Archive | November, 2012

Dare Me by Megan Abbott: and you thought Mean Girls were..mean…

26 Nov

I  have always thought there was something absolutely terrifying about cheerleaders. The offensive mini skirts, slicked back hap-hap-happy pony tails, the scarily slutty dance moves (yes, I was in band camp), the blinding smatter of sequins they leave in their Nike Air pounding wake. No girl in a two-piece mini skirt combo should EVER be trusted – as all teen movies have confirmed.

But even my estimations were pretty favourable compared to Megan Abbott’s kind of cheerleaders in Dare Me. These shiny beeyotches are like the koi carps of the school pond, ready to carnivorously gobble up their weaker counterparts to rise above the spawn. Allow me to set the scene:

Beth and Addy are bestest buds. Their lives are a whirl of pompoms, vanilla spritz and cherry lipgloss. But when a new team coach arrives, they and their team mates find themselves pushed to a whole new level of intense. Coach is young, she’s beautiful, and she’s relentless – whether it means diets of puffed air or punishment by push-ups, she’s determined to get the girls to the ‘tourneys’ and beyond. Addy is instantly enthralled, developing a girl crush to rival all girl crushes. But Team Captain Beth suddenly becomes aware that she’s no longer top dog – for the team or for Addy. And this is a position that Beth is not happy with.

Totes scary

A crushingly intense story of adolescent obsession, Dare Me is ridiculously addictive. I read the whole thing in a day (admittedly a slightly hungover one). Between the dizzying high kicks, a suspicious death and a crazy amount of sexually charged pant flashing (oh god there goes the SEO), Dare Me paints a pretty grim picture of female relationships – the ones we have with others and ourselves. Addy flips through Thinspiration websites in dull moments, feels high from “Adderall and the pro clinical hydroxy-hot with green tea extract and the eating-nothing-but-hoodia-lollipops-all-day”, kicks a team mate in the gut so she can chuck up the cookie dough polluting her insides. These girls are lithe-limbed, gorgeous, young- but you get the feeling that perfection will never be enough.

That’s not to say they’re all delicate flowers. On the contrary, they’re kick-ass scary, abs of steel strong. They love a good bruise, a busted lip is a war wound of which to be proud. What really comes through is the physical strength and freedom the cheerleaders get from pushing their bodies to the limits. It’s a side to the stereotypical cheerleader that I hadn’t properly considered. Abbott herself has said that in Dare Me she strove “to offer not just her beaming smile and fit body, but her teeth gritted in concentration, sweat on her glittered brow. Her tanned legs embossed with yesterday’s bruise, a mark of pride. Gaze fixed hard on us, she says not just “Look at me,” but “Look at what I can do.”

And if that isn’t just a little bit scary, it damn well should be.

If you like your stories glossy with a bit of underlying grit, this is a great read. Abbott handles a familiar context in a really fresh way, which I think has to be mostly down to Addy’s narrative voice – part fearful, part hopeful, part arrogant, it encapsulates a wavering naive swagger that feels spot on. Plus Beth has to be one of my favourite teen psycho bitches, ‘like, ever’.

Final verdict?

Totally fetch.


All hail Oliver Tate, antihero of Joe Dunthorne’s Submarine

13 Nov

You know what sucks? When one of your favourite books is made into a film and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. By logical thought processes you can therefore probably deduce what does not suck – an amazing film adaptation that almost matches the wonderment that was conjured up in your head when you first read the book. That’s the feeling I get when I watch Richard Ayoade’s adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s Submarine.

Joe Dunthorne Submarine Richard Ayoade

If you’ve yet to read it (WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOURSELF!!), it’s the story of anti-hero Oliver Tate, a 15-year-old lad you will sometimes want to applaud and other times smack across the face. Like most boys his age, he’s desperate to lose his V plates. But he’s also determined to keep his family together, help his Dad get over depression and keep his mother out of the arms of an over-friendly old flame.

“Well, you know, I thought it would be nice to get some mutual interests… now that we’ve had sex… other than spitting and setting things on fire…” – Oliver Tate

The film adaptation doesn’t stick religiously to the book’s plot  (if, like me, you were gutted that Zoe’s revenge and other big storyline moments didn’t make it into the film, click here to read what Dunthorne has to say about it). But this time I’ll turn a blind eye, since everything else about the film is just awesome. The way it depicts Oliver’s coming-of-age story set in rainy Wales, through a semi-surreal instagram-esque series of dreamlike sequences, is just genius. And uber stylish (is it wrong to want Jordana’s heart sunglasses?!). It’s also bloody funny in that weirdy British way we do best (even with Ben Stiller as the film’s exec producer, amazingly enough). OH and did I mention that Arctic Monkey Alex Turner did the gloomy, odd-beat romantic soundtrack?! Yeaaaah.

So yes. In a mini-celebration of Submarine (and due to the fact it was on Film4 last night), here’s one of my favourite quotes from the most irritating and endlessly endearing character to cross my path since Holden Caulfield. If you haven’t read the book, do it now.

Oliver Tate, you charming nut-job. I salute you.

Dear Jordana,
Thank you for letting me explore your perfect body. I could drink your blood. You’re the only person I’ve allowed to be shrunk down to a microscopic size and swim inside me in a tiny submersible machine. We’ve lost our virginity but it wasn’t like losing anything. You’re too good for me. You’re too good for anyone. 
Sincerely, Oliver

Have you seen any credible film adaptations recently? Or are there any coming up soon that you’re looking forward to? Let me know.

Write good stuff, win sparkly stuff: Tatty Devine teams up with The Ministry of Stories

7 Nov

Tatty Devine Ministry of Stories

How’s this for a killer combination: quirky jewellery company Tatty Devine has teamed up with Hoxton Street Monster Supplies to create a new line of spooky necklaces, with all proceeds going to the Ministry of Stories.


I keep meaning to trek down to Monster Supplies (I’m desperate to get my hands on David Nicholl’s Heebie Jeebies and I’ve heard the Cubed Earwax is simply divine). Lurking behind the store front is the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing centre for kids founded by Nick Hornby and supported by the likes of Zadie Smith and Dominic Cooper. The centre focuses on mentoring youngsters to help foster their creative writing skills with the aim of building confidence and self-respect. It’s an amazing concept and so bloody cool – if only I could pass for 18 I’d be in there like a shot (sadly there’s not enough Creme de Mer in the world…).

The good news is that you don’t have to be under 18 to win your own piece of wonderful weirdness. Enter Tatty Devine’s Monster Flashfiction Competition by tweeting a mini-story inspired by one of the words from the collection and you could be in luck (check out the rules here). Don’t forget to add the hashtag #monster140. Literary cool dude (and writer of Submarine, one of my favourite books of all time) Joe Dunthorne will be judging the entries.

Here’s my entry… 

The little furball smiled adoringly, revealing its 1st white fang: “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you AARGHHH” #monster140

Let me know your favourite flashfiction tweets!