Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book review: How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Fourteen year old Charlie is in a bit of a spot. She goes to the greatest sports school in the world, even though she’s not quite tall enough to make the basketball streams and despises her Statistics class. She’s got a decent family, great friends, and a burgeoning crush on the doos new neighbor boy. It’s her fairy that’s the problem, you see. Instead of an excellent one like a shopping fairy or a great tennis serve fairy or even a good hair fairy, she’s got a parking fairy which does no good for a sporty girl who doesn’t drive, doesn’t like cars and is fed up with being used by people who do want good parking spots.

How to Ditch Your Fairy, the bright and bubbly YA novel by Justine Larbalestier, takes us through Charlie’s quest to ditch her fairy for a better one. It’s not as easy as you think. These personal fairies are invisible to the human eye and super-tenacious once they’ve latched onto you. She tries thwarting her fairy by walking everywhere for months at a time which weakens the little critter a bit but also brings her oodles of demerits at school for being late and disheveled. Finally, Charlie joins forces with her arch-nemesis, Fiorenze Burnham-Stone, who is also saddled with an unwanted fairy – an “all the boys like you” fairy. When the girls end up swapping fairies, it all seems great at first but ends up more and more unpleasant until they have to take drastic measures to get out of their predicament.

This is a fun YA novel, written in first-person with Charlie as narrator (and judging from the author’s blog, Charlie is in no small part a stand in for Larbalestier herself, a self-proclaimed sports nut and car-hater). Larbalestier’s voice as Charlie is great, funny and awkward, a true teenager trying to figure things out as she goes along and hilariously frustrated when her grand plans don’t quite come true. (Any BtVS devotees will recognize echoes of the Xander-centric episode, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (S2E16); the author is a Buffy fan and scholar herself and the storyline may be part unconscious homage.) In any event, while you may not be able to pick your fairy, you can certainly pick your friends and in the long run, that’s what How to Ditch Your Fairy is all about.

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