Book review: Adorkable

Disclaimer: This review appeared on, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section. It also appears on Penguin Books South Africa's blog.

Embrace your inner geek with this phenomenal and adorably adorkable read.

Adorkable by Sarra Manning (Atom)
When I first stumbled across Adorkable, my first thought was that there is absolutely no way a book with such a fabulous title could be anything but fabulous. 

Having seen so many rave reviews for it, I couldn’t help but actually resort to begging the fabulous publicist (thank you Candice) from Penguin Books to send me a copy for review.

Let me tell you this: Adorkable, is hands down, the best book I’ve read this year so far.

To give you some idea of the reasoning behind the conclusion of just why this book is so incredible, let me start off by quoting the Adorkable philosophy that the book kicks off with:

“The Ad♥rkable Manifesto

1. We have nothing to declare but our dorkiness.
2. Jumble sales are our shopping malls.
3. Better to make cookies than be a cookie-cutter.
4. Suffering doesn’t necessarily improve you but it does give you something to blog about.
5. Experiment with Photoshop, hair dye, nail polish and cupcake flavours but never drugs.
6. Don’t follow leaders, be one.
7. Necessity is the mother of customisation.
8. Puppies make everything better.
9. Quiet girls rarely make history.
10. Never shield your oddness, but wear your oddness like a shield.”

With a book that starts off like that, you can only be assured that you’ll be in for the reading journey of your life. 

As the back cover of the book says: “Welcome to the dorkside. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

In fact, I love this book so much, that I fear that my review won’t do the contents of this adorable, clever and thoroughly witty and engaging book the justice it deserves.

Written in the form of a dual narrative structure, Adorkable focuses on two teens who are complete polar opposites to one another, and have nothing in common except a pair of cheating exes (who, by the way, have since hooked up).

Jeane is your ultimate geek. Not only is she a jumble sale fanatic and blogging extraordinaire, she also has her own lifestyle brand (called Adorkable), more than half a million followers on Twitter and is an active promoter of feminism amongst her more apathetic peers.

What she doesn’t have, is friends.

Michael on the other hand, is everything that Jeane is not (nor wants to be).

He’s the ultimate golden boy of his school. He’s popular, wears the latest and most fashionable clothing (Mass market produced clothing as Jeane like to label it), is an all-round sports star and manages to maintain good grades while having an active social life.
In short, he has it all.

Now, from what I’ve described so far, I realise that this may sound like your average popular boy meets geeky girl , sees beyond her exterior and eventually falls in love with her story, but don’t be fooled.

Because it’s about the furthest thing from what it is.

You see, as clich├ęd as the concept may sound, it’s what Sarra Manning does with it that makes this novel so utterly, utterly fabulous.

Not only does she take a well-known and common concept and completely turn it on its head,  but she does so in a humorous, snarky and incredibly thoughtful way, that she not only gives depth to the book, but also to the very characters she’s created.

Jeane for all of her quirkiness, is actually not a very likeable person.

Sure, she wears the most eccentric of clothing and dyes her hair the most outrageous colours available (she loathes conformity, our Jeane), but she’s abrasive, rude, obnoxious and has a superior “geeks against the rest of the (dumb) population” complex going on.

She doesn’t mince words, constantly argues and picks fight with her teachers and has a no-tolerance policy against people whom she considers three numbers short of being classified as a bone fide moron with no brains.

Here’s the kicker though.

Jeanne may be an infuriating character, but Sarra manages to not only make you care about her, but also to downright love and root for her despite her blatant obnoxiousness.

You can’t help but love her, because not only can you sense that underneath all the tough-as-nails, I-don’t-need-anybody-on-my-side attitude, there’s a desperate feeling of loneliness that constantly lurks underneath the surface.

She may be an emancipated teen making a ton of money because of her lifestyle brand, but she doesn’t have much of a relationship with her parents and her sister is on the opposite side of the pond.

Adorkable and her dare-to-be-a-rebel-against-the-confirmist-society attitude is all that she has, and makes up the entire philosophy behind her company. In reality, she craves for that special human connection that’s so desperately missing from her life.

See? You can’t hate someone who hides behind a defensive exterior in order to shield herself (and her fabulous self – because she is an awesome character) from the world.

When she starts spending time (read: making out sessions galore) with the gorgeous Michael (who, may I had, is one of my favourite book boys), she soon begins to learn that there’s more to Michael than just a pretty face. And that she may be missing out on something she’s always disparaged.

For his part, Michael is one of the most genuinely likeable male characters I’ve come across. For all of his status as the It-boy of his high school, he’s friendliness and willingness to go out of his way to help Jeanne (despite her initial putdowns), speaks of a boy with heart, empathy and incredible insight.

He’s the sweet to Jeane’s sour and balances her out perfectly.  The chemistry and the attraction between the two of them is palpable and watching their relationship unfold is such an absolute treat. I have to add at this point, that Manning also doesn’t shy away from sex in this book.

I often find that many authors, especially within this genre, tend to tiptoe around it (to be fair, with all the wails and battlecries calling for ridiculous censorship of books, one can hardly blame them), but Sarra manages to not only make it sweetly awkward and real, but also very, very sexy too.

Apart from the relationship between the two and witnessing how Jeanne comes full circle from a dark place in her life, Adorkable is not just a book about two polar opposites coming together.

Instead Adorkable is a book for the disenfranchised.

It’s for those who feel like they don’t belong, and for those who are trying to find their identity in a society filled with pressure to conform to the expectations that has unwittingly been set out for us. It’s a book that wholly embraces feminism and a novel that celebrates you for being you.

In the end, no matter what you where, what flaws you have, and how you learn from mistakes, it’s a book that celebrates every single person who has ever felt the desperate need to belong.

Read it please. The space on this page is just not enough to tell you how wonderful this book is (and there is so much more I want to say about it).


Kyra said…
Brilliant review, Tammy! I've been dying to get my hands on a copy and your review has definitely made up my mind to buy it soon! I don't suppose Candice would send me a copy? Hehe :P
abriezel.gh0st said…
Can't wait to read it now :) It already sounded like a great book when I saw the title. Now I definitely have to read it.
Leanna Elle said…
Great review, Tammy! This one sounds really good. I actually have a copy and it's somehow fallen down my TBR pile, so I really must bump it up again! :)