Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How to Ditch Your Fairy

Isn't that a great title? I took a break from the wizards yesterday to read Justine Larbalestier's new book, How to Ditch Your Fairy (due out in October--thank you, Bloomsbury, for the advance copy!), which I remember reading about in her blog as The Ultimate Fairy Book and, before that, as "the great Australian feminist young adult Elvis mangosteen monkey knife-fighting cricket fairy novel." Although, sadly, Elvis seems to have dropped out of the book somewhere in the revision process (or there's a subtle association that I completely missed--also quite possible), it's still a really fun book. I fell in love with Larbalestier's* previous heroine, Reason, in the Magic or Madness series, and I fell in love with her very different, but equally compelling, heroine Charlie in this book, too. I also fell in love with the premise: in this world, people (but not all of them) have personal fairies. The fairies are sort of like fairy godmothers, invisible presences who look out for you, but with a twist: they specialize. So Charlie's best friend has a clothes-shopping fairy (think: fabulous vintage dresses for five bucks); her mother has a knowing-what-your-kids-are-doing fairy (which could be a problem for a fourteen-year-old); and she has...a parking fairy. Yes, if she's in a car with you, you will find a fabulous parking spot. Not, of course, that she can drive.

The girl she likes least in school has a fairy that makes all the boys her age** find her irresistible. Not surprisingly, Charlie wants to ditch her fairy for a better one. How she goes about doing that, however, might be a bit of a surprise, so I won't spoil it. Let's just say that complications ensue.

But of course there's more. I really found this world fascinating. The slang was fun ("doos" for "cool" or "good" was one of my favorites), the mild bi-coastal tension was intriguing, and the imaginary sports academy that Charlie and her friends attend was nightmarishly on-target. These teenagers live in a world I don't inhabit, but they're still recognizably teenagers, with all the trivial and serious concerns (clothes, romance, sports, and school) that the teenagers I know share. The "new kid" has Charlie questioning some of her assumptions, but so do the other changes she's going through; life is realistically complicated, in other words, for these characters.

I've seen (on her blog) Larbalestier's comments on how hard it is to write a trilogy, so I won't wish that on her--but I really, really hope there are more books set in New Avalon with Charlie and Steffi and the rest. Satisfying as I found this book, I have a lot more questions about them.

*I really want to call her "Justine," because I read her blog, but when I write reviews I generally refer to authors by their last names, and I don't want to fall in the trap of calling women writers by their first names and men by their last. (You know, like "Hillary" vs. "Obama." What was up with that?) So she's "Larbalestier," which is, after all, a pretty cool name.

**Even the ones who like boys. One of the pleasures of the novel was that there are boys who like boys as part of the landscape, but they go relatively uncommented-upon. That struck me as pretty much like teenage life now--nice.


  1. Thanks for the lovely review! I'm so pleased you liked it.

    The Elvis reference is the mention of a pair of blue suede shoes.

    Justine L

  2. This review made me go right to Amazon and put the pre-order for the book in my cart, so I'd remember when it comes out in September.

  3. Oh, of course, the shoes! I am an idiot...

  4. I am so looking forward to this book! Thanks for reviewing. :) I agree with you about the last name/first name thing... it is the blog reading that does it, but I wouldn't like myself very much if I did the Hillary/Obama thing, haha.