Friday, 22 May 2015
SECRETS AND DREAMS by Jean Ure. Reviewed by Adèle Geras
Anyone who reads my reviews regularly knows that I have no shame when it comes to writing about books by my friends. My feeling is: reviews for most children's books are few and far between and anything I can do to draw people's attention to something they might enjoy, I try to do. And as I've said many times, it's not my fault that many of my chums are good writers.
Jean Ure has written every kind of book in her time. In the last while, she's concentrated on a certain kind of story. To quote Jacqueline Wilson on the cover: "Fun, funky, feisty...and fantastic reads."
That is all true, but it's worth saying something more about Ure's books. The thing about them is: they're well-written (not a given in books of this kind!) and even though they are decked in flowery, brightly coloured, girl-oriented covers they are never soppy, or silly and they never talk down. They are also almost always funny at least in the way they are written, if not always in their subject matter.
This story is about Zoe, whose family has won a large sum of money on the lottery. Each member of the family can choose to do something they really, really want and what Zoe wants is to go to boarding school. She has been influenced by Enid Blyton of course...and St Withburga's ( Cheeseburga of course!) is where she ends up.
The rest of the novel is about how she adjusts to being at school and how she negotiates the various friendship groups. Ure discusses how they change, how they affect different girls. She deals well with the day to day stuff of boarding school: the importance of nicknames, the status you get from having a boyfriend, the longing to be included, and accepted. I know from having a 12 year old granddaughter that her friends are a tremendously important aspect of her life, and I can even remember, across a distance of more than half a century, how painful and hideous any kind of exclusion can be when you're at boarding school...which I was, for eight years.
Jean Ure's books are easy to read. This one is in the first person. There's lots of dialogue and the characters are skilfully drawn and well differentiated. They should not therefore be dismissed as frivolous. She deals with real issues, and in a light and interesting way. The books are nicely produced, and not very long. They are just the thing for the summer holidays, if you have young teenagers looking for a pleasant way to pass the time. Read this one and there are many others by Ure that you can go on to. I do like a writer who's got a long backlist! A very enjoyable book indeed.
Published by Harper Collins in pbk. £6.99
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