It would be neater, wouldn’t it, if this was a story about self-harm or sexuality or eating disorders or drunk mums or ridiculously hot bass players, but it’s a story about all of them.
Toria is starting a new school; with it all the anxieties over fitting in, doing well academically and making new friends all over again. Who is she and which crowd does she belong to? When Daisy offers her the olive branch of friendship, she soon finds herself fitting in with her group. A group which brings new friends, and potential boyfriends, and a whole lot of love and friendship.
James Dawson is back on form with All of the Above. Warm, real and funny characters you can’t help but love. Poking fun at high school drama tropes, check. A diverse cast of realistic characters, check. Parents that seem like real people, check. Laughter, check. Tears, check.
I couldn’t help but wonder why, in real life, all of the above is never an option.
You’re still learning about who you are as a teen, and that means you don’t have to stick with the first label someone assigns you, or any label at all. You don’t need to know who you are or who you want to be. First loves don’t have to be forever-loves. It’s a lovely positive message to a book that covers plenty of issues.
Without ruining the anti-labelling vibe of the novel, I’d like to at least point out how well it portrays bisexuality. It shows clearly how you can fall in love with the person on the inside and it’s nothing to do with gender. A kiss with a same sex friend isn’t made into a huge deal, it doesn’t define you unless you want it to.
Isn’t that what a boyfriend or girlfriend is? A naked best friend!
Toria has an online presence as well as her real life friends. It’s probably the first time I’ve seen this acknowledged in YA where it wasn’t an integral part of the plot. It all just helps with making these characters seem like real, well-rounded people.
Perhaps the key to educational achievement lies in sending young people to dreary dead-end seaside towns.
I liked the seaside town setting; I thought it hit the nail on the head with the fact that so many teens just don’t have anywhere they are welcome or stuff to do outside of school. And every seaside town has a dubious crazy golf. If it wasn’t tourist season here right now, I’d be down there in tribute of the group.
I get the wanting to escape a dead-end town, but do we need to keep holding London up as the Promised Land? It’s becoming more and more inaccessible for the average person to live there, without resorting to living in an actual cupboard. There are plenty of other vibrant, diverse towns and cities you can go to, honest.
We are the Petition Generation. We get angry and we noisily voice opinions but we don’t like paying for things or actually doing things.
All of the Above is published by Hot Key Books and is available from 3rd September 2015 in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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