Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq
|Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Not so much a 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' with attitude, more like a 'Diary of a Whingy Kid' with an attitude problem. It just about passes muster with some taut plotting when it's needed.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: August 2019|
|Publisher: Piccadilly Press|
Meet Cookie. She's just an average school girl, urgently demanding a pet from her parents because she's afraid of loneliness now her best friend is entering her last term at the same school before moving away. It's the autumn term, and rather than amble around in a zombie shuffle Cookie is having to hit the ground running, for the best solo science demonstration will win one of two places on her favourite TV quiz show for tweenagers. But what's this? Meet Jake? Why would we want to do that? He's the new boy in town, and is perfectly perfect. Not only has he had the impertinence to move in next door, he's got the best science project under his belt, and therefore a place on the quiz team. Oh, and he has also bought the kitten of her dreams from right under Cookie's nose. Surely he is the most annoying child in the world?!
Well, unfortunately, no, Cookie, as for most of this book that is you. Yes, your character is really, it has to be said, unappealing. You're snippy about the popular girl in class with her social media profile, you're snide to your older sister for liking politics. You do have a favourite teacher and hopes she'll be your new form tutor but when you see something you can't understand you turn against her. You rant against this injustice, that misfortune, and any chance to be negative and belittling you take it. You give Jake the coldest of cold shoulders, and although nobody likes the really successful kid, nobody likes such a grinch either.
So it was a great relief that the character did get her swing, and that the narrative arc did allow for an act three where she was redeemed. To the book's credit, this is a lot smoother and less clunky than you would now be expecting. But I do think this suffered for a long time before then. This is the first time we can meet Cookie, and clearly is intended to be the first in an ongoing series. But I really wanted to like her a lot more – for the necessary swing in her character to be much less severe. To borrow someone else's analogy, you don't want a ballad singer to hit the gut-bursting notes in the first verse with nowhere else to go for the next three choruses. You need depth and control, and there was none here. What might have saved the day was an arch knowingness, the book somehow telling us Cookie was a crank, but that was absent.
To get back to what we do get, then – this is very much a post-Wimpy Kid volume. And I have to say it's not the greatest mimic out. Even at the best of times the illustrations in these books cut to a quip you can take or leave, or visually reaffirm what is already a highly obvious emotion. I found the author's designs here very disposable, and quickly mentally ditched them for being intrusive – they're a lot smaller than the Jeff Kinney equivalents, acting just as marginal cameos, and thus more like what you get from Tom Gates' graffiti. Another aspect of all these books is how the text addresses its own writing – at what time of the busy day is this being written, what in and for what purpose. There is no attempt to explain that here, whatsoever, and so an in-the-moment drama such as chasing a pigeon out the lounge reads false to the adult reader.
Those adult readers are of course irrelevant in such a case, however. The intended readership will be inbuilt due to the author's past TV presence. They will appreciate the (not over-played) emphasis on (a) STEM subjects, (b) a Bangladeshi-British heroine, and/or (c) other instances of inclusivity. They certainly will relish the bit of slapstick here, and the major sense of injustice (even, if, to repeat, that doesn't come from just one direction), and the writing is clear and energetic enough. I have to admit to liking the way the several threads are wrangled together – the TV show is to the fore of the plot, but there is also the science project and the pet issues to all be resolved. There's a clever hand here in drawing everything together nicely, even to the extent I could almost like Cookie as a result. Which really makes me wonder what book two will be like – will we resume with Cookie and her splenetic old self, or will we go elsewhere? Finding out might not be at the fore of my priorities, but I know the target audience will be there to tell me.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
It does strike me that us Brits haven't really had a runaway female equivalent to Tom Gates. Mind you, the Dork Diaries books kind of filled that gap in the market.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq at Amazon.com.
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