It’s March, and I’m getting ready for C2E2, one of Chicago’s best pop-culture conventions. Whether you prefer the term nerd, geek, fanboy/girl, or pop culture enthusiast, 2019 is an excellent time to proclaim your love for things once stigmatized as being not cool, from playing Dungeons & Dragons to cosplaying as your favorite anime character to writing fanfiction of your favorite TV shows. YA authors and publishers are not immune to the geek chic trend; in Publisher’s Weekly May, 2017 article, “In the Age of Conventions, YA fans rule” they argue that the rise of novels with “plots that feature fandom, cons, and cosplay” is inevitable as authors interact more and more online and in person with their fans. In the novels that follow, fellow nerds find friendship and even love in comic book shops, at conventions, and while playing MMORPGS (for the uninitiated, that’s massively multiplayer online role-playing games).
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black & Cecil Castelluci
Stories from John Green, Cassandra Clare, Lisa Yee, Libba Bray, and more popular YA authors cover all facets of geekdom, from the age-old fan war between Jedi and Klingons to the shenanigans of a quiz bowl team, along with illustratrations and comics by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Hope Larson.
Don’t Cosplay with My Heart, by Cecil Castelluci
Edan is obsessed with her favorite comic supervillain, Gargantua of Team Tomorrow, and diving into the fandom helps her deal with her family drama and jerk boyfriend Yuri. She decides to cosplay as Gargantua at her first ever comic con, which leads her to meeting new crush Kirk and the SEW superhero cosplay group. Also try: Boy Proof by Cecil Castelluci
The Pros of Cons, by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman
Three girls going to three different cons in the same Orlando convention center have to make last minute adjustments to their plans after a crazy mix-up in the lobby brings them together. Each girl — Phoebe, the drummer going to Indoor Percussion Association Convention with her classmates; Vanessa, the fanfic writer going to meet her girlfriend at WTFcon; and Callie, the assistant taxidermist going to the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships with her father — takes center stage in alternating chapters (written separately by three authors).
Chaotic Good, by Whitney Gardner
Cameron loves cosplay so much that she hopes to go to CalTech’s costume department, but she’s dealing with online bullying from angry male fans after she wins a competition. Then her family moves to a new town her senior year, and the only comic book shop in town is run by a jerk who mocks women who come into his store. So, she cosplays as a boy when she goes to the shop, which works so well that she becomes friends with the regulars, even invited to play D&D. Naturally, this is unsustainable, especially when she gets a crush on one of the guys, Link.
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil
Sam and his “loser” friends are used to being bullied for their geek movie obsessions, but when a gorgeous, popular, super-cool girl named Camilla moves to town, everyone is surprised when she decides to hang out with Sam and his crew after a meet-cute in the school’s IT department. This romantic comedy deals with friendship and first love amid tons of movie references.
The Summer I Became a Nerd, by Leah Rae Miller
Madelyn is a “nerd hiding in a popular girl’s body”: she’s a cheerleader with popular friends, dating the school quarterback, but secretly she’s a comic book fiend. When a cute guy working at the local comic shop (who by the way has had a crush on her for years) sees through her disguise, they start to bond and she ends up having the best summer ever, full of video games, comics, and even LARPing (live-action role-playing). Naturally, again, her lies to everyone else are unsustainable–will Maddie ever be able to show her true self?
Geekerella, by Ashley Poston
This geeky remix of the Cinderella fairy tale follows Elle, a super fan of the old classic science fiction TV show Starfield, and Darien, the soap opera actor recently cast as Prince Carmindor in the new Starfield reboot. Elle enters a Starfield cosplay contest in order to win the grand prize–an invitation to ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball with a meet-and-greet with Darien. Elle is sure Darien is not right for the part–surely a soap opera star won’t take a role like this seriously– but unbeknownst to her, Darien is a huge fan of Starfield too. This is a happy fandom-positive romance, and teens who also like to imagine a romance with a celebrity will enjoy.
The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash
Sixteen-year-olds Graham and Roxy have been neighbors and friends for eight years, but Graham has been nursing a serious crush, too. When Graham learns the creator of their favorite comic will be at New York Comic Con, he gets tickets for them both. His plan is to tell Roxy at the end of the convention how he feels about her, after giving her the best con experience ever, but the path to love never goes smoothly. As one thing after another goes wrong, including Roxy meeting another guy, Graham is left feeling as if he and Roxy may never get together.
What are your favorite geeky romances?
–Krista Hutley, currently playing a weekly Tomb of Annihilation Dungeons & Dragons campaign