Geek Girl is a book I read with a smile on my face. Not just any smile either. I read this book with one of those cheesy smiles that you get when you’ve seen something that just makes you say “awww” out loud no matter who might be happening to listen. Sometimes I had that smile on my face while reading through tears. Needless to say, I enjoyed this book. A lot. I would definitely recommend Geek Girl to a friend for an easy, enjoyable and quick read.
The whole book hinges on a bet. Jen believes she can turn Trevor, the geeky but cute guy, over to the “dark side” by seducing him and making him become more like her and her friends. The prize if she accomplishes her goal is a shiny new lip piercing to replace the one she took out to make herself look more presentable for the newest set of foster parents. On the surface Jen and Trevor couldn’t be more different. Jen dresses in the typical Goth manner – black and off-putting. Trevor dresses in the typical nerd manner – button-up shirts buttoned all the way up to the very top. But from the very beginning at the school dance where Jen makes her first move, sparks fly and as we get to know these characters we are reminded that sometimes people are not what they seem. Sometimes there is a whole lot more to the story than meets the eye.
Although Geek Girl is a lot of fun and a fairly easy read, it does touch on some tough subject matter with the subject of Jen’s parents. Jen’s father was abusive and Jen’s mother is in prison. I don’t want to give away too much of the story line or any spoilers, but I have to say that I was impressed that Bennett handled the voice of a character in the foster system with such care. After being shuffled around from family to family and getting her hopes built up only to be dashed, Jen is not able to let herself dream of having a stable life.
Here’s what the author had to say about her heroine and the subject of foster children ……………Real Heroes by Cindy C Bennett
In Geek Girl, my heroine Jen is a 17-year-old girl who’s been bounced around in the foster care system, to the point that she’s become bitter and cynical. As she approaches her 18th birthday, she has to start seriously considering what she wants to do with her life. It’s a genuine concern for kids in foster care everywhere, when they approach the age where they will no longer be able to depend on—at minimum—having a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.
What do I know about teens in foster care? The truth is, not much. I can spout off all the statistics: about 25% never graduate, approximately20% wind up homeless, nearly a quarter are incarcerated within two years (around half for men), nearly half become pregnant or impregnate someone, around 30% use illegal drugs, many end up going back “home” only to be kicked out and wind up homeless on the streets again. Grim statistics, to be sure. But what does it really mean?
I am fortunate enough to have been born to parents who love me, and to have only had to move and change schools once during my growing up years. When I began writing Geek Girl I had to step out of that life, and imagine what it must be like for a teen who is on the precipice of life. How insecure must these kids feel when they are being rejected time after time, when they aren’t in one school long enough to really make friends. What kinds of walls would one erect in order to protect themselves and their hearts from hurt?
To me, the statistics are extremely sad and alarming, but hardly set in stone. I am of the firm belief that people can choose what they do with whatever it is that life has thrown at you. I’m a huge fan and admirer of people who live lives of horror, and then rise above. A prime example is Dave Pelzer, who writes about his life of severe abuse at the hands of his own mother in A Child Called “It”, and his experiences as a teen in the foster care system in The Lost Boy. His battle didn’t end when he was removed from the violence of his home; a new battle began as he entered foster care.
I think most people feel that when an abused child is removed from their home, then yay! They can begin their life of rainbows and unicorns. Abused kids come with their own set of baggage, and are thrown into what can be the unforgiving world of foster care. By no means am I saying foster care is a bad thing. There are many fantastic foster families. I personally know of a family who took in many foster kids, and kept them all as long as possible, even finding adoptive families for a few of them. I do think that some foster parents get these wounded kids, and don’t really understand how to deal with their specific issues. And that’s where kids like Jen get lost as they pass from one family to another for any number of reasons.
I gave Jen the chance to rise above her own circumstances. She could have rejected everything she was offered with her feelings of suspicion and distrust. But she didn’t. She took hold of what was offered, and found herself in the process. She is only a reflection of people who have come before her who have done the same thing, all of the unsung heroes of our world who have done so themselves.
How did I get into the head of a teen who has lived in foster care for so many years? I began by writing about a heroine I could be passionate about, someone who is willing to allow others into her wounded heart and at least try to imagine what could be hers if she let it. Then I tried to imagine how I would feel if it were me in the same situation. Angry and bitter? Absolutely. Wary and suspicious of anyone saying they want to help? Of course. Scared to death that if I dared to hope I would only be crushed once again? Yes. And then I tried to imagine how strong she could become if she let herself.
Superman and Spiderman are great fantasies, but the real heroes are all of you out there in the world who have survived, and who have become who you were meant to be, who didn’t let life drag you down. I wrote Jen as the type of person who I admire greatly. My fictional story of Jen can’t begin to compare to the reality of you who have done this in your life. You are my personal heroes.
Cindy Bennett's Website: http://www.cindycbennett.com/
Cindy Bennett's Blog: http://cindybennett.blogspot.com/