Model Misfit (Geek Girl 2) – Holly Smale

Back in February, I reviewed Geek Girl and raved about its fabulousness to anyone who’d listen. I’ve recommended it to a number of people looking for presents for nieces and teenage daughters and had nothing but glowing feedback.

But second novels are difficult aren’t they? Isn’t the middle of a trilogy always the weakest? Fear not, Model Misfit is brilliant and – dare I say it – even funnier than Geek Girl.

Harriet, apparently, has changed. The book begins with her on a shoot, listing the reasons she now knows she’s a model. Her final reason being:

6. I have become a creature of grace, elegance and style.

In fact, you could say I’ve really grown up since you last saw me. Developed. Blossomed.

Not literally…No, I’m talking metaphorically. I simply woke up one day and BAM: fashion and I were at one with each other…

And I’m going to be totally honest with you: it’s changed me. The geek is gone, and in her place is somebody glamorous. Popular. Cool.

A brand new Harriet Manners.

If this sounds too good to be true or you’re cursing Holly Smale wondering what the hell she’s done to Harriet and when can we have the version we love back…you’ll have to read all the way to the end of chapter two. There we discover that Harriet has been less than truthful with us: she’s covered the outfit she’s modeling in stickers with her physics revision notes on them, then she’s rushing to school, making her final exam within seconds. And, of course, as her and Nat leave school for the summer, along comes Alexa, the school bully.

Other continuations include the presence of Toby, the stalker; Wilbur, her agent; Yuka Ito, the designer, and Dad and Annabel.

Missing in action is Lion Boy aka Nick, who’s dumped Harriet. But she’s not thinking about that, honest.

And then there’s Dad and Annabel’s baby, which is all they talk about, making Harriet anxious that they’ll be no room for her once he or she arrives.

The perfect thing that Harriet needs then is a modeling assignment far, far away. Like Japan far away.

Model Misfit is laugh-out-loud funny whilst tackling important teen issues: boys, close friendships, half-siblings, school. Harriet’s voice is engaging and entertaining, making you feel as though you’re her friend and she’s talking directly to you. The addition of the modeling – particularly the trip to Japan – adds somewhat of a fairytale element and allows us to discover a culture that probably few of us have experienced first-hand.

I loved Geek Girl and I loved Model Misfit even more. I’m already looking forward to the third installment.


Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.

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.