I’ve got three reviews for you today: a YA contemporary, a MG fantasy, and two MG verse novels in a series. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Series: Once Upon a Con #1
Published by Quirk Books on April 4, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Retellings
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction 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 has ever wanted, but 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. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?
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.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for forever because so many of my blogger friends love it. A book about fandoms is pretty much guaranteed to be a win because so many of us have been in that place of adoring a book series or movie or TV show so much that we just can’t bear to see anyone ruin the story for us! Think of all those book to movie adaptations and all the fans who are just begging the producers to be gentle with their favorite story!
I loved the focus on geekdom, of course–the title pretty much tells you what you’re getting into. These are people who LOVE their show and they’re not afraid to tell the whole world about it. But Elle also has a very personal connection to the fandom since her late parents were the ultimate fans and met at the annual convention (which her father started). Elle’s fears about her favorite show being ruined by a movie remake are all wrapped up in her complex emotions about her parents, so it makes the stakes way higher for her. When she hears that some hit-of-the-moment actor is going to be playing the main character, she’s more than a little worried. She assumes that he’s in it for all the wrong reasons, and she doubts his ability to breathe new life into a character who, in her mind, was already done perfectly.
I loved the fact that Elle and Darien fall for each other over texts while in real life they’re fuming over each other. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t make judgments about people you don’t even know. (And I would say, be slow even about making judgments about people you do know–we’re all way to quick to jump to negative conclusions sometimes.) I did have to suspend disbelief a teensy bit over how quickly they fall for each other via text, but in today’s world, it’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. And they’re bonding over something they both feel passionate about, which makes it feel more reasonable. Unfortunately, Elle’s stepmom and stepsister are sort of caricatures, but at least there’s one other stepsister who breaks the mold. Overall, this is a fun and engaging read, highly recommended to anyone who’s been excited about a fandom!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien
Series: Peasprout Chen #1
Published by Macmillan Audio on April 10, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Narrator: Nancy Wu
Length: 9 hours and 8 minutes
My content rating: MG (Some budding romance, MG-level violence)
Welcome to Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, where the blades are sharp and the competition is fierce.
Peasprout Chen dreams of becoming a legend of wu liu, the deadly and beautiful art of martial arts figure skating.
As the first students from the rural country of Shin to attend Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout and her little brother Cricket have some pretty big skates to fill. They soon find themselves in a heated competition for top ranking.
Tensions rise when the dazzling pearl buildings of the Academy are vandalized and outsider Peasprout is blamed for the attacks by her rivals ... and even some friends.
Now, she must uncover the true vandal to ensure peace between Shin and Pearl - all while becoming a champion.
This historical fantasy features a uniquely imagined blend of figure skating and martial arts. Right there, I was fairly certain that my youngest would love this audiobook, and I was right (he listened to the whole thing in like a day and a half). The worldbuilding in this book is surprisingly complex for a middle grade, which I actually appreciated, and I was amazed at how well I was able to picture the city of Pearl, a city designed specifically for ice skating (and constructed out of a mysterious substance, which is part of the central mystery of the book). Peasprout feels completely out of her element in Pearl, and the girls at her new school seem intent on making her miserable–and accusing her of being a spy for the city of Shin. Now, I’ll confess that Peasprout can be pretty unlikable for a lot of the book–she’s so intent on protecting her little brother that she smothers him, she’s often ridiculously conceited and she pretty much always thinks the worst of everyone. But at fourteen, you have to give her a bit of a pass–she’s just a kid, and she makes a whole lot of mistakes, but she learns some important lessons by the end of the book.
The book’s ending takes a pretty shocking turn that I didn’t see coming at all and it sent the characters in a new direction I’m very interested in seeing explored. Nancy Wu’s narration is excellent as well. I will be picking up the second audiobook in the series very soon!
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Series: The Crossover
Published by Houghton Mifflin on March 18, 2014
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Verse
Rebound by Kwame Alexander
"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.
Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
Series: The Crossover #0.5
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 2, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Verse
Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshipping, basketball star his sons look up to.
I’m reviewing these two verse novels together because they’re so closely tied to each other (Rebound is a prequel to The Crossover) and they deal with similar themes. Alexander’s verse is electrifying, especially in the basketball sections–I felt like I just had to read those poems aloud (they reminded me of slam poetry in a lot of ways). Both stories deal with familial relationships and explore love and loss in poignant ways. These are characters you come to love in a short time, and you can’t help rooting for them both on and off the court. The only reason I don’t give the books my highest rating is that sports aren’t my thing–so the fact that these stories captured my attention so thoroughly despite my lack of basketball knowledge or adoration says a whole lot. And I can easily see these stories bringing verse to a whole bunch of kids who wouldn’t have thought poetry was their thing–another major feat. I highly recommend both of these!