Friday, June 10, 2016

Geek Girl: Head Over Heels

Title: Head Over Heels (Geek Girl #5) 
Author: Holly Smale
Genre: YA
Rating: 5/5

Cover: 6/10

Head Over Heels follows self-assumed geek girl, Harriet Manners, and her newly-acquired clique. After the disastrous happening of All That Glitters (Geek Girl #4), Harriet has decided to take a break from modelling, and just stick to what she does best: studying.

Of course, the fashion world stops for no one, and when Wilbur calls her asking to join his new modelling agency, Harriet finds herself agreeing to help her friend. As she later finds out, she is Wilbur’s only client, and quite literally the only thing standing between her friend and the end of his career.

Smale has always shown a great ability to create a character who is both quirky and unique, while also being uniquely relatable. And for her audience of young tweens and teens, it is vital to have role models such as Harriet Manners in their lives; Harriet tells them that being different is okay, that being clever doesn’t mean you have to be socially awkward or ugly — and that, no matter who you are, and how you relate to the world, there are people out there who see the world in the same way as you, and will be happy to spend time with you, no matter what others might say.

I think to me, however, the biggest gift of these books is always seeing Harriet discover a new and empowering truth about herself; last one was that her happiness wasn’t dependant on a boy, no matter how cute. In Head Over Heels, it was Harriet’s approach to modelling. While so far she’d been able to skate her way through with minimal effort to the actual job she was doing, Head Over Heels finds Harriet having to take it seriously in order to help Wilbur. That felt like such a huge turning point in her character development, and a step towards maturity; she’s learning to take responsibility for her choices and her actions, learning that modelling is an actual job that takes work and preparation and involves more than just showing up and hoping for the best.

What I liked the most about Harriet, from the very first novel, was how unapologetic she was about being herself, and it’s always an absolute pleasure to see this theme continue throughout the novels — Harriet is a geek girl, and very proud of it.

Overall, yet another great coming of age novel by Smale, and one in a series that I hope young girls everywhere will take heart; we need more Harriet Manners in the world. 

The Crown (The Selection #5)

Title: The Crown (The Selection #5) 
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: 5/5

Cover: 10/10

The Crown follows the events of The Heir, and we are once again swept up in Princess Eadlyn’s tumultuous life.

Following the Queen Mother’s heart problems, Eadlyn is thrust headfirst into the position of Regent of Illéa. Now not only does she have to navigate her own 
Selection, she also has to rule a country that seems to hold great dislike for her while her father stays by her mother’s side, and her brother has run away to get married.

Faced with the prospect of imminent rebellion in her beloved country, Eadlyn has to make some tough choices — both in her personal life, and in her public one, as Regent, and learn that sometimes in life, compromise is a must... and that others, a firm hand and steely determination is what is needed. Alliances are tested and truths are exposed as she tries to hold on to control of her own life.

I really enjoyed this last instalment to Cass’ series. Eadlyn’s journey felt true and relatable; her struggle to find a viable balance between her duty and work as a monarch, and her own heart and desires is one that is easy to relate to. And the way Cass presented Eadlyn throughout the novel made her an easy narrator to root for — an important factor, considering it’s a first-person narrative.

It was also nice that Cass managed to keep a level of uncertainty regarding Eadlyn’s chosen suitor from the Selection. Until it happened, we are kept unsure of whether or not she will actually go through with what her hearts wants her to — or if she will yield to the responsibility her birth has placed on her.

Cass presents an engaging novel about finding strength in yourself, learning to trust your instincts and be true to your heart. Eadlyn’s age and gender are never a problem in the novel, despite others trying to make it one. Cass’ protagonist is a spunky, take-no- prisoners kind of princess, who has no time for anyone’s thoughts on what she should or should not be allowed to do because of her age or the fact that she is a girl; she takes to her tasks with gumption, and proves that a woman can rule just as well — if not better, in fact — than a man, and be very happy while doing so.

Special mention to Cass’ excellent handling of the LGBT+ community representation in this novel. Until books are no longer advertised as ‘LGBT’ if the main character is queer, there will always be the need for better representation in literature, and especially in Young Adult Lit. The way Cass added it in here was both surprising and tastefully done. The characters weren’t defined by their sexuality, and were allowed storylines outside of it; their romance wasn’t rushed and neither one of them died — always a decided plus.