In her author’s acknowledgements in this bright, gossipy novel about three 14-year-old girls, Hilary Freeman pays homage to the star of the story, Camden Town: ‘If you didn’t exist, I’d have to invent you.’ The book, and the series which is planned to follow, will have teenage girls desperate to experience ‘the excitement, noise and colour’ of Camden, its market and its bohemian atmosphere. The area is described lovingly in a blog-style present tense by the narrator, Rosie Buttery: ice creams are taken at Marine Ices, ‘which is probably the oldest and best Italian ice-cream parlour in London’, while Britannia Junction is ‘mentioned in a song by that guy from Blur’. Above all, Rosie and her two friends, Vix and Sky, are besotted with spotting the celebrities who frequent the district. Rosie is thrilled when Rufus Justice, drummer in the band, Fieldstar, moves in next door. The story develops as Rosie gets involved with Rufus’s 15-year-old brother, Max, and becomes his ‘plus one’ at various celebrity events.
The novel is a pleasant and engaging account of the three girls during one glorious school summer-holiday in Camden and the surrounding areas. The milieu is skilfully sketched in – the seedier streets to be avoided, the glories of a picnic on Primrose Hill, a celebrity concert in Regent’s Park. Above all, there is the mixed assortment of people living close to each other. Rosie’s dad is a frustrated artist-cum-decorator, who still remembers what it’s like to be a teenager, while her mother is a doctor who can’t cook. More embarrassingly, Sky’s mother is an aging hippy who performs madrigals in the evening and then goes to Goa to study yoga. Strangely, it is the rock-star and his circle who often seem more down to earth. The canvas comes complete with amusing satirical embellishments which will appeal to older readers, although the relentless topicality of the contents may limit the book’s shelf-life. The series should prove to be very popular with young readers, particularly girls, from the age of 10 up.