Fables and fairy tales have long warned about the multiple dangers inherent in coming into unexpected riches overnight, and this breezy if prolix story follows on in this tradition. Fifteen-year-old Penny, a bright Irish girl living in a decaying property known locally and derisively as ‘the flats’ longs for a better life. In particular she would love to be a pupil at Pearlbourne, an exclusive and very expensive girls boarding school. Her application for a scholarship there fails, but suddenly finding she owns over a million euros, the gift of an old lady she has befriended, enables her to fulfil her dreams.
Before she gets there she has decided to invent a new persona for herself, with no mention of her previous poverty plus a succession of lies about home, parents and former friends. This works for a while, and she proves popular with the other pupils save for one who finally unmasks her. But Penny, repentant but undaunted, still manages to keep her friends both at school and back home. Everything ends happily, just as in any wish-fulfilment daydream. She now enjoys the best of two worlds and can still be herself. Her journey has at times been an unhappy one, so it is just as well that everything works out well by the end.
But even so some uncomfortable questions never quite go away. Is social snobbery, particularly among rich, sometimes spoilt girls, quite so easily overcome? Would former friends left behind really bask so uncritically in her new success? Is finding an amiable millionaire old lady benefactor living next door the only way in which a gifted if underprivileged girl can finally make something of her life? It is fun while it lasts, but sustaining belief in this well-written story becomes harder well before the end.