I remember the very first time that a Sarra Manning novel made it into my heart very clearly. But what I didn’t know then was that that little, innocent-looking would introduce me to a woman who would become one of my favourite authors and begin a serious love-affair with toxic boys.
We stopped at the library with my Nan and little sister on my way home from school. Nan went to peruse the large print titles while Amy sat in the Thomas the Tank Engine train style-bookcase (yeah, it was awesome) and I headed for the swirling shelves of teen books. This was still new territory for me; I was only twelve or thirteen. I picked it up because of the title: Diary of a Crush: French Kiss – it sounded like the perfect read. I started it that evening and finished it that night. And then I started it again. While I was at school the next day, sleep deprived after staying up half the night re-reading French Kiss, my Nan went back to the library to pick up the next two books in the trilogy for me.
I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve read this trilogy, not just those library books that I read over and over until I had to return them and then the copies that I bought which are now rather battered (and signed *squee*). Then I made it my mission to hunt down every other book that Sarra Manning has out. Sadly, Sarra only had two other novels out, Guitar Girl and Pretty Things. I devoured them. I’ve waited anxiously for every other novel she’s published to come out and have either pre-ordered it or went to buy it on release day. I suffered with Isabel in Let’s Get Lost, joined the Fashionistas on their adventures, and felt a ridiculous kinship with Bea in Nobody’s Girl. I have to admit that though I own all of Sarra’s adult novels, I haven’t gotten around to them yet.
I was thinking about what it is about Sarra’s novels that capture me so much and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s her heroines, especially Edie, Isabel and Bea. To me, they’re real people. I could have gone to school with them, been friends with them, or in Bea’s case, been her. Edie is smart and sharp with an incredible fashion sense and a major weakness for beautiful art boy, Dylan. When I first read French Kiss I wanted to be her! She has insecurities, whiney moments, kick-ass scenes (throwing Mia’s clothes out of the hotel window in Paris and pushes Veronique in the toilet pit thingy at the festival spring to mind!) and friend issues. She’s a normal, but extraordinary, girl who happens to get tangled up in a boy who no girl would ever be able to get out of her brain. I wanted to be the kind of girl that Edie is.
Then you have Isabel from Let’s Get Lost whom I have virtually nothing in common with. Nevertheless, I understood her - I felt her grief, confusion, anger and her guilt. For part of the novel, Isabel just isn’t very nice, and yet it didn’t matter because Sarra Manning made me love her anyway. When she begins to fall in love with the mysterious Smith, her walls begin to crumble and the hurt and damaged Isabel comes out along with her heartbreaking story. I remember sitting out in the garden reading the end of the book with tears streaming down my face. A book hadn’t made me cry like that in a very long time.
Sarra’s latest YA novel is Nobody’s Girl starring Bea: boring, not popular, pretty or funny. According to her, that is. She doesn’t think very much of herself at all so when the gorgeous popular girls at her school invite her on holiday with them, she jumps at the chance. Their holiday doesn’t quite go as planned and so Paris-obsessed Bea jumps on a train to the City of Love. She never was the boring girl she thought; it just took some girls who needed teaching a lesson and one of Edie’s trademark toxic boys to draw her out of shell. She still remained a dreamer who kept hold of her romantic notions and I seriously respected her for that and at the time I read it, we had a lot of the same values and hopes and I felt a kinship with her that I haven’t found in a novel in a long time.
Needless to say, I’m eagerly anticipating Sarra’s next YA novel, Adorkable, which is released in May and I look forward to meeting and falling in love with Jeane and another toxic boy.