Book Review: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

What sort of book would you like to have if you were sick in bed all day, like me? (Insert pity party here… I’m getting better, though, really). Well for me, I wanted something that would entertain, that would make me laugh, that wouldn’t hurt my head too much more than it already hurts (aw, more pity!), and that would make me forget my worries for a while.  Fortunately, I was handed the perfect novel for what ails me: Twenties Girl by Sophia Kinsella (Dial).

All day today, I’ve been snuggled under blankets, sipping hot tea and flipping pages of this novel, thoroughly entertained.  I read it from start to finish, with pleasure. I love when that happens. Really, it’s such a rare thing. I don’t know about you, but all too often a book has a cute premise, an attractive cover, but by page 100 or so, I’m beyond bored, or aggravated by the writing. Sigh.

I’ve always enjoyed Kinsella’s Shopaholic books (if you get a kick out of the ridiculous and love everything British, definitely check these out… ignore the movie — that was a dud in comparison), but I especially loved Twenties Girl.  The premise is both touching and funny.  A great aunt who dies at the age of 105, forgotten by the world, never visited by family. The ghost of this same aunt, in the form of her flapper 23 year old self, haunting her great-niece. The mystery of a lost necklace. The truth of a girl who stupidly pines for an ex (something everyone can identify with at some point in his or her life…admit it, it’s true!).  And a cast of interesting characters, including the best friend who isn’t, the parents who fill you with a confusing mix of love and guilt, and the broody guy with a secret.

One especially beautiful scene occurs when the heroine visits a nursing home and sees the youthful spirits in each wheelchair-bound elder rise up and dance. Fabulous writing.

You might hear people refer to this novel dismissively as chicklit and light and fluffy. But, honestly, it was a hoot to read, engrossing, and had some real depth. Everything you could want from a book on a cold wintry afternoon. Let this novel work its ghostly magic on you.  Highly recommended.

Book Review: Doing It by Melvin Burgess

Haven’t seen this book on your library shelf? Or in the high school classroom?  Well, that’s a shame. But I’m sure it might have something to do with the controversial language and content. Yeah, the content of Doing It by Melvin Burgess (Henry Holt) is “mature,” but this is a phenomenal read, one that I recommend to teens and to adults who used to be teens. It’s so well put together, that I’d even call this novel a “must read.”

I’d also highly recommend this novel to young adult authors who want to read a great example of author’s “voice.”  The voice in this piece seizes you right from page one.

When I say “I couldn’t put this book down,” I mean it.  I was glued to the couch and read it from start to finish, and was sorry when it was done. I laughed, I gasped in horror, I bit my nails with worry. Not many novels do that for me.

The book shares the mindset and voice of the incredible British TV show SKINS. So much so that I was convinced Burgess was a co-creator of the series, but this seems not to be.  (Actually, the TV series Life as We Know It was based on this novel.) Like SKINS, Doing It follows the lives of a group of Brit teens as they obsess about themselves and about sex, as they lean on their friends, and muddle through life dealing with some serious issues as well. Parental infidelity. Adult manipulation. Character scarring events. Plummeting self esteem. Heartache.

You can’t help but be drawn in by the shocking language, and brutally frank thoughts. So honest. So spot on. And, I might add, not at all vicarious. This book isn’t one of those stupid shocker tales. It’s brilliant and witty. And it shows how teens really are, at least at times.

This is a book to share among friends, so please do! Like I said, because of the content, you might not find it on a library shelf or in a classroom, even though it so deserves to be there. Seek this title out, devour it, and enjoy!