Friday, 28 September 2012

Jenny Q, Stitched Up - Pauline McLynn

Actress Pauline McLynn is probably best known as Father Ted's Mrs Doyle. Jenny Q, Stitched Up is her first foray into writing for teenagers. The book blurb suggests that more stories are to follow about Jenny and her friends and relations in Dublin.

Jenny Q, Stitched Up is a very light read for younger teenagers, a sweeter Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. The greatest conflicts in Jenny's life are her mother's pregnancy, ("It's just so, well, SHAMEFUL. And now it's going to be plain for all the world to see") the agony of keeping secrets from her best friend, and the horror of her mum eating all the KitKats. The drama and humour comes from the agonies Jenny suffers over the smallest details - after all, when you are thirteen years old, everything is the most important thing in the world!

Jenny Q is full of warm, lovable characters, and despite Jenny's constant griping about how weird and embarrassing her family is, it's clear that they are actually pretty close. Her best friends, Dixie and Uggs (Eugene) form a cosy "Gang" who meet regularly to engage in craft activities, especially knitting (despite Uggs' feeble protests.) McLynn captures well the dynamics of a teen friendship group, the relentless good-natured mockery and unspoken understanding of its limits, the awfulness of not telling your friends EVERYTHING, or worse, sharing a secret with one and not the other.

At thirteen, Jenny Quinn is just discovering boys - or one boy, anyway, her elder brother's friend Stevie Lee Bolton, "who is a god, end of." There is an adorable innocence in Jenny's first crush, how new and strange she finds it all. Stevie Lee is usually surrounded by a gaggle of gorgeous older girls dubbed "the Slinkies" who Jenny and Dixie regard with a combination of hero-worship and contempt, but once you get past the love-hate-girlcrush, it is refreshing to find that SamDanandEmmyLou are quite normal and nice as well as being pretty. In fact, Stitched Up contains only one real antagonist, and that is the class bully who, coincidentally, shares a name with a boy in my high school circle who I couldn't stand. When Jenny Q and the Gang decide that enough is enough, instead of battling the bully, they try to charm him into better behaviour, attempting in a thirteen-year-old way to understand why he is so unpleasant. I found that this story, though quite sweet, was less successful than other parts of the plot. The bully didn't have quite enough of a presence to really make me sense the conflict, and his story seemed to be resolved a little too simplistically.

Jenny Q, Stitched Up is a sweet, easy read, a heartwarming story for teenagers and pre-teens, or a shameless indulgence for older readers. I borrowed this book from the library, but am tempted to buy myself a copy. A book to keep you company on a rainy autumn day, with a large mug of cocoa and a chunky knitted jumper.


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