A Perfect Ten by Chris Higgins
|A Perfect Ten by Chris Higgins|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A confident and accessible kitchen sink drama about coming to terms with loss. By creating a truly sympathetic character from someone who behaves like a real bitch, it gives teen and tween girls real pause for thought.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: November 2008|
|External links: Author's website|
Living in the shadow of a talented big sister isn't easy. Living with a mother who has high expectations isn't easy either, especially when no matter how well you do, you know it's the result of sheer determination, not talent. This is what it's like for Eva. Eva's house is full of gymnastics medals won by her older sister Amber, and Eva's own collection is beginning to rival it. But where Amber's glories sprung from flair and a natural svelteness, Eva's are the product of the sweat of her brow and an iron will on the chocolate front.
But hard work isn't very glamorous or charismatic, not like talent, and deep down inside Eva doesn't value herself highly at all. She's stressed and afraid and although she does her best to hide it, the tension pops out in some rather unpleasant ways. She may be a frightened child on the inside, but on the outside she's a bitch and a bully. So when her mother has a breakdown and departs for a residential course just as the threateningly-talented new girl Patty arrives at the gym club, things start to go badly, badly wrong...
There's an ease of writing and confidence about A Perfect Ten that makes it a joy to read. Chris Higgins taught English and Drama at secondary school, so she knows her market and it shows. Teen girls are renowned for being cliquey and manipulative - and sometimes cruel - but it's not an easy task to create a sympathetic character from a teen girl who is like that, even if she does have all sorts of hidden problems. But Eva is tremendously sympathetic and we see this through a first person narration that gives us access to her thoughts. People sometimes are mean and nasty for no reason, but more often there is an underlying cause. With teenagers, it's very often insecurity and we see this very clearly in Eva. The observation is spot on.
The book touches on some contemporary issues - anorexia, teen drinking, and the like, but mostly it's a kitchen sink drama of family tension, growing up, grief and coming to terms with loss. It's done with a kindly, wise touch and a style that's clean, confident, accessible to all, and without a touch of condescension. I really enjoyed it. Its tension builds through a hushed-up family secret, well-signposted for adults I expect, but it'll bring its young readers up short, and give them great pause for thought.
Recommended, not least for the fandabbydozy pun in the title.
My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.
They might also enjoy the classic Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson.
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Charlotte Hughes said:
A Perfect ten is a sensational book which shows what girls minds are really like 10/10