Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Date of Publication: 4th April, 2017
Page Count: 320 pages (hard cover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Anything can happen once upon a con…
When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.
Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
Well, don’t I feel foolish now! I have to admit I was completely wrong about this book – I mistakenly requested this on Netgalley when I was really after Queens of Geek (reviewed here); it’s an easy mistake as they both have the word ‘Geek’ in the title, both about nerdy fangirls, both set at conventions… I loved Queens of Geek and didn’t feel like this would live up to its rival, but now I need to declare that I did Geekerella an injustice because it was a fantastic read!
Originally, I put this down after reading a few pages because it opens with what is for me the weakest aspect of the story – the retelling of Cinderella, more specifically in relation to the Wicked Stepmother and Evil Stepsisters. Their mistreatment of Elle is so ridiculously OTT that I can’t even muster any sympathy for her because I’m too busy rolling my eyes at how cartoonishly villainous her step-relatives are and how unrealistic it is for her to slave away for them without ever reporting this unbearable home situation to an authority figure.
Elle is a well-adjusted teenage girl in the modern world – it’s not like she’s Harry Potter, orphaned from birth and raised by relatives who reinforced how worthless he was and ingrained a lack of trust in adults in him which meant he always tried to solve problems himself. She on the other hand had a loving father for most of a happy life into her teenage years, she knows that the way she’s treated is wrong (whereas Harry seemed to think of it as nothing out of the ordinary), but she doesn’t ever try to seek help. I know Cinderella is famously passive in the fairytale, but this is a modernization, there needed to be some explanation for why Elle would suffer through the deprivation and daily humiliation without taking any steps to help herself.
So yes, I snorted in disbelief and moved on to another book, but eventually felt guilty about not fulfilling my obligation to review this, so came back to give it another go, thinking I would at least read a few chapters before DNF’ing…and OMG, I ended up reading the whole story in one sitting, I was hooked to the point where I had to stay up after midnight to finish it!
I still don’t believe the fairytale retelling aspect was needed – that really didn’t get any better as the story progressed. But there were so many other riches offered that I could overlook the clunky incorporation of the Cinderella tale. I really loved the author’s take on fandom, it was a loving ode to fan culture and very true to my own experiences (as opposed to Fangirl, which never rang true to me). I engaged whole-heartedly with Elle’s character with her obsessive dedication to Starfield and how she poured her heart out into her blog posts even when she had a low follower count because she loved the show so much she had to publish her thoughts.
Sure, she was pretty judgmental and narrow-minded about Darien’s casting as her beloved Carmindor, and I’ve seen a lot of other readers complain about her snotty attitude at him taking up the role, but honestly, that’s fandom for you. Exhibit A: every time the new Doctor on Doctor Who is being cast, there are basically riots in the comments section before anyone is even confirmed! Elle’s petty takedown of Darien via blog posts was not a shining moment for her character, but since when do we require our protagonists to be perfection incarnate? I like that she was allowed to be flawed and that her devotion to the show revealed some unattractive aspects of her personality. That’s probably not surprising speaking as someone who has written fanfic about their least favorite character dying horribly in multiple scenarios… 😉
And I ADORED the unusual way the romance developed! We got halfway through the story without the characters having met, as their interaction was solely via text messaging, and I was completely sold on the developing relationship. It’s such a relief to have a break from the dreaded ‘insta-luv’ that’s endemic to YA! Instead we have our main characters getting to know each other and bonding before anything remotely romantic happens, say what! I really enjoyed their nerdy conversations and how they come to depend on each other for emotional support, I found it so heart-warming.
Usually in YA, boy meets girl, boy and girl experience FIREWORKS as soon as they lock eyes and know they are fated to be, boy and girl irrationally value each other more than life itself after less than a day, etc. Instead, Geekerella has a wonderfully subtle and slow-burn relationship and you can see Elle and Darien gradually working their way into each other’s hearts with each geeky exchange and the later exchanging of confidences as their anonymity means that they can confess things to each other that they can’t to anyone else.
I don’t know why so many reviewers found the texting to be superficial and not a solid basis for friendship, much less romance. In this day and age, a lot of people connect via technology, it’s not unusual! I’m very defensive on this subject because as a lonely socially awkward teen loner, most of my friends were those I met online and they were every bit as ‘real’ to me as people I saw in everyday life. We exchanged Christmas cards, sent each other birthday presents, talked for hours late into the night – what’s not real about that? Darien and Elle’s friendship is just as legitimate being based off text messages as it would be if they sat next to each other at school or met at a club, even MORE so given how they trust each other enough to reveal closely guarded truths that they don’t usually disclose to people.
The female friendships were also a highlight – it was great to see Elle becoming close to her co-worker Sage and thrilling in the joy of introducing a newbie to her fandom! Romantic relationships aren’t the be-all-and-end-all in life, having a BFF in your corner is super important as well and I wriggled with glee to see Elle and Sage bonding over fandom and cosplay. Plus one of the evil stepsisters is also given more depth and plays a bigger role in the story than I expected, so at least not all the step-relatives were villainous caricatures. Cal has an unexpected small romantic mini-arc and I was so pleased with her character being fleshed out this way, I saw subtext and foreshadowing and I had hoped, but it was lovely to see it happen in the end, even if she wasn’t at the forefront of the story. I love when a female character gets to have complex and varied relationships with other girls (especially in YA, where it’s more common for them to be set up as rivals and tear each other apart), so kudos to the author for taking the time to include a variety of relationships!
Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties approve this book!
Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC free from Quirk Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.