Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier is a book I've been meaning to read for a while but have had trouble finding at the right moments (ie when I was looking to buy a book). I ended up borrowing the audiobook from the library, having finally set up that whole thing.
"Rochelle gets a clothes-shopping fairy and is always well attired; I get a parking fairy and always smell faintly of petrol. How fair is that?"
For Charlie, having a parking fairy is worse than having nothing at all - especially since she's not old enough to drive. Enter The Plan: swap fairies with her archenemy! But Charlie discovers that you ought to be careful what you wish for - and she'll have to resort to extraordinary measures to set things right.

From the author of the acclaimed Magic or Madness trilogy, this is a delightful story of friendships, fairies, and figuring out how to make your own magic.
I found this to be a really fun read. It's a book for younger readers (as in, the younger end of YA or lower) with the main character only fourteen years old. She — Charlie — has a fairly frivolous voice and generally acts like a fourteen year old with a crush and a keen interest in sport. But the book itself turned out to be much less frivolous than I expected. For example, there are some issues like the "make all the boys like you fairy" and the very clear problems that poses. There's also a lot of background world-building weirdness, some of which is discussed, some of which really isn't.

Kids in this world (or at least this city) can go to high schools tailored to their interests. So Charlie and most of the characters go to what I would otherwise call a sporting academy and her sister goes to an arts school. Some of the more disturbing aspects of Charlie's life — like how she and her peers all had to log calories and protein eaten — are a specific product of her sport-oriented schooling. But other aspects — like how PR (public relations) and sporting match statistics are part of the education system — are alarmingly unexamined. I strongly felt that these less expected aspects of the world-building added extra depth to the story.

As a final side-note I was amused that while a significant portion of the slang words in the glossary were made up/repurposed a lot were just Australian. I suppose that fits with the foreword which tells us that the setting is a parallel world with a country that's a vague amalgamation of Australia and the US (I felt it was mostly more Australian, although not completely).

I really enjoyed How to Ditch Your Fairy. I would recommend it to younger readers who maybe haven't yet gotten into the slew of darker YA with older main characters which is popular at the moment. Unlike some younger readers' books I've read, I didn't feel How to Ditch Your Fairy was talking down to its audience or was unnecessarily simplified. For those reasons I would also recommend it to adults looking for a fun read (especially those that don't mind reading lots of teenage slang).

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2009, Allen & Unwin (Audio: narrated by Kate Atkinson; International: Bloomsbury)
Series: No
Format read: Audiobook
Source: Borrowed from the library (electronically! For the first time ever. Actually, also the first library book I've borrowed in several years)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

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