really endeared her character to me. I loved her faults, & I laughed my way through her misadventures. One of my other favourite characters in the book was Harriet’s father, with his laid back, yet enthusiastic attitude & his ridiculously childlike outlook on life. Whether bickering with his wife (he & Annabel have some absolutely hilarious exchanges), or chasing scantily clad Russian supermodels, he’s a great counterpoint to the anxiety & stress that Harriet expresses in her surroundings. Annabel, Harriet’s Stepmother, is also great fun to read, a spiky, yet caring character, full of determination & strength, tempered brilliantly by a soft inner core. That sounds like an ice cream… She’s not an ice cream. Harriet’s other friends also fit together with her perfectly, all cogs in her disastrous machine; Her Geek stalker, Toby is brilliantly creepy, Nat is acidic, witty & sharp, & Nick is cool, funny & perfectly at home in any situation. All these characters really highlight the hilarity of Harriet’s actions.
Holly has a brilliant talent for comedic timing, & a great grasp of funny, ridiculous, slapstick situations. Some, I feel, MUST be semi-autobiographical… But the way she writes them is cringe worthy, in a Faulty Towers manner. Harriet’s reactions to the situations around her, collapsing under embarrassment, just make them so much funnier, sweeter & great to read. As I said earlier, the dialogue crackles with hilarious lines as well, from Nat’s smart remarks to Annabel’s sharp comebacks; there are plenty of parts of the book that had me grinning from ear to ear. Geek Girl isn’t all comedy though, & hidden underneath the hilarious mishaps is a story of sweetness, & of the importance of learning to love yourself. Harriet is so desperate to change herself that she doesn’t see the positives that people love in her, & I think that’s an important lesson for teenage girls to read about. No matter how much you change on the outside, people will still love the person on the inside that they know, deep down. I think knowing that a lot of Holly’s life has gone into writing this book makes it even more fascinating & touching, & I did often find myself wondering what was fiction & what had been directly lifted from her own short lived Teen Modelling career.
Geek Girl is a funny, light, slapstick comedy, with witty dialogue, a powerful sense of realism, despite some absurd situations. Underneath the Louise-Rennison style teenage laughs though, is a heartfelt story of belonging which worms its way into your brain while it’s too busy laughing your socks off. Great crossover appeal for pre-teens too!
As always, thanks for reading.