Geekerella: Sweet and fluffy, but with a surprising depth

Geekerella by Ashley Poston YA science fiction book reviewsGeekerella by Ashley PostonGeekerella by Ashley Poston

Ashley Poston’s debut novel Geekerella (2017) is definitely not just another Cinderella revision. Classic elements of the familiar story are all present in one shape or another, but Poston brings a distinctly nerd-friendly flair to her tale, and modernizes the characters in ways that turn impossible archetypes into accessible, complicated people.

Danielle “Elle” Wittimer lives with her stepmother and twin stepsisters in a crumbling old Charleston, SC house. Sadly, her mother died when Elle was just four years old, and her beloved father passed away shortly after remarrying, granting legal custody of both Elle and the home to his second wife. Catherine is, to put it nicely, a selfish social climber who spends money she doesn’t have on country club memberships for her daughters while forcing Elle to perform menial household duties. Elle’s only sources of relief are her job at a vegan food truck and endless re-watches of a classic science fiction television series, Starfield; when the news breaks that a soap opera actor will be the lead in a Starfield reboot movie, Elle writes an impassioned blog post objecting to this obviously heinous cast choice…

…which catches the eye of Darien Freeman, reluctant star of Seaside Cove and secret nerd, whose dream in life has been to play the role of Prince Carmindor. Darien was inspired as a child to go into acting because of Starfield’s original lead actor, David Singh, a groundbreaking person of color; the fact that Prince Carmindor isn’t being whitewashed is a true moment of triumph and personal pride for Darien. But his overbearing manager won’t let Darien shed his brainless pretty-boy image, and Elle’s righteously angry (anonymous) blog post leads Darien down the path of accidentally contacting her, also anonymously, sparking a text-only conversation in which they discover a mutual love of science fiction while he learns his lines and she works on her costume for the masquerade ball at the upcoming Starfield-inspired ExcelsiCon.

The Princess and the Fangirl: A Geekerella Fairy Tale (Once Upon A Con) Hardcover – April 2, 2019 by Ashley Poston (Author)

Sequel

Elle and Darien’s individual insecurities and strengths allow each of them to experience a range of emotions and support one another through problems, a refreshing change of pace from the source material, which focused only on Cinderella’s saintliness and left the prince as no more than a handsome cipher. As their relationship blooms, they take charge of their lives and make room for friends, paving the way for growth and maturation. Darien’s personal assistant, Gail, and Elle’s co-worker Sage provide voices of reason and additional support in times of crisis — moments that will be familiar to anyone with a basic knowledge of core elements from the fairy tale, but which are given a distinctly nerd-friendly patina and modern twists. (There’s more than one reason the food truck is called The Magic Pumpkin.) My only complaint is that a subplot involving Darien’s manager and a potential stalker was could have used some shoring up in order for the end result to support the threatening build-up, but otherwise Geekerella is a fine first novel.

Despite the overabundance of fairy-tale retellings in the YA market, Geekerella is a welcome and necessary addition to the roster. With an emphasis firmly on an appreciation for nerd culture in all its shapes and forms, Poston’s updated setting and open-armed inclusivity — and the wonderfully happy ending — is sure to make fangirl (and -boy) hearts swell. Highly recommended.

Published April 4, 2017. 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.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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4 comments

  1. Victoria Hannah /

    It’s interesting that this story takes the “Prince” character and gives him an actual character. When Cinderella is kept to the poor girl alone, it gets superbly boring. I have seen two film versions of the classic tale that does this (give the Prince a story line) and those are my most favorite versions of the story. The films, if anyone has an interest, are Ever After and the Slipper and the Rose. The former (made in the mid 1990s) stars Drew Barrymore (as the Cindrella Character, called here Danielle), Angelica Huston (as the Stepmother Character), and Dougray Scott (playing Prince Henry). Here Prince Henry is irresponsible and it takes the Learned Danielle (who he meets multiple times before the ball under the persona of the Comtess Nichole DeLoncre) to get him to start thinking about his duty to his people and kingdom. In this version, The great Leonardo DaVinci (a wholly mortal man) takes the Fairy Godmother position as this film is set in Renaissance France. The latter, The Slipper and the Rose (1976, and the last gasp of the great Hollywood Musicals) stars largely unknowns for this generation but has a luminous Gemma Craven as Cinderella, Margaret Lockwood as the Stepmother, Annette Crosbie as the acerbic Fairy Godmother, Michael Horden as the King, Kenneth More as the Lord High Chamberlain, Dame Edith Evans as the Dowager Queen, Christopher Gable as the Prince’s Loyal friend/man at arms, John, and Richard Chamberlain as the Prince Edward of Euphrania (a fictional kingdom which I always have as a headcanon as an Electorate Kingdom of the Austria Hungarian Empire, as it’s obvious that it’s a catholic Kingdom). This time the Prince, though very responsible, hates the fact that he has to marry for convenience and not for love. In fact, there’s a very interesting twist at the ends of both movies which allow for the Prince to really realize that he’s truly in love with the Cinderella character. I highly recommend these films if you like knowing the Prince’s story more.

    • I’ve watched Ever After, and I agree–it does a lot more to expand the prince’s role and make him someone interesting. It also does a lot to make the Cinderella character interesting beyond “pretty girl who doesn’t want to scrub floors.” Plus, casting Angelica Huston as the stepmother was a genius move.

      • Victoria Hannah /

        Well, then you should really check out Slipper and the Rose. Cinderella may be a little more one-dimensional than you would desire. But the Euprhanian court, especially the King, the Dowager Queen, and the Prince’s cousin, The Duke of Montague are hoots. Moreover, the Fairy Godmother is so utterly acerbic it’s a delight.

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