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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Fabulous Terrible: The First Adventures of You - Chloe* by Sophie Talbot- young adult book review
Fabulous Terrible: The First Adventures of You - Chloe
by Sophie Talbot
Grades 10-12 192 pages Chooseco June 2008 Paperback    

‘In six short months, your entire life has gone into turnaround. You think. Out of the blue, you take a standardized test and are singled out for admission to the hyper-selective, and super prestigious Trumbull Woodhouse School for Girls. Even more strange, acceptance comes with an anonymous benefactor who is paying your entire tuition.

Will you have the stuff to cut it at the exclusive school? What goes on inside the halls and dorms that harbor daughters of the rich, the connected and the criminal? Trumbull Woodhouse grads are the stuff of legend - ambassadors, senators, CEOs and movie stars. Do they get there by hard work and savvy, or are the rumors of practical magic true?

You and your classmates are both friends and enemies as you compete with each other in academics, athletics, and a lot of things that no one is supposed to know about. Are you willing to do what it takes to get your own chance in the spotlight?’
So – I didn’t like this book. At all. I really, really didn’t. I’m going to try and be as constructive as possible but, really, there’s not much I can say.

The long and short of it is this: unfortunately for Fabulous Terrible: The Adventures of You, my opinion of the story is mirrored perfectly in the second word of the title. Terrible. Well, no, maybe terrible is a little harsh. Definitely not fabulous, though.

Hands down, the main problem with this one is the use of the second person. Of course, this isn’t something that could have been avoided as the whole gimmick of the book is that it’s written in second person.

However, I’m a firm believer that second person is incredibly hard to write, can so very easily go wrong, and is only very rarely used well. The only real case I can think of where I’ve loved a book written in second person is Stolen by Lucy Christopher, which is in a class of its own.

Sadly for Fabulous Terrible, it is nowhere near up to Stolen’s level. While there was a lyrical beauty in Christopher’s prose, the writing here is clunky and stuttering, which really holds up the plot development.

Another issue I have with this one is that I thought this was going to be one of those brilliant books that were so popular in the ‘90s, where you made decisions at the end of the chapter and chose your own story (as a side note: if you loved those novels, then definitely check out Wasted by Nicola Morgan, which is an excellent current equivalent).

This is not the case with Fabulous Terrible. Instead, it’s just a regular novel about a girl (you) who is headed to an exclusive boarding school. Oh, and you ‘see’ things. What annoys me is that the publishers actually marketed this book as a ‘choose your own ending’ story. This is what they say:
‘Choose Your Own Adventure's first YA series for girls ages 12+ takes place in the remote all girls' preparatory school Trumbull Woodhouse.’
So, for me, based on that, this should be a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story, right? Apparently not.

Another thing that grates on me about this one is that the ‘you’ is the reader, if that makes sense. I was constantly being told that my little brother was annoying me and I was being packed off to boarding school and had visions and a strained relationship with my stepmother. No, I actually have none of those things, and I know I don’t.

If I were reading about somebody else who was going through all of this, then fine, I’m happy to suspend my disbelief, but in order for me to merrily pretend that all of this action is actually happening to me the writing is going to have to be seriously strong, which it wasn’t. Case in point:
‘“Which flavour are you feelin’ today?” the college kid behind the counter shouts enthusiastically over the latest Avril Lavigne single blasting through the sound system.

You snap out of your own little ice cream dream and peel your numbed hands off the glass.

“Metaphorically speaking, I’m Rocky Road, but in reality, lactose intolerant, so nothing for me, thanks. Just give that kid over there his cone? So we can get back on the yellow brick road...”’
Oh my, aren’t you just so quirky it hurts? Note: If I’m going to be the starring role in your novel, then please, please don’t make me so ridiculously annoying that I put the book down after two chapters so I have both hands free to strangle myself.

This is a harsh review. I know. I’m sorry. I wish I could find something nice to say about this book but really, I can’t. Wait - your fellow school pals Willa and Anupa aren’t so bad. There, I did it.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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