Series: Once Upon a Con #1
Published by Quirk Books
Published on 4 April 2017
Genres: Contemporary, United States, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.
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. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi 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’s ever wanted, but the 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.
My first Ashley Poston book was Among the Beasts and Briars, so I’m late to the
party masquerade ball. Better late than never, right? I figured out pretty quickly that Poston can write, baby. So when I came across Geekerella at my local library, I knew it was highly likely I would enjoy it, especially as it was part Cinderella retelling, part You’ve Got Mail, and based on sci-fi/geek culture.
What I didn’t expect was so fall so deeply in love with the sci-fi homage, Starfield, that I started looking up fanart and wishing that it really was a real TV show because it sounds amazing and I want to be part of that fandom. Poston’s worldbuilding around a TV show that never really existed is subversive. I loved how it didn’t simply replace other beloved sci-fi shows like Star Trek or Firefly, but existed alongside them, as an even smaller and less well-known show until the reboot, which in this day of social media, is of course, astoundingly over-reported and hyped.
The way Poston writes about Elle and Darien’s love for the show demonstrated that they are both steeped in geek culture and sci-fi and all things awesome. I loved how their romance developed because they had so much in common, they talked for a long time before finding each other ‘in real life’ and boy do I identify with that, having had a long-distance relationship that turned into a marriage. It definitely wasn’t instalove, that’s for sure.
I loved the natural development of the relationships Elle built, between her secret texter, her awkward friendship with her abrasive co-worker, and the lesser evil of the twin stepsisters. It was fun being part of Elle’s life and watching her grow from adrift, lonely teen into a loved, grounded young adult. It was also doubly fun seeing all the familiar Cinderella tropes, from a tutu-wearing fairy godmother to a pumpkin-themed vegan food truck.
I really enjoyed reading Darien’s POV because I’ma sucker for behind-the-scenes in the entertainment industry and watching him film a sci-fi reboot was loads of fun. It kept reminding me of all the times I studied Serenity. I really liked how uncertain he was about everything, questioning his place in the world, and his own subtle stepping into power as a young man.
I also found Elle’s ‘evil’ step-mother to be… not entirely awful? OK sure, she made Elle do a lot of physical work, favourited her own daughters, appeared to hate her dead husband, and tried to sell the house that by rights was Elle’s, and I’m absolutely not excusing anything because she was still an antagonist, but I felt that she was three-dimensional and, for a vapid, self-and-image-obsessed character, had depth. I feel that sometimes the character of the stepmother is EVIL and she knowingly does awful things to Cinderella on purpose but I kind of feel like Elle’s step-mother almost wasn’t even aware she was doing it? Like she legitimately thought HER best interests aligned with Elle’s.
Like I said, no excuses for being a terrible person, but it was a twist I’ve not seen before in a Cinderella retelling, where they’re usually absolutely masochistically evil or completely misunderstood.
At some points I got so emotional because of all the terrible things happening to Elle, and knowing how hopeless and helpless and powerless she felt. It really hit me, and I wholly blame Poston for making me cry during what should have been a cute fluffy romcom. However, knowing the source material, I could rest easy knowing that all would turn out OK. That’s the benefit of reading a beloved retelling: there’s a certain comfort there that no matter how dark it gets, the dawn will come.
Or in this case, we can look to the stars.