‘Al leaned forward, perhaps a little tentatively and our lips met. He’s a good kisser, is Al.’ Yes, it all starts with a kiss in the departure hall as Anya bids farewell to sort-of boyfriend Al who is jetting off to Bogota for the summer. If you didn’t catch Miss Understanding’s My Year in Agony (She tells it like it is), you can now log on to Anya’s blogs and emails which make up My Summer on the Shelf. It’s quite a glamorous Shelf for a wannabe writer, for Anya lands a summer job in the small London publishing house of Boxwood Press, headed by one of her Mum’s oldest friends, Portia Bolt-Hodges, and staffed by the requisite Emmas, Katies and Claires. And she gets to live in her divorced Dad’s flat in Docklands.
There are, of course, blokes in the offing. She’s given the special responsibility of eliciting a manuscript from the best-selling teen writer sensation Casper, whose synopses for the new book range from ‘the dark side of tree surgery’ to ‘a nightmare world in which humans have become slaves to a strange race of fish creatures created accidentally by GM scientists’. Then there’s gorgeous and completely-loaded Seth, Portia’s public school son; from Anya’s other life in Bucks, there’s her ex, failed forklift truck driver The Boy; and then there’s evil beast-man Lucas who… but I shouldn’t give too much away. Booze and boobs, clubs and clothes, some funny in-house publishing jokes and a nice line in lip-balm humour too. You wouldn’t say the plot is strong on incident maybe, but what makes this froth very enjoyable froth is the wit, the pace, the easy references to youthful middle-class foibles, and above all a knowing irony which saves Anya from seeming unattractively self-absorbed. Her blogs and emails (she is a kind of teenage agony aunt with a following of quirky correspondents) are just the medium for the comic tone which runs through every page. Good for a quick read on a slow summer afternoon by the pool.