Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow? Buy
Source: Copy gifted courtesy of Penguin/Viking Books

So begins a young woman's journey to adulthood. Lizzie Vogel leaves her alcoholic, novel-writing mother and heads for Leicester to work for a racist, barely competent dentist obsessed with joining the freemasons. 

Soon Lizzie is heading reluctantly, if at top speed, into the murky depths of adult life: where her driving instructor becomes her best friend; her first boyfriend prefers birdwatching to sex and where independence for a teenage girl might just be another word for loneliness. 

I had heard many good things about Nina Stibbe's work and was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour, so I could finally read one of her novels for myself. And I definitely wasn't left disappointed. I hadn't realised that this was part of a series, and now I'm utterly desperate to read the others.

The story focuses on 18-year-old Lizzie, and is set in Leicester in the 1980's. She has little idea what she wants to do in life, and relatably, idles along taking any opportunities that arise. The city's dental practice, Wintergreen, are looking for a qualified dental assistant - and with her grand total of 0 years experience in a dental surgery, Lizzie worms her way in for an interview and (not so sweetly) sweet talks them into giving her the job. 

Much to her displeasure, Lizzie ends up living in the city, in an apartment above the dental surgery - where her boss, JP, regularly goes for his morning...bowel movements. JP is sexist, racist - and any other negative "ist" you can think of. He should be the most unlikeable character, but his over-arrogance and complete stupidity makes him one of the funniest characters in this novel. He is a vile man, and it's great to see Lizzie put him in his place a few times, and take action into her own hands (no spoilers!).

Like any young adult, Lizzie is trying to navigate her way in the world, and isn't really sure of anything she's doing. Her career, her housing situation, her boyfriend, her transport - honestly, there isn't anything that Lizzie is settled on - and that's what makes this book so relatable to me. You're expected to know at age 14 where you want to go with your life, and what you want to do; but the stark reality is: you don't. And this novel is great in highlighting the life of an average 18 year old.

It all feels very mundane - but I think that's the beauty of this book. It isn't action packed, or a thrill a minute, but it still manages to be packed full of entertainment, and will leave you crying with laughter. With the book being so light-hearted, warm and funny, the turn it took at the end left me with a lump in my throat. And again, reminded me exactly how sudden turns in your life can be. 

Nina Stibbe has created a world of characters where any reader can relate to at least one person in the book. It's done so cleverly, and intricately, that every character is made interesting - even if they're not likeable. A special mention has to be said of Lizzie's mum, who is absolutely bonkers, but you can tell her heart is in the right place.

When I saw that the author had been compared to Sue Townsend, I was expecting a diary-type format, so was surprised when I wasn't met with that. But the more I read, the novel is so chatty and direct, that you almost feel as though each page is a diary entry - and it's simply gorgeous. 

It isn't a book I'd usually read but it made me cry tears of laughter, and tears of sadness - and I loved Lizzie as a narrator, wholeheartedly. What I loved most about this book was it's normality. Some moments were so comparable to those I've experienced in my life, that it almost scared me. Full of dry wit, humour, and relatable characters. A great read for Summer.

1 comment

  1. What a good blog you have here. Please update it more often. This topic is my interest. Thank you