Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Geek Girl (Smale)

AUTHOR: Holly Smale
SERIES: Geek Girl, book 1
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
PUBLICATION DATE: February 28, 2013
ISBN: 9780007489442
PAGES: 378
SOURCE: purchased e-book
GENRE: chick lit
SETTING: England, present day
GIVE IT TO: MS girls
SUMMARY: Fifteen-year old Harriet Manners knows she is a geek. She's really okay with that, except when she has to deal with mean girl Alexa and stalker-extraordinaire Toby. When Harriet is given an unexpected opportunity to model for an internationally-known modeling agency, she takes the chance, even though she knows it's her best friend Nat's dream.

WHAT I LIKED: I read this book on the recommendation of a teacher at my school. Her 5th grade daughter is hooked on this series, and we do not currently have it at our school. I have ordered it, and when it came up for $1.99 on BN.com, I went ahead and purchased it for my Nook.

I do think this series will be popular at my school, particularly with my 6th and 7th grade girls. It isn't great literature, but Harriet is an endearing main character, and the story of unknown-girl-turned-international-superstar is the stuff dreams are made of for many preteen girls.

I am curious where this series is going. There are currently five in the series, and I would love to see Harriet with fellow geek Toby rather than pretty-boy Nick.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The characters. We'll start with Wilbur, who works for the modeling agency that discovers Harriet. His little pet names for everyone and his 6-year old girl t-shirts just about drove me crazy. And he is supposed to be a professional modeling scout? What an idiot.

Harriet's father, whose mental maturity seems to be even younger than Harriet's. He lies to his wife, Annabel, who is practically Harriet's mother, and takes Harriet out of the country for a modeling shoot that his wife is clearly against. All kinds of problems result from his irresponsible choices. Another idiot who desperately needs to grow up.

Love-interest Nick. Where's the appeal, other than his looks? Harriet quickly develops a crush on him based 100% on Nick's appearance. Sure, it's realistic for a 15-year old girl, but couldn't the author have given Nick at least one-tenth of the personality of our Harriet?

Harriet's bestie Nat. She's supposed to be a sympathetic character, but she's really pretty horrible. Though she does stand up for Harriet eventually, it does not excuse her selfish, harmful behavior toward her friends. Nat only invites Harriet to the fashion expo (where Harriet is "spotted" by a modeling agency) because she "needs Harriet for support." From the very start, this sounded to me more like she didn't think Harriet would take attention away from Nat's model aspirations. Harriet clearly didn't want to go, even going so far as faking illness to get out of it, but Nat forces her to go. Then Nat has the nerve to get upset with Harriet, who does nothing at all to try to get the attention of the modeling agency. Even worse than that, to prevent her other (prettier?) friend from going to the expo, Nat actually poisons her food with prawns, which she knows the friend is highly allergic to. God forbid this unsuspecting friend ends up in the hospital or DYING from Nat's narcissism.

There are also credibility issues. I find it very, very hard to believe that:

  • An "ugly" girl is the new face of fashion? Just like that? No experience? No interest in modeling? Just BOOM! You're a model?

  • Cutting off another girl's ponytail at school doesn't warrant suspension or any disciplinary action whatsoever. I don't care what the other girl did, that action deserves serious consequences. Absolutely outrageous behavior.

  • The school takes the students to a fashion expo for a field trip. Where's the educational value in that? What are the vast majority of students who have no interest in fashion supposed to get out of it? Were the students supposed to buy stuff? Interview employees? Just walk around?

  • The vendors at the fashion market managed to send Harriet's parents a bill for the damage she caused. How did they know her name and address?

  • A high school teacher announces that he is leaving the room for 5 minutes and advises students to entertain themselves while he is gone. Of course, this is after he humiliates an honors student who, like most of the class, clearly didn't do her homework. Seriously? No suggestion for the class to read the assignment while he is gone? The textbook room can't wait until class is over? He can't send students to do that errand? Of course, bullying will ensue--it's important to the plot, y'all!
THE BOTTOM LINE: It's okay. Though Harriet and Toby's characters are cute, the supporting characters and unbelievable plot really got under my skin.  


READALIKES: All-American Girl (Cabot); My Super-Sweet Sixteenth Century (Harris)

  • Overall: 2/5
  • Creativity: 2/5
  • Characters: 2/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 2/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5 (preteens, mainly)
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: very mild; one mild kiss
  • Violence: mild; mean girl bullying
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
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  1. This is yet another reason I worry about the British. If this book had been set in the US, I might not have bought it. I am hoping that it reawakens interest in the Louise Rennison Angus, Thongs series and the Cherry Whytock books. Brit Lit is a sort of acquired taste and requires a change of perspective, I think!

    1. Haha--too funny! I work with a lot of British faculty and students (I'm at a British international school), and you are right--their humor is quite different from ours! P.S., I've tried twice to get into Angus, Thongs without success.


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