Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston – Once Upon a Con Series Book Review/Once Upon the Dark Side
Apologies that this is much later than I’d planned. Lockdown has been weird for me and reading. Anyway. I’m back on schedule and plan to release the Bookish and the Beast Review on its release day of Aug 4th and I’ll post my Starfield Special on Aug 5th.
Princess and the Fangirl Synopsis
Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary Fangirl on an impossible mission: to save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off in the Starfield movie sequel. The problem is, Jessica Stone, the actress who plays Amara, desperately wants to leave the franchise behind.
When a case of mistaken identity at ExcelsiCon throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must team up and trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover the darker side of fandom – as well as unexpected romantic possibilities. Can these “princesses” find a way to rescue themselves from their own expectations and redefine what it means to live happily ever after?
About the Author
Ashley Poston was born and raised in rural South Carolina, where you can see the stars impossibly well.When she’s not inventing new recipes with peanut butter, having passionate dance-offs with her cat Pepper 🐈 , or geeking out all over the Internet and at comic cons, she writes books and is the author of the Once Upon a Con series and Heart of Iron Duology.
What I Thought
I was excited to be back in the once upon a con universe and although we shift to focusing on different characters this time our favourites from Geekerella also make an appearance.
Where Geekerella was a Cinderella retelling this is a Prince and the Pauper one. Basically we have your parent trap switcharoo here with our two main characters stepping into each other’s shoes.
With Darien in book one and now Jessica in book two author Ashley Poston helps us see the real person behind the celebrity and I think that’s hugely important. It makes the romances that much more believable, and possible. Having been a con attendee now I think you do get that variety of ‘celebrities’, those who are more approachable (Darien) and fan friendly and those that can appear more standoffish. We get to explore the latter type here and we really get to understand the why.
Whilst we had some LGBTQIA+ representation in secondary characters last time, this time one of our main characters falls in that bracket. I spotted the nod to Simon versus the Homosapians Agenda (Love Simon) with the character name this time. I love intertextuality. I also love the enemies to lovers trope, if you are a fan of that too this book will make you happy.
We also get some proper intrigue and mystery in this story. Jessica’s script has gone missing, someone is leaking it online. Who is it, and can they stop them?
There are lots of little side stories and relationships that make this book such a fun read and it captures fully the joy of fandom and convention going – which is about the friends you make rather than the celebrities you spot.
Once Upon the Dark Side
And no this isn’t referring to Star Wars. At least not exclusively.
Poor Jessica definitely feels the dark side of fandom coming down on her in this book and you don’t have to look too hard online to see it there either. I’m going to touch on two aspects.
I focused on cosplay alongside my review of Geekerella and I want to follow that up by reminding everyone that Cosplay is not Consent. Ask to take someone’s photograph – they may want to pose to show their costume in the best light or they might prefer not to be photographed at all.
And do not touch.
Personal space needs to be respected. Maybe with social distancing this might become better accepted. Yes some of the costumes are skimpy, and some of them are also handmade and delicate. Do not touch unless invited. And any con worth their salt should have a code of conduct on behaviour and a place where you can report inappropriate people.
Same goes when you have photo ops with celebrities – ask before touching. They are people to who have a right to say no to your request and who may be dealing with their own social anxieties/ internal traumas. Some will be happy to sign but prefer not to have photos taken. And please don’t jump in front of their car to get them to stop (saw this at a theatre stage door once).
As fans of something some of us can have a tendency to think that it belongs to us. When in reality everything is an act of co-production. At times our expectations are unrealistic and in real life, as in the novel, responses can turn sour. If a character doesn’t look the way you expected them too. If a scene was cut. These are the things we love to dissect but sometimes it goes further and darker than this.
The Star Wars fandom backlash against some of its female stars in particular has been disgusting. If a character in an adaptation doesn’t meet up to your expectations or an author doesn’t follow through with your OTP (one true pairing) or they kill off your favourite character, by all means mention it in your review/analysis but a) don’t tag the person b) create your own “headcanon”. Do not demand that they change it. c) Do not issue death threats. I can’t believe I need to say it but I’ve seen it happen.
Next time I’ll be exploring retellings and fan fiction so back to a more fun topic.
Thanks to Quirk & Jamie-Lee and Stephen for hooking me up with an ARC of book three and giving me the opportunity to re-read this funtastic series. All opinions are my own.
Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con. They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega-movie, The Gallows Dance.
What they are not expecting is to be catapulted by a freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands…
How The Fandom Came to Be
Chicken House ran The Big Idea Competition and Angela McCann won with this concept. Anna Day was a finalist in the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition and has bought Angela’s idea to life.
What I Thought?
I received a proof copy of The Fandom at YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention) in July 2017. YALC is part of LFCC (London Film and Comic Con) at the Kensington Olympia. The very Comic Convention Violet and her friends are attending in their The Gallows Dance Cosplay.
When I was younger my sister and two male friends of ours used to play this game where we’d ‘get sucked into different TV channels’ and act out a show from that channel. I was also a fan of the old cartoon Dungeons and Dragons… and who hasn’t wanted Hogwarts to be real? So the idea of getting drawn into your favourite work of fiction clearly holds some appeal to me.
Violet, her brother Nate, and her friends Alice (The Gallows Dance fan fiction writer) and Katie (who hasn’t even read Twilight!), find themselves walking into a photo shoot and ending up in a shoot out. The stakes for our foursome are high. From the prologue to the film outline given in the first chapter we know that despite the romance that draws the group into this Fandom the danger is going to be very real.
Violet is a normal girl, she faints – she’s only been on one date that didn’t end well and now she has to play the heroine, the love interest on whose head the fate of an entire society rests. It’s a good thing she has an expert knowledge of the story canon. Except knowing the words isn’t always enough, especially when it’s not clear who’s good and who’s bad, you start to fall for the wrong guy and it really looks like going home is an impossible dream. Violet is a really likeable character and all the way throughout you can see she wants to do the right thing.
One of the characters Baba asks her ‘If you were stuck here… What kind of an Imp would you become?’ Violet has to decide if she is in a romance or something more?
The Gallows Dance is a sci-fi dystopia where humans have been genetically modified as ‘Gems’ and normal imperfect humans are Imps. There’s a Romeo and Juliet type plot, brooding boys Thorn, Ash and Willow, rebels who want an uprising, and nods to The Wizard of Oz, Divergent and The Hunger Games.
As well as the romance the sibling relationship is portrayed well, and even though they are absent the calming presence of Violet’s parents is felt which is somewhat unusual for YA. Female friendships are explored in their complexity and limelight-stealing Alice and compound-swearing Katie remind us that we are dealing with a group of contemporary teenagers.
The story quite quickly goes off script and the group find themselves on a packed adventure with limited time to take the correct path. I found this a really fun read and an excellent homage to my favourite genre.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the tour and do pick up a copy of The Fandom which is out this week.
Which fandom world would you definitely not want to venture into?
I see below
people squint and shade their eyes,
I’m not hidden,
refuse to be bid
The noise behind,
a train comes rushing
the thrill of the chase
but I can’t keep running
It rushes by,
Battered and bruised
by a whomping tree
I still rock up
Millions against one
that’s damn not fair.
let’s get out of there.
I’ve been dangling,
but I’m not angling
for your pity,