Saturday 19 May 2012

Saturday Spotlight: Book Review of My Big Fat Teen Crisis by Jenny Smith

Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally. This is a fairly recent release which I haven't seen that much about.

Sam’s left alone when her best friend moves to the Outer Hebrides. Can she take this opportunity to reinvent herself as a cooler, more sophisticated person? And will she manage to win the heart of the new boy at school, David? Aided by her childhood friend Cat, who’s just returned to the area, she’ll do her best – as long as the nasty Tania doesn’t get in the way.

This is a really modern book – with a fair amount taking place via Facebook status updates, and through internet chats between Sam in Greenfields and Gemma in the Outer Hebrides. Wonderfully, this is handled with a few common abbreviations but without the descent into endless text speak which has made a couple of children's books nearly unreadable for me, a welcome change! Despite these parts, it deals with the same topics of friendship, bullying, and first love that crop up so often in books for this age group because of their importance. With an engaging central character and a breezy writing style, it’s an appealing story which is well worth checking out. Sam is very sweet – slightly immature at the start of the book but still likeable enough, she does a fair amount of growing up during the course of the story but develops in a very realistic way. She has a really strong narrative voice and Jenny Smith has done a great job of capturing the language that teens use today.

The book also has some excellent minor characters, most notably Lucy, a 17-year-old friend of Sam’s with cerebral palsy – an absolutely lovely portrayal of someone with a condition not often dealt with in children’s or teen fiction. That said, I found the bully in the book, Tania, to be a little bit too one-dimensional. I also thought there were a couple of things which were rather predictable. (But having said that, I’m between two and three times as old as most of the target audience for this one so most readers will probably have read significantly fewer similar stories than I have!)

Overall, though, this is recommended as a pleasant read which older tweens and younger teens will be sure to enjoy.

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