Review policy

I am very happy to review any novel that fits in with the theme of this blog: novels aimed at 9-14 year olds, preferably with a fantasy/ speculative world setting. However, I will make clear in the review that I was sent the book by the publisher and I will write my honest opinion. Please feel free to contact me via Twitter or Facebook, or fantasticreads at gmail dot com.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

About a Girl

The Bookseller recently reported what seems to be a downturn in sales of titles by top selling women authors, which was reported in The Guardian as "the death of chick lit". At the same time, it seems that children's books are outperforming adult fiction, which is good news for children's book week. So what is there for girls to read ? Well, I recently read three books that teenage girls should enjoy.

Image: bookdepository.co.uk
Lauren Laverne, BBC 6Music DJ, TV presenter and erstwhile indie pop star with Kenickie, (and they were as much fun to see live as they look!) writes about 15 year old Candy Caine, who lives in a small seaside town. She and her best friend Holly hang out in the cafe/ record shop The Bluebird eyeing up the gorgeous Dan, and hatch plans to rid Candy's glamorous mum of her boring fiance and to find Candy's birth father- could he really be 90s indie star Nathan Oxblood? To placate Candy, her mum and Ray buy her a battered old cherry red Gibson SG guitar, and when Candy strums a B chord, out pops a supernatural being called Clarence B Major, to assist her. Candy and Holly form their band, the Broken Biscuits, and their plan for finding Candy's dad comes together. It's very funny book, encapsulating embarrassing teenage party behaviour, feisty octogenarian Gladys, and lots of music references (as you'd expect from Lauren's encyclopedic knowledge). One rainy day I'll make a playlist! Here's Lauren talking about her "indie fairy tale". I've passed a copy on to a friend's 13 year old bass playing daughter, who loved it as well. I can't wait for the sequel, although of course Lauren has been rather busy with baby no. 2... but come on, Lauren, please!

Image: Jessieheartsnyc.wordpress.com
I read Keris Stainton's Jessie Hearts NYC while commuting. This is always dangerous; fine on my way ti work since it is at the train's final destination, but more tricky on my way home, and I nearly ended up in North Essex on more than one occasion. This is an interesting book. English Jessie and her best friend Emma head to New York to visit Jessie's playwright mum, hoping to forget her awful ex boyfriend. New Yorker Finn is in love with his best friend's girlfriend, but also needs to find a way to tell his dad that he doesn't want to study business at University and go into his firm. Jessie and Finn could be perfect for each other; as long as they get to meet... This book has three protagonists: Jessie, Finn and New York City itself. I loved it; the city is evoked perfectly, and the dynamics (between Jessie and her mum, Jessie and Emma, Finn and his family, Finn and Scott, Finn and Sam, Scott's girlfriend) are pitch perfect. Keris very kindly sent me a copy of the book, but this is my honest impression of it. Here is one of favourite New York- related songs: Belle and Sebastian's Piazza New York Catcher. Incidentally, also one of the best gigs I've ever been to!

Image: thebookpeople.co.uk
It's a truth universally acknowledged that many teenage girls dream not of becoming a footballer or rock musician themselve, but becoming a WAG (wife and girlfriend) of one. Michelle Gayle should know; she was married to footballer turned pundit Mark Bright (although having played Hettie on EastEnders and been a pop star it could be argued that he was the BAH- boyfriend and husband).  Her novel Pride and Premiership is about seventeen and a half year old Remy Bennet and her gorgeous older sister Malibu, who are both beauticians working in the same salon. Malibu has devised a WAG's charter, which includes such gems as "Pretend you don't know he's a footballer" and "Never dispute a thing his mum says"- since all footballers worship their mums. Written as Remy's diary, the book charts her meeting with footballer Robbie Wilkins (he doesn't play for a premiership team, but he's gorgeous) and her relationship with him. Can she trust him on a lads' holiday to Ayia Napa? has he really broken up with his ex girlfriend? Can she believe his excuses for not contacting her for long periods? And is Malibu following her own rules? It's a fun read, more Bridget Jones than Pride and Prejudice; Remy's voice is believeable, and Michelle Gayle workshopped the novel with a number of groups of girls; perhaps for me this is where it doesn't quite work: the message overpowers the medium. It feels a little contrived. However, I really rooted for Remy and found myself willing her to dump Robbie and believe in herself more in parts of the novel. Here is a clip of Michelle reading from Pride and Premiership.

I'd recommend all these books for 14+. They're fabulous! The title of this post is from one of my favourite Nirvana songs.

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