Geek Girl - model misfit
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This issue’s cover illustration is from Song of the Golden Hare by Jackie Morris. Thanks to Frances Lincoln for their help with this November cover.
Harriet Manners is confused. But then, even the title of this second instalment of her adventures as a teenage model is a bit mixed-up. Large Letters – GEEK GIRL; small letters: model misfit. The first in the series was just Geek Girl, telling how Harriet stumbled into modelling before she’d done her GCSEs. Now, in Part Two, she’s just finished them and Summer beckons.
Harriet is a serial stumbler, though she’s incredibly bright with an insatiable appetite for facts, facts, facts. This can provoke acute embarrassment, since she’s inclined to regurgitate irrelevant information when at a loss for easy chat. She normally gets things wrong about her friends too, notably totally-gorgeous Lion-Boy Super-Model Australian-Japanese Nick who, she thinks, has dumped her when he really hasn’t; he was just being astonishingly thoughtful so she could concentrate on her exams. She even misreads lovely pregnant step-mum Annabel and her own Dad, still firing witty one-liners which any character in TeenLitLand – where witty one-liners are the norm – would envy.
Nothing in Part 2 that I spotted tells us why she is just so right as a teenage model, unless awkwardness is what the fashionistas are looking for. Riding a plot which whirls from the UK to Japan, Harriet hurtles from one catastrophe to the next. The narrative is decorated by several oddballs such as Wilbur, her agent, with his inexhaustible camp epithets (Poodle-bottom, Monkey-moo, Cupcake-teeth, Baby-boy Panda – and they’re all from his debut page when he’s still warming up). Then there’s Bunty her globe-trotting Granny, glittering and tinkling her way through her alternative life in sequins and bells. Which still leaves Toby, her equally geeky school friend and loyal stalker, who doesn’t hesitate to hop on a plane to Japan to keep an eye on her. Tedious stuff like money has no place in Harriet’s universe.
I could mention the demented designer Yuka Ito, or Rin the out-of-work Japanese model, or golden-haired Poppy the in-work super-model who turns out to be – no, let’s leave it there. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that careering through Geeky Harriet’s chatty narrative is like listening to 400 pages of mildly hysterical stand-up, where the jokes are on the teller. Holly Smale’s biog note says she was herself a teenage model who later spent two years in Japan (after her MA in Eng Lit); so you can’t fault her for writing about what she knows best. Except there’s not a shred of authenticity here, unless Tokyo really is as crazy Harriet says; Holly Smale’s sideways glance at everything is relentlessly entertaining. The rising tsunami of disasters, the ins-and-outs of teenlove and teenhate, sweep the reader along with Harriet just about staying afloat. Geek Girl 3 is stumbling towards us sometime in 2014. ‘Coolioko,’ as Harriet might observe.