Like its 14-year-old narrator Gemma, James’s novel is witty, engaging and self-deprecating. It portrays that period in the lives of young adolescent girls when childhood begins to recede and the concerns of the adult world assume more importance. For Gemma and her friend, Treacle, star of the girls’ football team, these concerns predominantly revolve around the opposite sex. Gemma’s interests in this sphere are enhanced when, in furtherance of her journalistic ambitions, she begins to write for the school’s webzine. Because of her junior status, Gemma is assigned to writing the horoscope and through her pseudo predictions she begins to benignly manipulate the love lives of her friends.
There is nothing sentimental about James’s depiction of teenage crushes, a fact attested to by Treacle’s choice of poem for the Valentine’s Day assembly, Carol Anne Duffy’s ‘Valentine,’ which rejects ‘a red rose and a satin heart’ in favour of an onion. Unlike that vegetable – and the poem – this novel is not multi-layered, nor does it set out to be. Teenage angst, as far as it exists, is easily and satisfactorily resolved. There is, however, an interesting strand which features Ben, Gemma’s young brother, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. The submission of an article to the webzine on living with a chronically ill sibling eventually gets Gemma’s writing the recognition it deserves and leads to the beginning of her first relationship.