Book Review: Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb

Synopsis: Archie is fourteen years old and a Geek to his core. In the world of role-playing games, he's a Level 5 Mage, capable of summoning the Undead. In this world, things are rather different. With no rule book to navigate Life's Big Challenges - warring parents, a crass step-father, orc-like school bullies and crap hair - he's teetering on the brink…

Then a Beautiful Girl appears in his Geeky world… Despite the fact that the closest he's come to an encounter with a girl is painting an Elven miniature, Archie embarks on a Daring Quest to win her heart.

Pages: 352

Rating: 9/10

Overall Thoughts: Seriously funny. Seriously loved it. It makes you remember how awkward and confusing being a (geeky) teenager was, and how much you both do and don't miss it. While I felt the plot loses it way slightly in the middle, it makes sense with the final act that makes up for the wobble.
Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind

I picked up this book while browsing in a bookshop, as you do, when it caught my eye. I did debate it for a bit, because the cover is a bit childish for a YA book, but I couldn't resist the premise of a proper, old-school Geek, of the RPG-playing variety, falling for a girl. And I'm really glad I went for it. (And this is the first time I like took actual notes while reading so I could remember points about the book as I read them. Go me!)

Straight off, from the first paragraph, I was laughing. The whole way through this book, Archie's first person narrative was constantly cracking me up, like laugh out loud funny.
Everything's fine, until she says the word 'buttocks'. At that precise moment in time, I become convinced that if I relax that particular region, I might fart.
This was backed up with a hilarious Inner Monologue (IM), which gives a constant running commentary on everything Archie says and thinks. It's like the little voice in your head who delights in pointing out your faults and turning everything you say into an innuendo. The IM was often the source of the biggest chuckles.
What if I grow a beard?
IM: Please remain seated, everyone. Do not panic. We'll let you know what the problem is as soon as we have identified it.
Seriously, I was dying.

Not only is the narrative hilarious, Robb nails both the young teen voice and the nerdy/geeky voice. Archie is 14 and acts like one. He's painfully awkward around girls, has crude conversations with his equally awkward mates and is horribly embarrassed by his parents (e.g. the winkwink nudgenudge from his mum over the potential love interest and his dad using *cringe* txtspk). He is completely relatable. On the geeky side of things, he is wonderfully pedantic and gives detailed explanations about his hobbies. He's a proper anorak!

And being a Geek, the whole book is littered with references. Everything from the expected, such as LOTR, Star Trek and comic book heroes, to the slightly unexpected Glee and Twilight references!
I can feel my inner Robert Pattinson being exposed to the harsh light of Reality.
Archie, together with his closest mates, Mark, Ravi and Beggsy felt like a younger, infinitely more British version of the Big Bang Theory gang. Archie is the Leonard of the group, Beggsy is Howard and Ravi is Raj. Though I think it would be a bit harsh to name Mark as Sheldon. And Sarah (the aforementioned love interest) is Penny in this scenario, obviously.

As for the plot, it was initially looking like Archie was going to meet the Girl, fall in love with the Girl, and eventually get the Girl. I.e. be quite predictable. However, while Archie did meet the girl and fall in love with the girl, the path to true love does not run smooth. The Girl in question, Sarah, struck me as a manic pixie dream girl type. She is mysterious but rather shallow as a character, and is strangely interested in Archie and the Game (essentially Dungeons and Dragons), and appears to like like him.

Sarah is also into the concept of the Psychic Self and auras etc. But this is where I felt like the plot was losing its way a bit with all the Psychic Self stuff. And not necessarily because I don't buy into this Pyschic stuff, each to their own and all that. I was all for Archie owning himself more, and not just saying what he thinks people want to hear, but at the same time there was no need to be mean about it. However, it all comes together for the end, and despite (major spoiler alert) Archie not actually getting the Girl, it doesn't feel like you've been cheated.

It touts the life lesson that is it best to be one's self, whatever that maybe and to embrace it fully. The underlying arc of the book is the way you have to almost deconstruct yourself to work out what fits you best. That you need to do what's right for you, not what you think everyone wants you to do. There is no use changing yourself to make someone else happy, because then you are not happy. I think this came across really well, without being preachy. Though Archie worked this life lesson out years before I did...

It also documents Archie's struggle with the fact that his parents have split up, and he now lives with his mum and her "Tosser" of a boyfriend. You can feel how much he hates that his parents don't talk, and that he can't talk about it with either of them. And it causes a lot of the conflict in the book, directly and indirectly. It is particularly poignant when Archie finds out (major spoiler alert) that his dad is moving away, and Archie's deep feeling of rejection and anger. It is very well done, and sensitively done.

I also really enjoyed reading a book set in England for once. I mean, a lot of YA stuff is set in American high school. This was familiar and very relatable for a Brit like me. I imagine that for some, the Briticisms will cause a few hiccups, but I personally think it adds to the charm that exudes from this book.

I wholeheartedly recommend Geekhood to anyone who loves a good laugh and to feel like they aren't the only one who went through that.

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