London, HarperCollins, 2011, 387p
For a debut author, it doesn't come much better than this. Even a self-confessed loather of girly novels (read: me) loved this book, with the lovable lead character, ridiculously comic parents, and warm message about staying true to yourself.
There is a lot that Harriet Manners knows. She carries facts around with her, dishing them out at unexpected and sometimes unwanted moments. Around school, this means she isn't the most popular of teenagers. Luckily, she has her best friend, Nat - though on paper their friendship is rather odd, they prove that opposites attract. But when Nat ropes Harriet in for moral support to help her get recognised by a modelling agency, it is in fact Harriet who is spotted, much to Nat's distress. Harriet keeps making things worse for herself, until Nat isn't speaking to her and it seems like the whole world hates her. Perhaps undergoing a complete make over might improve her popularity, so Harriet skips school and flies out to Russia for a photo shoot. Unfortunately, a hair cut and some make up can't change Harriet's geeky core - is it too late to make things right with Nat?
Geek Girl is one of those self-realisation novels, in which the character (and thereby, hopefully, the reader) realises that you can only really change artificial appearances, and essentially we are all wonderful individuals beneath all the fashion and attitude.
I thought Harriet was excellent - very intelligent, completely flawed, and highly relatable. But the novel is carried by the other characters: Harriet's father, a childish, impulsive man who gets more excited about the trip to Russia than his daughter; her stepmother, far from the evil stereotype of so many fairy tales, she is an sharp woman, a lawyer, always one step ahead of Harriet and her father, and incredibly loving and forgiving; and Wilbur ("with a bur, not iam"), the most ridiculous fashionista ever created. Whilst Harriet guides the plot, these extras carry the comedy, the love, the drama, making even the most far fetched elements of the story seem real and possible.