This book will make you want to: a) binge the entirety of a long running sci-fi show, b) go to a comic convention, c) fall in love with a mystery person via text, or d) all of the above. Nerdy books are my kryptonite – add in a Cinderella retelling, and you’ve pretty much created my dream book. With that in mind, I was almost hesitant to read this book, simply because it almost seemed too good to be true. Thankfully, it surpassed my expectations and was an excellent example of a novel that absolutely nails nerd and convention culture while also not using existing source material – plus the romance was über-cute and adorable.
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
You can tell that the author is truly a nerd – there were tons fun deep cut nerd references throughout the book. This authenticity really pushed this book to the next level – you could feel the passion for the geek culture in every page of the book. Even the made up fandom that the book centers around felt authentic and real – I found myself wishing that it did exist so I could binge watch it on Netflix.
Writing-wise, this book used a few trope-y mechanisms: alternating point of view chapters and text messages between characters. Often, I find that the use of text messages in stories can often be a clunky narrative device. In this book, they were used intelligently and believably – they efficiently build chemistry between the two leads and help to drive the narrative forward. The same can be said about the alternating points of view – it helped to bring depth to the story and really made it easy to fall in love with the characters.
Strongly relating to and seeing yourself in a character is one of my favorite experiences while reading a book. As soon as I can easily put myself in a character’s shoes, it becomes much easier to understand and reason through their decisions and emotions. Almost immediately, I could relate to Elle – I became invested very quickly and felt really empathetic for her. Elle checked all of the Cinderella boxes: has two wicked step sisters, is in the care of her abusive step mother, is socially isolated, lives in an attic, and longs for greener pastures. Even though the world was against her, Elle was a remarkably strong woman. Her strength of character was inspiring – she was mostly able to let her step-family’s insults roll off her back and she took the high road, focusing on her future and putting her energy into her favorite fandom.
My favorite part of the book was the complex female characters. I’ll start with Sage – she’s a badass I-don’t-give-a-damn character who is deeply dedicated to her friends and who was willing to go to extreme lengths to help them. I loved reading about her friendship with Elle, about how their friendship grew from sitting in a bright orange food truck not talking to each other to going on a renegade road trip to a comic conventions. I hope I get to read more about these two in the upcoming companion books. Another set of complex characters were Elle’s evil step sisters. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was pleasantly surprised by their complexity and depth and how their stories ended.
This book successfully walks the fine line of embracing and celebrating nerd culture without pandering to the nerdy/ geeky crowd (*cough* Big Bang Theory *cough*). If you love Cinderella remakes and/or you love anything nerdy, you’ll love this book. It’s a good retelling with a funny nerdy twist. If you’ve already read and loved this book, you might want to check out Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. 4/5