Reviews||

Della Says OMG! by Keris Stainton

25th Jun 2010

Della Says OMG!

In the interests of disclosure and transparency and all that jazz, I shall preface this review by saying that Keris Stainton, author of Della Says: OMG! is a Twitter cohort of mine, and every now and then we have a bit of online bookish banter. And I’m looking forward to meeting her at Monday’s Teens on Moon Lane event. But that tenuous connection hopefully hasn’t diminished my ability to write an unbiased review of Della Says: OMG!

So, onwards to the book itself, which is the story of what happens when awkward and insecure 17-year-old Della kisses her long-term crush Dan at a party, only to discover the next morning that her diary is missing. Understandably, she panics, wondering whether the school bitch (who is, maddeningly for Della, also a close friend of Dan’s) has stolen it. She even starts thinking Dan’s sudden interest in her after all these years of her pining over him might be part of a conspiratorial plot to publicly humiliate her. And it gets worse when the most damning pages from the diary start showing up on Facebook, texted to Della’s mobile and around town.

The writing is warm, funny, and brilliantly-observed. Keris has a great knack for characters and pitch-perfect dialogue, even the peripheral characters like Della’s parents have personality and charm, no easy feat when we only meet them in a handful of scenes. Even as an adult (albeit one with a mental age of thirteen), I found myself really involved in the story and read the entire book in one sitting. Not just because of Della’s quest to find the diary-thieving fiend behind the creepy anonymous texts and emails (which alone is enough to keep you reading), but also because of the skilled way Keris charts how Della changes as her relationship with Dan progresses. Of course, bagging your first boyfriend is a not a magical cure for all teen angst and insecurities, but as Della becomes more comfortable and confident, it helps her handle all the other goings-on, like sibling rivalry, work, and her best friend’s love life, with maturity and optimism.

My only beef with the book: not enough willies. No, it’s not that I’m cock-crazy (let’s lay that accusation to rest before it even rears its ugly throbbing head, thank you), it’s just that I felt some of the amorous scenes were a tad on the discreet side for the tastes of hormone-insane teens. Even in chats between Della and her (wonderfully-written) best friend Maddy, Keris carefully steers clear of any crude conversation. For me, it doesn’t detract from the book at all. But it was noticeable, if only because I remember when I was younger, YA books that talked about love and sex in all their lurid, occasionally-gory glory (like Judy Blume‘s Forever, for example) were the ones my friends and I loved above all others, because they not only realistically reflected our own conversations, but they also gave us an insight into a world we were crazily curious about but had not yet experienced.

What do you think? Young adult fiction, despite the strong language warnings and age range guidance publishers might insist on, will always be read by those younger than the target age range. Who hasn’t rifled through the smutty sections of their Nan’s Mills & Boon novels in the hope of finding out more about the mysterious rites and rituals of sex? Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it’s also natural to be nosey about sex, especially in today’s hyper-sexualised society.

Young adult fiction must be a challenging genre to write in, what with authors being obligated to address those curiosities in a responsible and tasteful way that is acceptable to parents (and the numerous other adults who have to read and endorse it before it gets to that stage) yet still creative, original and engaging for the reader. So I’m intrigued about the process involved for YA authors to find a happy medium.

That cock-centric tangent aside, Della Says: OMG! is an enjoyable and engrossing read for teens and adults alike, and the first of what I’m sure will be many more from Keris. It can be yours from Amazon for £4.07.

Comments

  • nuttycow says:

    Good review. I too am a twitter cohort of Keris’ and I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this. Despite being 10 years out of my teens, I loved this book (and not only because she introduced me to the word “hidying”).

    More willies? Yes, maybe. Keris! Write a bonk buster for us!

  • Diane says:

    Um, no. I didn’t want more willies, kthx. 😉

    I didn’t think sex was really the point of the book (whereas with Forever it really was) so I didn’t need to know all the details. And call me an old prude but I’d maybe have felt more comfortable with more details if Della had been a year or two older, too.

  • Jane Bradley says:

    Thanks Diane. I know sex wasn’t the main theme of the book, but I do think that since (***spoiler alert***) losing your virginity is such an important thing to teens that it might have been more realistic to reflect that in Della’s descriptions of her night with Dan and in her conversations with Maddy. Credit to Keris, though, Della and Dan’s first time together was handled really well, and tactfully enough that I couldn’t see parents taking exception to it either (something Forever didn’t do so well on!).

  • Diane says:

    Ha, yes, Forever was actually pretty good contraception for me. I read it when I was 11 or 12 and thought “well I won’t be doing THAT for a while!” 😉 (And I didn’t.) I was lucky that my parents never minded my reading Judy Blume’s books, but I know they weren’t necessarily typical in that.

    I do see your point that there could have been a little more about Della’s first time, and some discussion of that with Maddy. I would have liked that, especially as I loved their relationship. But I also like that it wasn’t some big traumatic event. (Maybe it’s time to question the whole “losing virginity” concept, too. As in, it’s just a social construct and one we pay too much attention to…? A tangent, I know, but maybe one worth thinking about.)

    Oh, and I think you know this anyway, Jane, but I should probably state for the record that Keris is a good friend of mine. But I’m convinced I would have loved the book anyway!

  • I know this isn’t really the point, but I did just want to chip in and say that I didn’t want to make Della losing her virginity into a Big Deal. So often in books it’s all angsty and I just think that often in life it’s not. They fell in love and they Did It. And it was nice. The end. (But not of the book…)

    • Jane Bradley says:

      Thanks Keris, I think that comes across in the book and it definitely makes a refreshing change! Please don’t think I was trying to pick faults or criticise – I loved the book and I hope that comes across in the review. I think what I was trying to get at was a reflection of what Diane said – since so many other books, TV, film and the media make such an unrealistic hoo-hah about The First Time, teens often get a distorted impression of what to expect, and then up disappointed or insecure, blaming themselves when it’s not a magical event with singing woodland creatures and fireworks… So I suppose maybe I was just surprised that Della didn’t chat to Maddy about it in more detail before and after. They have that awkward conversation about masturbation (awkward because Della seems shy and uncomfortable about it, rather than it being awkwardly-written in any way), so I suppose from there I was expecting them to chat about the rest of it too.

  • Oh no, that’s a fair point, absolutely. And, no, I didn’t think you were criticising!