“Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.” // Review of “Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

Title: Geekerella (Once Upon a Con #1)
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Contemporary/retelling
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 28/08/2021 – 30/08/2021


I don’t understand my reaction to this book. It was full of things that would annoy me in any other book, and yet, I was fully engaged, and devoured it. I even dreamed about it. The next day, I was still thinking about it.

And I’m not sure why.

My theory is that on some deeper level, I was harking back to my own days in fandom and feeling nostalgic. We’re in lockdown so maybe the nostalgia hit harder. I don’t know.

I liked Darien, the movie star “Prince Charming” of this retelling from the moment we met him. I think the fact that his nerdiness was a quieter, internal thing made it easier for me to relate to him than to Elle, whose fandom is all hardcore shipping and angry blogs. And because I warmed to Darien so quickly, I found Elle even more difficult because she was making assumptions about Darien that I as the reader knew to be false.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of rehearsals and being on a movie set, though honestly, I raised my eyebrows at the idea that any actors would be allowed to have their phones on them while they were filming. I know, I know, plot convenience.

It did bother me that all of the villains were cartoonishly nasty. That works in a Disney movie, not in a full-length contemporary novel.

It also bothered me that the entire romance was based on text messages. And unless I missed something, in the final scene, they’re kissing before they’ve even absolutely confirmed that each was the person the other was texting.

But for all that, the writing was addictive and I wanted to see these characters get together! I don’t know if I’ll continue the series but this was definitely a great read.

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“Dreams didn’t follow logical, step-by-step patterns. They swirled, never taking you down a straight path.” // Review of “The Others Side of Perfect” by Mariko Turk

Title: The Other Side of Perfect
Author: Mariko Turk
Genre: Contemporary
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/05/2021 – 27/05/2021


I was so excited to win an ARC of this book in a giveaway. There aren’t too many books that cater to us musical theatre nerds, so the fact that the MC was doing the school musical and that was a major part of the plot made me very keen!

I loved the content from the other musical theatre kids – it was kind of cool having the main character as an outsider and having those references explained, so that those readers less initiated into the world of musicals would be able to at least understand a bit. And reading about these teenagers who are drawn to theatre for the same reasons I am – that it’s a place that misfits can feel like they fit in somewhere.

I also loved the discussions about racism in ballet, and the juxtapositions between ballet and contemporary dance, and how they seek (or don’t) to challenge traditions. The reactions of the ballet mistress to Alina and her best friend Colleen when they called her out on racist casting where disappointingly realistic (defensiveness and anger and a rant about “tradition”).

Unfortunately, I found that the main character spent far too much of the book being self-absorbed and not recognising how much she was hurting other people. Yes, that was part of her arc, and yes, people called her out on it, but it just went on for too long. I stopped sympathising.

I did find that the process of mounting and producing the musical seemed a little unrealistic, but I was able to accept that because they plot needed to move forward somehow. I think I was possibly just not quite the right reader for this book.

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “It Sounded Better In My Head” by Nina Kenwood

Title: It Sounded Better In My Head
Nina Kenwood
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/01/20 – 07/04/20


This book was certainly sweet and I loved how painfully realistic it was at times. But some pacing issues and the lack of characterisation from anyone other than the main character left me feeling like there could have been more.

Natalie’s life is diverging from the Plan. Her parents announce their separation on Christmas Day, her two best friends have started dating so she feels like a third wheel, and she’s just finished high-school and doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She’s also still dealing with image issues that have haunted her throughout her teen years thanks to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).  

Since this book is in the first person, we are very much in Natalie’s head. And she has a lot going on in there. But it did mean I felt like I didn’t really get to know the other characters. There were flashes of personality from them, such as Lucy covering awkwardness amongst her friends with OTT bubbliness, Mariella with her love of gossip about her children… but Alex is the love interest and Natalie spends so much of her time thinking about him and yet as I write this, there’s very little I could tell you about Alex as a person.

There’s also the fact that sometimes the pacing was strange. The plot would grind to a half for several pages while we got some of Natalie’s backstory. Sure, it was good to know about her and some of it moved the plot (such as learning how she met Zach and Lucy) but a lot of the time it made me forget what had just been happening.

Apart from that, though, the writing is really engaging. I flew through the pages. The messiness of teenage friendships is so realistic, I could feel my guts churning on behalf of the characters. There were times when Natalie’s body image issues and insecurities felt a little repetitive, but at the same time, I recognise the cyclical nature of such thoughts in real life.

On the other hand, I really liked how sex positive the book was, particularly in regards to its female characters. It’s mentioned that Natalie knows how to give herself an orgasm, and Lucy is the first one of their friendship group to have sex. While it’s a shock to the others, it’s still shown in a positive light.

This is Nina Kenwood’s debut and I will definitely be watching out for more of her work.

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Book Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil #aww2016

Title: Life in Outer Space
Author: Melissa Keil
Genre: Contemporary YA
Date Read:
08/03/2016 – 10/03/2016
Rating: ★★★☆


lifeinouterspacecoverAfter having enjoyed Melissa Keil’s second novel, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, so much when I read it last year, it was only a matter of time before I sought out her first one, Life In Outer Space. While I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, Melissa Keil certainly has a wonderful narrative voice that makes her books a pleasure to read.

Sam and his friends are unapologetic geeks, just trying to get through the last couple of years of school without getting beaten up too many times by the local jocks. Then along comes Camilla, the daughter of a famous music journalist. She seems to work some kind of magic on everyone in their year group, but especially Sam, and before he knows it, she has completely rewritten his normal routine for him.

I have to admit that one reason it took me nearly six months to get around to this book was that while I was pretty sure I loved Cinnamon Girl for its writing as much as anything, I wasn’t sure I’d be as interested in a book with a male protagonist. Sam is a really sympathetic character, though; he would resonate with anyone who was a nerd or geek as a teenager, myself included. As with her other book, it was really obvious that Melissa Keil has a lot of geek-cred. She didn’t just do a bit of research into nerd culture, she understands completely the references she is making.

I did think that Camilla was a little bit too Manic Pixie Dream Girl (look it up on TVTropes) to feel like a real character. She gets on with both the popular crowd at school and the geeks in Sam’s group, she plays WoW (and is good at it, much to Sam’s amazement), and she’s a super-talented songwriter, though she doesn’t like to talk about it. Still, she wasn’t quite at Mary Sue levels of special snowflake, so I was still able to enjoy her part in the story.

The whole narrative is cute and light-hearted, even when the subject matter gets a bit heavy. My main issue was that I felt that perhaps Melissa Keil had recycled ideas from this book into her second (which I read first), as there were lots of similarities. For example, the main character in this book is an aspiring screenwriter with writer’s block; the main character in Cinnamon Girl is an aspiring comic writer with writer’s block. In both books, a character appears who makes huge changes in the lives of the characters around him/her. However, I was reading fairly quickly and was for the most part able to ignore these.

I definitely recommend Melissa Keil’s work to any fans of contemporary YA. She has a third book coming out this year and she is definitely an author to keep an eye on!