Harper Collins Children's, 2013
[New release: 28th February 2013]
As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did.
And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?
Geek Girl might be daftest book I have read in a while. I think this could have gone either way in the first few chapters, but as well as being a bit daft, it's also a book full of genuine warmth, and the two balanced out really well. Harriet is 15 years old and a self-proclaimed geek. When she makes this declaration at the beginning of the book, I had a fear it was going to be some kind of hipster-style, I'm-so-uncool-I'm-cool thing, but Harriet is a "geek" in a way that I could appreciate. She's awkward and socially inept and a beat away from most people around her. She doesn't have many friends, and she's smart in a I've-done-all-my-homework kind of way, and through all of this she becomes likable for her sheer self-deprecating nature. Harriet is just Harriet. She knows it's weird that she hides under tables when she gets anxious, but she can't really help it.
I appreciated Harriet precisely because she seemed very real to me, and very recognisable as a 15 year old. Perhaps it's because this is British YA, and the teenagers always seem less self-assured and more mired in normal stuff like school and home and having to catch the bus everywhere, I don't know! Her home life was actually one of the high points for me. She lives with her dad and her stepmum, and her mum has been dead almost as long as Harriet has been alive. Both her dad and Annabel are well-characterised and integral to the story, and it was nice to see a normal, nice stepmum for a change (I really liked the scene where Harriet goes to see Annabel at her offices near the end). Her dad was pretty silly at times, and very funny, and I liked his relationship with Harriet: they came across as being close, but more through their exasperation with each other and their jokes and poking fun at each other, rather than any huge declarations of emotion, which was both funny and realistic.
Even though the school/home stuff was very realistic (one of my favourite parts was probably the English teacher leaving the classroom because half of the class were reading copies of Romeo & Juliet rather than Hamlet, which seems like the kind of thing taken straight from my own under-provisioned school days), the rest of the plot seemed quite cartoony. At the beginning Harriet and her friend Nat go to the Clothes Show in Birmingham, which starts off Harriet's ill-fated modelling career. This part seemed a little bit far-fetched at times (particular the trip to Russia), but it fitted with the light, slightly silly tone of the book, so although it wasn't entirely believable it didn't stop me reading.
The focus on the friendship between Harriet and Nat was nice, and explored the fact that in some ways they were growing apart, yet they still considered themselves best friends. Toby was rather unusual, but good for some comic relief, and it was nice that the book was more concerned with Harriet's own development and realisations about family and friendships and being yourself, rather than romance (although there was a smidge of hot boy to be found). Geek Girl isn't a heavy-duty read, but a funny, light book about a girl figuring out her life and how to do the right thing, and Harriet is a unique enough protagonist to carry it to the end.
Overall rating: 7/10
Book source: Netgalley.