Contrary to popular opinion cultural critics do not exist to trash lovingly crafted works of art. The critic offers a brief and biased critical analysis of a work and its relationship to the wider cultural sphere. No work of art is an island. Though a critic/reviewer may appear to be offering a subjective opinion on a piece of art, her aim rather, is to consider the wider context of the work, identify where within the sphere of its medium it belongs, and then reflect on whether in comparison to its contempories the work is successful. Yes, we may offer opinions onto why we think it is no good, but not for the sake of it, but for the fact that in relation to what the artwork is meant to achieve it somehow fails.
So in relation to Geekerella, personally it may have lost me at hello, but its flaws are not based around a biased bemusement over Cosplay, it is rather that the book does not manage to stand out in a competitive and compelling young adult market. The publishers – Quirk Books – as the name suggests publish books that explore unusual, geeky and selective themes. Here there is room to offer your obsessions on paper, mash-up some classic (as with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and get away from all that stuck-up intellectualism that can push young passionate authors out of the limelight. And it’s not that Geekerella isn’t passionately produced, Ashley Poston is offering a contemporary fairy-tale for today’s geeky and forgotten youth, however, so are a lot of young adult authors and Geekerella doesn’t manage to pack the punch that means it stands out among them. Popular series like The Hunger Games really push the young adult format to the limit with its heavy, dystopian action set against unabashed political metaphor. Not that this is a similar ballpark for Geekerella, but considering that Twilight has managed to both play with essentially with a gushy, fantasy romance and develop an engaging plot that holds the reader’s attention Geekerella feels like it does not compete.
Essentially, the plot line follows the traditional Cinderella fairy-tale in a contemporary setting. Elle, aka Cinderella, is living with a seemingly uncaring stepmother and two mean stepsisters. Her life is at least brightened by sci-fi series Starfield. When she learns that sexy, ripped, teen heart-throb Darien is playing the star role she is disappointed that the show has slipped into pandering to teenage, lusty fandom. To prove her true Starfield credentials she works to compete in the ExcelisCon Cosplay Ball where she can truly bloom and find a way out of the dullness of ordinary life. Her task is to get there, to make the best costume and get back from the ball before curfew. The second perspective of the story is told by Darien who despite his good looks and fame is also a lonely Starfield fan. He is pushed hard by his manager/dad, surrounded by irritating fan girls and stalked at every corner by paparazzi. He is seeking true friendship, away from the shallowness of the film industry and he too hopes his Starfield obsession can translate into something more meaningful, so of course, fate collides to bring the two together.
Poston does provide a tale of a specific geeky romance and she delights in the quirks and joys of being a fangirl – this is genuinely sincere. The book is driven towards a specific, young and (though it pains me to classify books according to gender) essentially female audience that may be looking purely for an innocent, escapist romantic story, but it does not offer any surprises. It sticks pretty resolutely to the story of Cinderella complete with ball gown and glass-slipper and idyllic ending. The writing is clear and uncomplicated and easy to read, but never compelling. Also, though Elle is obviously not the same vacuous, fairy-tale damsel as Cinderella, she doesn’t really subvert the role in any way. She does sneak out and at least stand up for herself on occasion, but essentially the character still pines after the mysterious Carmindor (Prince) and hopes for the fairy-tale slow-kiss-ending like all teen romances.
I hope this book holds a spell over some readers, I’m sure it will, as there are books out there for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with a slushy fantasy, but I just wished for a few surprises here, in which regard I found none, but nevermind this dull critic’s objection, if you’d like Geekerella take it on, whatever floats your boat.
Ashley Poston grew up in the rural south, she worked for a brief stint as a barista, a hotelier, a clerk, and a freelance cover designer before she found her dream job in the publishing industry. Now she lives in New York City where she continues to have a quirk for dread pirates, moving castles, and Nora Ephron movies.
Geekerella was published by QUIRK Books on 4th March 2017.
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Review by Jessica Gregory
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