So much for ramming the word iPod into every sentence since last June. On Christmas Day, fifteen-year-old Shiraz Bailey Wood is given a pink leather diary with a lock and the first book in the Diary of a Chav series begins.
It's a tough year for our pink-hoodie-and-gold-hoop-earring wearing heroine. It turns out Shiraz's best friend Carrie Draper actually got an iPod for Christmas, and has now decided that she wants a boyfriend. She plans to make Shiraz walk up and down the road with her until the boy she's got her eye on notices them. Shiraz's sister, Cava-Sue, now she's at college studying Drama, has stopped wearing tracksuits and has started wearing dresses and black eyeliner. At school, the Mayflower Academy - the Superchav Academy to the rest of Essex - new English teacher Ms Bracket keeps talking about how they should try to get some GCSEs. Shiraz doesn't think she needs any, she'll just get a job until she goes on Big Brother and becomes rich and famous, but the teachers say that's unlikely, and then, as if it couldn't get any worse, she has to go on work experience!
Trainers V. Tiaras is one of the funniest books I've read. I laughed several times just on the first page, and made several of my friends read the first few pages so they'd know what I was laughing at. After a few chapters, I wasn't giggling so regularly, but by then I was really into the story and liked the characters, so I finished the book within a couple of days. Grace Dent treats all her characters with generosity and creates realistic people out of the stereotypes. Shiraz is a character who is confident but aware of her own flaws, and I was cheering for her as she tries her best to sort her life out and keep her family together. There are five other books now in this series to follow on from this one, and I will definitely be checking them out.
I think adults will laugh as much as teenagers, and there are pop culture references in there that teens might miss but adults will probably get and vice versa. International readers may want to do a bit of preparatory googling to find out about the whole chav phenomenon.
Some people will say that the humour of Trainers V. Tiaras will date, however, The Funniest Two Books I Have Ever Ever Ever Read, French Letters: The Life and Loves of Miss Maxine Harrison and French Leave: Maxine Harrison Moves Out! by Eileen Fairweather (reviews for these forthcoming), were published in 1987 and 1996 respectively and reference Thatcherism and ordering clothes from catalogues. Remind me to re-read Trainers V. Tiaras in ten years and we'll see.
This series has been bestselling and Shiraz has attracted thousands of fans, some of whom refuse to believe she's not real! You can find out more about her, her author Grace Dent and all the books on the Shiraz Bailey Wood website.