Geek Girl by Holly Smale

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!

Geek Girl in all its Glory!

Geek Girl in all its Glory!

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.

I erm... Got bored at work.

I erm… Got bored at work.

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.

Model Misfit is out in Paperback now!

Model Misfit is out in Paperback now!

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.

D

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Geekhood by Andy Robb

HELLO WORLD! I’m actually tearing through books now, which is a welcome change from the last few months. HOWEVER, I’m a massive gamer, and this weekend saw the release of the amazing Gearbox sequel Borderlands 2, and I would be lying if I said it has not been taking up a lot of my time (19 hours since Friday at 11am…), but I’m still hammering some books, and today I’ll be reviewing the wonderful Geekhood by Andy Robb. Like the title said. Obviously.

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The Nerdtastic cover for Geekhood.

Archie is a Geek. A massive one. In fact, as Geeks go, our 14 year old hero is a textbook as they go: Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of The Rings and all. He lives with his Mum and her new boyfriend Tony (The Tosser), whilst trying to host perfect tabletop gaming nights in his new bedroom (see: LAIR), avoid facing his parents separation and generally avoid life in general. And Archie is happy in his little world, in which he talks to himself incessantly in sarcastic inner-monologue, whilst presenting the perfect, socially detached outer self to the world. Then of course, the inevitable happens, Archie meets a girl. Not just any girl, but Sarah, the new Goth girl in school, and not only does she notice Archie, but she’s also the singularly most beautiful creature he’s ever seen, like a Unicorn crossed with a Mermaid by way of a Siren. Or something. Geekhood follows Archie’s story, his journey… NO, his quest, to shed his Geekdom, settle in to an adult life, sort his parents out AND win fair maiden’s heart. Of course, it doesn’t all quite work as simply as that. Turns out a Dragon and rapidly falling hit points aren’t the worst thing to face in the dead of night, it’s inner turmoil and a very irate Gargoyle…

I am a Geek. No need to rush to comfort me, I’ve been a Geek since I first started searching the RAF base I grew up on for UFO’s, through Star Wars, Star Trek, The X-Files, R.A. Salvatore and beyond, and I’m happy in the person I am. One thing that first concerned me about Geekhood is that I hate it when Geek culture is played out wrong, that drives me nuts, and I’m always worried Geeks might be patronised and made to look stupid (SEE: The Big Bang Theory). However, after a conversation with authour Andy Robb on Twitter (@ThatAndyBloke fyi) about painting Warhammer models, I thought to myself I bet this guy gets it. Of course, he’s dressed as Frodo in his profile picture, which lends comfort too.

Geekhood is hilarious, touching, sweet, painful and brilliant. I once heard it described as being like The Big Bang Theory, but it’s so much more emotionally mature than that, and it’s filled with such a dose of British wit and self-deprecation that it could never be like that. I like TBBT, but this is what that show would be like if it was written by the people from the Inbetweeners, it’s so quintessentially British. I found myself reminded of all of my school chums, our afternoons discussing whether we thought Artemis Entrei would be a fighter and rogue multiclass (that’s D&D by the by, and ACE Fantasy novels to boot). Archie and his sense for pushing anything serious aside struck quite a chord with me, I’ve never really enjoyed facing the tough stuff in life, and I sympathise with Archie about it all effects your sleeping and dreams, because it really does. All in all, Andy is clearly a Geek at heart, and all the gaming culture is spot on, the film references are perfectly placed to the point where I was laughing out loud in the staff room at work. Archie’s Inner Monologue is scathing and sarcastic, and his external self is a brilliant mix of wanting to do what’s best and self-doubt in what people think about him.

I suppose what it all comes down to is a great coming-of-age story, it’s like Louise Rennison for Geeky boys, like Adrian Mole for the Star Wars generation. It’s about how a socially inept group of boys deal with meeting and dealing with the fairer sex, how they discover all sorts of new hormonal responses (with guffaw-inducing consequences – BRAS!) & also come to terms with who they are themselves. Just because something you’re passionate about isn’t “cool” doesn’t mean it’s wrong, so accept your quirks, hold confidence in what you love, and people will see that, and they won’t care what kind of demons you can summon. NOTE: Always cast protection from evil prior to summoning Demons, they can be tricky little fellas.

The dialogue snaps and crackles with wit, sarcasm and genuinely sweet passages, bucket loads of film/book/TV references and a healthy dose of tea, which is a staple diet of Archie’s household. It deals with some really complex themes about growing up, and about family discord in a down to Earth, non-patronising and funny way, so I think it’s an important book for young boys to realise that it’s OK to feel their feelings, and to talk about them, before they end up exploding like the Death Star. It deals with things in a way that will appeal to boys, using humour as a good balance to the embarrassment. 

If you’re a proud Geek, read it. If you’re a closet Geek, get yourself out and read it. If you’re not a Geek, read it and learn to appreciate the differences in people. It’s ace! If Archie had loved Green Day and Alkaline Trio, with an older brother endlessly feeding him new great Sci-Fi and Fantasy, then I’d be suspicious Andy Robb was doing a Truman Show on my whole life. I really hope there’s more to look forward to. Andy, if you do read this: Set d20’s to stun.

‘Till next time lords and ladies, I’ll be playing lots of tasty Video Games!

D