Would you confess your childhood love to your best friend after an amazing convention? That’s what Graham Posner plans to do in Sarvenaz Tash’s excellent novel, The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love.
Graham has known Roxana for years. Half his life, actually. It all started when she moved into his neighborhood and asked him what Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Eight years later they’ve gotten tickets to ComicCon, the biggest blitz for geeks in New York. Graham wants to give Roxana the perfect experience, topped with the perfect ending: a well-timed declaration of love. But are things going to go as planned? Graham learns firsthand that as fun as fiction can be, it doesn’t hold up against the neverending diversions of real life.
I appreciated the respect, knowledge, and realism with which Tash wrote the book. It’s not easy learning how the world really is, and many authors who address this gain their power from harnessing the jadedness of this cold cruel planet. They icily deliver the truth, building up a book’s worth of suspense to climax in the soul-crushing madness of the hapless, pitiful protagonist as their delusions finally fall apart. It can be EPIC, but also really depressing. Tash forgoes the hammer-forged lack of mercy with a story that lets its protagonist experience reality in the fun, safe atmosphere of a convention. And oh, the reality is not always nice. There’s long lines, tough decisions, and meeting people you never planned to meet. There’s even a classic romantic nemesis in the form of Devin, a cool stranger with a killer British accent. How can Graham compete! But as anxiety-inducing and annoying as these roadblocks get, he keeps going. Score one for Graham, the trooper!
I commend Sarvenaz Tash for writing a novel that doesn’t make the protagonist feel foolish for believing in questionable cruxes of fictional entertainment. In retrospect, it’s weird to believe every duo of best friends becomes a couple, but what’s a geek to do when that’s what they’re told in every story they consume? Book, screen, console; there are tropes that transcend all forms of media. It’s hard to shake free of them. And it’s especially ostracizing when those uninitiated to geekdom look at those tropes we struggle to extract ourselves from and just say, “Well, duh, that’s not realistic.” We grew up on things that weren’t real, okay? We didn’t get time to be baffled by the obvious untruths of the world!
Neither did Graham. Now he’s in a space where he can learn at his own nerdtacular speed. He even becomes Twitter legend, to some extent. I believe it had something to do with a sword but it’s been a while since I read the book. Either way, you can be sure the blessed crowd of onlookers saw a geeky hero that day.
It’s a decent primer for con culture, too. If you’ve never attended a convention, this book is prepared to show you that there’s a lot of people, a LOT. But never fear, geeks of all kinds are here! There will be humor, relatability, and many opportunities to talk about the costume design of each individual alien in I Was a Zombie for the FBI. Even if you don’t find true love, you’ll get to share some of your love. Your geeky, wonderfully obsessive love. Score another for Sarvenaz. Her novel effectively conveys the hectic nature of conventions through the personal tale of someone who could easily be in the thick of it—a boy who’s about to learn that fiction doesn’t always mirror reality. Graham may not get his 100% golden ending, but he does get three days’ worth of wisdom collected from his transformative experience at a convention.