A smash hit in the UK, this is a cheeky, fabulous, fun read for anyone who has dreamed of a fresh start.
British teen Harriet Manners is the official school geek, and she suffers constant torment by her peers. When Harriet’s longtime best friend Nat, an aspiring model, drags her to a fashion event, it’s Harriet, not Nat, who gets “discovered,” driving a wedge between them. As 15-year-old Harriet is whisked to Moscow for photo shoots, fashion shows, and the promise of future fame and fortune, she and her father lie to everyone about their whereabouts, creating all manner of complications. Debut author Smale, a former model herself, gives Harriet an instantly appealing narrative voice, full of discursions and self-deprecation—wisecracking, down-on-her-luck Harriet is easy to warm to. If the ugly duckling turned swan is cliché, both Smale and Harriet know it. “I could go from proverbial caterpillar to butterfly, from tadpole to frog,” thinks Harriet. “From larva to dragonfly (which is actually only a half metamorphosis, but still—I think—worth mentioning).” Other overfamiliar types (including Harriet’s extravagantly flamboyant agent and an ultra-severe fashion maven) deflate the story’s fun somewhat, but most readers will thoroughly enjoy Harriet’s uproarious misadventures. Ages 13–up. Agent: Kate Shaw, Viney Agency. (Jan.)
Gr 7–10—Harriet Manners, star of this British import, is a geek through and through. She has no idea how to dress, is awkward and clumsy, spouts off facts at every opportunity, is bullied mercilessly at school, and has one friend, Nat, and one stalker, Toby. Nat dreams of becoming a fashion model and drags a completely uninterested Harriet along to Clothes Week, hoping to get discovered. As soon as they arrive, Nat runs off to find an agent leaving Harriet to her own devices. While looking at hats, Harriet manages to knock over several stalls, which creates quite a commotion and leads to her unwanted discovery by a modeling agent. Insert hilarity, deception, misunderstanding, fashion, makeup, and hairstyles. Harriet loses and regains her best friend and finds a new friend in Toby while she attempts to navigate modeling for one of the top fashion designers. Quirky, likable, and geeky, Harriet is an outsider to the modeling world but possesses a natural charm that is everything the fashion world needs. Pure fun.—Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN
A transformation comedy from a debut author who seems to be aiming to become the next Louise Rennison.Harriet Manners has all the markings of a geek. Loves learning and discovering facts? Check. Can't contain her enthusiasm for what she finds interesting? Check. Mocked by her schoolmates? Check. At least she has best friend Nat to help her face Alexa, the ringleader of the bullies, and escape Toby, Harriet's annoying stalker. In a sequence that sacrifices logic for humor, Harriet and Nat attend a fashion expo, where Nat hopes to be scouted as a model—but it is Harriet that is spotted. Tired of being branded a geek and feeling like she's lost her friendship with Nat, Harriet lets herself be drawn into the world of high-fashion modeling. Gorgeous male model Nick is the only bright side, because becoming a model can't change who Harriet is underneath. In a clichéd conclusion, Harriet will learn that the only viable choice is to be true to yourself and to be honest with the people who love you just for who you are. The wacky humor and subtle girl-empowerment message of the Brit-chick-lit genre are on full display here, yet it just feels overdone and unoriginal. Choppy writing and stereotyped characters combine for a fluffy mess. (Chick lit. 12-16)