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So Far from the Bamboo Grove Yoko Kawashawa Watkins
The Girl Sleuth Bobbie Ann Mason
Ok, so, I didn't update the first week, so last week I was supposed to review 10 books. I did 4, so this week, I'm aiming for 11. Got your seatbelts on?
Right now, I'm going to talk about Cathy Hopkin's series Mates, Dates, and.... I've already discussed the first one, Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras.
Overall, the series isn't funny (it has its moments, but humour isn't the object), but is too light to actually carry a more serious tone. It can get really preachy, and in its preachyness, especially when talking about drugs, the information is just plain wrong. That said, I did find this series oddly compelling and have read all of them now and enjoyed them. I'm sad that Cathy Hopkins has stopped writing this series, but I didn't enjoy it enough to pick up her new series, Truth or Dare.
I think the main reason I liked this series is that Hopkins does do teenage girls well. The books alternate first person point of view and although sometimes her main characters read like she brainstormed five adjectives to describe them and then stopped, I do like them and did get attached. My favorite part was the fact that these girls are the worst friends you find in literature. These friendships are REAL. They fight over stupid stuff. They make up in silly ways. They accidentally piss each other off ALL THE TIME. It's so real! And the angst levels tend to be spot on.
So... here's a quick recap of the books:
Mates, Dates, and Cosmic Kisses This is Izzie's story about trying to find a boy. She meets Mark in the shops at Camden. He's lovely and she's smitten but he doesn't call when he says he will! (Oh my god! He's a real boy!) And Izzie's always trying randomly run into him and generally making a painful fool of herself in the way only a smitten 14-year-old can. All the while, ignoring the perfectly lovely Ben who is obviously a better match. Predictable and sweet.
Mates, Dates, and Designer Divas is Nesta's book. She falls in deep smit with Simon, who is definetely upper crust. Nesta's used to being the "rich" one amongst her set, but Simon's world is one of riding and designer duds. Mainly, his sister's friend is a straight up racist bee-otch and Nesta's having a major crisis of self-esteem. And Izzie's singing with Ben's band, which is pretty neat-o. Nesta also gets wasted, which is funny. But this is wear the first "translation" issues really become apparent. As you are probably aware, in England, a public school is what Americans would refer to as a private school. In dealing with Richie Rich and his gang, Nesta says she also goes to a public school because, as she later tells the girls, the public is allowed at their school. HA HA HA HA. At least, I think that's what she said, because they translated the public school to a private school to make sense to American audiences, making the next few lines of the book make absolutely NO sense.
Mates, Dates, and Sleepover Secrets This introduces the new character of TJ, whose best friend just moved away to South Africa. The girls decide to "adopt" her and she's makes the trio a quartet. TJ's big problem is that she's a bit of a tomboy and all her guy mates think of her as just that, a mate. She's crushing on the boy next store, all the while not realizing that Lucy's brother is crushing on her, big time. Lots of preachiness about being true to yourself.
Mates, Dates, and Sole Survivors Is back to Lucy's point of view. Lucy's bummed out, because she and Tony are back off-again and everyone else has a boyfriend. Lucy goes off on a self-discovery weekend with her dad and meets a lovely boy named Daniel. He's also into fashion and designs his own stuff. Then he turns really possesive and keeps trying to change Lucy. And I thought Mates, Dates, and Sleepover Secrets was heavy on the be-true-to-yourself theme. Also preachy on the don't-let-boys-rule-your-life theme.
Mates, Dates, and Mad Mistakes Izzie's sick of being treated like a little girl and takes on a whole new image, much to her mother's chagrin. She dumps Ben and starts dating this scally she thinks she can reform. She drinks. The boy smokes weed. This book irked me the most because it was the preachiest, and at the end, when Izzie has her little learning moment, she's talking about what she's learned about drugs and a lot of her information is just plain wrong.
Mates, Dates, and Sequin Smiles Nesta has to get braces! I liked this one, because not only is Nesta all freaked out about her braces (which are A LOT less common in England than in the US) but she meets this hotttt guy in her acting class, Luke. As soon as her dad sees Luke though, he forbids Nesta to ever see him again, and won't give her a reason. The books not nearly as preachy as Mates, Dates, and Mad Mistakes and the plot was less predictable than usual, and a little more oddball.
Mates, Dates, and Tempting Trouble Luke's a dawg! And cheating on Nesta! With TJ! And it's on! Lucy sides with Nesta (especially when TJ dumps Lucy's brother OVER EMAIL) and Izzie's on TJ's side. Friends before boys, girls, friends before boys. Obviously it gets worked out, because there are more books in the series, but OH! THE DRAMA!
Mates, Dates, and Great Escapes We're back to Lucy's POV and everyone's going on the school holiday to Italy except for her, because her family doesn't have a lot of extra money for such things. But then some extra money comes into the picture and she gets to go too! And just in the nick of time, because she and Tony are definetely OFF. And Lucy meets a hott American and maybe things will get better? This one's not preachy and fun, because it's the girls running around in Italy. Also, I really like how Lucy can finally afford to go on the trip.
Mates, Dates, and Chocolate Cheats We're back to Izzie and back to super-preachy. Izzie's got curves, and as all curvy girls know, there's a fine line between curvy and fat and we often think we're on the fat side of that line when we're not. It's the problem of being curvy. So, Izzie thinks she's fat and is trying to lose weight and doing all the stupid things girls do to lose weight short of developing an eating disorder. At the same time, the girls are trying to be on a pilot for a TV show called "Teen Talk" or somesuch. And Izzie falls in love with someone who is so obviously gay, it's hilarious. But in the end, we all learn the lesson that not only is Izzie NOT fat, but even if she were, it's what's on the inside that counts and you can't lose weight overnight (sadly). Oh, and you can't date a gay guy.
Mates, Dates, and Diamond Destiny Once again, the girls are ripping on Nesta for being shallow, but Nesta's PMSing and takes it really seriously. Plus, there's a guy collecting at the coffee shop who was one of Luke's friends. Nesta gets involved with charity work to prove she's not shallow but she keeps running into William. She DOES NOT like him, so why are the girls giving her such a hard time? And even if she did like him, how would she be able to trust a friend of Luke's? A bit preachy on the charity-work angle, especailly when cancer-girl makes an appearence, but fun. Especially when they smack down the smug girls.
Mates, Dates, and Sizzling Summers This is the last book in the series. For some reason, TJ is still totally in love with Luke, the asshat who cheated on her best friend. WTF? This whole angle is something I never understood and Hopkins couldn't make me. Actually, she didn't really try to explain why she still liked him. But TJ is dating the dreamy Ollie Axeford, who's a bit of a player, but, to his credit, is always straight up honest about it and doesn't lie to her. TJ's dad has a stroke and the family goes down to... Devon? Cornwall? I can't remember. Anyway, there she meets up with some of the Truth or Dare characters in a really obvious attempt to bring readers over to her new series. The ending really dissapointed me, because it seemed really out-of-character for TJ and it ended the series on an off note.