All right, I confess: I’m a fairy tale reboot junkie. There’s something about a story that’s so well-worn I know exactly what’s coming, but I don’t know the form it will take in this iteration that delights me: it’s a surprise, yet with the comfort of familiarity, I suppose. I’m a bit of a geek myself (I mean, obviously: I write sci fi/fantasy), so the idea of a Cinderella obsessed with what essentially amounts to Star Trek (though they call it Starfield here) and whose “ball” is a cosplay festival where everyone is dressed as their favorite characters at a sci fi convention definitely had me intrigued. I did expect the execution to be dreadfully cheesy, but I was pleasantly surprised.
You know the tale: Elle (short for Danielle, in this interation) is an orphan, whose father started the Con (called ExcelsiCon) and who shared her obsession with the original Starfield series, as did her mother. After her mother’s death, her father remarries a vapid country club woman named Catherine with beautiful twin daughters—one of whom turns out to be evil incarnate, and the other turns out all right in the end. Elle’s father dies, and her stepfamily morphs into the fairy tale version we’ve come to expect (and boy, did author Ashley Poston write that to the hilt—Catherine and stepsister Chloe were soooo hatable. I felt utterly powerless right along with Elle!) Elle maintains a blog about all things Starfield, which is her escape from her usual existence, and when Hollywood announces the cast of the upcoming Starfield reboot film, she is crushed to find out that her favorite character, Prince Carmindore, will be played by a prettyboy for whom she has no respect. (You know where this is going.)
Said prettyboy is Darien Freeman, who, it turns out, is a true Starfield fan (despite Elle’s and everyone else’s assumption), but no one knows it. He tries to get in touch with the original creator of ExcelsiCon during filming—but he gets Elle instead, because she inherited her father’s phone. She takes it as a wrong number, but since they’re both lonely in their own ways, the two begin a text message relationship that’s all too familiar in our digital age. But of course, she doesn’t know she’s texting Darien Freeman, the actor who (in her mind) ruined her favorite character; and he doesn’t know he’s texting the blogger who ripped him to shreds and whose words got picked up by all the major news networks.
The world building was great, and believable (aside from the references to nearly every politically correct topic you can think of, which started to feel quite intentional after awhile, and did distract me from the story a bit.) I also thought the characterization was excellent for about 2/3 of the novel, until Darien and Elle actually met. When they did, Elle was really mean to him, multiple times. I guess this was meant to make her seem like a feminist (the politically correct thing, remember?), but ended up just making her seem like a jerk. Her behavior was in keeping with the traditional chick flick, I guess, where the girl is a hot mess but Prince Charming loves her anyway. But I saw no good reason for him to maintain interest in her, with so little foundation for his faith in her goodness, and her with so little to recommend her in the first place. I also had a hard time buying the way other characters reacted to Darien. I get that big stars are just people too, but I don’t think most people in general, or teenagers especially, have a firm grasp on that concept. I’d have expected them to be a little more star-struck. And, this wasn’t a big deal, but it was a little “meta” that the story actually referenced the Cinderella story several times. I wouldn’t have minded it if the story followed the fairy tale less closely, but since other characters actually mention that she is Geekerella, I felt like Elle should have had a moment where she thought, “Hmm, isn’t it weird that I, too, went to a ball and lost a glass slipper? What a coincidence!” Or else the reference shouldn’t have been there at all. Just let it live in a stand-alone universe where there is no Cinderella story, only Elle’s story.
But overall: Geekerella is a very creative and engaging reimagining of an old favorite. A few flaws, but entertaining and worth a listen. (Oh, but if you do listen to it: the guy who reads for Darien also occasionally records himself saying the same sentence twice. Happens like eight times throughout the course of the book! Just saying.)
My rating: *** 1/2