book cover for geek girl by holly smale

Geek Girl (#1) by Holly Smale • Magan Reviews

Holly Smale's Geek GirlGeek Girl (#1) by Holly Smale [twitter • website]
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 384
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: teenage modeling career, best friend drama, strong family ties
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Harriet Manners doesn’t fit in. She’s a geek. She can spout of random knowledge, but when it comes to standing up for herself and knowing how to talk to her peers, she’s lost. On a class trip, she’s discovered by a modeling agency, and she hopes it will change her life for the better. (But imagine the hurt since this has been her best friend’s dream since she was a small child.)

• • •

If there’s one thing Harriet knows for sure, it’s that she’s different from her classmates and she doesn’t really fit in. This becomes blatantly obvious when someone sharpies “GEEK” on her backpack. For a 15 year old girl, it sucks to stand out and be different. Harriet’s proud of her knowledge, but she just wants to know when all of bullying will end and she’ll find her place in the world.

She’s got an oddball dad, an obsessive stepmom, and an extremely loyal best friend. Well, loyal until Harriet is offered the chance of a lifetime and steals her best friend’s dreams right out from under her feet. Harriet is “discovered” in a shopping mall to become the hottest new teen couture model. Though she knows this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and her friend has every right to be mad, she’s also desperate to stop being such a dork and to have this great defining moment in her life.

Harriet is silly and smart and will make you laugh out loud. Her dad is obnoxious, bordering on goofball (as I think most 15 year olds feel their fathers are). And while stepmoms seem to not always have the best reputations, I saw this one as a shining example (though I wasn’t at first convinced of it because she can be pretty demanding). There’s friendship and loyalty, strong family ties, and incredible relatable moments that bring back memories of when there was nothing you wanted more than to fit in.

Geek Girl is definitely on the younger side of my young adult reading, but it was also kind of nice to mix it up. (I do wish some of the silly language from her modeling agent would have toned down throughout the book; his constant pet names felt excessive.) At its heart, this was a simple story about a smart teenage girl just trying to make it through, and I am really looking forward to seeing Harriet grow up a bit as the series continues on.

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Estelle: The Look by Sophia Bennett

The Look by Sophia BennettThe Look by Sophia Bennett ( tweet | web )
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Chicken House (Scholastic)
Pages: 336
Target audience: young adult
Keywords: modeling, cancer, London, siblings, family, self-discovery
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: The world becomes a confusing place for Ted when she finds out her fab-looking older sister, Ava, has cancer and must undergo treatment, and she (the odd looking one) is discovered by a modeling agency. Like always, Ava can convince her sister to do anything and Ted decides to take a chance on the modeling thing to raise Ava’s spirits. But the deeper Ted gets into this world, the more she learns about herself, her relationship with her family, and what she really wants.

As the younger sister, Ted has a tendency to follow Ava’s lead — no matter how crazy her ideas are. Even in the midst of the changes their family has overcome (their dad losing their job and them moving into a new, smaller home), Ava can still convince Ted to jingle a tambourine on the street in hopes of scoring some cash.

Instead, they get a melted piece of Starburst and a business card from a modeling scout… interested in Ted.

Now, when I first started The Look, I thought I would jump right into Ted’s successful modeling career, the younger sister finally stepping out of the shadows of her beautiful older sister who loves to surf and fawns over her boyfriend, Jesse. But instead Sophia Bennett intricately sets the foundation of a close-knit family going through many catastrophic changes, including the moment that Ava is diagnosed with cancer. There’s actually quite a lull between the opening scene and Ted actually figuring out the modeling agency was legit and heading in for her first meeting. She decides to go through with the adventure as a way to entertain Ava while she is going through the worst of her treatments.

Ted doesn’t think of herself as worth looking at at all; she doesn’t like her hair, she thinks she is too tall, and there’s that guy in her class who is always making fun of her. She thinks it’s practically a joke that an agency would pick her among the beautiful people; therefore, she has this sort of self-deprecating sense of humor that I really enjoyed. I know it was part defense mechanism but she so owned it. As she goes from audition to audition, and learns more about the actual craft of photography, you can see the character truly growing and coming into her own.

In life, I think we can all remember an instance when one part of your life was going terribly and the other was so exciting. It’s hard to choose. It’s hard to feel like you can truly be happy when something so bleak is happening on the other side, especially when this horrible thing is happening to someone you love. Bennett manages to draw this parallel without being overly dramatic or cheesy at all. All the actions and feelings from the characters were so utterly authentic that I was just drawn in more and more to the story as it went on.

All I can tell you right now is that there are some beautiful scenes in this book, scenes of endearing amounts of pain and sisterhood and what it means to be close to someone and be there for them, even if the path doesn’t seem to make sense. Ted’s determination to work hard in order to support her family is so admirable, while her parents’ faith in her, though new, is refreshing and uplifting. There’s also a boy, and deceit, and the evil truths that Ted must face about an industry that she begins to fall in love with. Bennett has concocted such a dimensional story with a backbone that begins and ends with the importance of family and knowing yourself… even if it takes awhile to get there.

As an added bonus, I loved that The Look was set in London!

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