It’s been ages since I wrote a Sequel Sunday. I really meant to write one last month but for one reason or another I just wasn’t feeling the sequel that I had initially planned on featuring. Honestly, I still wasn’t really up to reading that book this month (what with my TBRReadathon and all) and just as I was resigned to the idea of skipping yet another month on this poor blog series, I realized something. I had read a sequel recently. Ashley Poston’s The Princess and the Fangirl was a sequel (of sorts) for Geekerella. It’s a standalone-ish book but still… it’s a second book in a series so it still counts as a sequel!
Better still, I have a lot of thoughts on this particular sequel. Most of which are, well, not positive. Interestingly, this is the first sequel that I’ve read this year that I rated below four stars. And I was looking forward to this book too. Alas.
The Princess and the Fangirl features Jessica Stone, a supporting character in Geekerella. After the massive success of Starfield, Jessica wants nothing more than to get out of playing Princess Amara, who supposedly died at the end of the movie. Unfortunately for her, the fandom, especially Imogen Lovelace (who just so happens to look a lot like Jessica) want nothing more than to save their beloved princess. When Imogen accidentally takes Jessica’s place at a panel, the two girls are shocked at how no one could seem to tell the difference. Because this is a the Prince and the Pauper retelling, the two have to switch lives: Jessica to find the script of the sequel that’s being leaked, Imogen to save Amara.
I’ll be very blunt. This wasn’t a good book. It was a poor sequel, a weak standalone, and just a failure as a retelling. Because of my negative feelings towards this sequel, I’ll have to tweak my Sequel Sunday format just a bit so I can explain why I didn’t like this book.
Geekerella vs The Princess and the Fangirl
Suffice it to say, The Princess and the Fangirl is leagues behind Geekerella. The sequel is so far behind, in fact, the two books don’t even share the same plane of existence. And yeah, that’s a little mean but I really loved Geekerella and this sequel could’ve been as fun and heartfelt as the first book but somehow isn’t.
See, Geekerella was not only a great book, it was a superb retelling too. It had interesting modern twists to the Cinderella trope while also remaining to be its own thing. It was light and fun but also packed quite an emotional punch at the end. Ellie’s goal wasn’t just to go to the con, it was to reconnect with her deceased father’s passion and greatest accomplishment. Darien wasn’t just a hotshot actor playing the role of the prince but a genuine fan of the show who’s overworked by his manager (who’s also his father) and hated by majority of the original series’ older fans. The story is relatively simple but it has deeper layers that the book takes time and care exploring.
The Princess and the Fangirl, on the other hand, seems to know what made Geekerella so great but is running at 5x speed that it barely just glances at certain story beats. The sequel still uses two POV characters but unlike the first book, The Princess and the Fangirl has over five subplots that go all over the place and, ultimately, lead nowhere.
Imogen and Jessica don’t even form an actual human connection until the last five chapters of the book. Imogen’s Save Amara initiative amounts to very little, just enough for her and Jessica to have a falling out somewhere in Act 2 (though because they were never friends in the first place… kind of doesn’t have much impact). Jessica’s supposed gradual love and understanding of the fandom also wasn’t well developed. This book had the same blase approach to the toxicity of certain aspects of a fandom as the first book, weirdly enough. It recognizes that there is an ugly side to any intense obsession over a fictional series but doesn’t really do anything with it.
One of the things that I loved about Geekerella is that the main antagonist, the step-mother, justified her contempt for Starfield and the sci-fi/fantasy stuff that Elle and her father loved. The mother saw those shows and movies as frivolous, kid stuff, and she really believed that Elle had to get over it in order to grow up. Yes, it’s a narrow-minded view of the world but that was the point. Elle and her step-mother had a strong conflict because their ideals and values were opposing. It worked because it made sense!
Meanwhile, the sequel didn’t even have a clear antagonist for 90% of the book. The script leaker was unmasked in such a convoluted manner that I expected the person to say something along the lines of “I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for you meddling fangirls!”
Overall, The Princess and the Fangirl just felt so superficial compared to Geekerella. There was little to no emotional payoff and the conflicts were resolved in a snap.
Another Misguided Retelling
Funny enough, I actually talked about a YA fairy tale retelling the other week and how it failed to see just what made the source material so great in the first place. This sequel has the same problem.
The original The Prince and the Pauper story has such a long lasting appeal because the idea of switching lives with someone who lives a completely different life from you is endlessly fascinating. It’s made even better by the whole identical twin factor. This tale has been adapted so many times because people just can’t get enough switching lives story.
I should’ve known that The Princess and the Fangirl was going to flop as a retelling when it didn’t have the one thing that these types of stories ought to have. The Scene.
Even the Lizzie Maguire Movie did it! At the very end but still…
Notice that in these adaptations that I’ve gathered, the identical characters are always shocked speechless, as anyone would be when they bump into their lookalike. The characters always take a moment to process what they’re seeing, not sure what to do or say or even think. It’s cliched, yes, but FOR A REASON. The characters need to stop and take the information in. And what better way to show this than by literally have the two meet face to face, y’know, like they’re looking in a mirror?
Rather than have the two identical main characters meet like this, The Princess and the Fangirl opens with Jessica seeing Imogen in her place at the live panel with no one the wiser. This book threw away the money shot! When they do meet, Jessica is extremely confrontational towards Imogen, lowkey threatening her with legal action if she even tries to talk about the ordeal online. There is no awe or wonder at the weirdness of having someone look exactly like you. No “omg we’re identical!” moment. Jessica just tells Imogen to get out of her face and never speak to her again. Jessica simultaneously does not trust this Imogen girl but also… trusts her completely not to capitalize on their identical appearance? Why would she let Imogen go like that?! I get that the book needed to separate the two until the inciting incident but it’s such a weak way to go about it.
Moreover, this whole exchange is a weird choice because in almost all iterations of The Prince and the Pauper, the two characters aren’t in direct conflict with one another at all. One doesn’t yell at the other for looking exactly like them. If anything, when the two meet, the friendship (or camaraderie, at least) is instantaneous. And for good reason! You don’t trust a stranger that you’ve just antagonized with literally your life and reputation. You need to bond with this person, get to know them before you suggest the old switcheroo. I honestly thought that The Princess and the Fangirl would do this because Jessica is such a high profile star. Imogen really could’ve easily ruined her career out of spite.
And you know what else? They don’t even switch lives for fun. Most of the retellings usually have the two characters switch just so the other can lead a normal life for a change and the normal one can be pampered and such for a day. It’s a win-win situation. But in this book, the reason why Jessica and Imogen switch lives kind of feels… forced. Jessica has to find the person leaking the script for the sequel (she had thrown away her script earlier and she suspects that’s what’s being leaked) but has a full schedule during the con so she has Imogen take her place. For Imogen’s part, she agrees to be Jessica to push her Save Amara thing. On the outset, these two objectives seem rather solid. But when you actually read it, switching lives kind of seems pretty unnecessary. Too much risk and there are literally so many better ideas.
Like, Jessica has an assistant whom she trusts with her life, an assistant who seemingly has nothing to do while Jessica is at interviews and such. Why couldn’t he be the one to find the culprit? He’s a lot more familiar with the terrain too and would blend in the crowd much easier. Why couldn’t Jessica just get her management to hire a temporary assistant? She’s a famous actress after all. It would’ve been easy! Getting Imogen, a complete stranger who Jessica absolutely doesn’t like or trust, to take her place IN LIVE INTERVIEWS where a million things could go wrong, just seemed like such a stupid move. There’s no reason for it!
As for Imogen’s motivation, taking Jessica’s place to subtly push to save princess Amara does make sense. But Imogen doesn’t really do anything to get that done. In fact, we’re mostly told that Imogen does a great job as Jessica’s stand-in. We see none of the interviews or fan interactions. And I get that a chapter of a press con wouldn’t have been exciting but still… we could’ve had some scenes of Imogen being a highly acclaimed star.
That’s another thing about this book: we don’t really see the two character live a completely different life. We don’t see nerdy Imogen being overwhelmed by all the attention given to her. We don’t see ultra popular Jessica humbled at living as a nobody. The whole point of these switching lives stories is to see the characters do things they normally wouldn’t and couldn’t do. In Jessica’s POV, we do see her enjoying Imogen’s life but… it’s kind of fleeting, especially since her main concern is finding the leaked script.
And I won’t even get into all those love subplots. Honestly, I was rather disappointed at how romance-focused this book was. Ironic too since Geekerella, a retelling of Cinderella, undoubtedly a love story at its core, wasn’t entirely focused on Darien and Ellie’s romance while The Princess and the Fangirl, a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper, not a love story in the slightest, has so many romance subplots going on that it was grating on my nerves. They were insta-love too.
This book was not good.
I was really bummed when I realized that The Princess and the Fangirl wasn’t as good as Geekerella. I had high hopes for this book. Jessica was more interesting in Geekerella and Imogen was just a bland character all around. Maybe if the book wasn’t set in the three days of the con the characters would’ve had more time to get to know each other, develop their dynamics and such. But that wasn’t the case.
This sequel kind of turned me off from the series, if there will be more books to come. Maybe the next book will be better, maybe it’ll be worse. Honestly, I don’t really care. I’ll always have Geekerella, at least.