Goodreads: The Princess and the Fangirl
Series: Once Upon a Con #2
Source: Quirk Books for review
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.
Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.
When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.
The Princess and the Fangirl, a geeky take on “The Prince and the Pauper,” is a must-read for anyone who enjoyed the companion novel Geekerella. This book has all the fun and all the pop culture references of the first book, but with a bit more of a serious take fandom, responsibility, and finding your passions.
When I reviewed Geekerella last year, I wrote:
However, ultimately the story is just pure fun, and I don’t think readers should over-think it. The most common description I’ve seen is “super cute,” and this hits the right note. So, while parts do read as “unrealistic” (I mean, a teenage fashion designer driving a vegan food truck named the Magic Pumpkin who goes on a badass mission with it, mowing over barriers at a country club does strain credulity), that’s part of the appeal. Geekerella is a crazy, improbable, but amazingly enviable adventure where the geeky girl next door has a chance to nab a movie star boyfriend who shares her geeky interests! So, yeah, cute.
And it turns out that re-reading this surprised me because, as much as The Princess and the Fangirl fits into the geek culture world Poston has created, it seems a little less wild and a little less carefree. The main premise seems unlikely–that a regular girl and an actress would look like twins and decide to switch places–but the rest of the book actually seems a bit more grounded than Geekerella does, and it addresses some heavy issues involving what the main characters Jessica and Imogene want for their lives and what they want for the Starfield fandom they are so involved in.
It took me a little while to warm up to the characters–Jessica because she hates the movie that made her famous and seems occasionally dismissive of the fans and Imogene because she talks like a walking meme, which is one of my primary pet peeves. Once I got into the story, however, I was gripped. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface for both of these characters, and it was great to see them work through their feelings and their motivations for actions they had thought they understood and then change. Both have strong character arcs. The romance each experiences takes something of a back seat to this, and I think it might have been harder for the author to build two engaging love stories into one book, but I was okay with that because I don’t think it’s the main draw of the story.
The book also expands on some of the questions about fandom and online behavior that were raised in Geekerella (in which the main character runs a popular blog criticizing the new lead actor of the Starfield reboot without knowing much about him). Here, Jessica Stone deals with a number of online bullies, people who criticize everything from her lack of love for geek culture to her acting to her appearance. She’s obsessed with checking her social channels and can’t seem to draw herself away, even when everything is negative. Imogene doesn’t love Jessica either and can’t fathom why she’s not a geek, too–until she begins to realize how unwelcoming fandom has actually been to Jessica. She also starts to think about the consequences of her passionate campaign to have Jessica’s character appear in a sequel movie, in spite of Jessica’s own desires to leave the franchise. This books revels in online culture and communication, and there’s a lot for readers to think about in terms of cyberbullying and the interactions of online communities.
Some spoilers this paragraph. I do have mixed feelings about the ending. Here, Jessica turns around and starts to love Starfield fandom herself, starts to think she might actually want to be in the sequel. This is nice and uplifting, and it’s a good message about the value of science fiction and other genres that sometimes get sneered at for being too commercial or too fluffy. However, as much as I love and value science fiction and fantasy and think other people should see their beauty, too…the implication that Jessica was wrong for wanting to be in a serious literary-based film instead of a sci-fi flick rubs me a bit the wrong way. No, people shouldn’t sneer at sci-fi, but sci-fi fans also should not think that everyone who prefers other genres is a pretentious snob who needs to see the error of their ways. Sometimes people just like different things, and I think it would have been interesting if the book had let Jessica just prefer and pursue her more serious films instead of becoming a real Starfield convert.
I did like the story overall. If you liked Geekerella or if you just like fun, contemporary stories that are very in-the-moment and up with pop culture, then you’ll probably enjoy The Princess and the Fangirl.