This is the first time a call a blog post on Provocative Praise a Review.
I don’t normally use that word, because I don’t really consider the bits that I write about comics, films and books to be actual reviews. I almost exclusively talk about things I love, focus mostly on where they excel, and don’t typically think much about what other people may like or dislike.
The reason that I absolutely have to call this post a review is that I got a complementary digital review copy from the book’s editor, Hope Nicholson. (Note the reviewer’s disclosure.) In my opinion it would go against professional courtesy and common basic decency to mince words and shy away from declaring this a review of Secret Loves Of Geek Girls.
For those who don’t know me I should point out that I’m not in the target audience of the book. I’m not a girl (but rather a cis, straight, white male). And I’m not even a geek. I have some of the geeky interests, but none of the geeky lifestyles and attitudes, and also an idiosyncratic taste: Firefly but not Farscape, Guardians Of The Galaxy but not The Avengers, Threshold but not X-Files, Schlock Mercenary, Space Mullet and Drive but not Star Wars.
Why did on I want to read this book and talk about it? Well, discussion about it showed up in my Twitter feed, with pictures – both cartoons and photos – of these Geek Girls sitting around and talking in what looked like a fun party. As long as they humour me, I might as well join in and listen. You never know what you will learn by listening to people, especially those that are different from you.
What did I learn from reading the book?
Secret Loves Of Geek Girls is an anthology that combines many different types of stories – comics, illustrated stories, short stories, essays, protocol / log entry style writing, etc. – from many very different authors. As editor Hope Nicholson writes in the foreword: “It was important to me to have stories from a variety of experiences”. That goal was achieved most certainly. Notwithstanding that all the writers identify as Geek Girls, the diversity among them is incredible.
Unfortunately, the large number of authors makes it quite impossible for me to mention any specific names without giving away an unintended notion of differences in quality or importance. I will sum up my impressions instead.
With this type of anthology it would be unusual if all stories would resonate with me – or most readers, I’d assume – with equal strength. They didn’t. Some of the comics and the stories I found really good, even brilliant. A few I couldn’t get into at all. Most of them I found interesting and fun to read.
Now, if this doesn’t sound overly enthusiastic, keep in mind what I said earlier about not being in the target audience! If you are a Geek Girl, or the partner of a Geek Girl, or a parent of a Geek Girl, you will probably get much closer to the material than I ever could.
Overall, I found the whole book well written and/or illustrated. By the nature of the book, all of the stories are very personal and very frank. They are all to the point, and clear about what they want to convey. Those stories that are decidedly funny all made me laugh.
Some stories are funny, some are serious, some are sad, some are something else entirely. But none of them is mopey, whiney, or desperate. None of them is condescending or hostile to anyone. I wish everyone would stand by their own life choices and experiences, without denouncing those of other people, in just the way these Geek Girls do.
And I noticed that sometimes life experiences that are totally different from my own can nevertheless show some strange familiarity. Many of the stories talk about using fanfiction as a means to explore sexual and relationship issues. In the words of the editor: “For so many people out there, a fictional crush is just as intense as a real-world one, and a whole hell of a lot safer!” This concept is totally foreign for me. I have no interest whatever in fanfiction, and I’d never use it for any such purpose. But it dawned on me that in my favorite fiction – sci-fi, espionage, thriller – I often develop an astonishing infatuation about femme fatales or women who could kill me with their pinkie. Talk about using safe spaces for exploration.
To sum up: Secret Loves Of Geek Girls is a fascinating book, and with regard to anyone who is in the target audience I can only join editor Hope Nicholson in her wish that “… you’ll enjoy these stories, and I hope it starts off some fascinating conversations about the myriad ways we each experience love, sex, and dating.”
Also, I had a lot of fun reading this book and reviewing it, so I entertain the thought to do more book reviews in the future. But of course, I’ll have to write some more about my favorite webcomics, first. There so much out there that I want to enjoy, and share the passion.
BTW, if you want to know what people who are in the target audience, i.e geek girls, think about this book, you could start by reading the review by Ari Carr.
I wish you a merry christmas, or a fun holiday, or whatever these days may mean for you.