By: Ashley Poston
Release Date: April 4th, 2017
Rating: 5/5 beakers
“On your left!” my bodyguard shouts again, skirting around me. “Looks like you only got two speeds—slow and slower!”
I glare after him. “Excuse me?”
Lonny spins around and begins jogging backward. “Prove me wrong, pretty boy.”
That is it.
He has followed me. He has towered over me with that serious, terrifyingly calm face of his. He’s been a quiet, stalking Weeping Angel for as long as he’s been around. But Hades’ll freeze over before I let him throw shade like that.
I’m a huge fan of retellings. I’m a huge fan of stories about fandoms. So it’s no surprise that I was a huge fan of Geekerella, which is a retelling of Cinderella based around the fandom of the sci-fi show Starfield.
The story follows Elle and Darien, our Cinderella and Prince Charming, who meet through a frantic text message and bond over a shared love of Starfield. Unbeknownst to Elle, her ah’blen is none other than Darien Freeman, the actor playing Carmindor in the Starfield reboot, the one she just blasted as a wannabe in her latest–and instantly famous–blog post. Unbeknownst to Darien, Elle is the daughter of the man who began ExcelsiCon, the con he attended for years and the one he’s now being forced to attend as publicity for his movie. In texts, the pair has formed a true friendship, one with the hope of something more, but secrets threaten to tear them apart. And when the two meet face-to-face, sparks fly, but not in the good way. Elle and Darien must learn to take their lives into their own hands and fight for the things they love…but can their love last, or will it vanish at the stroke of midnight?
Elle and Darien are very different people, but they’re both wonderful in their different ways. Elle is down, but not defeated, and she’s clever. She’s come up with plenty of ways to deal with her stepmonster’s ridiculous rules, and although her life is far from perfect, she makes the best of it. I loved seeing how much Elle still loved her father and how their shared love of Starfield has shaped her life. Sure, the show and its fandom are a cause of problems with Catherine, but Elle refuses to let herself be forced into giving them up. As Elle’s plan to enter the Starfield cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon grows, so does her circle of friends. I was so happy to see Elle coming out of her shell as she worked with Sage on the cosplay; the two of them are such funny friends, but it’s their uniqueness that makes them work so well. It was also good to see Elle begin to take initiative to get away from Catherine and the twins, and although the initial plan gets derailed, I cheered for Elle as she learned to fight back and stand up for what she wanted and believed in. You can’t help cheering for people who finally stand up for themselves, and Elle’s true transformation at the cosplay contest had everyone cheering, which I absolutely loved. Elle realizing her worth and take confidently take the stage after enduring so much shame and humiliation is character growth done right, and the fact that fandom plays such a huge part in her change makes me so happy in my heart.
Darien does a lot of changing as well. His transformation is perhaps less dramatic than Elle’s, but it’s no less important. I loved the fact that Darien is a huge Starfield fan, and I totally felt his frustration at having to pretend he knows nothing about the show to keep up his star image. many fan-people know what it’s like to have to hide their love of a show or a character or a story to maintain their image, and I was so glad that Darien eventually put his foot down and let his fandom heart shine. I also liked seeing Darien get into his role as Carmindor and using that feeling to work through his fear of heights and to stand up to his father/manager. Darien’s biggest problem is letting fear hold him back, and in standing up for Elle and helping her through her problems, he realizes that he’s not being true to himself and that that will keep him from ever truly being happy. It’s only when he stops letting himself be defined by the people around him that he becomes the person who can go after Elle and prove his love for her.
The secondary character really help Elle and Darien on their journeys of personal growth. They’re all quite well developed, with their own distinct personalities and motives, and they allow for a lot of entertaining back-and-forth as Elle and Darien deal with all their drama. Lonny (Darien’s bodyguard) and Sage (Elle’s coworker and the stand-in for the fairy godmother) are both a lot of fun; they push Darien and Elle to face their fears and totally have their backs, albeit in very different ways. Catherine, Chloe, and Calliope certainly play their roles as the villains, and even though I knew how things would play out, I still hoped maybe they wouldn’t be so awful to Elle. No dice, although Calliope does eventually leave the Dark Side. There’s a clear sense right from the start that she’s not exactly like her sister or her mother, and I loved that she eventually found the courage to go against her twin and help Elle. I also loved that she and Sage got together–I didn’t see that coming!
The classic elements from the Cinderella fairy tale are all part of the story, but they’re transformed in ways that fit the story and also bring it into the 21st century. Elle’s pumpkin is actually the Magic Pumpkin food truck. Her ball gown is her mother’s Starfield cosplay of Princess Amara, and the space slipper is part of the outfit. Chloe and Calliope are still the evil stepsisters, but they’re initial motivation for meeting Darien is to get more followers on their beauty vlog. And Catherine, well, she definitely has the evil part down, not content to just humiliate and hurt Elle but going as far as to physically and emotionally destroy her. In that aspect, as weird as it seems, I appreciated that Catherine made Elle’s story less about a boy and more about her relationship with her father. It’s a nice update on female expectations and their position in society, and it made Catherine’s heinous behavior that much more painful.
And regarding Starfield: Starfield seems like an amazing show. It seems like it would be a lot like Firefly, with plenty of Star Wars and Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica influences. And of course it was cancelled early, which further solidifies that it was probably an amazing show, as sci-fi fans know that amazing sci-fi shows have a bad habit of getting prematurely killed off. I would definitely love to get short story or an excerpt based on the show, maybe in the context of Elle and Darien needing to rewatch the show to settle an argument. Whatever the case, I need to know more about Carmindor and Amara!
From start to finish, Geekerella is full of laughs, tough choices, and fantastic fandom references. This is a book about making the best out of terrible situations, finding the courage to follow your dreams, and remembering and honoring the people you love. But it’s also a book about fandoms and how the love of a story or an actor or an entirely new universe can bring people together in ways that you almost couldn’t imagine. Elle and Darien’s love story is only one of many that have grown out of the love of a fandom, and Geekerella does a wonderful job of honoring everyone who has ever fallen in love with someone or something because of fandom at the same time that it reinvents the story of Cinderella with a completely new spin.
Readers of any fandom will find a lot to love in Geekerella, and fairy tale enthusiasts will gobble up the new spin on the classic story.
- She reaches out to take the jacket. I hesitate for a moment, like Frodo with his Ring, but then I remember how much crap Frodo walked into and I’d rather not end up like Frodo.
- Everyone, in their different-colored hair and costumes and masks, lifts their hands in promise-swears to show that underneath the robes and breastplates and Spandex are people whose hearts beat together. We might all be different–we may ship different things or be in different fandoms–but if I learned anything from twenty-three days in a too-blue uniform playing a character I thought I could never be, it’s that when we become those characters, pieces of ourselves light up like glow sticks in the night. They shine. We shine. Together. And even when some of us fall to different universes those lights never go out.
- 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.
- And yeah, there might not be real magic in this world, but there is the power of fandom–the power of passionate people who, when working together, can birth movies out of canceled one-season sci-fi shows, resurrect fictional towns like Stars Hollow, and create endearing fan-musicals that will last far longer than its Muggle counterpart–and that kind of magic will never disappear.