Thursday, 4 February 2010

Anthems For Teenage Girls

When I was 12 (wow, that feels like a long time ago), my Bestest Friend in the Whole Wide World lent me a book called Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning. It blew my mind. My little 12 year old brain could not compute the information it was receiving. Guitar Girl tells the story of Molly, a girl from a town no-one has ever heard of, forms a band, and becomes famous, as well as falling in love with someone she thinks she hates. At the time, when I wasn't thinking about university and had no idea what a UCAS form was, I wanted to be a rock star (the fact I couldn't play the guitar was inconsequential), and I thought Molly was just the coolest character ever. 

Then I realised that Manning was writing a serialized story in J17 - a magazine that the Bestest Friend supplied me with illicitly, since my mother deemed it inappropriate - and my love for her books grew. I went out and bought a copy of Guitar Girl for myself and read it and re-read it.

Then along came Let's Get Lost, once again a recommendation from the Bestest Friend (she has great taste in books). In a way, it was the book version of a soundtrack to my teenage years. Every time I argued with anyone (usually my mother), I would storm up to my room, sit down and read it; my copy is pretty worn now. I won't try and synopsize the novel, because I'll spoil it, but I will say that I never fail to shed a tear at the end.  

In between Guitar Girl and Let's Get Lost, I read Pretty Things and Diary of a Crush. And a long time after I read Let's Get Lost, I read Unsticky and the Fashionistas series. They were good, and I enjoyed reading them, but none of them had the effect on me that Guitar Girl and Let's Get Lost had. 

And then along came Nobody's Girl. For the past few years, Let's Get Lost had been my favourite book of Manning's, I realise now because I identified so much with Isabel, and her attitude and her general self, and because the story was so well told. But Nobody's Girl changed everything, and after one reading is already competing with Let's Get Lost for the title of Flo's Favourite Sarra Manning Book. I think because I now relate more to Bea than Isabel and because the adventures Bea has are some that everyone hopes to have at some point. 

But maybe that's what I like about Manning's books; she makes her characters easy to relate to; they seem so real. I'm sure every teenage girl knows an Isabel, a Smith, an Edie, a Dylan, a Molly, a Dean and a Bea, as well as a version of the Trio of Evil. Or is it the language? Told in a way that makes it sound that the character is talking to you, the colloquial language makes the reader feel relaxed, as though they are talking to a friend.

Surely, at age 18, I should be too old to be reading Manning's books (or so I am told), and I should be passing them onto my 12 year old sister, but I don't want to. Like all book worms, I feel a great attatchment to these books, and to the characters, and I'm not quite ready to let them go.
Flo x

My personal collection, hunted down from the bookshelves around the house.

All book cover images via: Google images

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