Thursday, 28 February 2013

Review: Geek Girl, Holly Smale

Geek Girl

Holly Smale

Harper Collins Children's, 2013

[New release: 28th February 2013]

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 

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.


  1. I've seen this book around but your's is the first review I've read, Kit. It sounds quirky and fun. Hooray for breaking the evil stepmother stereotype and for focusing on friendships over romance. And your "smidge of hot boy" comment made me laugh:) Nice review!

  2. Ooh, so glad you liked! I remember seeing this and liking the cover and the blurb so I'm glad it's fun and realistic, despite the few flaws. Brit YA is always so good!

  3. It sounds good, I'll see if it's still up on Netgalley! My heart plummeted with your comment about it being possible being the "daftest book I have read in a while." I hate seeing books reviewers didn't enjoy, and then you carried on and I felt all "yay!" again. I'm enjoying daft books at the moment :)
    Great review, Kit.


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