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Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper (26 Nov 2009)
Author: Sarah May (previous work includes: The Rise and Fall of the Queen of Suburbia: A Black-Hearted Soap Opera, The Rise and Fall of a Domestic Diva)
I chose this book having never heard of the author or read any of her previous books. I'm more of a horror/historical fiction fan and having picked up a selection of fairly dark and complex books from my local library, I wanted some light and fluffy chicklit to run alongside it. As a fan of soap operas and those trashy 'Teen Mom' and 'Underage and pregnant' shows, Sarah May's 'The Rise and fall of the wonder girls' seemed like the perfect choice. The front cover promised a 'black hearted soap opera'. Did it deliver on its promise?
Meet Grace, Vicky, Ruth and Saskia - four teenage friends, from the same town and of the same school trying to deal with the same life changing secret at the same time! But secrets are hard to keep - especially with a tell tale expanding waistline...
As all four friends discover that they are pregnant, a media frenzy descends on the small, affluent town of Burwood to cover news of the teen pregnancy 'scandal'.
The truth is that the girl's pregnancy isn't the only scandal taking place in this small town. Because beneath the perfect suburban facade, Burwood bubbles with corruption, secrets, lies and affairs. Will the live's of the Burwood residents ever be the same again?
What I liked about it?
If I'm honest, I'm really struggling to find a single positive thing to say about this. But I try and be fair in all my reviews so I will say that I did manage to finish this book so it isn't as bad as some other books I've read.
It's certainly readable, even though it makes little sense and is disjointed in places, I found myself reading it just to laugh at how stupid the characters were and whether or not they decided to keep their babies.
If you are looking for something light and simple, topical (teen pregnancy is certainly topical in today's society) and enjoy trashy soap operas then you may find some enjoyment in this. Also I imagine any teenage girls who found themselves in the same situation may find it interesting. Otherwise I'd advise you to chose another book!
What I disliked about it?
The main problem with this book is that the plot is given away straight away on the back cover! So there is no tension, no suspense no nothing. You know this will be a story about a pregnant group of teenage girls and that's exactly what you get.
And the book focuses so much on the screwed up relationships of the girls and the fathers of their babies that we don't even get to see any of the pregnancy develop. It's almost as though there's a big chunk of the plot missing. The narrative tries to focus on too many characters at once and as a result, we don't get to actually see the girls experience their pregnancies - there's not enough time for that with so many births to fit in, so much relationship drama and so many dysfunctional parents and family set ups to explore!
There are just too many characters and too many subplots to keep track of here. Everyone is falling apart, everyone is pregnant, everyone hates someone else or is having an affair and the narrative jumps randomly between characters to the point where it's unclear who is who anymore. The whole thing felt completely disjointed and I often felt like it was going off in random tangents with characters and storylines that were too underdeveloped for me to care about. It's almost as though the author knew that the pregnancy storyline alone was too flimsy to maintain an entire novel so threw in as many other subplots as she she could think of. But all of these added dramas inevitably fall flat because the characters are all too stupid and irritating to really care about what happens to them.
I think the author was attempting something of a soap opera writing style but failed miserably as It's more like an episode of The Jeremy Kyle show than an episode of Eastenders!
Where to buy
Well personally I wouldn't recommend buying this book anywhere!
I'd certainly advise borrowing one of Sarah May's previous books from the library before reading this. Maybe that way you'll know what you're letting yourself in for in regard to the authors writing style.
If you still want to buy it, the standard price seems to be round about the £5/£6 mark. As always, I'd recommend Ebay to try and get a better deal.
This is a book that promises so much and delivers so little. You're constantly waiting for a hook to draw you into the story that never actually comes. The plot is messy and rushed, the writing style is disjointed and the characters are highly unlikable and unrelateable.
There's just too much going on and too many dramas to fit into 400 pages and the main plot point is given away in the blurb anyway!
I cant help but feeling that the writer would have had far more success had she chosen to focus on the life of just one of these teenage girls. By focusing on so many at a time, we never really get to know or like them.
I was given this book for Christmas and didn't enjoy reading it much at all. If I'm being perfectly honest, I only carried on reading it as I had nothing else to read at the time with the library being closed over the Christmas break. I'd never read anything else by the author so I'm not sure if she is a brand-new author but after reading this particular book I'm not at all inclined to seek her out and see if she's written anything else. It's very rare that I give any product that I've reviewed such as low star rating. In fact, I don't think I've ever given below a two-star rating before but in this case, I just can't find anything to justify giving a better rating!
So what was it that put me off so much? Firstly, the plot was incredibly weak. It can quite literally be summed up in a few sentences and most of that is done on the back cover blurb anyway. There are four main characters: Vicky, Saskia, Ruth and Grace. All four girls are teenage friends who live in the same village and attend the same local school. In terms of the plot, it is supposed to revolve around the secret that binds the girls together but this is never actually a secret in reality as the back cover blurb strongly hints at the secret before you've even opened the book. This made the book incredibly boring and predictable as I'd already guessed the secret and the lack of twists and turns on that score meant that I just couldn't stay riveted at all. If you enjoy a book with a strong plot and some twists to keep you guessing, this really isn't the book for you! There was no plot development and it didn't veer much away from the basic 'secret' and
Secondly, the characters didn't seem very likeable. When I'm reading a book, I want to be able to engage with the characters and this wasn't the case here. To go with the thin plot, the characterisation ranged from poor to non-existent. I couldn't see any character growth from any of the characters and they seemed largely one-dimensional. In addition, they were rather annoying and their one-dimensional nature didn't help this. I couldn't warm to the characters and didn't feel any sympathy for them as there wasn't enough characterisation for that to happen.
Thirdly, the writing style didn't engage me. It was very basic, but perhaps a bit too basic for my liking. It is written in the third person and frequently switches between the characters but this seems quite random and there doesn't seem much in the way of organization.
To sum things up briefly, the book had a weak plot, one-dimensional characters who were largely either irritating or plain dull, and a dull writing style that is uninspiring and doesn't come across as being particularly sophisticated. These were all things that made me dislike the book and I can't recommend this to anyone else on that basis. If like me, you like your books to have more depth, more characterisation, more likeable characters and a writing style that is engaging, I would stay away from this book.