Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2013
Pages: 387
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5
Harriet Manners knows a lot of facts.
·         Humans have 70,000 thoughts per day.
·         Caterpillars have four thousand muscles.
·         The average person eats a ton of food in a year.
·         Being a Geek + Model = a whole new set of graffiti on your belongings. But clearly she knows nothing about boys. And on a whirlwind modelling trip to Tokyo, Harriet would trade in everything she’s ever learnt for just the faintest idea of what to do next.

I read Geek Girl, the first in this series, a few months ago, and checked this one out of the library recently (it’s probably overdue now. Sorry, library). You can read my review of that here.
As you can probably tell from my very slow updating of this blog, I haven’t been reading much lately. Well, I’ve been reading, but I haven’t been finishing books – I have about four currently on the go. But just over a week ago, my internet went, and I won’t have it back for another week, so … I have a lot more time. I’m also super frustrated and unproductive without internet, and forced to cart my laptop to school, but still.

Back on topic.

I’m not going to bother with a spoiler warning for the first book because there’s not much to spoil. However, there are some delicious twists towards the end of this one (the second book in the series), so I’m not going to spoil those. It should be safe to read on.

Right, so the annoyances I had with the last book mostly remain. The stupid geek facts, for example – someone who knows a lot of trivia isn’t the only kind of geek, though I prefer to say nerd.  The very simple formulae that plaster the book cover just to give the impression of being smart.
They’re inside the book too. In an early chapter, she’s at a photoshoot when suddenly, shock horror, the photographer discovers that she’s stuck physics formulae all over her arm/shoe sole/ inside of jacket so she can study while modelling.

The formulae are:

“F = M x A”
“V = I x R”
“Ek = ½ x M x V2”
“W = M x G

Now, not only are these all ridiculously simple formulae, they’re written in such a horrifically inefficient way. Also, I’m just going to give you the notation because I can. V = I x R I haven’t covered this year, but I *think* I know it.

F = ma means force is mass by acceleration. V = IR means voltage is current by resistance. Ek = ½ mv2 means kinetic energy is half of mass by velocity squared (V2? Ugh). W = mg is mass by acceleration due to gravity, and I like this one because it fits exactly into F = ma (weight is force of gravity on an object, g is a type of acceleration).

 Other things that annoy me:
The astonishingly unlikely plot.

The fact that Harriet’s priorities are absolutely all over the place, and she seems to possess no maturity or common sense whatsoever. Like, a certain level of ditziness is cute, but this is just ridiculous. And she goes around saying she’s such a geek when the back of the book says her main problem is not knowing how to interact with boys. I mean, seriously? The blurb then goes on to say that she’d trade all her knowledge – which, may I remind you, is essentially her entire sense of self – to know how to handle boys and social life while in Tokyo.

Please get some nerd integrity.

The stalker – stalking is still condoned by the author. Toby is sweet, but he is still a stalker.

She obsesses over a boy for the entire book. I don’t understand people who do this, fictional or real.

They’re just one person! Don’t base your entire life around them!

So why the four stars then? Well, first you have to bear in mind that my rating systems are based on gut feeling, and despite the peeves I did really enjoy this book.

The humour can be Big-Bang-Theory-forced, but it’s still funny. Like, just after the irritating Physics formulae, there’s this:

”Harriet Manners, are you studying maths in the middle of my fashion shoot?”
I shake my head and look at the air above the photographer’s left ear. You know the crocodile and the bird? I think one of us is about to get eaten.
“No,” I answer in my littlest voice. Because a) It’s physics, and b) I’ve been doing it all the way through.” ‘

I think that quote captures Harriet’s character voice well. Also, why is she called Harriet?

The things I loved from the first book also stayed the same. I love Annabel, and Harriet’s silly Dad (there’s a quote I can’t find where her dad says something like “I’m afraid all the female Pants are Smarty in this house”, and he texts Harriet while she’s in Japan asking can he eat her chocolate. They’re very close and it’s sweet.

The modelling world described (e.g. the crazy designer Yuka Ito) is so much fun to read about, so it’s a rare contemporary that still has a surprising and intriguing setting. The author skilfully sets up lots of scenarios, building towards climaxes at different points in a textbook sort of way (you know, “Complication 1” “Complication 2” “Black Moment”). I know a story needs conflict, but I felt that thing again where I just want a character to gallivant in this cool new setting without running into problems when of course they inevitably can’t.

Holly Smale is really good at creating distinct characters, although I fear some may just be stereotypes (Wilbur is stereotypically gay and Rin is stereotypically Japanese/Asian/kawaii). Then again, the author lived in Japan for two years and I don’t actually know any Japanese girls (I don’t think?) so maybe. They’re very entertaining on the page, anyway.

My favourite part of this book, and the part that definitely pushed it up to four stars, was all the twists. Obviously I can’t go into detail without spoiling, but I definitely got some surprises.
I didn’t particularly like the resolution. Harriet makes a mature decision, much like the one Cath makes (off-screen) in Fangirl, and though I know it’s necessary for her character arc, it promises an end to a lot of what I found entertaining. Then again, there’s a whole third book to read, so there should be lots more in store.