Review Blog

Mar 20 2020

Pretty funny by Rebecca Elliot

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Penguin Books, 2020. ISBN: 9780241374627. 336pp.
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Haylah Swinton, sometimes known as 'Hay', but mostly as 'Pig', is a teen with attitude . . . a funny attitude! She is comedic and uses jokes (and chocolate) to cope with life. She is the older sibling of Noah - a 4-year-old with his own naive comedic spark. Her single-mother lovingly cares for her two children and also works shift work at the hospital and so relies on Haylah to organise and look after Noah regularly. The responsible teen though is seldom seen as anything other than - large. She is a big girl with a desire to be appreciated and understood for herself, but she is also happy to be laughed at, particularly as she wants to be a stand-up comedian. When she connects with the dreamy, older boy Leo over their mutual enjoyment of stand-up comedy, she begins to think she might have stumbled across someone who understands her and can make her laugh and who might actually be interested in her. But not everything goes smoothly, and her first stand-up gig might just be a social disaster! When her life does cartwheels and she upsets her mother's new relationship and her oldest friends, a kiss destroys her equilibrium and everything seems to be going 'Hay'-wire. Then an opportunity presents itself to fix problems, to stand up and be respected and to be laughed at, all in the same evening.
This is a coming-of-age story (set in England) about learning to be comfortable in your own skin, but also about how to view yourself when you do not fit the 'norm'. Haylah is both funny and feisty, and there are moments that are just laugh-out-loud enjoyable in her life. But the strength of this book is learning to walk in her shoes and to laugh with her, but also to understand her independence, her sense of humour and her occasional angst. The fledgling comedian and feminist is also just a girl who wants to know that someone likes her, without having to change to meet anyone else's ideas about who she should be, how thin or smart she should be, or what she should wear. This is worthy of recommending to teenage girls with a sense of fun, as they too negotiate where they fit in the world. In addition, there are many funny lines and jokes throughout the book, and the extremely charming Noah expresses the naive joy of being 4-years-old in very delightful moments in the book. This is appealing and a pleasure to read. Themes: Coming-of-age; Comedy; Family life; Appearance.
Carolyn Hull

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