Book Review – Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind

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Title: Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind

Author: Andy Robb

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Date: 2012

Format: Paperback (351 pages)

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.

Geek meets Girl … what could possibly go right?

This book is adorably geeky!

As I was reading it I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Big Bang Theory. In many ways Archie is a lot like Leonard. He and his three friends Beggsy, Matt and Ravi, who are hopeless with girls, all hang out at the local geeky shop, The Hovel, and spend a lot of their time playing RPGs (Role Playing Games) like Dungeons and Dragons and talking about awesome geeky things.

The author uses a lot of geeky terminology to describe how Archie feels, which I thought worked really well and helped me to relate to the character since I’m a geek too! A fair bit of it seems to have been influenced by Star Trek and Star Wars, but the references are mostly generic and wouldn’t be off-putting to readers who aren’t familiar with those franchises. I particularly liked the idea that Archie has “shields” to protect him from emotional distress, which he only lowers when he’s alone in his room and feels safe.

Archie has a really cool way of differentiating between his private thoughts and what he shows to the outside world. His IM (Inner Monologue) is the sarcastic voice in his head which offers hilarious comments and “advice” to Archie about the situations he finds himself in. In true geek fashion, the IM has “files” like a computer, which Archie can access depending on the situation he’s in, like his Etiquette Files for social situations. I’m a big fan of sarcastic humour, so I loved the IM and its comments made me laugh a lot. Archie’s body language is referred to as the EM (External Monologue) and represents the cool and confident persona he tries to be. The IM and EM are often in conflict, which produces amusing results and is an interesting way of exploring the idea that what we think and what we portray to others are often completely different.

The book is divided into two sections: IM and PS (the Psychic Self Archie’s love interest Sarah introduces him to). I loved the voice of the IM so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the PS taking over. I wasn’t a huge fan of its comments which were along the lines of a stereotypical spiritual guru, but the reactions of the IM (who refuses to surrender without a fight!) made it worthwhile. I loved its mocking of Archie’s attempts to summon his PS: “The force is strong in this one.” The conflict between the IM and the PS reminded me of one most of us can relate to: the inner war between our hopes and desires and our fears and insecurities. Archie is going through confusing issues of identity and self-confidence and the struggle between the IM and the PS is an interesting expression of that.

One thing that annoyed me about Archie was his belief that girls aren’t into geeky things and couldn’t possibly want to date guys like him:

 “If you haven’t worked it out yet, girls don’t do this. They don’t like goblins and dragons. They don’t paint miniatures. They don’t play role playing games or re-enact fictional battles. And they don’t talk to Geeks like me especially if they’re pretty.”

Eh, yes we do! Maybe that’s what teenage boys like Archie think, but as a lifelong geek myself it really irritated me that he kept making that assumption. I also wonder if it would put teenage girls off reading this book, which I suspect is mainly written with teenage boys in mind.

Thanks to his misguided attempts to become Sarah’s boyfriend, Archie makes radical changes to his life; the most serious of which involves rejecting his inner geek. This really bothered me, as I wanted Archie to embrace his real self and the things he was passionate about instead of being ashamed of them. Thankfully, Matt is there to remind him of who he really is:

“The way I see it … everyone’s a Geek of some sort. Football, films, music – it doesn’t matter what the interest is; if you’re fascinated by it, then you’re a Geek. Simple as that.”

Matt is definitely my favourite character, especially for saying that. He knows who he is and he’s proud of it, and when Archie is having family problems Matt encourages him to “lower his shields” and confide in him. He’s a real friend.

My favourite part of the novel was the development of the IM and how it matured along with Archie and became a genuine advisor while still maintaining its hilarious sarcastic side. It encourages Archie to express his true feelings to his parents about their family problems for the first time instead of keeping them bottled up, which isn’t healthy for anyone and something I have struggled with myself, so that was really nice to see.

Despite my annoyance with some elements of Archie’s character, I did enjoy this book a lot. If you’re a geek and proud of it and enjoy a healthy dose of sarcasm, then I think you will too.

Signed PageOn a side note, I was lucky enough to find a signed copy hidden in the bookshelves in a Waterstones bookshop in Edinburgh. It sometimes sells copies leftover after an author signing event. Isn’t that awesome?!

Overall Rating: Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture My bookworm rating system is explained here.

Other Works by this Author: Andy Robb has also written a sequel to this book called Geekhood: Mission Improbable. It’s on my TBR list so when I eventually get to it I’ll review it on here too.