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Saturday, April 10, 2010

GIRLFRIEND FICTION #17 and #18: DEAR SWOOSIE by Kate Constable and Penni Russon, THIRTEEN PEARLS By Melaina Faranda. Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 2010

Girlfriend Fiction seems to be going strong. Unlike earlier series written to appeal to a YA female audience, these are not always romances and are often humorous. Some of them are written by male authors – Barry Jonsberg, Scot Gardner and R. M. Corbet have been responsible for some of them (although Mr Corbet’s novel, Fifteen Love, a romantic comedy about music and tennis, was a re-packaged edition of a previously-published straight YA novel). Some of the novels are better than others, but the students at my school read them all and fight over who gets them next.

Dear Swoosie is a humorous novel which reminds its young readers that their parents were also teenagers once. India and Poppy, while serving a detention in the school “attic” discover a series of letters written twenty years ago by two girls who address each other as “Swoosie”, are competing for the love of a gorgeous boy and turn out to be their mothers. Said gorgeous boy is Poppy’s father. The two women have not been on speaking terms since. But Poppy’s parents have broken up and India’s father was a short-term relationship and after some argument, the girls decide to get Poppy’s father back together with India’s mother, the girl who lost the fight over him so long ago.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of misunderstanding, two irritated boyfriends, tarot cards, an annoying Principal and junior students who believe they’re both vampires.

It’s an entertaining book that girls should have a great giggle over.

The setting seems to be the Melbourne suburb of Northcote, at a school that is probably a state, rather than private, school.

As an adult who notices things kids might not, I’d like to point out that in the Victorian state school system, at least, even the Principal can’t force kids to do Saturday detentions, nor can she make them dress up as vampires, even to reassure the younger kids – especially not if she went to school with the students’ parents, who dislike her intensely. Of course, it might be a private school.

I’ll just suspend disbelief, for the sake of a highly entertaining novel – the young readers at whom it’s aimed probably won’t notice anyway and won’t care if they do; they’re better at suspending disbelief than adults are.

Thirteen Pearls takes place in the tropical far north of Queensland. Edie Sparks has been building a boat to go around the world like her teen heroes Jesse Martin and Jessica Watson. But boat-building is expensive and she needs $4000 to finish it. When her unpleasant uncle, who owns a pearl farm, asks her to come and babysit his four-year-old stepson, she agrees immediately. The job is, of course, a lot harder than she had expected and the child’s mother, a mail-order bride, is overseas for an indefinite time.

But there are two hunky boys working on the island. Will she end up with gorgeous Eurasian Kaito, heir to a pearling empire, or blonde surfer type Leon, who is saving to travel overseas to see a backpacker chick with whom he had a holiday romance?

That is, if her little cousin Aran doesn’t drive her crazy first?

This one is a standard, though well-written, teen romance. If you’ve read enough of them, you know quite soon which boy she’s going to end up with. Which is okay, because teenagers like things to be predictable in their romances.

But it has an interesting background, as does Melaina Faranda’s previous novel Big Sky – perhaps even more so, because it’s set in the part of Australia where the author lives. There is enough description to tempt the reader to drop everything and go there – and there is plenty of humour to keep you going.

Yes, the girls will like it. This one, along with Dear Swoosie, will go on the shelves at my library very soon and will probably be out on loan before one day is over.

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