Geek Girl – Holly Smale

You know a book’s good when you spend your drive to work wondering where you can find 20 minutes in your day to sneak into a quiet corner and finish reading it. The book in question was Holly Smale’s debut young adult novel Geek Girl.

Harriet Manners is a geek. She knows so because she’s checked it in the OED and because someone – probably Alexa, the school bully – has drawn it on her satchel.

When we meet Harriet, she’s in bed, sick. She’s pale with red spots on her face. It takes her best friend Nat a matter of minutes to point out that Harriet’s created this illness with talcum powder and red spots because she wants to get out of that day’s school trip. A trip that Nat’s looking forward to because it involves her greatest love – fashion. They’re off to The Clothes Show in Birmingham and Nat’s hoping that this is the day she gets spotted – she’s wanted to be a model forever.

Well, you can probably guess what happens next…

But not the whole story.

Yes, Harriet gets spotted. Right at the moment she manages to destroy a series of stalls causing £3000 worth of damage. And the moment she has her photos taken by Wilbur from Infinity Models, she sees Nat heading towards her and dives under a table to hide, bumping into Lion Boy aka Nick:

He’s about my age and he looks like a dark lion. He has large black curls that point in every direction and slanted eyes and a wide mouth that curves up at the edges. He’s so beautiful that all I can hear in my head is a high-pitched white noise like a recently switched-off television.

If, at this point, it’s all sounding a little predictable, don’t be fooled. This is not your archetypal Plain Jane story.

For starters, the story’s not just about Harriet. It’s about her family and friends too. And what it’s like to be a typical teenager (regardless of anything untypical that might happen to occur for Harriet).

There’s her friendship with Nat:

Nat and I are not in perfect harmony at all. We’re definitely close, and we spend all of our time together, and we definitely adore each other very much, but there are moments now we’ve almost grown up where our interests and passions divide a teensy bit.

Or – you know – a lot.

Her stalker, Toby, who has his own bush to hide in outside her house and is possibly geekier than she is; the school bully Alexa, who’s determined to make Harriet’s life a misery, and Harriet’s parents – her dad and step-mum, Annabel. Her dad and step-mum’s relationship and their relationships with Harriet are as a central to the book as her friendship with Nat.

So when Harriet finds that her and her dad are lying to Nat and Annabel and Toby about where each of them might be going for the next two days, life starts to get very complicated indeed. In fact, the transformation from geek to cool that Harriet thinks modeling is going to achieve for her might just be the end of her closest relationships.

Geek Girl is feisty, laugh-out-loud funny and heartwarming. It made me jealous of today’s teens who get such high quality literature written for them (it was a leap straight from Sweet Valley High to Jilly Cooper in my day) but that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from reading it as well and Geek Girl is definitely a book to investigate.

Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.

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8 thoughts on “Geek Girl – Holly Smale

  1. This was a good book (I just finished it and really enjoyed it) but I’m not sure it’s fair to say that today’s teens have better books. My school library was full of books about strong female teenage characters which I read avidly, by amazing authors (there was still a place for SVH and Jilly Cooper too)

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    • I think when I was younger it was books like The Bell Jar and Wuthering Heights that I ended up reading. I’m not dismissing those at all but they’re not specifically aimed at 14/15 year olds in that ‘transition’ period and I think YA books are really good at addressing issues specific to that age group.

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      • I agree – it’s the YA books that I’m talking about. I’m writing a post about it at the moment. Authors such as Penelope Lively, Michelle Magorian, Tessa Duder and so on. All firmly YA authors and feature strong female teenage characters.

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  2. Pingback: Reading Round-Up: February | Frisby's Footnotes

  3. Pingback: Young Adult Literature with female characters | .the little pip.

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