The Princess and the Fangirl (Once Upon a Con, #2) blurb:
Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: to save her favourite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off in the Starfield movie sequel. The problem is, Jessica Stone, the actress who plays Amara, desperately wants to leave the franchise behind.
When a case of mistaken identity at ExcelsiCon throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the upcoming Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must team up and trade places to find the person responsible.
That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover the darker side of fandom – as well as unexpected romantic possibilities. Can these “princesses” find a way to rescue themselves from their own expectations and redefine what it means to live happily ever after?
Book 1: Geekerella
So, The Princess and the Fangirl is a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper. And it’s gorgeous. You get to see the characters we love from Geekerella as well as bunch of new ones. (Honestly I just want like 600 more books in this world.) But it’s also about so much more than just a great retelling. This book is about finding yourself and being true to who you are. It’s about empowerment, standing up for yourself, and not being someone else’s scapegoat. It’s about trust and found family and love.
Ok, so it’s about a year after the events of Geekerella (epilogue/last chapter notwithstanding). Starfield has been out at cinemas for about a month. A sequel has been confirmed by the studio. The stars are back at ExcelsiCon to promote the sequel, and announce the villain and sequel name.
This is all fine – Jessica Stone is a professional and knows how to do the press circuit. However, she’s had a pretty hard time from the public. Her social media platforms are all talking about how she’s too fat, too thin, not Amara enough, trying to be too Amara, too sexy, not sexy enough… it goes on. And she’s at breaking point.
Then the director hands her a copy of the SUPER SECRET script without telling her what it is just as she hits breaking point, and Jess cracks. She throws it out not knowing what it is – she wants nothing more to do with this series, she’s only seen the bad-side of the fandom: the negative, the trolls, the hateful commentary.
On the other side of the Con is Imogen Lovelace. Mo, or Monster as she’s know affectionately to her family, has seen Starfield about half a dozen times. Amara is her favourite character, and she wants to save her. So much so, she’s started a petition and has 50,000 signatures. She wants Jessica Stone to come back for the sequel so badly, but Jess doesn’t want to. They have a chance run-in at the bathrooms where Jess is hurting and as Mo exits, she is mistaken for Jess and taken to a panel… panic ensues
In Geekerella, Jess was this gorgeous, Hollywood game-playing actress. When I first started this book I didn’t like her. I couldn’t connect with her. But as you go on, you realise that the Jess you saw in Geekerella, and even the Jess you saw at the start of this book, is a fake Jess. She’s doing what she thinks she has to in order to survive. Part of the beauty of this book is showing readers that the little things you say online, no matter where they are, could hurt someone whether it’s are intentional or not. (I could talk for days about how internet trolls, bullies and keyboard warriors are killing self-confidence and creating more anxiety in the world than is absolutely necessary.)
Imogen thinks she is a nobody, struggling to get out of her younger brother’s shadow. Saving Amara is something she can do to help though. It’s the only thing she has. Mo has this really amazing story arc where she continually doubts herself, but can push past that 90% of the time and exude the confidence that she doesn’t always feel. But she also has this ability to see the good in things, and that’s really important for her to share with Jess as the story continues. She’s such a good egg – I love Mo a lot.
Then you have these two amazing secondary characters – Ethan, who is Jess’ assistant, but who has also been her best friend her whole life. Ethan tries to help Mo take on Jess’ role, but with mixed results. Then there’s Harper, who is an online friend of Mo’s. They’ve never actually met irl before, so Jess kind of gets the easier job in this (although Ethan knows what’s going on so maybe it’s Mo who has the easier job).
There’s also a bit of a Scooby gang style mystery in this. Who is leaking the script? And by ‘Scooby gang’, I mean it’s fun – no one is taking bullets or running for their lives in this one. But by the end, the whole team has come together to pull off this insane stunt.
I don’t usually talk about the authors in these, but can I just say that Ashley Poston is pulling off the unimaginable with these books. To give you some context into what I mean (this is going to get weird for a second), when I was a kid cartoons (He-Man, She-Ra, Sailor Moon, Care Bears, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.) all had a little ‘moral of the story’ at the end of each episode. Whether this was a 30 bit on “bullying is bad”, or “don’t tell lies”, you learnt something – it wasn’t just mindless entertainment. Ashley Poston has somehow created these amazingly well written, entertaining and funny stories – that are contemporary versions of fairytales – and have a moral story. I would give these books to my niece to read because of that messaging, which I find so important in today’s society.
If Geekerella was an ode to fangirls/boys out there and a reminder to be as nerdy as you want to, then The Princess and the Fangirl is the love letter to women, to continue being passionate, strong and formidable. To join forces and be bold and brave. To remember to be your own heroes and that your thoughts, opinions, feeling, beliefs and values matter. To take matters in your own hands and do whatever it is that you want to so. To look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.