I just finished reading QUEENS OF GEEK, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself jumping from a book about conventions to a book about - gasp - LARPing (or "live action roleplaying"). The premise is a strange, but intriguing one. Adrianna "Andy" Bottom is forced to move from Seattle to Beverly Hills after her father's line of bathroom accessories (think: Buddy Bowls) make it big. Worse: she's forced to be a part of her family's latest money making scheme. A reality TV show called Bathroom Barons.
I can't even say that with a straight face. You should see my smirk.
Everyone wants to be Adrianna's friend because she's rich and basically a minor celebrity, but Adrianna finds herself attracted to the nerdy kid in school named Kevin, who is into comic books and LARPing. But Adrianna's friend, Harper, warns her against this and tells her that befriending Kevin will result in her being ostracized by the entire school. After a catastrophic misunderstanding turns Kevin against her, Adrianna decides that the only way to get close to him is to don a mask and LARP.
This was light and fun, and reads like a knock-off version of a Meg Cabot story, where the temperamental and awkward popular girl realizes that the boy she wanted was the one who was there beside her all along. Also like Meg Cabot, it reads about ten years out of date and as though it were written by someone who really has no idea what geek culture is actually like. Even though I enjoyed SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS, I have a few hangups about it:
**WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW**
1. Lennox later says that the reason he bullied Kevin and his friends was because Corbin, the Bathroom Barons TV producer, bribed him to. But this doesn't make sense because Adrianna later finds out that he's the Mac Attacker who throws food at Kevin and his friends when they LARP in the park and that he was doing that well before Adrianna hopped on the scene from what I remember.
2. Lennox's behavior is basically sexual assault. Unwanted touches, unwanted kisses, lol-your-yes-means-no-type behavior. This is never dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Again, Lennox says that much of this was bribed by Corbin (which would make him complicit in arranging sexual assault against a minor?) and that he only did it because he wanted Harper back. Ooookay. Well, you're still not a nice guy, and I don't think you deserve a happily-ever-after for doing all that BS, thank you.
3. I'm so tired of stories where the girl makes a minor mistake and then has to scale Mt. Everest to get the guy back. It was so, so painfully clear that her slight against Kevin was a misunderstanding and he doesn't forgive her for it until she organizes a LARP competition/fashion show, makes him a fancy new costume, and saves his park from being bulldozed (and at the cost of her father's business). What more do you want? You're no prize, either. Even though Andy and Adrianna were the same person, he didn't really know that, and you could argue that he was stringing both of them along. Jerk.
4. The whole "geeks are major losers who get bullied by the whole school" stereotype is right out of the 90s/early 2000s. It was like that when I was in high school, but it definitely isn't like that now. Geek culture has entered the mainstream, and with anime being turned into movies, Marvel superheroes in theaters, and conventions becoming an adolescent rite of passage, this felt super inaccurate. LARPing is kind of the last bastion of weirdness, which is probably why the author chose it as Kevin's hobby, but I doubt that you would get ridiculed for it to the point of bullying/assault.
5. What the hell is wrong with the adult figures in this book? Why didn't Adrianna's parents fire that utterly corrupt production manager, and why didn't the teachers do something about the bullying??
Apart from those hang-ups, though, SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS was just the light read I needed to get me between some heavier books. I'd read another book by this author.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
2.5 out of 5 stars