Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! To pay homage to an adequate-at-best holiday, I’ve decided to post a review for a demi-romance novel: A Cinderella retelling: Geekarella. It has been quite a while since I’ve binge read a book in 36 hours. Geekarella definitely broke that streak! This sweet, heartfelt, coming-of-age Cinderella retelling was exactly the book I needed to wipe away the cold and dark gloom of Winter in Wisconsin.
I’m the lost princess. I’m the villian of the story, and the hero. Part of my mom and part of my dad. I am a face of the universe. The Possible and the Impossible
I am not no one.
I am my parent’s daughter, and then I realize — I realize that in this universe they’re alive too. They’re alive through me.
Our story starts out exactly as you’d expect it to for a Cinderella retelling. Elle is a teenager coping with the recent loss of her father while trying to live with her evil stepmother and stepsisters, all the while counting down the seconds until she turns 18 and can leave this horrible place. She feels alone and isolated, consistently bullied into keeping the peace by doing all the housework for her family while taking the blame for every little thing going wrong. So, Elle escapes the only way she knows how: into the world of Starfield.
Starfield is a Star Trek-meets-Star Wars-meets-Firefly show her parents met and bonded over. In fact, her father even started the first Starfield convention which is now the biggest Geek-Con in the world! She has every episode memorized and even blogs about it. Like how Darien Freeman, the hot young thing from some terrible teen drama, is now cast as her favorite character and idol and is the worst possible choice for this. (Even though this is Darien’s absolute dream role and he might be an even bigger Starfield geek than Elle is!)
So, obviously, due to miscommunication and some weird flukes in the world, Darien and Elle mistakenly text each other over Starfield. And our drama begins.
And if you hate me for being like him, fine, but I’m the best parts of my father. He raised me to fight for what I believe in and to be a good person – and he raised me to see the best in other people!
I want to start with the obvious. There are two key criticisms of this book and I want to squash them flat.
First, people believe the life Elle lives isn’t realistic. Her step-mother is obviously abusive and her step-siblings are terrible and NO adults are around fixing this. Of course, it’s unrealistic! This is a fairy-tale retelling! The cruelty of the step-family is the critical plot point which pushes Cinderella to do what she does. She’s timid, quiet, and your classic introvert. This story is about exceeding your boundaries and expected limitations because you have been pushed to your absolute limits. Yes, the relationship between Elle and her step-family seems over the top and is a bit unrealistic for the modern day, but I think these elements are perfectly done within the expected limits of a fairytale retelling. There is no moment where my suspension of disbelief is broken.
The second key criticism is the realism around two strangers developing a relationship via text message. This criticism blows my mind. Have you never developed a relationship with someone through the internet? This is the same idea, only they are talking using text messages instead of Twitter chat or some such. Particularly considering the age-range of our protagonists, this is a completely relatable concept and perfectly appropriate for this story. Internet friends are real. Why can’t text message friends be real, too?
Criticisms addressed, now it’s on to the things I love!
It’s easier to be who you want to be when you aren’t trying to be who everyone else things you are.
Three words: Positive. Geek. Culture. The whole way this story is portrayed explores the evolution of geek culture over the last few decades. At first, both characters are hiding their obsession with Starfield. She blogs, but she doesn’t go to cons or talks to people about it. He has every episode memorized but is forced to pretend he doesn’t for the fans. Eventually, both of them start to open up more. Elle befriends Sage and Darien “meets” Elle — through these relationships they can accept who they are and what they love. Yes, Elle and Darien run into nay-sayers who don’t understand their experiences or passions and put both them and Starfield down. But, as is to be expected, the whole geeky community rises up to support them. There are no fake fans here. No such thing exists. If you are a fan, you are family.
I adore this. This is the journey many of my friends have experienced themselves. It’s a journey I experienced but in a less extreme way. Geekarella is released at just the right time to help little budding fans who are coming into their own at the end of the transformation recognize this is totally normal. Elle and Darien’s story is an inspiration even without the romance; just their evolution at accepting who they are, what they love, and sharing that with the world is enough.
The only other time I feel myself is when… well, when I talk to Elle, and that’s stupid because she’s the only person who doesn’t know I’m me. How could I be most myself when I’m lying?
Often times, we only hear this story from the perspective of Cinderella. Not the case in Geekarella! I really appreciate that Poston writes in both Elle and Darien’s perspectives. Alternating perspectives always pique my interest because I love hearing both sides of the story. Since Elle and Darien are not physically together, this also helped us experience the journey they are both going through. Elle’s character is complex and realistic, but thankfully so is Darien’s.
While it’s obvious that Elle plays the Pauper and Darien plays the Prince, they are both experiencing a lot of challenges and heartache. Instead of ringing true to the Brothers Grimm story (thank goodness! That one is violent…) or the Disney version, instead, I feel like this is closer to Ever After or Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The prince is a character who is also suffering in his own way. It’s wonderful to see that his world isn’t all perfection. There are a lot of challenges in Darien’s life he is coping with; being the biggest star in Hollywood isn’t easy. Providing the reader with insight into Darien’s perspective as well just makes the relationship between Darien and Elle even more realistic and wonderful.
Speaking of elements from varying Cinderella retellings— I love the unique twist on many of these concepts. For example, the Pumpkin carriage is actually a vegan pumpkin food truck. This is brilliant. Or the ways in which the slightly-less-evil-stepsister rebels against her family- no spoilers, though. 😉 I love all the little details Poston has added which honor many different retellings and their different interpretations.
And he kisses me again. It isn’t the kind of kiss to end a universe of possibilities. It’s the exact opposite. It’s the kind of kiss that creates them.
I couldn’t be happier Geekarella popped up in my life when it did. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a book in my hands which made me want to stay up late at night and read it. It was the fluffy, wonderful, happy (but eliciting strong negative emotions at times) piece of literature I needed. As I get closer and closer to my wedding date (39 days and counting…), I have less and less energy, both emotionally and physically, to dedicate to reading. I would recommend Geekarella to anyone who likes retellings who needs to get out of a reading slump, or who just wants something fluffy and happy to keep them going.
What do you think?
- Have you read Geekarella? What are your thoughts?
- Do you enjoy fairy tale retellings? Why or why not? If you do, what are your favorites?
- What are some of your favorite fluffy, fun books to read?
- What is the last book which kept you up all night finishing it?