Bridget Jones for the teen reader – an entertaining and life affirming read for 15 and 16 year old girls.
Emma Nash is a typical 16 year old with all the insecurities and obsessions that come with this age. When the love of her life ghosts her (i.e. breaks up with her by acting as if she doesn’t exist), she spends the summer moping in her pyjamas. However, September arrives all too soon bringing with it the start of Sixth Form and a resolution to make some important edits to her life. This includes e-tweaking herself with disastrous, and often hilarious, consequences. The whole experiment is recorded in Emma’s private blog: a blog that she might just regret ever writing.
The publishers are pitching this as perfect for fans of Louise Rennison and Holly Bourne who are ready to grow up and this exactly sums up this book. A character driven story, Emma has an authentic teen voice that the target audience will instantly relate to. Given Emma’s totally self-centred and at times selfish, it’s impressive that debut author, Chloe Seager, has managed to create a genuinely likeable character. Emma’s very much the 16 year old version of Bridget Jones. And, like Bridget Jones, I suspect we’d have very much less sympathy if we weren’t able to understand Emma’s thought process via the powerful first person narrative. Throughout we have unfettered access to all Emma’s inner-most thoughts including her reflections on masturbation and a description of her first sexual encounter. (Parents of pre and young teen readers of YA fiction will need to decide for themselves whether these are topics they’d want their children exposed to).
The narrative feels very real, not to mention funny. I particularly liked the tension between Emma’s feminist principles (manifested, for example, in her resolution not to shave her legs) and the realities of a teenager’s life. Some of her observations made me laugh out loud, notably Emma’s musings how life would be different if guys bled out of their penises for a week every month.
The supporting characters are strong and the author cleverly avoids the lesbian friend, Faith, from becoming a cliché whilst successfully highlighting the challenges she faces coming out to her parents. As a 40 plus reader (so a VERY long way from the target audience), I especially appreciated the fact that Emma’s mum is also a well-rounded character with her own issues and problems (not to mention her less than honest Tinder account and toy-boy stripper boyfriend).
All forms of social media – from Facebook and Tinder to Instagram and Twitter – feature strongly in the story, reflecting the modern teenage experience. (I’m sure the target audience will understand Emma’s grief when she’s temporarily denied internet access). This is, however, the book’s one weakness: social media trends change rapidly and the book is, therefore, likely to require updating to stay in print.
If you enjoyed this, you might also like Stop in the Name of Pants! by Louise Rennison. Or, if you’re looking for something that’s also suitable for slightly younger readers, you might want to try Never Evers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison.
Date: August 2017
Author’s Website: Chloe Seager
Review first published on The Bookbag