Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nobody's Girl - Sarra Manning

Nobody's Girl follows the story of 17 year old Bea, who, as a result of her bossy mum, soul-crushing Saturday job in an ancient clothes shop and habit of randomly using French words in conversation, thinks of herself as a bit of a dull loser. So an invitation to go on holiday to Malaga with popular girl Ruby and her friends certainly comes as a pleasant surprise. But two days after arriving in Spain, Bea is already heading to Paris, to find the dad she's never met. On the way, she meets Toph, an American student backpacking around Europe, and as they look for her dad in the romantic rues and caf├ęs of Paris, she finds a little romance of her own... 

The question is: who will Bea decide to become this summer - Toph's girl, the goody-two-shoes girl her mum expects or her own girl?

Nobody's Girl has just been short-listed for The Booktrust Teenage Prize 2010 which is a prestigious UK based award

This was my first Sarra Manning novel and being the contemp girl that I am, I loved the sound of the premise. Europe, romance, coming of age, etc, etc.

The book definitely had that Sarah Dessen vibe going down, but it's UK, so it has a UK feel about it that resonates with me after reading so much US based YA. (Not that I'm British, but I get the vibe).

It's complex being a teenager when the line between self-identity and peer acceptance and  convictions blur. Sarra Manning nails that feeling in Bea who starts out as a bit of a doormat, craving acceptance from Queen Bitch Ruby who is suddenly suspiciously friendly. What ends up going down between Bea and Ruby and her posse is girl warfare at it's best: startling and vicious and reminds me why teen boys have it better with just getting to the point, smashing each other faces in and moving along. 

When Bea turned fiesty, I was in awe or her and her talent for revenge. Yeah, Bea! After that, Toph arrives on the scene and I couldn't put it down. Because, I mean, swoon. Toph's laid back and sweet, but speaks his mind and adds some 20 year old perspective that reminds you that although the intense struggles you have at 17 can be world-shattering, that they too will pass.

It's such a daydreamy book, to be in Paris at seventeen and meet older, cooler backpackers who accept you for who you are. While I was a sucker for the love story and the adventure of Paris, this book is so much more than that. It's about friendship, facing secrets of the past, forgiving your mum, standing up for yourself, and realising that being you is enough. Also, watch out for some sweet and steamy moments :)

Recommended: About first kisses and love and friendship, this is a book for any girl who has daydreamed about finding adventure, a knight in shining armour and discovering a world bigger than the worries of high school.

Other stuff:

  • The annoying thing about this book was the back blurb. I felt impatient with the pacing as I kept waiting for Europe, France and Toph to turn up... it took a good one hundred pages to get there. I think I would have settled more into it if it wasn't for me hanging out for that.
  • Toph is short for Christopher. But, really? Toph? It didn't particularly grow on me...
  • I definitely think this book would have resonated with me more reading it as a teen than reading it as an adult. The teen voice is authentic, so Bea's struggles felt real and reminded me of what it was like to be back there, but as an adult, I had too much hindsight that sometimes left me feeling frustrated with Bea's struggles.
My rating: On goodreads I gave it three stars b/c I liked it.  But it has some really high ratings with many people listing it as one of their favourite YA books. I probably would have loved it harder if i had read it as a teen. If you get what I mean :) I'm keen to read more of Sarra Manning as she did impress me with this book.


  1. Great review!

    Side note: You should totally do an article on the differences in UK & US. I would LOVE to read that.

  2. thanks juju. yeah - that would make a cool article. although i havent read a lot of UK YA - most UK authors I've read are in the Adult Fiction scene.

    I could do an Aussie YA to US comparison though. Hmmm...

  3. Great review, Nomes, this comment made me chuckle out loud:

    What ends up going down between Bea and Ruby and her posse is girl warfare at it's best: startling and vicious and reminds me why teen boys have it better with just getting to the point, smashing each other faces in and moving along.

    It's so true. Guys have it so much easier. Girls can be damn conniving and cruel. Not only that, but guys will eventually shake hands and let it go, but girls? They hold grudges that can last a lifetime!

  4. Backpacking across Europe? I'm heading out to buy this one!

    I love UK-based YA too. The British vibe has this swoonish effect on me. LOL.

    Love the review!

  5. sounds interesting. Sugar, Sugar the book i'm reading now is about a girl who runs away to be a fashion designer in london, but ends up in some far off european country. i think i'm becoming a fan of travel fiction.

    guys haven't got it completly easier. for the weak ones it harder. cause anyone can be bitchy and hold a grudge. at my school being bigger and stronger really does give you an advantage.

  6. This sounds like a good one, but I'll probably put it on the back burner as I have so many other ones to get to. I like the idea of seeing the contrast between a young girl, still in high school, and a slightly older guy who's already gone out into the world. I'm hoping to do more of that with the second installment of NW. And yeah, I think it could potentially bug me when I knew what was coming but the book didn't get there until 100 pages in. Great review as always!!

  7. The only time Toph sounds good as a nickname for Christopher is when it is used to describe the actor Topher Grace. Ahem. Hehe.

    I got As You Wish in the mail today! Thanks so much! I'm pumped to read it.

  8. I'll have to read this! The only Sarra Manning book I've read is Let's Get Lost and I didn't really like it (though I agree her books have a very British feel :P), but this sounds more like something I would read. thanks for the review!

  9. Dude, Toph must be like, the "it" name of the year or something. I'm reading Anna and the French Kiss and there's a boy in it named Toph -- short for Christopher! No joke.

    Great review. :)

  10. @ Elana: How funny (in a kind of tragic way, haha). And they're both books with France as a setting!

    Now to the awesome bit of your comment:


    whoo hoo! I hope it's as brilliant as I'm expecting it to be :)

    @ Liz R - I have her book Diary of a Crush in my TBR pile - hope I like it :)

    @ Kara - I hope you like it too :) I havent read it yet...

    @ Angie: I blame the summary on the back. TMI.

    @ Anna - I know - life's tough all around for teens I think. But at least boys are more open about it. Probably just as scary though.

    @ Bee - british guys are swoon-worthy in general :)

  11. this sounds like a great book to have on my shelf at school. Love the idea of going on holiday to Paris. Thanks for the great review.

  12. Several trusted friends have recommended Manning's work highly. Your review makes me want to get to her as soon as possible. Thanks for that!

  13. I haven't read this one, but I have read one other Sarra Manning novel - Guitar Girl, which I think was her first. While the premise is fairly generic - teen girl and her friends form a band and become pop stars, with all that implies - it was engaging and well observed. I'm not qualified to comment on the accuracy of its background, but I suspect Manning knew her stuff - she did start out as a music journalist after all.

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Thanks for the commenty love :)