A couple of weeks ago I read and loved Heart on a Chain by Cindy C Bennett. The book was seriously flawed but was very entertaining and addictive, so I wanted to read more and that’s why I got Geek Girl.
Jen is the school’s bad girl. She dresses in black, uses heavy makeup and has a bit of a reputation. One day she sees the school’s nerd, Trevor, and decides that her next project will be to seduce him into the dark side, to turn him bad like her. So she bets with her friend that she will be able to do it sooner or later. At first he can’t understand why someone like her will want to be friends with someone like him, but because he’s such a good boy he invites her to join his group of friends. Slowly they get to know each other, Jen realizes that he is a great person and fun to be with, and Trevor gets to see past the bad girl to the real Jen inside. So they become friends and then fall in love. Slowly her clothes change and her makeup is less strong, she stops being a Goth girl to become a geek girl.
I think this book was more believable than Heart on a Chain. Jen’s life was very difficult, her mother went to jail and her father was violent and abusive. After going from foster family to foster family she has finally found a stable home with people who love her. She’s weary, though, she’s been burned before so instead of forming attachments and feeling secure with this family, she acts recklessly and misbehaves. She uses that behavior as a façade that isolates her and allows her to keep control over the situation, that way, when the family decides to get rid of her she will know that it was because of what she did, that it was her deciding when she had to leave and not the family. In a twisted way she’s avoiding more heartbreak.
Trevor, on the other hand, was perfect. Nerdy, yes, but also hunky (God forbid that we actually get a normal looking hero, let alone an ugly one), very mature, understanding and nice, perfect, perfect, perfect. Not annoyingly perfect, but unrealistic. It was exactly what Jen needed, though, so it gave some balance to Jen’s flaws. At first he is weary of Jen, and it takes some time for him to trust her, the romance develops slowly because Jen is very forward and it makes him uncomfortable, also, he is attracted to another girl (just at first). Near the end of the book he behaves a bit irrationally, which was uncalled for and out of character, so I guess he wasn’t that perfect after all.
Everything resolves nicely and once Jen decides to trust her family she has no problem at all adjusting and changing, it was a bit confusing because at times she claimed the Goth girl was the real Jen, and at times she claimed that was just a front she used to protect herself:
He’s a little disappointed in me today, I can tell. I’m back, the real me, the same one who first approached him so many months ago—a lifetime ago, it seems. He saw it right away by the full-force return of my look with severe makeup, wearing the tightest sweater and shortest skirt I own. I am dressed for success.
After swimming for a while and having a water fight that he easily wins, we climb out and walk back to our blanket. I’m unused to the lack of attention I’m getting from the other swimmers. Though my swimsuit is covered with black skulls, without my outrageous clothes and makeup, I don’t particularly stand out. The anonymity is somewhat nice because I can relax and not worry about keeping the act up.
So, which is it? Was she confused? Was this poor characterization? I’m not sure. Overall Jen was a pretty consistent character and had a clear story arch, so I’ll go with confusing.
The story was interesting and engrossing, it was also quite long. The story drags a lot and it could use some serious editing. The main conflict comes from the bet, and you know sooner or later there’s going to be a “big misunderstanding” once Trevor finds out, the problem is that it takes so long to happen, and their relationship seems so strong, that at one point I thought that once the big reveal came it wouldn’t be such a big deal. I was wrong about that, not only that, but just as the waiting for the big reveal is long, the waiting for the reconciliation was long as well. I got tired of it pretty fast.
If you like angsty YA books, with damaged characters and slightly nerdy guys, then go for it, I’m sure you will love it. It has some heartbreaking parts and it was romantic. Despite of its shortcomings I enjoyed it a lot and I can’t wait to read more by this author.
Review by Brie
"Think I could turn that boy bad?"
My two best friends--my only two friends, really--follow my gaze and laugh.
"Trevor Hoffman?" Beth scoffs. "No way, Jen."
"I bet I could," I say, shrugging.
"Why him?" Beth asks. "Why not any of the other nerds sitting there with him?"
"Because," I say slowly, "he isn't your typical run-of-the-mill geek. Trevor Hoffman is different. He would be a little more difficult to take down--more of a challenge, you know?"
Jen's teenage life of rebelling and sneaking out is growing stale. In an effort to combat her boredom, Jen makes a bet to turn Trevor, a nice geek, into a "bad boy."
Unexpectedly, she is pulled into Trevor's world of sci-fi movies, charity work, and even--ugh!--bowling. Jen discovers that hanging out with Trevor isn't so bad after all.But when Trevor finds out about the wager, all bets are off.
Cedar Fort, Inc. December 8, 2011.