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I like to think I have fairly diverse reading interests, but I confess I especially love reading YA realistic fiction, rock star biographies, adult literary fiction, and narrative nonfiction.
Everyone has a weakness. Mine is books with pink sparkly covers, and definitely books with pink sparkly covers written in diary format. Today's pink sparkly book in diary format is the fun, silly-yet-serious Diary of a Chav by Grace Dent. Copy acquired at the Fall '08 librarian/reviewer preview at Little, Brown (thank you muchly!). Erm...to clarify, my galley has a pink sparkly cover. The final version has a blue sparkly cover.
Shiraz Bailey Wood...even the name makes me smile...is a self-described chav, derogatory slang for white working-class Brits who like hip-hop and the fashions associated with it. She makes no apologies for being one and spends her days hanging around Claire's with the bad girls from school, or maybe with her best friend Carrie, whose wealthy mother had the Sistine Chapel reproduced on the ceiling of the family home with the family's faces painted on it. Her older sister, Cava-Sue, is on her way to becoming the family outcast due to her interest in studying acting at the higher education level. Shiraz wasn't planning on keeping a diary, but it was a gift from her grandmother so she might as well use it. She documents her hoop-earring, hip-hop listening days with flair and a lot of cursing. Oh, and there's some romance, too.
At first, this book can be hard to get into because it's so peppered with British slang. Anyone with experience in figuring out word meanings from context, though, should have Shiraz's rhythm down by page 5. I'd love to hear this in audio; I think an audio version would bring a lot of spirit and meaning to the text. What's great about Shiraz is that she doesn't make excuses for being a chav, nor does she aspire to some great refined lifestyle, but she is street smart and as the book goes on she starts to see value in being book smart as well. This is not some great revelation, either. Rather, a teacher recognizes that Shiraz is bright and encourages her to put her sass to good use. That, and Shiraz knows she doesn't want any job where she'll have to wear wellies and a hat ever again. I found this book hilarious and very real in that Shiraz lacks a lot of the self-awareness I see from teens in so much YA literature. She gets in trouble and fights with her friends and isn't sure what she wants to do with her life and is generally finding herself.
Subsequent books in the series are available in the UK and I'm anxiously awaiting their arrival in the US. Also, I have to say that this is one of the books this year where I like the US cover better than the UK cover. The UK covers aren't bad at all, I just like the picture on the US cover (which is the one at the top of this entry).
I've been waiting for this term to catch on for three years or so since I see "chavish" behavior all around me but can't seem to get the right American term for it. And diary format books are my weakness too . . . I won't share my copies of the Georgia Nicholson books with my students (and my daughters won't share theirs with me).