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Friday, May 01, 2009

SOMETHING MORE By Mo Johnson. Series: Girlfriend Fiction 11. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2009

Girlfriend Fiction series is quite a mixture, from the hilarious (My Life and Other Catastrophes, The (Not Quite) Perfect Boyfriend) to the thoughtful (Cassie, which was about friendship and family and living with disability rather than boys) to the different, such as Being Mackenzie, which ends on a kiss but not with a new boyfriend. There was the girl caught up with Christian fundamentalism with a cute boy in Winter of Grace and the girl whose Greek background clashed in some ways with her other life (Step Up and Dance).

And then there are the simple romances, which girls often like best, because they reflect their own teen concerns - will the cute boy like me? Does he already have a girlfriend? Do I have a pimple breaking out just when he’s asked me on a date?

This is one of them and, like all the others in this series, it’s a lot better-written than the teen romances that came out in the 1980s when I first started working in school libraries. It has that -well, something more than they did.

True, there are the two attractive boys in the heroine’s life and you just KNOW she’s going to end up with the one she thinks she hates at the beginning. There’s the girl who’s a rival for the affections of the gorgeous one, who’s being horrible to the heroine. It’s formula, but that’s fine. Teenagers like formula. They’d be annoyed if the girl did end up with the first boy she liked in the book.

But unlike the abovementioned 1980s teen romances, the gorgeous boy is actually a nice person. He may not be right for the heroine, but he’s decent enough. The rival is not as bad as she seems. She has her own problems, some of them connected to what’s happening to the heroine’s sister. And unlike the witch-queens of the 80s, she’s actually good at her schoolwork.

Briefly, Isla McBay and her family have migrated to Australia. She has made friends, but misses Scotland, her wise grandmother whose pithy sayings head each chapter, her best friend and the boyfriend who might even now be finding a new girlfriend. She has not yet had the courage to contact him, but thinks she’s making a clean break.

Her sister, with whom she has never gotten along, might be pregnant and suddenly Isla’s worries about boyfriends and pimples don’t seem so important. But it might affect her own relationships...

This novel is never going to set the world of young adult fiction alight, but it’s not meant to. It’s just a nice, gentle story in which the heroine learns something and finds some courage while scoring her new boyfriend. It works.

I had to lend it out to a student following the Girlfriend series without processing it. That must say something about the quality of the series.