Hannah and Sam meet up in a bathroom at a party to celebrate the end of A Levels, and despite their instant attraction have to overcome many obstacles and misunderstandings before finally getting together.
Hannah (written by Ms Ivison) and Sam (written by Mr Ellen) alternate narration in this extremely raunchy, and laugh out loud funny romance. These British teenagers, on the brink of leaving school and going to college or on a gap year, spend their time drinking, smoking weed, and obsessing with their friends about sex and finding The One. I so recognized that frenzied talking about boys and sex at that age. It seems that nothing else is really that important, even though going to university is, ultimately, going to have a much more lasting impact on life.
The novel is set in a white, middle-class, heterosexual West London, and there are some changes from Anglicisms to Americanisms to keep comprehensibility up that most readers won’t notice. It’s contemporary, in the sense that all the characters have cellphones and text each other, but the sensibilities of the characters and the plot arc are such that it could have been written about my teenage years in the last century.
Hannah is a familiar figure from YA lit – the girl who thinks she’s not good enough but then, astonishingly, attracts all sorts of dishy boys. Nonetheless she’s funny, sharp, and the sort of person you’d want to spend time with. I thought the portrayal of Hannah’s friend Stella was particularly astute and recognizable. She’s the girl who likes to be in control of the social situation, and who likes to be the center of attention. She claims to put her friends first, but at crunch time, she doesn’t. The other characters, including the boys and the largely absent adults, seem a bit more generic but raise some smiles and a few nods of familiarity.
The plot, while totally contrived, moves along at a decent pace and there are some standout sections including the girls’ holiday to a Greek island (which reminded me so much of a Club 18-30 vacation I had with some friends on Rhodes) and the muddy fields of a music festival.
I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in a sun lounger reading this, and I’m sure many teens will do the same on a real or metaphorical beach.
Reviewed from an ARC.