This was an enjoyable collection of stories, each of them about some aspect of being a teenager or growing up. Think: lots of anxiety around sex, acne, where to next get booze, how to negotiate relationships with pals, parents, etc. The awkwardness of first dates, first kisses, first crushes. There was a lot in here I identified with!
The writing style was probably my favourite element of the book. Every story felt very ‘polished’, at the level of sentence. The collection was nice to read; it flowed well; there was a compelling precision to the descriptions, particularly of the feelings of shame, embarrassment and inadequacy that teens seem to feel in most situations.
There were a couple of stand out stories: “They fuck you up’ was a particularly powerful account of how kids are affected by abusive parents. I also really liked “Trouble”, about a girl who moves to London and feels isolated, even though she’s living with her sister, because Londoners are so averse to platonic touching (like hugging, laying an arm on a shoulder, etc).
The other stories were all nice to read in the sense I could identify with elements of each of them, but to be honest they all blur together a bit in my memory and occasionally they felt a little repetitive (there were lots of girls who felt ugly and unlovable, which is great because a lot of girls do feel like that – I definitely did at that age – but by the end it felt slightly same-ish). They were still great to read, though.
A few of the stories were ‘linked’ – i.e. had same protagonist. I really liked the complex character of Tasha but I can’t help feeling that including such linked stories may have worked better if the whole collection focused on her, or else none at all. By the final installment about Tasha I was beginning to really care for her and be interested in her, and I felt a bit let down, or short changed, or something, that there weren’t more stories about her. At the same time, the stories could have been about other people, characters with different names, and it wouldn’t have changed their effectiveness or purpose. I guess I’m saying it wasn’t clear to me why there needed to be linked stories. I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like publishers like linking a few stories in a collection because they think readers are more likely to buy it, which, as I reader, I’m not sure is true.
That said, this collection is lovely, and really took me back to late high school and early uni.