Friday, 27 September 2013

Model Misfit - Book Review

Model Misfit
by Holly Smale

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am still a geek.”

Harriet knows that modelling won’t transform you. She knows that being as uniquely odd as a polar bear isn’t necessarily a bad thing (even in a rainforest). And that the average person eats a ton of food a year, though her pregnant stepmother is doing her best to beat this.

What Harriet doesn’t know is where she’s going to fit in once the new baby arrives.

With summer plans ruined, modelling in Japan seems the perfect chance to get as far away from home as possible. But nothing can prepare Harriet for the craziness of Tokyo, her competitive model flatmates and her errant grandmother’s ‘chaperoning’. Or seeing gorgeous Nick everywhere she goes.

Because, this time, Harriet knows what a broken heart feels like.

Can geek girl find her place on the other side of the world or is Harriet lost for good? (Synopsis from Goodreads)

I absolutely loved Geek Girl, and so have been really looking forward to its sequel, Model Misfit, while at the same time a little nervous about it – would it live up to the awesomeness that was Geek Girl? Well, yes it did!

Harriet is just as funny, observant and naive as ever, telling the story in her unique Harriet voice, interspersing it with weird and interesting facts, and her quirky interpretations of events and behaviour. Her overdramatic narration and outbursts are brilliant, and you can really feel for her even when laughing and shaking your head in despair at her latest mishap. I remember how world-changing the simplest things could seem when I was that age too, and I think Holly Smale has done a good job of capturing teenage drama. I still loved all the same characters as before, particularly Nat and Annabel, and Harriet’s dad. Harriet’s father doesn’t feature so prominently in this one, which is a little bit of a shame as he is such a fantastic character. However, Wilbur is back with his many hilarious Wilburisms, and I warmed to him even more in this book as we get to see a little deeper into who he is and what makes him tick.

Harriet travels to Japan to do some modelling for Yuka’s secret project, and so spends the summer away from her family and friends. New characters are introduced in the form of her flatmates in Tokyo – another English model called Poppy, and a Japanese model called Rin who I loved. Both of these perhaps hovered a little too close to stereotypes at points, but then again, pretty much everyone in the Geek Girl series is larger than life and exaggerated in some way, which is what makes it such a fun and colourful read. Having said that, I do think Toby has crossed the line into too creepy now. I think he’s due his very own speech from Harriet about respect and dinosaurs and how we are all part star/T-Rex. Sidenote: this is the best speech a girl has given a boy in any book I’ve read. Poor Nick! :-)

It was really nice to see Harriet step out of her comfort zone again in this book and gain some more independence and confidence. There are a lot of people protecting her just a little too much, and this story is really about her finding her own feet. This is quite a common theme in YA and it’s done really well here. Harriet slips up (a lot, often literally) along the way, providing plenty of funny and bizarre incidents, but she’s always brave and always battles through. Harriet really is a great model – she’s someone readers can look up to.

The plot itself is fun and fairly simple. I could see many of the events and twists coming, but this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. There's more going on behind Harriet's modelling disasters than she thinks, and it seems she may have a new enemy to contend with. This was set up well, with clues laid earlier in the novel, but I did feel like a certain character's motivations were very weak here. However, friendship and family are once again strong themes, which I loved, and the romance storyline is a bit more prominent here too, with Harriet trying to manoeuvre the complex minefield of the break up while Nick suddenly seems to be everywhere she is. I’d forgotten how much I liked Nick! His interactions with Harriet are brilliant, and it soon becomes clear how well they work together.

This is such a fun story, with all the great characters and the same fantastic writing that made the first book so good. Holly Smale is a genius for finding just the right metaphor, or just the right slightly odd description of something that clicks perfectly. I laughed out loud many times, and tore through the story in less than two days. Can’t wait to see what Harriet gets up to next!

Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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