Geekerella: Once Upon a Con, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Geekerella: Once Upon a Con, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Charming "Cinderella" update set in world of sci-fi fandom.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 9 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Charleston, South Carolina, points of interest and geography are mentioned. Some discussion of "whitewashing" characters of color in big-budget movies.

Positive Messages

Follow your heart. Keep your loved ones in your heart and mind; their love will see you through tough times. You're never as alone as you feel; sometimes you have to reach out to find a supportive community. Learn to trust in others and let them help you. Sometimes you have to take a big risk to get what you want.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elle's a sweet, smart girl. She works hard to find her way out of her soul-crushing circumstances. Darien's a good kid who is lost in the world of celebrity. He, too, digs deep to take control of his life. Sage is a funny, trustworthy friend to Elle. Gail and Lonny care for and support Darien. Elle's late dad was a great parent who gave her memories of love and unquestioning support, which see her through tough times. 


A fan rushes a teen idol to kiss him, knocks him over, and injures him slightly. Elle's stepmother and stepsisters are emotionally abusive and cruel to her. Her stepmother grabs her and drags her out of bed in one scene and slaps her in another. One character gets hit in the face with a door accidentally, which results in a bloody nose. A neglected dog lives next door to Elle.


Lots of romantic longing. Descriptions of nice bodies, long legs, and overall attractiveness. A few mildly sexually suggestive jokes, plus flirting. Characters see people making out, but it isn't graphically described. A few chaste kisses.


Infrequent swearing, including "God," "a--hole," "s--t," "balls," "d--k," "butt," and one use of "frak" instead of "f--k."


Portrays characters who are social climbers and want to be famous on social media, so many references to celebrities, tabloids, fashion magazines, media outlets, and social media platforms. Because the plot centers on a fictional version of Comic-Con, many superheroes, comics, movie franchises, and stars are mentioned. Products mentioned include Mazda Miata, Advil, Burberry, BlackBerry, Orange Crush, and BMW.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Geekerella is light romance based on "Cinderella." In this modern retelling of the classic fairy tale, the action is set against the big-screen adaptation of a cult sci-fi television show, Starfield. Ella blogs about the show and isn't happy with the movie casting. The male lead, Darien, is misunderstood by the girls who swoon over him and by the hard-core show fans who don't think he can deliver in the role. Elle's life is crushed under the cruelty dished out by her stepmother and stepsisters, and Darien's cold, hard-driving manager dad makes his life rough. The connection between Elle and her "prince" is based on their feelings of isolation. The story is generally light, with some emotional cruelty and a few scenes of rough grabbing and slapping. There's no smoking, alcohol, or drug use, and swearing is infrequent ("a--hole," "s--t," "d--k). It's a good choice for kids who like escapist romance and the geek culture of sci-fi and comics. There's some discussion of Hollywood's "whitewashing" of characters of color on the big screen, and a gay romance blossoms between secondary characters.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byATH3NA July 3, 2018

Once Upon a Con

I'm one of those people who goes to the book store and has to get a basket just to hold all of their books. So, I walked into to Barnes and Noble the othe... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBeachgirl54 August 24, 2019


This book was REALLY good. I loved all the real-life references and the connections I could make. The romance was a really good amount, and in general, this bo... Continue reading

What's the story?

GEEKERELLA is a modern take on the classic "Cinderella" fairy tale. Elle works in the Magic Pumpkin vegan food truck and runs a blog about Starfield, her favorite sci-fi TV show. She has the requisite evil stepmom and stepsisters to contend with, as well as a profound loneliness from having no friends. Darien's a teen idol soap opera star tasked with bringing the cult sci-fi show to the big screen. He lives in his own kind of emotional isolation, but no one would believe it based on the paparazzi pictures and gossip magazine stories. A text message to the wrong person sparks a texting romance between Elle and Darien, but neither can reveal their identity for fear the other will be put off by the reality of who they are. The two are unknowingly on a collision course to meet at the big ExcelsiCon sci-fi and comic convention.

Is it any good?

This cute, modern update of the "Cinderella" fairy tale is a fun romp for lovers of light YA romance. Geekerella humorously captures the battle between the fandom of cult sci-fi shows and the newbies who jump on the big-screen reboot bandwagon. Author Ashley Poston accurately depicts the anger and sadness hard-core fans experience when their beloved, quirky shows hit the mainstream. The chapters alternate narration between Elle and Darien. The approach works well because it gives the readers good insight into the interior lives of each, both of whom are sad and lonely and feel they don't fit in. Elle's connection to her late father through the show Starfield is bittersweet, and Darien's desire to have his dad be a real dad rather than a pushy manager is heartbreaking.

The action is fast-paced and entertaining though predictable, given that most readers know the story of "Cinderella" pretty well. Because of the predictability, some of the supposedly suspenseful plot points feel forced. The awfulness Elle faces at home is hard to read at times, but it makes you cheer all the more for her at the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the portrayal of social media stardom in Geekerella. Elle's stepsisters want to be famous on YouTube. What do you think about people who get famous via social media? What value do you think it brings to their lives?

  • What do you think is the downside of idolizing famous actors, writers, and directors? Have you ever been really into a story series only to be disappointed by the direction it took?

  • Would you ever be allowed to skip school for something you were really into, such as Comic-Con? What kind of deal would you offer to make it happen?


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