1 November 2011

Review 46: Buttercup Mash by Joanna Nadin

"Do you ever feel like your life's going a bit crazy? That you're not in control of anything... at all? At times like these, what's a girl to do? Shopping? Cinema? Hanging out with friends? Or singing rock ballads and dancing like a demented giraffe on a sugar rush? It may not sound very cool - and definitely isn't very calming - but it's glee club and thats exactly where Buttercup Jones is heading..."

Buttercup Mash is an enjoyable teenage comedy, very much in the style of Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series. Whilst it does not quite match up to the humour levels in Rennison's series, it is still a well written and appealing novel and Buttercup is a more likeable heroine than Georgia although similarily quirky. It holds up well in the teenage girl market even if it is not groundbreaking stuff.
Buttercup Jones is our titular heroine and the book is her diary to Dr. Sven, an online psychiatrist. However Buttercup does not have the £500 necessary to actually send her outpourings to 'Dr. Sven' and receive a reply. The novel follows the exploits of Buttercup, her unorthodox family and her string of bizarre and bitchy schoolmates as well as her best friend Stan. The plot revolves around the formation of a glee club at Buttercup's school, which Buttercup is forced to join by her best friend (she was forced to sign a contract to this effect) the melodramaic Imogen who has a crush on Blake, the coolest boy in school and newest member of Glee Club (in turn at the behest of his bitchy girlfriend Sunday). Meanwhile Buttercup is trying to find out who her dad is and dealing with her first experiences of a crush of her own.

Buttercup is an appealing character and easy to relate to despite her bizarre family circumstances. Her mother Lola is a free spirited and rather useless woman and I found that sometimes her horrendous parenting stretched a little beyond comedic as she doesn't let her youngest son go to school and fails to provide Buttercup with any clean clothing and various points of the story. She has a brief experimentation with a makeover and her worries about her abnormal height and ginger hair will ring true to many teenage girls (not necessarily specifically ginger hair!) and the standard, but true, message of being true to yourself and your quirks can't really be criticised even if it is predictable and not particularly uniquely approached.

The opening of book is particularly strong. I had only planned to read the first page when this came into my library but enjoyed the first few pages and so kept going. Buttercup introduces herself through a list of her 'issues':
"1. My mother is a 36-year-old failed conceptual artist called Lola who thinks it is funny to gatecrash her daughter's party with a homeless man called Fergal O'Shaughnessy.
2. My best friend Imogen spent the whole evening refusing to speak to me because it is 'so unfair' that I get a homeless man coming to my birthday party and all she got was Colin the Clown when she was seven, and he wasn't half as drunk.
3. My little brother Harry, who was dressed as he queen, made everyone watch the video of his birth backwards in reverse so we could se him going back into Lolaand the sick going back into my mouth."

I would say that it loses steam somewhat in the middle before a good ending and could have benefitted from being 50 or so pages shorter to keep interest high. My other main criticism is the shocking cover - it looks like it is written for much younger children and I think will put some older readers off despite the content being best matched to 12 - 15 year olds.

The character of Buttercup is it's chief appeal despite her awful mother and incredibly annoying best friend; goodness knows why she is friends with Imogen who is supremely selfish, more so than most teenagers. The romantic plot is rather predictable but still satisfying and Stan is a relatable and appealing male character. A lot of the secondary characters are rather cariacturish, such as the bitches as school but do provide some of the funnier moments. The 'twist' about Buttercup's father is also rather predictable from an adult perspective but I think many teenager readers will enjoy the way it is resolved.

All in all an appealing and readable YA comedy that will be enjoyed by most who read it whilst not being especially memorable.

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