25th Jun 2010
Della Says OMG! by Keris Stainton
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.