Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield.
The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.
When a case of mistaken identity 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 trade places to find the person responsible.
That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom.
As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.
Thanks to Quirk for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinion of the book.
I discovered conventions when I was about 16 and went to my first ever MCM Expo. It was love at first panel, and I realised that I had found ‘my people’.
That feeling has continued with YALC, which has become the highlight of my summer every year. I get to meet up with friends in the book community, see authors, talking to publishers, and buy books. I love it.
So when I read the synopsis for The Princess and the Fangirl, I knew it was going to be my jam. And I was right.
Although set in an alternate version of our ‘real world’, TPATF does a great job of setting up the world of the convention.
Conventions are another world. They’re a bubble happiness and fun, where nothing exists beyond the panels, merch, signings, photo ops, and downtime with friends.
Ashley Poston perfectly captures this world in ExelsiCon, describing the fans’ excitement, the convention floor plan, and even the stale smell at the end of the day. (If you’ve been to a con, you will know this smell.)
When Imogen describes the resonant feeling of sharing a space with other people who love what you love, I felt that. When she sees her favourite actors and feels rising excitement for their panel, I found myself smiling. I know that feeling.
Imogen’s moms have a stand at the convention, so we see ExelsiCon from an even more immersive perspective. Imogen has grown up at the con, and she lives and breathes its atmosphere. So do we.
The plot of this book hinges on the premise that our main characters, Jess and Imogen, look very alike. But their personalities couldn’t be more different.
Imogen is fun, passionate, and embraces her ‘nerdiness’. She’s a huge fan of Starfield and spearheaded a campaign to save one of the characters, Princes Amara. Conventions are like home to her and it’s easy to tell that she adores the buzz and energy.
Jess, on the other hand, is not a convention lover. She despises the character she plays in Starfield, and doesn’t like the atmosphere of conventions, so being their to discuss her character on panels is her worst nightmare. The fact that Imogen started a campaign to save her character, when she wanted to leave the show behind rankles her enormously.
In the beginning, I loved Imogen, but didn’t like Jess. Imogen felt like me at 17, whereas Jess seemed to hate fan culture and everything I loved (and still love) about it.
But as the story progresses, we begin to see where Jess is coming from. She’s under a lot of pressure from her manager, and she’s receiving an awful amount of trolling and hate on social media, just for playing her character.
This makes a nod actors like Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran who both left Twitter due to online hate and abuse they were receiving, just for being women cast as certain characters.
Pacing and plot
The Princess and the Fangirl takes place over the course of ExelsiCon, a weekend-long convention.
Up until the two meet, the pacing is pretty slow, but this is deliberate. Ashley Poston takes her time setting the scene of the convention, describing it’s quirks and flaws and building that sense of magic that conventions hold.
The premise of this book is your average two people swap lives and and end up realising that their own life isn’t so bad shebang.
It’s perhaps not as believable as it could be and I did spend a full chapter yelling “DON’T AGREE TO THAT, THIS IS NEVER GONNA WORK”. But I’d be lying if I said this plot device wasn’t incredibly fun and didn’t grow on me as the story progressed.
Jess and Imogen swap places for the convention so Jess can find a lost manuscript that’s slowly being leaked by a stranger. Imogen only agrees to it so she can try and stop Jess from slandering her character Princess Amara, but the two learn a lot about themselves and what’s important to them in the process.
There is so much wholesome LGBTQ+ rep in this book and it made me so happy. Imogen is bi and her love interest is gay. Imogen also has two mums who are both queer and her brother is gay.
I loved how normalised LGBTQ+ rep was in the story. The main plot of the novel isn’t about being gay or coming out, but there still are so many queer characters in the book, making it feel part of every-day life. I wish more books did what Ashley Poston has done.
Imogen’s love interest is also a black woman, and Jess’s manager, Ethan, is Asian-American. Both characters discuss their identities at various points in the novel and raise issues surrounding marginalised groups and white-dominance in their industries.
I had such a good time reading this book. The characters are fun and endearing, and I really enjoyed the enemies-to-friends dynamic that developed between Jess and Imogen. The whole convention setting felt very familiar and Ashley Poston calls out the negative aspects of fandom, while celebrating the positive side of conventions.
If I had read Geekerella when I read this I think I would have appreciated some of the cameos a little more, but this didn’t really detract from the story at all. They’re companion novels, so they can be read in either order, and after reading and loving The Princess and the Fangirl, I’ll definitely be picking up Geekerella.