Sunday, 17 January 2016
#CBR8 Book 2: "Geek Girl" by Holly Smale
Rating: 4 stars
Harriet Manners is a geek. If she wasn't already painfully aware of the fact, and her less than stellar social status among her fellow teens, someone helpfully wrote the word in big red letters on her satchel. She does have a very good friend, and the ardent admiration of Toby, the only kid in school geekier and more socially inept than she is. When Harriet is spotted by a modelling agency, she is confused and conflicted. Becoming a model has been the dream of her best friend Nat for practically forever, so it feels wrong for Harriet to suddenly steal said dream. On the other hand, becoming a fashion model might give her a chance to reinvent herself and show to the kids in school that she's more than some unpopular dork.
Of course, being a supermodel isn't all that easy, especially not for someone completely unfamiliar with make-up or walking in heels. It quickly turns out that fashion models are even more vicious and back-stabbing than the teenagers in school (quelle surprise!) and virtual nobody Harriet coming in to become the face of one of the most coveted modelling jobs in the world isn't going to make her more popular among the competitive women. She also keeps running into Nick, the most beautiful boy she's ever seen, and already an established model. Considering he's the male face of the same campaign she's been hired on, it's rather awkward when she can barely speak in full sentences around him.
Then there's keeping track of the lying. Harriet's step-mother, high-powered attorney Annabel, doesn't want her to become a model. Nat has always wanted to become a model, how will she feel if Harriet steals that dream away from her? Harriet's father decides that it may be best to lie to them until Harriet is back from her first modelling gig (in Moscow!), but of course it's difficult to cover up something that is written about in all the newspapers. They come home to discover that Annabel has packed her things and left them, and Nat no longer wants to speak to Harriet. Left only with the advice of her loyal stalker, Harriet and her dad attempts to get their lives back on track.
I saw this book highly recommended over on Forever Young Adult, and when it became available in an e-book sale AND fit into my Monthly Key Word Challenge for January, it seemed like fate. Going back to work after being off sick either partially or completely for most of October and November was HARD, you guys. I had so much to catch up on, and to make matters worse, the deadline to log all the end of term grades was set a week earlier than I was expecting. That meant that I needed light and undemanding entertainment for the few moments when I wasn't working on last minute assessment or grading, and this book fit the bill admirably.
It's absolutely a young adult book, and probably meant for younger teens rather than older, more sophisticated readers. I liked that the author is British, and hence there were a lot of British English terms I don't normally come across in my reading of YA, which tends to be American in origin. Harriet is a nice girl, and I totally related to her social ineptitude, while I was never quite as much of a pariah as her in secondary or high school. I had my own little crow of nerds to hang out with. I do know that going along to look at all things fashionable when you just want to stay home and read would be pretty nightmarish, as would the life of high fashion.
Apparently, Holly Smale herself was discovered by a modelling agency at the age of fifteen, so while things may be exaggerated for comic effect, I have no doubt that some of the things in the book are true to life. My only experience with fashion is the coverage of fashion shows on Go Fug Yourself, or the episodes I watched every now and then of America's/Sweden's/Norway's Next Top Model. It wouldn't surprise me at all that a teenage girl could go from unknown one day to the face of one of the biggest fashion campaigns in the world over the course of about a week.
My biggest niggle with this book was the way in which Toby, Harriet's self-proclaimed stalker, is handled. He's not just some random school friend who admires her from afar and is excited if they happen to share classes or end up on the same school bus together. Nope, there is a Toby-shaped hole worn in the hedge outside Harriet's house and he knows pretty much every aspect of her life and daily routine to a point where it made me very uncomfortable, even though he's clearly portrayed as someone completely harmless and only occasionally annoying. That Harriet's friends, teachers and parents appear aware of his obsession but have done nothing about it, baffled me.
There's a whole series of these books, with the continuing adventures of Harriet in the fashion world. I really liked her friendship with Nat and the portrayal of the parents, not to mention Wilbur, the over the top modelling agent who discovers her. I will therefore probably check out more books in the series, to see how things progress. Forever Young Adult were right to recommend the book.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.