Thursday, August 06, 2009

My New Favorite Series

Diva without a Cause Grace Dent

The British original was called Trainers V. Tiaras and the US hardcover was just called Diary of a Chav.

Shiraz Baily Wood is NOT a Chav, thank you very much. Even if the local paper does refer to her school as super-chav academy. Just because she likes track suits and gold hoops doesn't make her one!

(Ok, it kinda does, but chav really isn't a nice thing to call someone, so we can forgive Shiraz her denial.)

Her career goals are to go on Big Brother and create lots of controversalities, which she will, because she totally keeps it real, and then spin that into an empire and make two million pounds, just like Tabitha Tennant. Meanwhile her best friend's boyfriend is a bit minging, her older sister Cava-Sue is in drama school and dressing like a hobo, and her brother Murphy is just gross.

Hilarious. Dent's writing is pitch-perfect. Astoundingly so. I'm so glad that the American publication didn't touch the lower-working-class British dialect at all.

What I love most about this book is it's more than funny British chick-lit. There's a lot going underneath the surface, most of it class related. Going to college or university isn't a goal Shiraz's parents want for her. They don't even care about her A-levels-- her mum thinks she should get a job and start earning money and find a nice rich man to marry, preferably a builder because they can fix things around the house. A lot of the family tension comes from the fact that Cava-Sue is doing her A-levels. But, Shiraz has a new teacher who's forcing her to think about some things. This is not a side of British life we see in lit very often, especially the stuff that makes it over here. Most readers will think Shiraz's mum is crazy and that her ideas of what's classy are CRAZY (seriously, think Chardonnay from Footballers Wive$) but the way Dent portrays them isn't mockingly.

Some of the drama, like in most teen lives, is created by Shiraz, but a lot of the bigger issues are not. I loved her.

It's laugh-out-loud hysterical, but Shiraz has a lot of heart and is, really, a proper legend. As a note though, unless you're very, very good at British-English (and not just your regular ones such as "trainers" and "GCSEs" but you need to know words like "minging" "WAGs" and "ASBO"), you'll want to make use of the glossary at back.

The sequel, Posh and Prejudice comes out in December.

If you're good enough at your British to not need the glossary (like those of us who used to live in the dodgier parts of Manchester), this series is up to book 6 in the UK. BOOK 6!!!! And, may I remind you, for all of your British book buying needs, there is nothing better than The Book Depository. Regular prices and FREE WORLD WIDE SHIPPING with no minimum order. Yes, I make money off Amazon, but not Book Depository, I just love them. And I've ordered the rest of the series through them. Huzzah!

And now, an excerpt:

I LOVE going to bingo with Nan. Nan is the bingo queen. Nan always reckons that she has a bad heart and bad eyesight, but when she gets to bingo she can do six bingo cards at once while smoking a Lucky Strike and talking about everyone else there with Gill. Nan don't even get shaky when they do the live national link up for ₤40,000!!! I only did one card and my hear was thumping like mad! Nan said that if she gets the big national one she's moving to Spain with Gill and they're going to sit in the sun and drink rum-and-Cokes and find themselves new fellas, seeing as their old ones have gone and died. Nan said I can come with her and get myself a Spanish fella with brown eyes. (Even Nan is obsessed with me getting a lad.)


It was a right bother getting Nan and her mates home after bingo 'cos Gill won a bingo line and spent the ₤30 on rum-and-Cokes for her, Nan, and their mate Clement. "You can't take it with you when you die," said Gill. They were singing on the bus all the way home. They are worse than us hoodies.


Caroline Starr Rose said...

What's a chav?

Jennie said...

Hmmm. That'd be useful information, wouldn't it?

"Chav" is a not-nice word used to describe youth in Britain, usually white lower-working class. They're seen as aggressive and with poor or common tastes in clothing and jewelry (tend to wear track suits, hoodies, or baseball caps, lots of gold medallion necklaces for boys, huge gold hoops for girls).

A stereotypical chav would hang out in front of a shopping mall, smoking and drinking and shouting swear words at passers by and then going inside to shop-life something. People assume they've dropped out of high school and they're often accused of having a lots of babies early on in order to get the British equivalent of welfare.

While Shiraz and her friends have many aspects of Chav culture (namely dress and music tastes) one of the main points in the book is Shiraz realizing there is more out there than getting a job, becoming pregnant at 20, and finding a nice guy to marry you and take care of you so you don't have to work anymore. It's a really big deal that she's considering going on and doing her A-Levels because her family and most of the people in her town just don't do that. Cava-Sue did that, and she's weird for it.

David said...

I told you this was a good one- a bit different than the Georgia Nicholson series, but still good on it's own....

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! As I'm so obsessed with British culture -- to the point of embarrassing myself around actual British people -- I'm definitely intrigued by these :)

And can I also add that yes, The Book Depository is awesome?! I ordered two books from there last week -- a paperback and a hardcover -- for $15 U.S. And free shipping! They haven't gotten to me yet but, you know, it's only been a week. And they are making a trip across the Atlantic, so I'll forgive them.