16-year-old Toria has moved with her family to Brompton-on-Sea – a rundown seaside town. She is starting in the Sixth Form at the local school. Toria has low expectations of Brompton-on-Sea and her fellow students. Then she falls in with one of the groups at school – the Freaks – and starts to make friends with Daisy, Polly, Alice, Beasley and Nico. They hang out together at school and on the mini golf course. Slowly, Toria starts to settle in. However, life can be surprising, and in one dramatic year, Toria loses a good friend, has a serious relationship, and then finally falls in love.
This is a story about life, love and growing up. More importantly, it is a story about identity and how different kinds of love are not only important but also equal. The story blurs the dividing lines between heterosexual and homosexual love, showing that love is the same regardless of gender. It also subtly shows us that it is not who we love that is important, but who we are.
A few months ago, I reviewed Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler, and wrote about how there was not just a space but also a need for novels about homosexual teenagers. I saw it as a milestone in British Young Adult writing, whereby teenage homosexuality is openly and actively part of the narrative. (US author, David Leviathan has also written brilliantly on teenage homosexuality.) Books featuring homosexuality can not only be enjoyable fictional works, they also provide a resource for young adults who are trying to work out their own sexuality and identity. They are important for heterosexual teenage readers too, as they promote tolerance and understanding.
All of the Above is a superb piece of writing about growing up and growing self-awareness. It completely captures the teenage female voice and emotions, using both humour and empathy. This coming-of-age novel has been incredibly well-thought out, tackling a lot of other topics, as well as homosexuality, that have previously been underrepresented in Young Adult novels. It is not just a great read – it is a great read with a great message.