The first time I encountered Sarra Manning I was sitting on the loo and just happened to pick up a book that had been lying face down on the floor. This was 'Let's Get Lost' and the, then 13 year old Girl was well and truly into it, taking it everywhere with her. Well, apart from when she'd left it lying on the bathroom floor or course.
Half an hour and probably a fast-approaching haemorrhoid-situation later, I surfaced back to reality. This was one Helluva Main Teenage Character. She didn't take any crap, she didn't particularly like her family, she scared her teachers and she shot her mouth off whether it was appropriate or not.
I loved it and realised that characters didn't have to be all naive and cutesy and innocent like they were when I was a teenager. They could be arsey and belligerent and bolshy if they wanted, and they were such FUN.
There followed 'Guitar Girl' and then 'Pretty Things' which both lived up to expectations. They were just so joyful and lovely to read with characters that stayed with you well after the last page was turned. Along with the Girl, I was hooked.
So when I heard a couple of years ago that Sarra had written her first grown-up book, 'Unsticky', I felt that this was going to be either a huge mistake, considering how brilliantly she wrote for her teenaged audience, or else a move of genius. I couldn't wait to read it.
And Genius it was. The Girl and I both devoured this in a matter of a fortnight between us. And it makes for compelling discussions over chocolate cake, let me tell you!
So I was delighted to hear that Sarra's latest book, 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me' was out and from reviews I'd read by friends' blogs whose opinions I value and generally agree with (apart from the Tom Cruise/Basil Brush dispute, Keris, but we won't go into that) I couldn't wait to get my paws on it.
And 6 days later, I am bereft. It is SUCH a fabulously-written book of utter joy that I am physically saddened. I miss Neve and Max and Celia (even, heaven forbid, the poisonous Charlotte) whom I've spent the past week cosying up with. They've become like proper friends and I don't know what I shall do without them. I'm on the verge of demanding a sequel and I HATE sequels. Such is my sadness at never having them in my life again. I never skipped a word, sometimes even re-reading some because they'd been so beautifully put-together. And by the end of the week I was rationing my 'fix' because I didn't want it to end.
Helen Redfern rightly says, you don't just adore the main character, Neve, you actually *become* her.
I always thought that 'Bet Me' by Jennifer Crusie would take some beating but this has turned my head. Co-incidentally enough, both books begin with a scene in a bar, an unlikey but totally believable hero/heroine combination, have THE best sex-scenes ever and and ending that's .... well, that'd be telling. And they're both utterly wonderful... I'd URGE everyone to read them immediately!
I feel a little bit sorry for the next book on my To Be Read pile 'cos it's got such a hard act to follow!