“ Genre: Fiction / Author: Alice de Smith / Paperback / 304 Pages / Book is published 2010-08-01 by Atlantic Books „
It's the 80s. Freya is 14 and an only child. She lives with her parents in Cambridge. So far, so normal. Except... Freya's home life is slightly a-typical. She's on first name terms with the parental figures (no affectionate Mum or Daddy here) and is under the distinct impression that they spend their days imagining life without her. Her best friend is a middle aged housewife on whose son she has a rather too obvious crush. Her mother communicates with her through lists and shows her affection in the oddest ways. Her father has just moved his business associate in, but he's not just sleeping in the spare room.
I thought this was a bright, interesting read but lacking that je ne sais quoi. The chapters are a little long and I often read just a few pages at once. For some reason I couldn't get into it properly despite having nothing better to do (when I put it down, it was often so I could pick up a different book).
Freya is a nice enough lead, but although I followed her round for a while, I couldn't get myself to feel what she was feeling - isolation from her peers, frustration with her unrequited love. It was there on paper but it just didn't reach my heart. For the most part, though, the young teenage voice rings true. There are very occasional moments when she sounds older and wiser than her years, and you can explain this away as the book is narrated by a future Freya, looking back on her adolescence. Perhaps because of the era, the book seems so much more real than a lot of teenage voiced fiction. It's not flitty or giggly, and while it doesn't ignore the pressing issues of boys, boobs and black eyeliner, they are accessories to the story rather than the stuffing.
This is a book unlike any I've read this year. The book is not a fast-paced year in Freya's life, or even a look at a particular event: it's a narrative about what her general day to day life was like at that time. For this reason, it's easy to pick up and put down, as the 'story' is not so involved you need to read just one more page to find out what happens next. Initially I thought this was a great selling point for the book, but now I'm no so sure. There's accessible, and then there's so put-down-able you're not too bothered about finishing (though you should, if only for the final chapter and the epilogue which have more action than the previous 13 chapters combined).
Read it and decide for yourself. You might love it or hate it. Or, like me, you might be on the fence.
This review first appeared on www.TheBookbag.co.uk
Bizarely expensive on Amazon at over seven quid, you can also get it used for, well, over seven quid less, and there's a half price Kindle version.