A teen read that has everything – an entertaining and appealing teen voice, laugh out loud humour, a moving story and a strong message about being true to yourself.
Fifteen-year-old Ted Trout is used to being overshadowed by her older sister. Ava has everything – effortless charm, movie-style glamour, and a huge circle of friends and admirers. Ted, in contrast, is used to being teased about her appearance in school from ET in Year 7 to Friday (short for Freaky Friday) since her early growth spurt left her towering over most of her peers. It’s, therefore, not surprising that both Ted and Ava assume it’s a scam when Ted’s approached by a scout from a top modelling agency. When they discover the agency are genuine, Ava is excited about Ted’s potential career as a model but Ted remains unconvinced. However, when Ava is diagnosed with cancer, Ted finds herself unable to refuse her sister’s constant pleads to at least find out more about the fashion world. After all, what could possibly go wrong?
I wasn’t intending to review this book. It’s been gathering dust for several years and I only plucked it off my bookshelves late one evening, intrigued by the pink edged paper. Having it in my hand, I thought I’d read a few pages before returning to the pile of books I’d committed to review. This plan failed. Instead, it was only several days later – when I had finished reading The Look – that I returned to my now even taller ‘to be reviewed pile’.
Why was I so addicted? Because this is a teen read that has everything. I was initially pulled in by Ted’s voice and its’ humour. For example, I simply loved the story of how she learned not to trust her sister: she describes her humiliation in primary school when Ava convinced her that it was perfectly normal to wear a Buzz Lightyear costume (complete with wig) to gym club and how the memory has haunted her “to infinity and beyond”. This example sets the tone for the rest of the book but it’s also deceptive because there’s a lot more depth to this story.
The humour continues as Ted struggles to understand the modelling world and bumbles her way through various ‘castings’ and ‘go-sees’ but this is coupled with a more serious plotline as she simultaneously seeks to support Ava through chemotherapy. Through the various events we witness Ted transforming from an ugly duckling to a swan and, more importantly, developing her inner confidence in who she really is. The turning point for much of this is a particularly moving scene when Ted takes Ava shopping to cheer her up and ends up joining her in having her head shaved. I can’t do justice to the emotional power of this scene, so I’ll simply suggest you read the book and judge for yourself.
While Ted remains the focal point of the story, I can’t conclude a review without at least a brief mention of the outstanding characterisation of those who surround her. This is most noticeable in her immediate family as they attempt to continue a normal life through the period of Ava’s treatment. There’s a powerful, largely unspoken, subtext around Ava’s chance of survival but also a focus on the everyday. Ava remains obsessed with her boyfriend while their dad desperately tries to rebuild a career following his redundancy. I also found it particularly refreshing to be reading about a family who are struggling to make ends meet financially.
I you enjoyed this, you should try the Waiting for Callback series by Perdita and Honor Cargill. Focusing on 15-year-old Elecktra as she seeks to break into the acting world, this three-book series starts with Casting Queen and has a similar light-hearted narrator while the second in the series, Take Two, has the same emotional impact. Alternatively, why not try one of my favourite teen reads, Summer of No Regrets by Kate Mallinder.
Publication Date: April 2016
Publisher: Chicken House
Website: Sophia Bennett