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Saturday, 9 March 2013
New Review! Teenage fiction
Author: Simon Packham
Jess is a normal teenage girl with a cheating ex-boyfriend who she is considering getting back with, unhelpful best friend, boring work experience job at her father’s office, and an excruciatingly perfect older sister Millie aka ‘The Golden One’. However one day she returns home after a particularly tough day at school to find her mother and her sister crying and the house surrounded by the press. Her father has done something, they said, he has lost his job at the bank because he lost his money. However Jess senses there is more to the story when the next day they pack their bags and leave driving all the way to an island off the coast of Scotland inhabited by a strange group of people called the ‘Dawdlers’, who Jess’s mother has heard of through her friend Sue who is one of them . They are an anti-consumerism, anti-modernisation society and wear only eco-friendly unlabelled clothes, eat only natural foods directly sourced from nature and live without technology. Jess’s horror at having to give up her hair straighteners, make up shampoo and mobile phone is almost too great to describe, but her mother seems unusually happy at having no connection whatsoever to society, even if the lack of skin products seems daunting. Jess is told she must try to fit in with the other ‘striplings’ which is the word the Dawdlers use for teenagers, but she finds them hostile and cannot understand why they live contentedly without modern technology, skincare or fast food. Meanwhile ‘The Golden One’ seems to have changed dramatically and begins to rebel for the first time in her life. Jess obediently listens to the leader Eric and goes to the lessons and meetings with the other striplings, but Millie stays indoors, barely speaking to her mother or to Jess,refusing to take part in anything.
Jess grows more suspicious that there is something she has not been told, and worries even more that it is particularly about her dad, but any time Millie comes close to telling her she suddenly stops and closes up again, refusing to say anything. Jess becomes increasingly worried about Millie and the effect the island is having on her, but she also feels secretly glad that there is something she is better at than Millie because she finds herself liking the striplings as they are not all what they first appeared to be, particularly Campbell, who takes her on a date. However Campbell too has a secret, and his is also about his father, but will Jess ever uncover the truth about anything?
This story is cleverly written and really does put you in the mind of a teenager dealing with an impossible situation. Although humorous at times it contains mature themes and powerful underlying messages and how a young person could deal with them. Jess seems shallow and silly, if creative and amusing at first, but eventually you see another side to her emerge; of loyalty courage and strength as she saves her family from falling apart.