Pop! by Catherine Bruton

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Pop! by Catherine Bruton

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Delightful story in which a kitchen sink drama and community-paralysing politics run underneath an hilarious reality TV narrative. I can't imagine a single reader who wouldn't like this book!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1405261331

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Elfie's mam has done her twelfth - or is it thirteenth? - bunk and things aren't so hot in the Baguley household. No mother, no money, and an ongoing strike plagued by immigrant workers and scabs. Elfie needs a plan. And since plans are what Elfie excels at - if you listen to Elfie and not to anybody else - she soon comes up with a stonker. If she can win TV talent show Pop to the Top, she'll net a cool £25k - enough to get her father out of debt and to fund her friend Jimmy's Olympic swimming dreams. All she needs is a voice, which she finds in Agnes, who sings like an angel.

There's just one snag - Agnes's father is one of the immigrant contractors who will potentially break the strike. And if anyone finds out that Elfie and Jimmy are friends with her all hell will break loose...

I truly enjoyed reading Pop!. If I had any criticism to make, it's that nigh on 500 pages is just a little bit long. I felt the story would have gained a bit more tension for some condensing and some tween readers are put off by books that look like bricks. Other than that, it's an absolutely delightful read. Kitchen sink drama and community-paralysing politics run underneath an hilarious reality TV narrative. I can't imagine a single reader who wouldn't enjoy the combination.

Elfie, who is brash, rude, inconsiderate and spiky, is also touchingly vulnerable. She's a charismatic figure and although she treats her friends quite badly and quite often, you can see why Jimmy and Agnes are so loyal. It's not just because they can't avoid following the blazing trail she burns through life; it's because she needs - and deserves - good friends. Jimmy is timid and reserved but there's an inner strength in him which immediately makes you root for him and cheer when he finally gathers the courage to let it out. And while Agnes is Elfie's polar opposite in character, as an unwanted immigrant her troubles are not of her own making, as Elfie's are not. So you want these kids to succeed and to rise above the suffocating politics of immigration, strikes and labour rights and at the same time, you gain an understanding of how and why these issues are so important.

And it's so funny, too. Bruton's dialogue truly sparkles. How do you know I'm not Alfie's mam? asks Elfie. Because I was there when your mam's waters broke on the floor of Lidl! says Jimmy. HA! Elfie has the reality TV format down pat and there are more swipes at the phenomenon than you could shake a stick at - from the judging panel and the remorseless production team to the wannabe competitors. But it's all affectionate mockery, so it won't put readers off.

Pop is a great follow-up to We Can Be Heroes. Bruton is making a real niche for herself writing smart, funny and touching novels that deal with both personal and social issues using contemporary mores and tropes.

Recommended.

Other stories involving reality TV include The TV Time Travellers by Pete Johnson and Kid Swap (Jiggy McCue) by Michael Lawrence.

Buy Pop! by Catherine Bruton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Pop! by Catherine Bruton at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Pop! by Catherine Bruton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Pop! by Catherine Bruton at Amazon.com.


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Truda Borthwick-Stevens said:

Really liked this review. Quite succinct but gave a real flavour of the story and characters. It grabbed both my imagination and interest and made me want to read the book.

I also liked the way the reviewer recommended other books in this genre. Just a thought: how does it compare to Slumdog Millionaire?


Jill said:

Thanks, Truda. Slumdog Millionaire? Well, let's compare like for like and use Q&A, the book on which the Danny Boyle film was based. Much more British, much more kitchen sink, and the political conflict lies BETWEEN the trio of main characters; they're not a Three Musketeers triumvirate. So quite different, really.