Pan, 9780330424639 (Aus, US)

Riley Rose hasn’t cried since the death of her mother. This plus-sized, take-no-shit, gorgeous, rebellious character is sent to a Christian camp by her father and his dull girlfriend for acting out. But Riley’s drug, sex and rock & roll ‘tude isn’t going to be tamed by a bunch of commandments and Jesus songs. She’ll stick by her manifesto, somehow get through the first few days, then escape via a plan by her bestie Chloe, making it to Ben Sebatini’s party. But purple-haired Riley didn’t count on making friends with fellow misfits and ‘mutards’ like seemingly autistic brother and sister duo Bird and Oliver; Sarita who is ready to come out of her shell; and the mysterious wheelchair-bound Dylan.

I love the fact that in this book, our sassy main character always sticks by her main principles. It’s strong, intelligent and realistic. Riley Rose is an incredible character, and the book is warm, fun, and completely enjoyable.

Everything Beautiful, along with Notes From the Teenage Underground prove that Simmone Howell is a writer really in touch with young adult language, humour, desires, pop-culture obsessions, curiosities, and knowledges. Howell is so far removed from clichés and patronising writing by adults for teens with ‘messages’. Instead, you’re just given it as it is. Yes, intelligent and good-natured teenagers want to be bad sometimes. They also have transcendent experiences which come about in unique ways. For Riley, it is not religious, and never will be. It’s about people. It’s not about changing yourself, ‘improving’ in societal terms, or being healed – it’s about opening, realising a thing or two, finding beauty where you didn’t think to look, becoming overhwhelmed by it a little bit even, but being okay with that.

I’m doing an interview with Simmone Howell for a forthcoming issue of Lip Magazine. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

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