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Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

‘Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed. 

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.’

If you’ve ever been part of a fandom, The Princess and the Fangirl is a book that will remind you of the good times and the bad, for while it feels as if the novel is ultimately a love letter to fandom and what it means for so many people, it doesn’t shy away from highlighting the growing issues within the online communities and hopefully serves as a reminder that it is not acceptable to use the internet as a space to target others with negative comments simply because there’s the anonymity provided by lack of face to face communication. I absolutely loved The Princess and the Fangirl for a huge range of reasons, but the main one has to be because it so accurately captures the fandom and con experience without at any point making it seem as if being a geek is something that you should be ashamed of. Yes, there are facets of fandom that are toxic and social media has a lot to answer for as regards making it easier for people to air their unkind commentary not only to the community, but to content creators and actors themselves, but the book also wonderfully highlights the friendships made through the love of television, books and other media and doesn’t make them seem any less real for having started online.

And that is why The Princess and the Fangirl is a wonderfully inclusive book. It not only features a beautifully wide range of relationships, but fandoms and interests and reasons for becoming involved with them. It isn’t here to shame fandom in the ways that other books that address some of the same ideas seem to – it isn’t a matter of taking a ‘geek’ and making them ‘normal’ or highlighting just how different a character is because they love a film/TV show/game/book so much: it’s about embracing what you love and enjoying it with others. It is unashamedly nerdy. I think anyone who has been to a con or been part of a fandom will recognise elements of their own experiences somewhere in the narrative, hopefully in ways that will make them smile as much as I did while reading, but also in the ways that it addresses sexism and objectification and that these things continue to impact a community that so often claims to be inclusive and non-judgemental.

I love retellings of other tales, and while there are elements employed to make this work that do require a little will to believe, that the book is a joy to read makes it so easy to want to believe. Of the two point of view characters, perhaps the reader gets to know Jess a bit better, but this may well be deliberate, owing to a need to address the impact that fandom can have upon the lives of actors (in that it may be too easy to forget that they are real people, not characters, and not unfeeling objects because they are seen on the television), and also to help those who haven’t experienced fandom to learn about why characters and media can play such key roles in people’s lives. To many who might pick up The Princess and the Fangirl, Imogen is the more familiar figure and mindset, while Jess’ journey is less so, her introduction one that doesn’t make her immediately sympathetic in her views, her stresses are the ones that people often fail to consider when posting online. Ultimately, it seems that Jess learns the most about herself and the world that she’s found herself in, the time spent with her making it most easy to sympathise with her struggles, and while Imogen also learns from her experiences in Jess’ shoes, it feels that Jess’ world is the one that is broadened the most, her heart in a better place for herself by the novel’s conclusion. It is Jess’ transformation to a girl with hope for a future in which she is happy that is perhaps the most uplifting and pleasing of the novel’s threads.

There are lovely references to the Geekerella story, characters from the first novel in this universe making appearances in The Princess and the Fangirl, and I hope that this isn’t the last book that Poston writes in it. I would love to see Jess and Imogen again in another story! Of all the books that I’ve read this year, Geekerella and The Princess and the Fangirl are perhaps the two that I’ve enjoyed and identified with the most. They are certainly the two that have had me smiling the most!

The Princess and The Fangirl is out in April 2019 from Quirk Books!