The Facts of Life (Rachel Riley) by Joanna Nadin

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The Facts of Life (Rachel Riley) by Joanna Nadin

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A swansong to this series, but even on the evidence of this alone it was a great, and incredibly witty, one. Come back here after reading the previous five.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2014
Publisher: OUP
ISBN: 9780192733801

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Never let it be said that we here at The Bookbag do not try and give you the reviews nobody else can. This is a case in point – the review of the sixth and final Rachel Riley book from someone who has never read any of the other five. As such a person I can add to all the superlatives the series has got from elsewhere the bonus information that should your tastes in books be as fickle as those of the reviewing gods, you can start this brilliant series at the end and not really suffer a jot. You would be patently bonkers to choose to do so, but the option's there.

The only possible hiccup involved in such an approach is that once the initial loved-up bounce in Rachel's life gets deflated, there is a period of the book that feels a tiny bit flat and slightly padded, in that it relies on just soapy happenings in her bizarre household and not her wannabe love life. That feeling of flatness lasts perhaps a whole five of the 300 pages, so to repeat – this is well worth picking up. And I dare say this is just one proof of how excellent this franchise must have been.

The household is greatly formed, with the geeky, naggingly precocious younger brother, astoundingly forthright mother with host of dos-and-don’ts for everyone, and thinly-drawn (ie henpecked) father. Add to them the ridiculously feral dog, a bizarre collection of older relatives (and an uncle for Rachel who is of kindergarten age) and you have a right old melting pot of oddity. You don't really need Rachel to have friends like Sad Ed, multiple teenaged boys using ladders to get into her bedroom, or a host of complaints about the boring commuter-belt town she dislikes living in, but they're definitely there and are all perfect touches to the greater picture.

It's not only brother James who is precocious, for Rachel has some of that herself. She likes to think of herself as a woman in a teenaged (well, 34B) form, and writes in that way. Her dense diary entries (I'll ignore the problems that causes, when she is supposed to have written screeds and screeds through floods of tears) are very maturely brought to us, in a style that's very lax in including all the articles, personal pronouns and so on, yet still manages to be both perfectly readable, and able to turn a ten-word joke into a funnier fifteen-word one-liner at will.

But perhaps the best thing for me about this book, and series, is maybe connected to me not having read any of the previous. I just haven't read anything else quite like it. I don't get to read many specifically teen-only books, and certainly not those female-directed, but I do think this a one-off. It has all the DNA of a Louise Rennison novel, especially when the school play comes into account, but this is definitely an older sister – there are just too many penis thoughts, chaste trips to the pub, and driving lessons to completely fit onto the same shelf. Rachel is a sixth-former and the rule that the target audience is a couple of years younger than the hero/ine stands true here. Also, and this isn't to denigrate la Rennison at all, this is a more intelligent beast. The comedy timing is just as simple, and simply spot-on, but this is much more worldly-wise, and cutting.

Principle to the cutting attitude is the welter of cultural references here, which if anything are just too numerous and diverse. This is a 2014 rerelease of a 2010 novel, which includes the Chinese Olympics (albeit once) and the election of Obama, where people tweet about certain things yet the heroine lambasts Andrew Lloyd Webber (quite hilariously) and Kenny G. This might be our author putting too much of herself in to this fictional character, but in looking back to artistes of her (and my own) youth she lends a slightly rough edge to the jokes. The feel is perhaps one of an alternative universe Adrian Mole, where the books beyond the first two remained open to the full zeitgeist and didn't just devolve into politics.

To go back to that 2010/2014 detail, it is where I introduce the most disappointment to my review. It seems more and more obvious that, having notched up about a dozen books across several series, Ms Nadin has stopped producing novels, and perhaps gone back to her other career (ironically, given the above comment, in politics). The fact that this, the last in this series, seems increasingly less likely to be joined by more is a great shame. And I thought my starting at the end was bad enough… Everything points, then, to a missed opportunity for me – but equally everything points to you having no excuse for opening book one, page one, and having a raucous, intelligent and very, very funny six-book experience.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Trouble by Non Pratt is another read definitely only for the teenaged female that we can highly recommend.

Buy The Facts of Life (Rachel Riley) by Joanna Nadin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Facts of Life (Rachel Riley) by Joanna Nadin at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Facts of Life (Rachel Riley) by Joanna Nadin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Facts of Life (Rachel Riley) by Joanna Nadin at Amazon.com.


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