SHOPAHOLIC. By Judy Waite. Oxford University Press pound;6.99.
Ridge*. By Dorothy Simmons. Lothian Fiction. pound;3.99
Helena Pielichaty, author of the delightful Simone books for top primary readers, turns her attention to teenage angst in Never Ever. The narrative alternates between Erin, whose family has moved to a council estate after the collapse of her father's business venture, and Liam, the flashily good-looking son of a former traveller. Being a teenager is stressful enough without the added complication of parental failures: Erin has to adapt to reduced circumstances; Liam has a disappointing first sexual experience and supports a friend through a desperate family crisis. Serious issues are lightened by Pielichaty's trademark humour; the cover is striking enough not to sit on shelves for long.
In Shopaholic, shopping-as-therapy takes on an almost allegorical significance. Taylor is entranced by the glitz and glamour of the high street and the promise of transformation into an older, more sophisticated person. Beguiled by the attention and flattery of would-be model Kat, the extent of whose shopping-dependency is gradually revealed, Taylor avoids confronting her guilt and sorrow over a recent family tragedy. Although the cover may suggest worship at the shrines of fashion designers, the buy-buy-buy urging of retailers - and their astute targeting of young girls - is revealed as tacky, shallow and manipulative. Judy Waite's short paragraphs and short sentences make for easy reading.
Australian publishers credit young adults with more reading stamina than we do. Although Ridge* could be better served by its cover, it's a long, absorbing novel, focusing on three teenagers brought together at a youth refuge. There's a lot to assimilate as the three main characters are introduced, each burdened with family problems, and the horsey emphasis of the opening pages may deter some readers. But it's worth persevering. Rape victim Kate, self-doubting sociology student Nathan, and Maddie, daughter of a domineering father, all find a sense of purpose in the "Reclaim" march organised by Nathan. A real novel, with depth, intelligence and strong writing - ideal for readers of 13-plus who find usual teen fare too young.