Wednesday 3 July 2013

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Review: Pretty Things by Sarra Manning

Pretty Things by Sarra ManningPretty Things by Sarra Manning - Brie is in love with Lancome Juicy Tubes, Louis Vuitton accessories and Charlie, her gay best friend.But Charlie is in love with 1960's pop art, 1980s teen movies ...and serial heartbreaker, Walker. Walker has only ever been in love with his VW Bug, until he meets Daisy. And Daisy is far too busy hating everyone to know what love is...

This is a story about kissing people you shouldn't, falling in love and off your heels, and breaking hearts because there's nothing to watch on telly.
From Amazon UK

I've been a fan of Sarra Manning's for a while, but hadn't yet got to Pretty Things, so was excited to see when doing my research for LGBTQ Month that Pretty Things fit the bill, especially as it was already on my shelf. And just the other Manning novels I've read, Pretty Things is amazing!

The blurb makes it sound complicated, but it's not. Each of the four teens narrates the story in alternating chapters. Obsessed with fashion and make-up, and known for not being the brightest spark, Brie is thought of as a bit of an air-headed bimbo, but underneath the clothes and cosmetics, she has hazardously low self-esteem. Charlie, her best friend, is the only person that really knows the girl behind costume and understands her, the only one who'll really give her the time of day, and she's in love with him - even if he does force her to join the summer drama club. Charlie, however is gay, and has had difficulty finding a guy he really likes, and so when he does finally fall for someone at drama club, Walker, is pretty crestfallen to discover that he's straight. Walker is known for his promiscuity, and is loathed for how he treats girls, but what no-one knows is that he is constantly being disappointed and having his heartbroken by girls, finding out that were never the people they alluded to be. But then he meets Daisy at the drama club, who is so much more than just her beauty, and everything Walker has always wanted. But Daisy is a lesbian, a card-caring feminist, and has strong views about gay rights - though she's not as sure of herself as she seems.

Ok, that does sound complicated, but they all interact with and become "friends" with each other at the club, so with them all hanging out, it's easy to keep up.

Pretty Things is one of those books that deceptively looks like it's light and fluffy, but actually covers some serious issues in a way that is completely accessible. Manning has a wonderful way of channelling the teenage voice and using humour and sarcasm that makes it fun read rather than a serious issue book. It's awesome that Pretty Things can get readers thinking about such subjects without going down heavy paths.

And I suppose that's partly down to the fact that, despite there being two protagonists who are gay and another two straight ones who are in love with them, this isn't a book that is about sexuality. Sure, some characters struggle with the sexuality of others. And, ok, there are times when characters question their own sexuality. And yes, moments of experimentation. But Pretty Things is about four individuals and their experience with love - discovering love, working out what love is, unrequited love, basically romantic love in all it's forms - and their self-identity. In the author's note, Manning wrote:
"This is probably the bit where I say that Pretty Things is a serious story about the quest for sexual identity in four emotionally stunted youths. But it's so not. It's about love and how it bops you over the head when you least expect it."
And that's exactly how the story comes across. It doesn't matter what their gender is, what their sexuality is, or the gender of the person they fall for, it's about their feelings and their relationships with each other, and, as I said, about the characters as individuals. As Charlie says, "...being gay is not all I am. Why should who you sleep with define you?" (p106), something Daisy is just starting to figure out: "Maybe I should stop defining myself through the people I sleep with and trying to work out who the hell I actually am because I don't have a clue." (p312 - emphasis mine, not the author's.)

LGBTQ themes are not the only thing this book covers, I could have read it for Sex in Teen Lit Month and Body Image and Self-Perception Month as well as LGBTQ YA Month. Each character has their own issues with themselves, and varying views on sex - whatever their sexuality, and to have so many things covered makes for really interesting reading.

A fantastic novel, Pretty Things is a fun and sensitive story of love and self-discovery, and one I highly recommend.

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Published: 13th January 2005
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Buy on Amazon US
Sarra Manning's Website


  1. I think this is one of Sarra Manning's most underrated books but I love it. Glad you did as well.

    1. It was really good! I loved it! Just made me realise how I need to pick up more of her novels :)