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REVIEW: Geek High by Piper Banks

Dear Ms. Banks,

045122225301mzzzzzzz.jpgI might be biased. You see, I spent much of my childhood in various gifted and talented programs and I even attended a magnet high school specializing in math and science. So I just might be a little predisposed towards your novel about a math genius enrolled in a school for gifted children, aka Geek High.

The aforementioned math genius, Miranda Bloom, is known as the Human Calculator. It’s her claim to fame, and even landed her a spot on David Letterman as a child, but it’s also the one thing she hates most. When her writer mother takes off for London to research her latest romance novel, Miranda is left with her father, his new wife, and her stepsister — the first of whom has been neglecting her for the past three years while the other two pretend she doesn’t exist. It couldn’t come at a worse time because this is also the start of a new school year.

While a part of me refuses to believe a mother could just run off to London with no advanced nothing, I also understood that Sadie is flighty and not about to let anything hold her back, even when that “anything” is her own daughter. And it allows us to focus on Miranda’s evolving relationship with her father, Richard, and his new family. After her parents divorced, Miranda’s relationship with Richard fell apart and much of their storyline is devoted to their trying to reconnect. I found Richard’s unconditional acceptance of Miranda while at the same time wanting her to bond with her stepsister Hannah was very realistic. I also loved her awkward relationship with Hannah. If Miranda is the smart girl, Hannah is the pretty girl and the two view each other with varying degrees of wariness and disdain. On the other hand, I thought Miranda’s stepmother, Peyton, was very stereotypical and two-dimensional — a wicked stepmother and nothing more.

Miranda’s interactions with her friends, classmates, and teachers were excellent. Her two best friends are quirky and fun, and their determined refusal to acknowledge their mutual crush was a delight to see through Miranda’s eyes. I especially enjoyed her scenes with the principal, whose Machiavellian tendencies result in blackmailing Miranda to plan the winter dance and rejoining the math team. She may be a genius, but she certainly can’t stop a determined school administrator. It was wonderful to such a diverse and three-dimensional cast of characters. Even her tormentor, Felicity, is more than the cliched high school mean girl who’s mean for the sake of being mean. Her sniping at Miranda has more to do with insecurity and jealousy that Miranda is better than her, even though Miranda thinks the reverse is true.

While Miranda’s hopeless crush on Emmet was cute, especially when she then had to cope with his dating Hannah, what I truly liked was her growing attraction to Hannah’s friend, Dex. I loved their interactions so much that I wished we could have seen much more. I think Miranda’s realization that she judges the pretty, popular people as harshly as the pretty, popular people judge her was the strongest aspect of the book, and her interactions with Dex showed that in a different way from the ones she has with Hannah. By the way, I also loved how Hannah was not the stereotypical mean stepsister. In the end she’s just another girl trying to fit in and understand her genius sister and has all the doubts and concerns you’d expect.

This book’s ending made realize one thing about this subgenre of “Nerdy girl transforms in class hottie” that I wish could be mixed up once in a while. While Miranda’s transformation isn’t quite so extreme as what we often see in teen movies, it would have nice to see a brainy heroine who’s not ashamed of being smart and doesn’t secretly aspire to be a fashion model. It’s not that I don’t think it’s unrealistic for Miranda to want to be pretty and special because what teenage girl doesn’t wish for that at one point or another? And I think her desire to branch out and find her passion was wonderful as well. I just think it’d be nice to see a YA heroine who was happy with her intelligence and didn’t view it as a curse.

Miranda’s story a nice change of pace from the mean girl books I’ve been seeing lately and the gifted high school as a backdrop was very fresh. I look forward to reading more about Miranda and her friends. B

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in trade paperback or ebook format.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

14 Comments

  1. Kerry
    Dec 08, 2007 @ 13:07:53

    You might like Polly Shulman’s YA romance Enthusiasm–similar dad and daughter estrangement coupled with Jane Austen themes and a cast of smart kids. No one gets made over though–everyone’s allowed to be his or her self. I’ve linked to my review.

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  2. Jill Myles
    Dec 08, 2007 @ 14:26:05

    It’s got a terribly cute cover, I have to admit. Does this make me shallow?

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  3. Jia
    Dec 08, 2007 @ 14:45:21

    Thank you for the recommendation, Kerry. It does sound like something I would like.

    Jill: I think it has a cute cover too, so if that’s considered shallow, I’m right there beside you.

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  4. Sylvia
    Dec 08, 2007 @ 17:21:19

    Sounds good. I haven’t been reading that many YA novels recently.

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  5. Devon
    Dec 09, 2007 @ 13:00:16

    This sounds really cute. I agree about the transformation thing, that’s something that always has bothered me.

    If you’re willing to read something for the younger crowd, Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee, is about a really smart girl who is comfortable in her own skin, but has no clue how to deal with other people. Others learn to accept her for who she is. I recently read Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, and really enjoyed it. The books by Blue Balliet are also about unabashedly smart kids. All are aimed at the 10-13 crowd.

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  6. Jia
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 12:40:05

    Sylvia: One of the things I’m hoping to do is review more YA books for Dear Author to spread the love.

    Devon: I’ve heard lots of good things about the Lisa Yee book but since I don’t usually read younger than YA, I’d never bothered to pick it up. I’ll give it a closer look the next time I’m in a bookstore. I’ve never heard of the other two titles, so thanks for pointing them out to me.

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  7. Celestial - Joy Diamond
    Dec 27, 2007 @ 13:33:46

    I loved your book! More !! It was insightful, fun and kept my interest. Wow! I look forward to your next one.

    Celestial – Joy

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  8. Celestial - Joy Diamond
    Dec 27, 2007 @ 13:36:50

    Great book. It was fun, inspiring and kept my interest. I look forward to more!

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  9. Ethan Meadow
    Dec 31, 2007 @ 01:58:17

    Laura Preble author of “Queen Geeks in Love” also shares similar themes to Geek High and is a great sequal to the “Queen Geek Social Club”. I really like the way the author redefines the geeks in her books. Going to get both for my nieces for birthday’s this year.

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  10. trisha
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 02:22:43

    I also enjoyed Miranda’s interactions with the principal at first, then I got upset after the shortened math team practice (trying to avoid spoilers) because what if being on the team meant sacrificing something she thought she’d actually enjoy? Shouldn’t a principal want to encourage students to find something they excelled at and cared about? I think that’s why I wasn’t so bothered by Miranda disliking her intelligence. She’s good at math but doesn’t love it the way some of her classmates do. If she loved math, it would be different.

    For some reason, I was expecting something lighter and fluffier, but I still enjoyed Geek High. And it did have its funny moments. I totally agree with what you said about Felicity and Dex and Hannah, and they a big part of what makes this an above average book.

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  11. .FieRce.BaBBaaay.
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 01:40:56

    oh my goodness!! im in the middle of reading this book and i just got it yesterday! i cant stop reading it!! im on like page 126 or something. i cannot WAIT to finsh it!! so im gonna get off right now and read more.

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  12. tiarra
    May 31, 2008 @ 23:09:46

    I like that Miranda’s life is not a fairy tell this is like beening in my on life only i can talk to boys.

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  13. Rachael
    Jun 15, 2008 @ 18:10:57

    I loved Geek High and I am looking forward to finishing Geek Abroad!

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  14. Vanessa
    Aug 13, 2008 @ 19:55:55

    So irealy havent read it but it seems realy awsome to me i realy want to read it

    ReplyReply

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