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Gr. 10-12. Brie, Charlie, Daisy, and Walker are four London teens coping with sexuality issues against the backdrop of a drama workshop devoted to staging The Taming of the Shrew. In alternating narratives, readers are provided with varying viewpoints and interpretations of each character: Daisy, known for her strident lesbian politics; apparently shallow Brie; sexually promiscuous Walker; and Charlie, Walker's self-assured gay best friend. Manning, the author of Guitar Girl (2003), knows teenagers, their issues, and how to use humor to provoke insight. Her writing is solid and engaging, and her characters and their concerns (Does Brie's mom have a clue that she's Brie's problem? Can Daisy be nice for more than five minutes?) are vivid and real. Frequent drinking and a fair amount of bed-sharing suggest a mature readership, but like Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999), which earns a reference here (as does Thomas Chatterton), this will attract a cult of teen readers who aren't afraid of people who are different from or kind of like them--but bolder and funnier. --Francisca Goldsmith Copyright 2005 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 9 Up-Four deftly drawn teens from North London share the spotlight in this romantic rectangle. Brie regularly invites Charlie, her gay best friend, to sleep over in her bed. Charlie falls head over heels for Walker, a straight teen who is involved with them in a summer drama group that will be performing The Taming of the Shrew. Although Walker leads Charlie on, his heart really belongs to Daisy, a well-endowed lesbian who is also in the play. Gender identity issues intensify as Daisy discovers she is attracted to and enjoys sex with Walker as much as with her girlfriend, Claire. Charlie decides that even though he is really, truly gay, he still loves Brie enough as his best friend to want to have sex with her, though she does not reciprocate. Daisy finds Brie pitiful and annoying, but she forces an intense kiss on her just to show her what it's like to be kissed by another girl. Brie knows wholeheartedly that she is straight, but the boy she likes is sexually demanding and she thwarts his ultimate attempt to rape her. Despite all the confusion, complications, and miscommunications, by story's end everything seems squared away and the teens are a little surer of their relationships. The constant bombardment of gay versus bisexual versus straight issues and attitudes, and the frequent and excessive drinking, wears thin and becomes almost overwhelming. However, the four distinct voices that come alive and echo a strong story of love, disillusion, and resolution are the novel's saving grace. As she did in Guitar Girl (Dutton, 2004), Manning skillfully depicts scenes of romance and conflict.-Diane P. Tuccillo, City of Mesa Library, AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Brie loves her gay best friend, Charlie, who's crushing on straight Walker, who's fallen for lesbian Daisy in Manning's (Guitar Girl) uneven novel about four British teens in a summer drama workshop. They're performing The Taming of the Shrew, and while the protagonists do not discuss the workshop or explore their own characters much, the play provides a loose parallel to their lives (pretty Brie is unable to stand up for herself, while outspoken Daisy is continuously fighting for equality). The teens, who each have a distinct voice, take turns narrating, describing their own personal crises: Charlie does not feel that being gay is the extent of his identity ("I only fancy straight boys, which is kinda limiting," he confesses), while Daisy is disappointed by her girlfriend's cold reaction when she makes a surprise visit to her at peace camp. Unfortunately, none of the protagonists is that easy to sympathize with: Brie is shallow, Walker keeps harassing Daisy, and even Charlie treats Brie badly. The book raises compelling questions about identity (after Daisy hooks up with Walker, she realizes "Maybe I should stop defining myself through the people I slept with and start trying to work out who the hell I actually am" and readers will applaud Brie's growing self-esteem, highlighted by her brilliant performance in the role of Kate), but despite the rotating perspectives, readers don't really get to know these characters. Ages 14-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved