CJ SKUSE/DEAD ROMANTIC/CHICKEN HOUSE £7.99 11+
If you have a teenage girl who dreadS Valentine’s Day, this is the book for her. Its narrator, Camille, yearns a boy with an athlete’s body and a poet’s brain, but when she’s humiliated at a party she goes to the graveyard to sob – and finds another girl digging up a corpse. Zoe not only becomes her new best friend but creates Camille’s perfect man out of – yes, it’s Frankenstein all over again.
CJ Skuse has been on my radar as one of the funniest writers of YA fiction since Pretty Bad Things and Rockoholic; she’s wittier, smarter and more literate than Louise Rennison, and gets girls to ask themselves some pointed questions about the price of love and friendship. Like her stable-mate Kirsty McKay (Undead) she uses the tropes of the Gothic novel to create wildly comic capers which should be snapped up by a smart TV producer, pronto.
Camille is a sap, of course; in love with naughty Damian and not seeing that his geeky friend Louis, son of a funeral director, is both in love with her and much more attractive. But after Zoe reanimates the dead hamsters in the school’s Biology class, it’s not long before the quartet has much bigger problems on their plates. Obsessed by proving her scientist father’s genius, Zoe (“was your fontanelle compromised at birth?”) is brilliant, arrogant and is living in a creepy mansion full of “spares”, or bits of corpses.
The tension and the comedy crack along, with a heart-warming hilarity which is impossible to resist. All four characters change and grow (even cocky Damian) and by the time they’re making the decision to “kill or cuddle” Zoe’s creation you really care about the outcome. Don’t miss it.