Synopsis from Goodreads.
Jeane Smith is seventeen and has turned her self-styled dorkiness into an art form, a lifestyle choice and a profitable website and consultancy business. She writes a style column for a Japanese teen magazine and came number seven in The Guardian’s 30 People Under 30 Who Are Changing The World. And yet, in spite of the accolades, hundreds of Internet friendships and a cool boyfriend, she feels inexplicably lonely, a situation made infinitely worse when Michael Lee, the most mass-market, popular and predictably all-rounded boy at school tells Jeane of his suspicion that Jeane’s boyfriend is secretly seeing his girlfriend. Michael and Jeane have NOTHING in common – she is cool and individual; he is the golden boy in an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. So why can’t she stop talking to him?
So when I first heard about this book I was extremely excited. I mean, first up- that synopsis is golden. Why wouldn’t you want to read about a blogging superstar kissing a hot boy? There is no reason.
Anyway, when I pick up a book by an author I’ve never heard of, I like to do some research. Wait, before I carry on, I just have to say that there is no way this next bit isn’t going to sound creepy and stalkery. Whatever, I’ve committed now.
I like to do some research about what the author is like so I have a sneaky look on their website to see what kind of things they like, their sense of humour, that kind of thing. It’s just so I can get an idea of whether I will get on with their book. In doing so, I found out something so completely brilliant about Ms Manning. Well, actually I found out quite a few brilliant things about her but I focussed on one thing.
She used to work for J17.
My sister is 3 years older than me and when we were younger we both used to pick out a magazine every Friday when we did the big shop. I, being 10 and mostly concerned with whether Abs from 5ive had a girlfriend and what was going to happen in the next episode of Miami 7, used to read Mizz. My sister, cooler than me even then, picked up J17. Then after a mishap on a summer holiday (didn’t bring enough reading material, you guys!) I read my sister’s copy of J17.
I was hooked.
I learnt everything I know about everything from that magazine. You could probably say that Sarra Manning made me into the girl I am today.
Except, um, well that would be cruel to Ms Manning.
And possibly slander.
Anyway, a couple of years ago, someone scanned every copy of Smash Hits 80s era and put them online. My aim is to do that with J17. Or… um… like, pester someone else to do it.
I promise I’m going to talk about this book now, I just needed to get out of the way. Basically, the gist of all that was Sarra Manning is brilliant and there was an 87% that I was going to adore this book.
And guess what? I did.
I said earlier that my review was mostly going to be !!!!!!!! and OMG MICHAEL LEE and I LOVE YOU JEANE.
So let’s go with that.
This book was like a breath of fresh air. I went into this book thinking that I could turn my brain off and I’d laugh and chortle a little bit and I’d swoon because of kissing of the boy and I have to say if I had been hoping for that kind of book, I would have been severely disappointed. Because instead, I got a hilarious, clever, incredibly witty book that reminded me of the Bonfire Toffee you get from Thorntons.
Bonfire toffee from Thorntons? I hear you cry. This book will rip my fillings out?
Well… no. It’s not that much like Bonfire Toffee. What I mean is that this book is sweet, sugary, a bit dark, not-your-average-delicious-treat, you wish it would last forever and it’s the kind of book that
you can only read when you’re watching fireworks that doesn’t come around often so it must be savoured.
Yeah, that analogy didn’t work, did it? Fine, I admit it; I just wanted to talk about sweets so Jeane and I can be best friends already. Seriously, it’s destiny.
Now usually, I don’t really like to talk about my own writing on here, but I have to say that this is the kind of book that I want to write. I don’t see why everyone has to write sad books about sad things. I like to think that if you took this book and hacked at it with a blunt instrument until it becomes almost unrecognisable… you’d probably end up with something similar to how I write.
And I’m OK with this.
OMG MICHAEL LEE
OMG Michael Lee, you are the salvation of YA boys. Not many women can convincingly write from the perspective of a teenage boy without sounding too ‘sexboobsgirlssexvideogamesbloodgutsandmoreboobs.didimentionilikeboobs?’, but Ms Manning can. Jeane, who I’ll get to in a bit, is such a larger than life character that I was a bit worried that Michael Lee (I don’t know why I feel like I have to full name him, but I do) was going to fade into the background and be the non-entity love interest I’ve become accustomed to.
Was he ‘eck.
I love that he gave as good as he got and called Jeane out when she was being a ridiculous human being. I get so angry when heroines are constantly fawned over and nothing they do can be faulted.. Jeane isn’t always likeable and she can be a bit mean and one of my favourite things about this book was how, even at the end when all the things had happened, he still thought she was a bit funny looking, still thought she was annoying and he still thought she had horrible hair. It’s incredibly refreshing to have a heroine that isn’t loved by all. Because who is?
Even though there were times when they were arguing and sniping at each other that I wanted to yell ‘Huuuug’ a la Mac from Green Wing, their interactions were the absolute best. They just zinged off each other.
Also, Michael Lee is so hilarious, his dry humour and his observations were always spot on. I would inundate you with all my favourite Michael Lee quotes but I don’t know how the publisher would feel if I posted THE ENTIRE BOOK on my blog.
And he has great taste in sweets because parma violets seriously are the most disgusting sweets in existence. Errrrughhh.
And also, he’s bloody gorgeous… if you ignore the hair and if you picture him without the dodgy checked shirt. Which I never did for I am a serious book blogger who takes books seriously and stuff.
I LOVE YOU JEANE
As Maggie said in her excellent review, Jeane Smith stole the show and she stole my heart. No… seriously, I was eating a bag of Haribo and those squishy hearts are my absolute favourite and I save them until last and then she waltzed over and ate them all. Bitch.
I loved Jeane because she’s basically me. We both could snaffle an entire bag of Haribo without feeling guilty. We both have bitchin’ blogs. We both have a name that begins with the letter ‘J’…
I’m kidding… although my blog is bitchin’… I loved how she never backs down when she’s fighting for what she believes in. When Michael Lee is cruel and is a bit of a douche to her, she doesn’t become a simpering victim, even around the middle bits when it gets all angry and sad. She doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her, she doesn’t have time for you to feel sorry for her. If anything, I feel sorry for Michael Lee. He tries so desperately to keep up with her, to get on her level, but… mate, no chance. She’s running circles around you and, Michael Lee, I think you like it.
Seriously though, I think a lot of people will have gone through the things that Jeane goes through. Not in the same way of course (we can’t all be Guardian rated bloggers, can we?) but the feelings of sadness and loneliness you get when you’re a bit different and you’re at odds with everyone. And then you just get to the point where you’re like “You know what? Screw everyone! I’m awesome.”
This is what Jeane is like. She is a force of nature and she’s unstoppable and she’s so brilliant that even when I wanted to throttle her for being awful to Michael Lee, I mostly wanted to high-five her and hug her even though she’d probably Tweet about how boring my brown hair is.
Without sounding too much like a dork, I think that’s my favourite thing about this book. It had such a positive message for teenagers but it never crammed it down your throat with some schmaltzy, Hollywood message. None of this ‘ra ra ra LOVE YOURSELF’ kind of thing.
And a bit more !!!!!!!
Ms Manning gets teenagers. She knows what they’re like. She knows that they’re not always kooky and quirky but she also knows that not always depressive and sulky and slamming-doorsy. Sometimes I think that authors believe you can be either or. She is able to poke fun at them without being patronising and cruel, mostly because her observations are completely, utterly and deliciously true. This book read like a celebration of being a teenager, in all its awkward glory. It’s ok to be different, it’s ok to have messy feelings about yourself, it’s ok to have messy feelings about boys/girls, it’s ok to be a blogger (*cough*), it’s ok to be passionate about something that not everyone is passionate about, it’s OK to want to do well at school, it’s OK to go to gigs and stay out all night and drink cocktails and yes, it’s even a-OK to have sex… as long as you use protection and you’re over 16, of course.
You should totes read this book.
Nah, sorry Jeane. I can’t say ‘totes’ seriously, maybe I’m less of a dork than I originally thought. I just can’t do it.
You should totally read this book.
Also, not completely unrelated, Ms Manning has officially won the prize of “The Author Jo Most Wants to Sit and Eat Sweets and Watch Every Series of ANTM With”.
I think you’ll agree that this is a coveted prize.