Somewhere I read that someone (surfing the web is all well and good until you do so much you can't remember where you've been or why you were even there in the first place... still...) had Chrissie Glazebrook's début novel, 'The Madolescents' on their top five favourite books of all time. I think it might have been a YA author but I can't be sure. I hope it wasn't you, Keris! Anyway - doesn't matter. Any recommendation is good, whether it makes you steer clear or makes you want to buy it to see if it REALLY was as bad as the someone, somewhere says it is.
THIS book, however, is probably the best, darkest, funniest, sardonic book of teenage angst and way of life that I've read. EVER. Well, so far, obviously.
The storyline is just so perfectly normal and the characters ways of life and family backgrounds and groups of friends and social lives are just so brilliantly well-observed that it could only have been written by someone who's lived through it. Been there. Seen it. Probably even done some of it herself.
Rowena M (she reckons for 'mad') Vincent, the greatest unsympathetic main character I've ever 'met' is a 16 year old Funeral Parlour assistant. And that in itself is probably the best occupation I've read for a long time, imo. What with all these Media types and Florists (soooo many Florists about right now... is it the weather?) to read about a girl who has a shite job (her words) living in a shite town with shite prospects and at times slightly worrying mental aberrations, is, perversely, a total breath of fresh air.
And whereas I usually trip over written dialect, some of the Northern words ("canny", "maison well", smarmy "get" etc) actually heightened the whole flavour of being in Rowena's world and endeared me even more to her maniac ways.
The Madolescents of the title are a bunch of (purportedly maladjusted) teenagers who meet once a week for group therapy - not that a lot of therapy is achieved. And although I wouldn't say that they're completely pivotal to the plot, they do give it more edge. The main story focusses on Rowena's home life, with her mum having just met Bernard ('Filthy') Luker and the deeply unattractive emotions this evokes in her. And whilst it doesn't sound funny, there are so many belly-laughs in this book I couldn't pick out just one - you HAVE to read it and see for yourself.
In fact, I loved this book so much that I had to Google Chrissie Glazebrook and find out a bit more about her. I wondered it she might Twitter and if she Facebook-d. But the first thing I found was her Obituary in the Guardian online, which kind of brought me up. Sharpish. More than sharpish. It turns out that this truly, amazingly talented and darkly hilarious writer died of bowel and associated cancer aged 62 in 2007. And as The Madolescents was published in 2002, I couldn't quite believe that she'd been 57 when it came out. Which makes her writing all the more remarkable. But what a waste of such incredible talent. It actually gave me a figurative slap round the stupid face for ever worrying that being the wrong side of forty makes any kind of noticeable difference in the way you write. That's the last time I say "bah, I'm too old for all that nonsense now" and I hereby give you permission to turn the figurative into the actual if you DO ever hear me bemoan this fact.
Chrissie Glazebrook, The Madolescents specifically - officially in my top five.
WARNING: contains alcohol, swearing, drugs, sex, FF, mental illness, karaoke, transvestisism and suicide. Oh, and LAUGHS-A-PLENTY!