Tuesday, 25 March 2014
It's always hard writing about something that plays such a huge role in your life; for me, I can never find the right words to express how passionate I am about something and, in turn, end up ruining up whatever it was that I was trying to say.
However, I was recently given the opportunity to review Dawn O'Porter's latest novel, 'Goose', and I promised myself that I wouldn't mess it up.
Dawn is one of my biggest writing inspirations; she has been since I first read her material in Stylist magazine, so obviously it's a pretty big thing, for me, writing about her words. Let's see if I can do them justice...
From about the age of four, friendship is a huge part of any girl's life. If you're lucky, you could manage to stay friends with the same girl who you shared a book with in nursery - despite the obvious differences between you as you grow up. Or, you might find new friends, every week.
Regardless of the longevity of a friendship, every girl will understand the importance of their best friend. She's the person you call when you've got your boy troubles, your partner in crime when you're up to no good and your cheerleader when you're feeling a bit rubbish.
'Paper Aeroplanes', the prequel to 'Goose', introduced me to two people who reminded me so much of my best friend and myself that I almost felt as though Dawn O'Porter had been spying on me since birth.
When I finished 'Paper Aeroplanes', I didn't quite know what to do with myself for a little while. I found myself wondering, every so often, what both Renee and Flo would be doing: had Flo lost her virginity? Did Renee make peace with her sister? Had they made friends in their new school?
When I received 'Goose', I wanted to know the answers to those questions so badly, I finished the book within a day; there are obvious differences between the two books, but both are written so beautifully and capture the innocence of a teenage friendship so perfectly, O'Porter's writing made me want to go back to school and relive the beginning of some of my best friendships all over again...almost, I'm not sure I could handle double Science lessons again.
When you leave school, you realise that a lot tends to change within the first few months, mainly to do with friendships. As relationships and University/the future start to become priorities, friendships come to an end under the pressure of reality, outside of school. 'Goose' explores this intensely and I cannot credit O'Porter enough for capturing this transition so perfectly.
Both Renee and Flo are changing, since leaving school, and although it's in different ways, their friendship remains as strong as ever...or so it seems.
Flo begins to call her faith to help her through this particularly hard time and finds peace in religion. Renee finds sex. And plenty of it.
Already, the changes both Flo and Renee are undergoing could not be more different and as the book continues, we soon question whether the girls' friendship can withstand such changes.
At a time when you're desperately trying to find yourself, your best friend is the biggest comfort. However, Renee falls for Dean, who we're introduced to at the beginning of the book, and Flo thinks she could be falling for Gordon, the leader of a bible group she joins.
I don't know about other readers, but I instantly disliked both boys; maybe it's because I could see the distance they were placing between Renee and Flo or maybe it's because I felt as though neither were good enough for the girls. Whatever the reason, O'Porter tackles the issue of 'young love' so well, I almost wish she had been present during my first bout of heartbreak.
It's not only relationship issues that cause trouble between our two protagonists; family issues, school work and impending plans soon raise their head to create more negativity between the two girls.
Not only did O'Porter make me wish that 'Goose' had been written four years previous, so I could use it as a manual when undergoing these sort of changes myself, but I wanted to reach into the pages and tell both Renee and Flo to stop taking each other for granted.
I am so lucky that some of my best friendships have withstood the trials of time and whilst reading 'Goose', I grabbed my phone after every couple of pages to remind my closest pals of how much I loved them for putting up with me.
I believe this is one of the main reasons as to why 'Goose' struck such a chord with me; it's real, raw and realistic. Every girl can resonate with the friendship set out between Renee and Flo, especially throughout the book.
'Goose' embraces all of the issues the majority of girls have to go through as they grow up and it teaches us to disregard the embarrassment, or taboo, that comes attached to them.
O'Porter doesn't shy away from any topic, ranging from 'fanny farts' to wanting a boy who doesn't want you back. In today's 'cotton wool culture', it's rare to see such topics dissected in such detail but boy, am I glad they are.
Growing up, I never once read a book that tackled what I was thinking in as much detail as 'Goose' does; it doesn't hold back on the frustrations, or the beauty, of a realistic teenage life. This is something O'Porter manages to capture excellently within her writing; it's the reason 'Paper Aeroplanes' was such as a hit and it is the reason why 'Goose' will be flying off of bookshop's shelves.
In my opinion, I loved seeing how much the girls change from the start of the book to the end; Flo changes dramatically, from finding a relationship with God to making other friends, outside of her friendship with Renee. She develops a confidence that is so raw and fresh, it made Flo's journey almost addictive. Her need for 'something more' is so apparent, you can't help but read on.
Renee's journey, on the other hand, is one that is quite simple: she will always want more. She is never satisfied by what she has, apart from her friendship with Flo, that everything begins to seem inferior. It takes a dramatic event in the book - which I won't ruin for those who are yet to read the book - for her to realise her friendship with Flo is more important than a relationship with a boy, 'cool' new people and sex.
The relationship between Renee and Flo does start to disintegrate throughout 'Goose' but by this point, most readers are already hooked. We've all been there, we've all lost - or started to lose - a best friend because of our own ignorance and thankfully, O'Porter manages to cease any potential heartbreak.
Renee and Flo's friendship becomes more 'adult', more serious; less 'you're my best friend because you helped me when I was drunk' and more 'you're my best friend because I actually don't know how to live without you'.
Both girls are looking for something outside of their friendship, that they soon realise lies in each other.
The contrast between the girls is huge and quite extraordinary; Renee and Flo find confidence in different things (faith vs boys, school vs adventure etc) and their friendship is a constant reminder that sometimes, the simplicity of a friendship can be the most beautiful thing about it.
Despite the second half of the book seeming almost rushed - or maybe I just wanted it to go on for much longer? - compared to the first half, 'Goose' combined being perfectly complex and flawlessly simple in one go. There's something about the voices of the main characters that is almost addictive; I didn't want the book to finish because I wanted to find out how Renee and Flo's friendship develops.
Whilst the plot does get thicker as the story unfolds, there are moments of lucidity that remind us what the book is all about: a friendship that withstands the true tests of reality, despite everything being against it.
Having finished the book, there are moments every so often when I close my eyes and I'm reminded of Renee's birth control situation, Flo using Dirty Dancing as a seduction technique and Aunty Jo's geese.
Not many books have the power to continue captivating their audience once they've finished, but this is something I am in total awe of Dawn O'Porter for being able to do.
I would be quite happy to lose myself in Renee and Flo's world over and over again; one of my favourite things about the book was how it kept reminding me not to take my own friendships for granted, how lost I would be without one of my best friends and how tough it was growing up.
I can safely say that I don't know who I would have become if it wasn't for my own friendships like Renee and Flo's, and I recommend 'Goose' to every single woman - regardless of age - out there. In actual fact, I'd recommend it to boys too because it doesn't matter which gender you are, friendship is something we shouldn't take for granted. Ever.
Dawn O'Porter deserves a huge amount of acclaim for this brilliant, brilliant book; I want to drink cocktails with her and continuously thank her for creating such an amazing piece of writing.
Not many people have a way with words like O'Porter does but, as most of her writing seems to do, 'Goose' has left me speechless.
When I grow up, I want to be Dawn O'Porter, please.
Find Dawn O'Porter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hotpatooties
Order 'Goose' (or 'Paper Aeroplanes') here: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/dawnoporter/goose OR here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Goose-Paper-Aeroplanes-Dawn-OPorter