Monday, 1 June 2009

You don't have to be mad...

Lottie Biggs is NOT Mad by Hayley Long

I'm not sure if the format in which I read this (photocopied manuscript) has prejudiced my thoughts, but even a few days after finishing the book I am still a little ambivalent about this book.

The book is narrated by Lottie and she is being forced to write her 'autobiography' as a piece of GCSE English Coursework. Without spoiling the book for future readers I can't say much about the plot except to say that even with Lottie faithfully documenting her life events spiral out of control for many and varied reasons.

At the start of the book I wasn't at all enamoured, in fact I was almost bored. It came across as a very derivative book. The humour felt forced and Louise Rennison does that better. The plot also didn't feel new or original and my personal favourite Chris Higgins takes some beating for compelling family novels.

If I am honest I only kept reading because the author is local and I always make a point of giving local writers a fair go.

And then there was the twist...

Oh boy I really hadn't seen that coming, sometimes a manuscript with no clues to the plot can be the way to read a book. Suddenly all of the points that had previously jarred made sense and I was desperate to read to the end of the novel to see how Lottie dealt with everything.

So much happens in this book that it is hard to believe that it all happens in a term. This could be because the action flits back and forth through Lottie and Goose's friendship, but I lost track of the supposedly elapsed time and I couldn't believe that the resolution of the plot (it is hard not to give too much away!) did happen in only eight weeks.
Lottie was the only character that really 'lived' for me, Goose came close as did Lottie's mum, but the rest of the cast seemed very flat and plot devices rather than real people.

I am glad I persevered with this novel as it did manage to surprise me. Hayley Long has managed to create a character that gets right under your skin, you may not love her, or even identify with her, but she is certainly alive. The book was, eventually, a good read but I still remain ambivalent overall but that all being said I will be eagerly awaiting the next book featuring Lottie Biggs to see how she puts her life back together.

Lottie Biggs will be published by Macmillan at the start of July

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