My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wendy Harmer’s latest YA novel hits all the right notes. Her protagonist, Elly (Eleanor) is a girl who has few friends at school since the departure of her best mate, Carmelita, to the farming districts of Queensland. She lives at home with her parents – Mum, who is a strung out and struggling PR agent; Dad, who is a bit of an underdog always playing second fiddle to Mum, but clearly adores her and his children; and Tilly (Matilda), who is eighteen and spreading her wings (right in front of Elly’s face). The family relationships are well drawn and I found the interaction between them believable, particularly those between Dad and the girls and the two sisters.
Elly’s Mum has been given the biggest break of her PR career. The cast of Monster Squad are coming to the town of Britannia to film the third film in the series, imaginatively titled Monster Squad 3. A cross between Twilight and High School Musical, Monster Squad has a heart throb star, Jake Blake, whom Elly pines for. When it is revealed that Mum is handling all the publicity for the movie, Elly thinks she has it made and will be hanging out with Jake in no time. Of course, things do not go to plan. First, Elly manages to get her best friend a part in the movie whilst managing to miss out on one herself. Her Mum throws her a lifeline by making Elly her PA. After she manages to get herself thrown off the set on the first day of shooting, things do not look good for Elly. Eventually she ends up working in the catering van with Rosie Di Masi and her cheerful, hardworking parents. Rosie has been the object of derision in Elly’s circle and she is dreading working with her, but slowly Rosie reveals herself to be something Elly didn’t expect and this is probably my favourite aspect of this story. My only is she making new friends she has to contend with Bianca, the inevitable jealous “popular” girl who is a perpetual fly in Elly’s ointment. Team that with her sister who starts mooning over Jake Blake, Dad who might be having an affair with one of the movie stars and Carmelita who seems to be turning against her, and Elly learns a lot about everyone in her life, but especially about herself.
In keeping with my non-spoiler policy I will not reveal much more here, but I will say that things move towards a very satisfactory conclusion, with lots of loose ends tied up and a warm fuzzy feeling as you read the last page.
Suitable for ages 12 and up.