These days, it’s actually okay to be a geek. Let me ask the following questions, and odds are you will confirm them: Did you write fanfiction and stay up to read your favorite series’ next book? Did you draw fan art and hide it in your notebook or put it on deviantART? Did you go to midnight releases dressed in costumes? But most of all, did you make friends with characters from all across media—characters that felt as real and true as your own self? Better yet, do you take geeking to the next level by going to comic book conventions? There are many places where dreams come true, and so, it makes sense that someone would re-write a fairy tale where the Prince Charming is a celebrity guest and Cinderella a mere fangirl. Though Geekerella, the title of this con-going fairy tale by Ashley Poston, is a lot more complex and honest in its endeavors than you would expect a teenage Cinderella story to be.
Danielle “Elle” Wittimer lives in a once-upon-a-time household with her control-freak stepmother Catherine and twin beauty vlogger stepsisters Chloe and Cal, but all Elle wants is to go to L.A. where she’ll write screenplays and blog about the Star Trek-esque sci-fi series, Starfield. Her only possible escape comes in an unexpected way: win a cosplay contest, and get first-access to the movie reboot premiere of Starfield. On the other hand, Darien Freeman, the leading man of the Starfield reboot, does not appreciate being labeled as a mere heartthrob, when actually, he is just as much a geek as anyone with a ticket to his movie debut. Elle and Darien’s worlds cross as the con gets closer, and it turns out, they have a lot to teach each other…
I can describe this book as A Cinderella Story meets Sydney White meets You’ve Got Mail. The two mains falling in love over anonymous text messages, while despising each other in person, is just adorable, and the overall taste of geek culture is a welcome addition to a standard formula. You’ll find a plethora of references to multiple fandoms, so odds are you won’t be left without a token of affection.
This is a wonderful cast of characters, each one treated with sensitivity and truth. Elle and Darien are both relatable and adorable, each with their own quirky exclamations (“Nox’s ass,” “Holy overload, Batman!” etc.). Elle could just as easily have been a picture-perfect heroine who lets her stepfamily walk over her, but she’s a Cinderella who can bare her fangs when she needs to. Darien, too. He’s a nice, smart guy, but he still gets angry and he does reach his limits. I appreciate that kind of dimension in a young adult fairy tale retelling, especially since a Cinderella story is the easiest and most appealing story to tell. And then, there’s our best friend/fairy godmother, Sage, who doesn’t give a rat’s butt what you think of her, as long as you don’t mess with her friends—she’s definitely not Perrault’s fairy godmother.
I haven’t hated a Cinderella stepfamily this much since Ever After. Catherine and Chloe (I’m leaving Cal out since we need a token good stepsister) do some pretty despicable things, which I won’t name here because spoilers, but it took great effort not to scream colorful obscenities at what they do to bring Elle down.
I will give this book some credit for throwing a few surprises into the mix—nothing groundbreaking, but still enough to throw those who think they can see what’s coming off the trail. Elle’s blog, Rebelgunner, plays a big part in the Starfield fandom’s initial backlash against Darien, and you would think it plays an even bigger part in some third-act misunderstanding between the love interests. But again, Elle and Darien are treated with such care that their decisions regarding their relationship feel natural—again, not an easy feat in a book like this.
And so, this is where I confess that, when it came to this book, my uptight tendencies failed a bit. I was very quick to write this book off, one, because it was ANOTHER young adult Cinderella, and two, because it took place at a convention, which, in the wrong hands, could come across as stereotypical and bandwagon-hopping. But if you have any inkling of geek in you, you might wind up crying at what a tribute the book makes to the culture. Ashley Poston, you’ve done us geeks proud.