In this comedy drama for children, shy Stanley finds himself confronting one of his worst nightmares: a family holiday – with someone else’s family!
Stan and Felix are not exactly best mates. In fact, they’re not particularly close at all, but Felix needs someone to go with on holiday to his family’s villa in Italy and Stan is the only one who hasn’t already got plans. This would be brilliant news for most young teens but, for Stan, it’s hell. In fact, along with parachutes and octopuses, going on holiday with people you don’t know is on Stan’s reverse bucket list.
The book is set up like a lecture from a very grumpy old man, with each chapter named after another reason why going on holiday is such an awful thing. Weird toilets, global warming, and sand are all reasons for Stan to be miserable, but chief amongst his problems is the fact that he is an anxious and shy boy. He’s no good at small talk, or meeting new people, and he’s so self-conscious of his skinny legs that he wears two pairs of trousers, even in the Italian summer sunshine!
None of these things help endear Stan to the several other families who fill the villa but, despite the girls rather cruelly labelling him a perv, Stan soon begins to see that there is actually quite a lot to enjoy about being on holiday, and that, perhaps, he isn’t quite as hopeless at talking to girls as he thought.
The book is marketed as an hilarious comedy and readers might expect, after the few pages, to enjoy a comedy-of-errors story about a boy’s horrendous holiday. However, though there are plenty of well-crafted jokes and funny observations (especially of casual drinker, Uncle Simon), it is not a silly story, and delivers more on heart than it does on humour.
Higson writes with enormous empathy for shy teenagers. There are poignant points in the story where Stan agonises over tiny things that really shouldn’t matter (such as being the only boy on the beach in a hat), and others when Stan shines a light on the inexplicable nature of adults. When Stan learns that his dad is poorly, he has to juggle the emotions of missing his family, fancying a girl, falling out with a friend and trying to avoid sunburn! Because he’s an adolescent boy, it’s impossible for Stan to fathom which of these things are more important and deserve more attention – which is very relatable and believable.
Worst. Holiday. Ever. is an entertaining drama that shines a light on what it’s like for nervous young teens to navigate the world, but it’s nowhere near as funny as the quotes on its cover suggest.