Geek Girl is such a lovely book. It’s fun and funny, lighthearted yet with an excellent serious message running right through its heart: Be who you are.
Harriet Manners is a geek, no doubt about it. She’s looked the word up in the dictionary, thereby ensuring her status as a geek. The obsessive nature and social ineptness are also big clues. She feels that she doesn’t fit in at all at school, but at least she has her best friend Nat and her lovely parents. Unfortunately for Harriet a trip to The Clothes Show, which she’s coerced into by Nat, threatens to wreck these relationships. In a bewildering few minutes Harriet manages to send a whole row of stalls flying and get spotted by a model agency. The second of these events is as unlikely as the first was inevitable. Falling over and dying a social death – yes, getting signed up for a modelling contract – no. Still, it might not be that bad; except it’s Nat who’s supposed to be the model, and her step-mum has a few things to say about too.
Oh, poor Harriet, I felt so much sympathy for her. Her elaborate attempts to avoid going to The Clothes Show in the first place are hilarious, but to no avail. At every turn bad luck seems to stalk her, and all her attempts to make things better actually have the opposite effect. She’s also incapable of knowing when to STOP TALKING. Seriously, that girl could talk her way into trouble anywhere. Whether she’s spewing random facts to people that really do not want to hear them or enraging her super-unpleasant bully Alexa by having the audacity to speak up in class, Harriet is a talker. Except for when it matters. She gets herself in a right old mess by not being upfront about wanting to take the modelling job she’s offered. Her subterfuge alienates Nat, not surprisingly considering they’ve been best friends forever, and her step-mum. What looks to Harriet at first like an opportunity for a fresh start threatens to become the worst mistake of her life.
There are lots of things I really love about Geek Girl. Harriet’s ever-expanding list of ‘People Who Hate Harriet Manners’ is brilliant. It gives a direct insight into how her mind is working, has a touching pathos about it, and is also guiltily amusing. I like Harriet’s family – her dad is barmy, Annabel (her step-mum) is sensible, they both utterly adore Harriet and she adores them right back. I enjoyed reading a positive step-mother/daughter relationship, they do exist! There are loads of funny bits. The way Wilbur at the fashion agency capitalises Harriet’s outfits is genius – ‘My Stepmother’s a Lawyer’ – you’ll have to read it to properly get it I know, but it is very funny. Oh, and why Harriet is called Harriet is just ridiculous.
I also really like that it isn’t the typical ugly duckling to beautiful swan story. At one point Harriet has this ‘revelation’ that modelling could be it, her chance to change herself and I was thinking NOOOOO, don’t do it, you’re great. But, I was wrong to worry. The experience can’t change her, it can only make her more Harriet. And another thing (I know, so many), there is a boy – he’s gorgeous and too cool – and there is some attraction going on there but it is not the everything of the story. Yay for that!
Just to top it off are some excellent characters (Toby is something else entirely) and some lovely writing. What more can I say? Read it!
Thanks to Harpercollins for the eARC of Geek Girl. It’s published today.