This review was first published in The Star on 31st July, 2011
(I’d forgotten about this YA novel and that I’d reviewed it until the all-female remake of The Lord of the Flies was recently announced.)
By Libba bray
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 396 pages
A PLANE full of teenage beauty queens crashes on a tropical island en route to the 41st Annual Miss Teen Dream Pageant. There are 14 survivors, including Miss Texas, the super-efficient and scarily perky Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins; Miss New Hampshire, razor-tongued Adina Greenberg; Miss California, super-assimilated Shanti Singh; and Miss Nebraska, secret wild-child Mary Lou Novak.
The stress and hardship bring out the worst and the best in the girls. You don’t look the way beauty queens do without being hard as nails (Miss Mississippi is initially gleeful about the lack of food on the island, immediately thinking in terms of weight loss rather than starvation), and one broken nail too many and even the most disciplined beauty bot might blow a fuse.
Still, the girls eventually rise to the occasion, turning their beauty apparatus and pageant-wear into tools to help them survive. And as the girls dig latrines and spear fish together, they learn to trust one other and let their guard down.
The demons each one privately wrestles with range from the usual teen problems with self-esteem and body image to sexuality, gender and race issues. While some of the girls come clean with their new friends, others are not yet ready to be honest with themselves, let alone the other girls.Read More »
This review was first published in The Star on 9th July, 2017
Sad Girls: A Novel
Author: Lang Leav
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 362 pages
‘Your first love isn’t the first person you give your heart to – it’s the first one who breaks it.’
That line, on the cover flap of Lang Leav’s debut novel Sad Girls, is a quote from the book, but also a prose poem (from Leav’s collection Lullabies).Read More »
I am currently editing a Bahasa Melayu translation of an English YA novel.
This is the fifth time I’m editing a translated novel, and I am encountering the same problems as I did when I edited my first translated work.Read More »
First published in The Star on 9th February, 2016
THE LIE TREE
AUTHOR: Francis Hardinge
PUBLISHER: Macmillan, 410 pages
MY newsfeed informs me that The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge has been named Costa Book of the Year. That it is a children’s book is mentioned in the BBC article’s standfirst. Imagine, a
children’s book winning such a prestigious award!
When something like this happens, those of us who have always valued children’s literature are particularly delighted. As Hardinge says, in an interview with The Guardian, ‘“In the wider world, sometimes children’s fiction is seen as a bit lightweight in a way that is not deserved.’”
Indeed, this award may persuade book snobs of a particular kind to stoop to reading “kiddy lit”, but sensible readers who don’t need awards to tell them what’s worthy of their time, may already have discovered the dark delights of Hardinge’s seventh novel.Read More »
First published 4th December, 2005 in StarMag
THE WHITE DARKNESS
By Geraldine McCaughrean
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 272 pages
I HAVE been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now – which is ridiculous, since he’s been dead for 90 years.”
The reader gets a pretty clear idea what Symone, heroine of The White Darkness, is like from the first line of Geraldine McCaughrean’s latest (and, in my opinion, best thus far) novel.
Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates, one of the men on Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated 1911 expedition to the South Pole, is not usually the sort of bloke 14-year-olds obsess about. but Symone, shy, sensitive and romantic, has neither the vocabulary nor the stomach for the preoccupations of the average 21st century adolescent. While her classmates discuss snogging and boys, she dreams about glaciers and snow storms and Oates.
Read More »