Sugarcoated by Catherine Forde
|Sugarcoated by Catherine Forde|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: In her usual teen argot style, Forde makes a page-turner of a not particularly mysterious mystery, cleverly exposing her lead character's vulnerabilities. There is a deep understanding of the arrogance and frailties of adolescence and great tension in this very likeable book. Great stuff.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: April 2008|
|Publisher: Egmont Books|
Claudia Quinn is working in her father's opticians when she witnesses an horrific attack. A man is beaten with a hammer right before her very eyes. Cloddy cowers, terrified, behind a desk, but she sees the whole thing. Afraid of reprisals, she keeps quiet when the police ask her the inevitable questions. Cloddy doesn't want a hammer anywhere near her own head, thank you very much. She's enough to worry about what with her exam resits, lack of friends, and non-existent love life. And then Stefan appears. Older than Cloddy, with money, sophistication and amazing good looks, it's inconceivable that he'd be interested in her. But he is. He wines and dines her, calls her his babes. He also takes a puzzling interest in what Cloddy saw of the attack.
And then things start to go wrong...
Oh, poor old Cloddy Quinn! She's young, she lacks kudos, she's lonely, she's ginger and chubby - and we all know, however old and haggard we've become ourselves, what that means when you're a teenager. She sees all these things about herself. But she doesn't see any of the good things. She's witty and funny, she's independent and determined, she's curious and enthusiastic. If only she could see it, she's got a lot to offer. If only she wasn't so isolated, she'd have seen Stefan coming a mile off. She'd have joined the dots long before her one and only friend miles away in Africa prompts her to make a mind map. Even equally lonely, socially inept teenaged readers will have solved the Sugarcoated mystery by page twenty.
But the tension isn't in the mystery. We all know Stefan for a baddie straightaway. The tension - and there's great tension in this book - is all about willing Cloddy on to see it for herself. And will her on and wish her well you do. It could all so easily have descended into a less-than-thrilling pantomime chase and mental shouts of "BEHIND YOU!" but it doesn't. Cloddy is so real, direct, and engaging that you're identifying with her before you know it. You don't want her to be deceived. You don't want her to to come any kind of a cropper. And every time you think someone's about to gallop to her rescue, Forde snatches them away again. There's both an enthusiasm and a darkness about the story and it perfectly reflects teenage life, even if the action isn't commonplace at all.
The teen argot style is spot on - don't expect finely crafted, elegant sentences here. Since when did your teenager's diction involve anything such? But it works. It's immediate, it's all in the present, and its simplicity underpins a sympathetic and sophisticated understanding, just as the narrative drive does. I loved it, and I don't think there's a teenage girl that won't. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the good people at Egmont for sending the book.
If they like this kind of book, they might also like Sea Change by Kate Cann or Meet Me At The Boathouse by Suzanne Bugler. And if they loved this book so much they'd rather find Catherine Forde on the web they can hop on over to her very sexiful Bebo page.
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