Geek Girl by Holly Smale


geek girlGeek Girl by Holly Smale
HarperTeen, 2015.

Geek Girl is an awarding winning and, apparently, much loved series in the UK, and this first volume, now published in the US, has garnered more than decent reviews here. But it did very little for me.

In this ugly duckling story, socially and physically awkward teen Harriet Manners is discovered by a modeling agency and, in a bid to change herself and improve her bottom of the barrel status, agrees to become the face of a major fashion brand. However, after alienating her best friend and her stepmother, it is not long before she realizes that transformation comes from the inside not the outside.

I can see why these transformation stories are so popular. As a pimply, heavily bespectacled, teenager, I enjoyed the sort of fantasies about frumpy girls having their, very hidden, beauty uncovered, which Jilly Cooper specialized in. And who wouldn’t want to be sought out by a top modelling agent (and, of course, a top male model of suitable age) and be thrust into the pages of Vogue, while, at the same time, feeling intellectually above the superficiality of the fashion world.

But I just found this version to be glacially-paced, with a credibility stretching plot – even for a modern day fairytale. And, annoyingly, despite its length and Harriet’s narrative wordiness, the actual makeover/transformation (always the best episode in America’s Next Top Model) is rather skipped over. The cast of characters – family, school and modeling world – is irritating and unlikely, including a very dated stereotype of a gay man straight out of the era of Are You Being Served?

Tween and teen readers looking for a lighthearted social rags to riches transformation via modeling would do much better with Sophia Bennett’s far superior The Look (Chicken House, 2013).

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