Pros and Cons / Geekerella

Hello friends!

Pros and ConsHow are things? Doesn’t it feel like April has just zipped by? I return to school today after a wonderful spring break spent with friends and family, and it’s now only a month away until the last day of school, a fact that is all sorts of exciting for this graduating senior. As much as I can’t wait for the spring musical and other end-of-the-year events, I’m also looking forward to the lazy summer days that allow a bit more time for reading and blogging! We’re long overdue for a catch-up—I have a “Currently” post slated for later in the week—but in the meantime, I wanted to share a review of an adorable new release, Ashley Poston’s Geekerella. What have you been reading lately?

Geekerella

Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

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. {Goodreads}

P R O S
+ A fun-loving plot that embraces modern fan culture Looking at conversations on social media, the latest products that fly off the shelves, or even the most recent issues of Entertainment Weekly, and it’s clear: fandom has a heavy influence on pop culture. And in this lies Geekerella‘s biggest strength: that it embraces and praises the idea of modern fandom to its full extent. For those of us who do not participate—or perhaps better said, don’t go to the extremes—in fandom, I think it is easy to write off the cults, contests, and conventions as “nerdy” and nothing more, but Poston paints a bigger {and better!} picture through the passion and love that Elle and Darien share for Starfield. It’s a love letter to fan culture, with references to fandoms that exist outside of the novel, and who could say no to that?

+ Use of a classic story as inspiration, not dictation As the name suggests, Geekerella is inspired by the beloved fairy tale, Cinderella. It’s a classic story used time and time again as inspiration for new material, but what I appreciated with Poston’s take is that she never allows it to dominate the narrative between Elle and Darien. Their relationship, in other words, is not driven by what the plot of Cinderella dictates, but rather, what feels most natural to their characters. I applaud Poston for flexing that skill, as it’s hard to come by among veteran authors and even harder to master with only two published novels under your belt.

Realistically drawn teenage protagonist and supporting cast Finally, it’s all too frequent of an occurrence in YA for the teenagers to read false, as if the author modeled their characters only after the portrayals of high school seen on television. This, fortunately, wasn’t a problem here: Elle is a sweetheart with concerns and complaints known by many an adolescent; Sage’s sharp sense of humor mirrors that of many of my peers; and even Darien, who has a job few teenagers can share, was drawn realistically, right down to his worry over whether or not he texted the right thing. Such attention to realism makes up for any moments of disbelief and furthermore, the strength in the protagonists’ character development complements the fun, fandom-loving plot.

C O N S
The story could further improve with more depth. The area where Geekerella might benefit from improvement is in its sense of depth. I love a lighthearted story as much as the next person, but it should never lose its purpose in the fun. I don’t think this is problem unique to Geekerella, however, as I believe it frequently strikes adaptations {it’s easier to go light when using a story with such a rich history}. With that said, Geekerella remains a delight. We need more novels that explore and share in fandom, because if there is anything the young adult book industry needs to learn, it’s that readers like to see themselves reflected on the page.

Have a terrific start to your week! :)

Advertisements

Pros and Cons / Highly Illogical Behavior

Hi friends!Pros and ConsHow’s life? And the far more pressing question: what are you currently reading? I’m wrapping up Wild for an extra credit assignment, and I have just a few more chapters in Wuthering Heights, the second of two books I have for summer reading, to finish before I can treat myself to Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything. Of course, I do hope to carve out time to watch the movie versions of both books this week too! Meanwhile, my back-to-school preparations – everything from designing binder covers to scheduling and coordinating meetings – have kept fall on my mind, though I do have a few more reviews I want to share before the summer officially comes to a close. First up? My thoughts on  John Corey Whaley’s recent publication Highly Illogical Behavior.

Highly Illogical Behavior

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college {she’s being realistic}. But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa. Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol, and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same. {Goodreads}

P R O S
A well-drawn and fleshed-out set of characters I first discovered John Corey Whaley’s novels on a whim, grabbing Noggin, its eye-catching cover and all, after reading about it on another book blog. I’m so glad I did, for his dynamic characters and interesting storylines converted me from a curious reader to a lifelong fan. His writing only improves here in his third novel, which follows the friendship between an agoraphobic teen and an overachieving student. The growth is noticed best in the characters: Solomon, who I thought to be an utter sweetheart; Lisa, who is equally compelling as she is driven; Clark, who proves the YA world needs more easy-going guys; and Solomon’s family members, all of whom have a distinctive trait of their own. They each stand individually as terrific character studies, but their vibrant friendship, with its messy crushes and awkward first meetings, is simply the cherry on top.

A balance between the humorous and the bittersweet While there is a certain sadness throughout the plot, the emotion doesn’t overwhelm the story thanks to Whaley’s humorous writing style. Solomon cracks dry, sarcastic jokes throughout, and the numerous references to nerdy programs of pop culture add to the book’s charm. Even Lisa’s ambitious plot to get into college {a misguided plan at best, a manipulative idea at worst} has a certain lightness to it despite the very real and very relatable topics Whaley covers, among them social anxiety and first relationships. The balance between the two is difficult to strike, much less excel at, but it’s quickly becoming Whaley’s specialty.

A unique take on the coming of age narrative Finally, the synopsis might lead potential readers to think the story focuses solely on the bond between Solomon, Lisa, and Clark, but in all truth, it’s just as much of a tale of Solomon finding confidence in himself. A coming-of-age story is not new to the genre, but by use of Solomon’s fear of the outside world, Whaley allows his novel to stand apart from the crowd. Furthermore, the intensity of the story doesn’t hit readers until the book has been put down and one can fully recognize the significance of Solomon taking a step outside his front door.

C O N S
+ Though a solid story all-around, the book could be longer, allowing for further development This is a rare complaint – too often do books drag on rather than the opposite – but I think Highly Illogical Behavior could have benefitted from being longer. The pace is fast, and it moved so quickly that I was able to fly through the book in a single afternoon. Fortunately, Whaley keeps things tight enough that the length is not so much a glaring error as it is a request for more time with Solomon, Lisa, and Clark. If it’s more of Whaley’s writing that I desire, however, I won’t have to wait long – I already have Where Things Come Back on hold at the library. I’ll be reading it soon!

Have a wonderful start to your week! :)

Pros and Cons / Poison is Not Polite

Hello!Pros and ConsWhen it comes to my middle grade reads, I’m all about the mystery genre. From the fast-paced, high-action adventures of Spy School to the suspenseful, puzzling cases of The Red Blazer Girls, mysteries, I’ve found, are an easy cure for any and all reading slumps. Poison is Not Polite, the charming sequel to Robin Stevens’ Murder is Bad Manners, is the latest to join my long list of favorites, proving yet again that sometimes all a burnt-out bookworm needs is a good story with which to spend the afternoon. I wanted to sneak in a review before the month came to a close, but before I do, let me ask: what are you currently reading?

Poison is Not Polite

A tea party takes a poisonous turn, leaving Daisy and Hazel with a new mystery to solve in the second novel of the Wells & Wong Mystery series.

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy’s home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy’s glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy’s birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn’t about Daisy after all—and she is furious. But Daisy’s anger falls to the wayside when one of their guests falls seriously and mysteriously ill—and everything points to poison. It’s up to Daisy and Hazel to find out what’s really going on.

With wild storms preventing everyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem—and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy begins to act suspiciously, the Detective Society does everything they can to reveal the truth… no matter the consequences. {Goodreads}

P R O S
Inspiring, distinct young sleuths The enthusiastic Daisy Wells and the inquisitive Hazel Wong are faced with quite the case: what to do when a dinner guest falls sick and dies? Anyone else would call the authorities, but Daisy and Hazel, detectives they are, decide to look for the truth themselves. Their friendship could be overlooked in favor of moving the mystery along were it not for Stevens’ talent in characterization; her main characters come off as a relatable pair of best friends, albeit a pair with a knack for solving cases, rather than the other way around.

A colorful and well-developed ensemble cast of characters Daisy and Hazel are joined by many family members and friends who have just as significant of a role in shaping the story: Aunt Saskia, who has a secret up her sleeve, Miss Alston, who doesn’t act like the governess she claims to be, and Lord Hastings, who has a fondness for bad jokes, among others. This eccentric ensemble plays a pivotal part in the mystery – they all have motives, only some have alibis – and their different personalities add yet another layer to the whodunit. Furthermore, though the number of characters first seems overwhelming, Stevens takes care to develop each supporting member with as much care as she does Daisy and Hazel.

An engaging, if somewhat predictable, mystery From the classic red herrings to the gloomy, anything-could-happen weather, this story is an homage to traditional mysteries à la Agatha Christie or Clue. With or without the well-written case, I could easily see budding detectives and avid readers devouring this book in one sitting, but even I found it hard to put it down once I was invited into Fallingford Mansion – a testament to the novel’s addictive nature if I ever saw one. In addition, what the mystery lacks in shock-factor is further made up with in its final scene, where Stevens brings the case to a realistic close while also setting the foundation for the next adventure of Daisy and Hazel.

An abundance of charm and humor As she does in Book One, Stevens weaves her trademark British charm throughout the narrative, a task easier said than done with such dreary topics as arsenic poisoning, sudden death, and old mansions. It’s a delicate balance to walk, but Stevens does it with little issue, writing from the eyes of Hazel in a case-book style. It’s a subtle technique, but the resulting, humorous quips are too charming to escape notice. For added smiles, Hazel shares British terms and phrases that may be unrecognizable to American readers in a glossary – it, in addition to the Wells Family Tree, is a delightful treat that only deepens my love for all things Wells and Wong.

C O N S
+ Use of a common setting and plot makes it less memorable than the first book Finally, the only area where I believe the book falters is in its memorability. Poison is Not Polite uses a number of common mystery tropes – too much? – that I fear it loses the impact of the first book. It’s a minor complaint in an otherwise excellent read, one that I’ve already begun recommending to friends. Meanwhile, I’ll be awaiting the release of the third book, First Class Murder; April couldn’t come soon enough.

Have the most wonderful Thursday!
Bella