This was absolutely the cutest story I have ever read this year. All the pop culture references, the geeky convention it’s centered around, everything, it made my heart warm. The author captured the atmosphere of all things geek perfectly, and tied it into a classic fairy-tale so well.
You have Danielle, or Elle to her friends, living a modern-day Cinderella life with a stepmonster and evil stepsister(s), dead parents, isolated life, low self-esteem. She’s the daughter of Robin Wittimer, the founder of ExcelsiCon, but she hasn’t been to one since she was a kid. She’s a “Starfield” über fan, which, if I had to compare it to anything, is probably like “Star Trek” only not, and though the show has been off the air for decades, Hollywood, like it’s been known to do, plans to do a reboot and bring the show to the big screen.
This is where Darien Freeman comes in. A closet geek, he comes off like any other young celebrity these days: arrogant, with a massive ego, and just generally an asshole because he’s so popular with the ladies; he’s been chosen to be the new Federation Prince Carmindor, and it’s a dream role of his as he’s a huge fan of the show, as well. He’s also been scheduled to do the ExcelsiCon convention afterwards to judge the annual cosplay contest, something he’d rather not do because it holds bitter memories.
Not everyone is excited about Darien’s part in the movie; which I completely understand, because I can get so caught up in the original of something, that I’m too stubborn to give a new version a shot, whether it deserves one or not. We’ve all been there. That’s just fandom life. It’s great, but sometimes you get stuck in your feelings and mistrust and that’s not always the best.
Anyway, Elle runs a blog dedicated to “Starfield” and after she writes a post about her feelings towards Darien Freeman taking over her beloved Carmindor role, her harsh criticism of the actor goes viral. Suddenly her blog is hitting numbers she never dreamed of, and people are expressing agreement over her assumptions that Darien is the worst choice for Carmindor and the tabloid sites run with it.
Darien finds this blog post after a “Starfield” fan cuts him down for daring to play such an esteemed character, and this leads to him trying to get into contact with whom he believes is the director of ExcelsiCon, and thus begins the texting relationship between Elle and the very person she hates, but she obviously doesn’t know that, just as he has no idea that he’s conversing with the blogger who takes him over the coals.
In case I forgot to mention (I know I did), this is a Cinderella retelling, obviously set in the world of geekdom, told in dueling points-of-views of Elle and Darien, and while both characters started to annoy me with their woe-is-me, I still very much enjoyed the ride the story brought.
Speaking of the woe-is-me: Darien is struggling with his thrust to fame, and he’s built a wall around himself for protection and assumes the worst from people because someone whom he thought was a friend betrayed his trust for money, and the only person who he can turn to is his handler, Gail, and soon, his bodyguard. His father is his manager, and we find out just what he’s willing to sacrifice when it comes to keeping his son “relevant.”
Elle’s woe-is-me is a bit more whiny than I’d have liked. I mean, I get it, her stepmother is evil. Her stepsisters are evil, too. Or at least one of them is. The other, we find out, is struggling to find who she really is, and it’s kind of beautiful to see her come into her own, the little that we saw, anyway.
But I loved the texting between Elle and Darien, and how they connected over him texting a wrong number (which wasn’t technically “wrong,” because the number belonged to Elle’s dad and she inherited his phone, so…), and then connected further over “Starfield” and soon that morphed into more getting-to-know-you texts and confiding in each other not knowing who the person is, or what they looked like.
And, of course, you can’t have a Cinderella retelling without the iconic lost slipper or the pumpkin, which is actually a food cart and makes me hungry just thinking about chimichangas, vegan or not, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the fact that neither character was apart from each other for too long, because I would’ve hated it if their separation got dragged out for whatever reason. But it didn’t, and the “Happily Ever After” was cute.
So, yeah. As much as I loved this story, how light and fluffy and sweet it was, I only gave it four stars because of the whining. It started to get to be too much, but I loved the setting and learning more about fandoms and cosplay and how serious some people take their passion and it makes me wish that I could afford to go to ComiCon or something, because I bet it’s a blast every year.
All in all, if you’re into modern-day re-tellings or you’re a fellow geek for something, this book may be right up your alley.