Changing someone for a joke never works, not in real life nor should it in books. So when a small group of Goth high school girls get together and bet one of their group she can’t change a geek guy into someone cool, I had visions of disaster even though this is billed as a romance.
Raised in a series of foster homes and always feeling like an intruder in the families’ lives, Jen flaunts her Goth look, trying her hardest at her latest home to be as different from their “normal” as possible. At school, she hangs with two other Goth girls, sisters who seem to egg each other on as much as they push Jen to do the outrageous.
Jen feels a pull to Trevor, a Geek who looks and acts completely different from the black dressed, black haired, black make-up wearing Jen and her friends. When the sisters bet Jen that she can’t “turn” Trevor into a bad boy, Jen accepts the challenge.
At first Jen gets off on terrorizing Trevor’s Trekkie friends and his demure, buttoned-up potential girlfriend when she attends their parties. But Trevor isn’t so easily put off, persuading Jen to accompany him to a senior center where he plays piano for the elders and Jen eventually makes friends with some of the residents who say she brightens their days. While Jen makes Trevor’s mother nervous, the mother is reassured when his family bumps into Jen and her foster family at the bowling alley one Friday night, making Trevor’s parents feel more comfortable about his budding relationship with her.
Everything is going somewhat smoothly until Trevor finds out about the bet and is immediately repulsed. Although Jen says she writes him off, she secretly wishes they were together again since she misses him so much. Can she ever convince him that she likes him the way he is and wants him back now that he’s hooked up with his Goody Two Shoes girlfriend?
Geek Girl is one of those sweet coming of age high school romances that is at times poignant and always insightful. Jen as a foster child has had quite a row to hoe so far in her short life and now can’t really rely on anyone except herself.
She always feels she’s got one foot out the door with a new family and will be ejected soon. So why should she try to fit in? Her radar for judging peers is skewed to hone in how they are dressed and how much trouble they get into. She’s been labeled and in turn uses the labels she knows to prejudge others.
Travis, on the other hand, has grown up in a sheltered, loving family with no adversity or trouble. His geekness centers primarily on his friends’ love of science fiction movies even though he doesn’t get as tied up in the nuances as they do. He is innately kind and trusting, two qualities in direct opposition of Jen’s experience.
While it’s easy to see why Jen falls for Travis, why Travis falls for her is less clear. Although she changes and becomes more like he is, she’s really not very nice to him at the beginning and there isn’t a foundation for them to build a solid relationship.
But this is a fictional romance, not real life. Bennett gives readers enough that the fairytale framework of the story suspends disbelief, and readers will root for these two well-meaning people to get together. It’s only afterward, upon reflection, that readers might wonder if the wonderful story might be more glorious smoke and mirrors than true love.