Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons before he was famous. Now they re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfieldfandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
If you have ever watched A Cinderella Story (Hilary Duff) and loved it, this is definitely a novel you will want to read. Fans of cult franchises and retellings alike will love this genre mash-up of a cutesy Cinderella-esque geek romance set against the backdrop of contemporary fandoms. Elle has been an avid fan of the Starfield series – obviously, since her parents were the fandom royalty in their time, and even in the present day, the show is the link from her to her parents. It is nearly sacred for her, and learning that teen heartthrob Darien Freeman is going to reprise the role, she isn’t happy. Mainly because she doesn’t think he cares for the show, really, and more because of his fans who are not flooding the fandom. Darien, meanwhile, has been told to hide his inner geek for his ‘image’ by his manager aka his dad, but he feels honored and intimidated by his new role. He is learning how to be an actor and the fandom at the same time.
Their meeting is a meet-cute straight from the movies – a miscommunication with numbers, and they start to chat regularly without knowing the others’ real identity. At first it is mostly about the show and their shared love for it, but soon they develop a fondness for each other. It is pretty much A Cinderella Story, but fandom-style, with frequent call-outs to LOTR, Firefly, Star Wars, and other shows, and often refers to the fandoms on Tumblr and Twitter, and geek culture, with the conventions and cosplay. It is cute, and familiar, and you feel right at home, because that is how being in a fandom feels (even when it is plagued by damn ship wars). The author excellently brings out the loneliness you feel in the real world, the understanding that can only happen with someone else who shares your passions, the instant connection such a meeting can develop – it is like an homage to geek everywhere. It is not all fun and games, and has some really great emotional moments.
On the retelling front, too, you will find a lot of elements of Cinderella as well as A Cinderella Story – it is like a double retelling, a retelleception, if you may! (I’m not sorry about that one) Elle works in a restaurant, she has twin stepsisters, she chats with a stranger, they connect, they meet and things sort of fall apart, her sister tries to take the credit, and you know the rest. Sure, the ending is a bit unrealistic and there are a lot of things that can be impossible, but it was a good plot nevertheless. I loved the characters created – right from Elle, the strong girl who emulates the fierce princess of her fandom, to Darien, the dorky teen star who has to put on a mask daily, to the stepmother who was reminiscent of Cate Blanchett in Disney’s Cinderella, and I loved the pumpkin carriage, the ‘godmother’ of a friend, Sage, and the overall atmosphere of the book. It gave me all the feels!
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Quirk Books, via Netgalley.