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Sunday, September 13, 2009

15 LOVE By R.M. Corbet, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2009, (Girlfriend Fiction#15). ISBN 9781742370156. A LETTER FROM LUISA By Rowena Mohr. Sydney: Alle

The Girlfriend Fiction series must be doing well, since these two bring the total so far up to sixteen books. I have read them all and put them in my library.

They’re a mixed bunch. Mostly, they are by well-known Australian young adult writers who know how to write for young people, whether it’s a serious story about issues important to teenagers or a romance that is still a bit more than the standard teen romance that was so popular in the 1980s, but was not generally well-written. These stories are mainly well-written, though some are better than others, in my opinion. And the quality is not always about the experience of the writer concerned - some of the better books were by newer writers. Interestingly, I have found that our students tend to agree with me, judging by their comments on returning the books.

I’m pleased to say that both these new books in the series are among the better titles produced so far.

15 Love is a romantic comedy about the attraction between Will, who plays tennis and looks after his younger brother, now confined to a wheelchair, and Mia, who plays the viola in the school orchestra. An unlikely pairing, you might think, except that both of them are nerdy in their ways and have never actually dated anyone, unless you count Mia going to the movies with her friend, boy-crazy Vanessa, and Vanessa’s latest, who brings his friends along for Mia and her other friend, Renata.

Will has started to wonder if there’s more to life than tennis, while Mia’s father is cheating on her mother with a woman half his age.

It takes one beagle called Harriet, a smashed viola, an arm injury and Vanessa trying to steal Will to bring the two together, while both of them have their own personal troubles to deal with.

The chapters are short, making the book easier for reluctant readers, the characters are likeable, and the story is told from both viewpoints. In some ways, it’s like the fiction of Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, without the swearing.

There have been only three male writers so far in this series and two of them have written romances. Interesting, that.

A Letter From Luisa sees the welcome return of Rowena Mohr, author of the hilarious My Life And Other Catastrophes which opened the Girlfriend series. Once again, she has produced a very funny book, though with a serious undertone to the over-the-top story. Also, she has created one of only two heroines in the entire series who isn’t a WASP. The other non-WASP protagonist was the heroine of Step Up and Dance, who was Greek. Also, the male romantic interest in Big Sky was an indigenous Australian. One issue I have had with this series, so far, is that it doesn’t really reflect the broad variety of cultures we have in Australia.

However, that isn’t a problem in this one. Luisa, whose mother was Spanish, has only one friend at school, Japanese exchange student Meko. She has been keeping house for her rather vague father and her younger sister, Nina, since her mother died three years ago. Her father had been a musician and composer, but is now creating advertising jingles for a living. Luisa, herself a gifted composer and musician, has been avoiding the guitar so as not to make him feel bad.

Now the school’s Twilight Fete is coming up and gorgeous Jet Lucas, the school’s rock star, is going to perform. Luisa is determined to impress him, even though the school’s female bully considers him her own property and is making dire threats. Luisa is trying desperately to keep a low profile to avoid being bashed up, but Jet himself has suddenly become very friendly...

At the start of the book, we know already that there has been an explosion, her teacher has been mistaken for a terrorist and Luisa has been suspended. The lead-up yo these events is very, very funny. Luisa’s problems at home and school are believable; the author just has an over-the-top way of getting them sorted out.

The book should appeal equally to those girls who want a straight romance, those who want mainstream fiction and those who like a funny story.


Adelaide Dupont said...

I loved those 80s romances: well, some of them.

Mixed Doubles would be a good recommendation for those who liked 15 Love.

Sue Bursztynski said...

A lot of girls loved those 80s romances! :-) That's why they sold so well. If our female students had had their way, my library's shelves would have been packed with nothing else! But the recent Australian ones are better-written, IMO.

Thanks for the book suggestion. I will look it up.