Synopsis from Goodreads.
Think winning the jackpot will solve all your problems?
Life’s hard for Lia. Her mum is a nag, her sister a pain and the gorgeous but mysterious Raf seems immune to her charms. When Lia wins £8 million on the lottery, though, suddenly everything is different.
But will Lia’s millions create more problems than they solve?
Firstly, a resentful gang of girls at school set up a ‘We Hate Lia Latimer’ Facebook group . . . that soon has fans in the thousands. Her friend Shazia can’t have anything to do with Lia’s new-found fortune, believing gambling to be immoral. The mum of her other best friend, Jack, is threatening to sue Lia for what she believes to be his share of the winnings. Raf’s behaviour is getting stranger and stranger, and Lia can’t help but wonder whether there’s something to the school rumours that he’s not . . . well, human.
And when her sister Natalie goes missing, Lia begins to wonder if a millionaire lifestyle is all it’s cracked up to be. . .
If this book was written by any other author, I would have probably avoided it. I think “16 year old girl wins £8 million on the lottery” is one of the most eye-rolling-inducing synopses since “Teenager girl meets vampire. Things happen.”
But after reading When I Was Joe, Keren David quickly become one of my favourite British contemporary writers. So I thought I’d give it a go.
From reading other people’s reviews of this book, I have gathered that people weren’t too fussed about Lia. She is spoilt, oblivious, used to getting what she wants and, well, she’s kind of a bitch. But, just to be difficult, I really liked her. I’m not sure whether it’s because of Ms David’s glorious ability to make even the most unlikeable characters into entertaining characters but I laughed a lot. Yes she was spoilt and yes she was ridiculous and, oh yes, she was a bitch. But…. Well, a lot of 16 year old girls are. Especially when they’ve just been given a cheque for £8 million.
I thought she was great.
And then we have the love interest. He is called Rafael Forrest.
Let’s just dwell on that for a moment…
I mean… come on. I’m sorry but I, in my twenty three years of life, have never met a boy called Rafael. Am I just hanging out in the wrong places? About 84% of the boys I know are called Dave.
Character names are one of my major pet hates in YA fiction. I’ve had this conversation with Anna so many times I have lost count (ok, maybe it’s a bit one sided. It’s basically just me sending e-mails full of capital letters to her saying “I WISH FOR THERE TO BE MORE YA LOVE INTERESTS CALLED DAVE”). I want normal names. Just because you have an interesting name, doesn’t automatically make your character interesting.
I would like more YA boys to be called Matt or Joe or Dan or Chris. The chances of meeting a ‘Hunter’ or a ‘Wolff’ or a ‘Rafael Forrest’ while you’re freezing your kecks off at the bus stop are slim to none. Unfortunate, I know, but that’s the UK for you.
That being said, I quite liked Raf. I liked how he was a bit jittery and how even though he was a bit mysterious, he wasn’t paranormal mysterious. And even though normally I get really angry when authors mention Twilight in their books, Lia’s belief that Raf is a graveyard-dwelling-vampire made me laugh a lot. It was a nice touch and a cheeky ribbing to the YA genre, which I always appreciate. His backstory was a bit….. well, I’ll mention that later.
The story was fine. It’s pretty much what you expect when you think of 16 year old girl winning the lottery. There’s the initial “MUST BUY EVERYTHING” followed by the inevitable guilt and then the “girl learns things” bit. But Ms David writes in such a way that you kind of forget the clichés (well, almost) because of her wonderfully dry humour and, more importantly, the way she sees contemporary Britain. With humour and intelligence.
I have to admit, I got a bit muddled at the end. While I appreciate that Ms David didn’t go down the usual ‘What problems should a girl who has just won the lottery face?’ route, there were certain parts that I didn’t really understand what the point of adding them to the story was. For example, the whole Jack/Shaz/Lia… thing. In theory, I liked it but I wished that Ms David had elaborated on it more. But as there were so many other things happening at the same time, it kind of got ignored and only dwelled on briefly. I wasn’t really sure what it brought to the plot. Also, in the same vein, and I’m being very wary of spoilers, Raf’s situation. It would have been brilliant, if it was explored properly as opposed to kind of just “Oh yeah, that happened”. I just can’t help but feel that it took the emotional impact, and one that it deserved, away from it.
Overall, this book was OK. I wonder whether my ambivalence towards Lia’s story was swayed because of how much I loved Joe’s? Possibly. It wasn’t terrible but it was just OK. If you are interested in reading Keren David’s books, then I implore you to start with When I Was Joe.