I don’t read chick lit. There, I said it. I’m a complete snob, I know, but I always turn my nose up at the sections marked ‘Women’s Fiction’ in bookshops; you know the ones, pink placards festooned with twee little drawings of lipsticks and stilettos (because that’s all we think about; am I right, ladies?) and until there is also a section called ‘Men’s Fiction’, infantilised and decorated with cartoons of Hot Wheels, dump trucks and generic lager, I probably always will steer clear of fiction marketed solely at women. So in the interests of a free book and needing to write this review, I sat down with a heavy heart to read Lisa Jewell’s latest offering, The Girls, and what do you know? I was pleasantly surprised…
Chick lit meets psychological thriller is how I would describe The Girls. A gang of tweens and teens, friends seemingly only due to proximity and the communal garden square they call their stomping ground befriend the new kids to the garden, sisters Pip and Grace – little do they know that the addition of two extra members of the gang will set in motion a series of events that will lead to one of the sisters being found unconscious, seemingly the victim of a vicious physical and possible sexual assault.
Lord of the Flies-style cliquishness, secret crushes and the near-sociopathic bitchiness inherent in the jealous teenage girl are all captured and written about brilliantly by Jewell, who is undoubtedly one of the more accomplished of the chick lit genre authors. Her characters are well-formed, well-rounded and believable. The lovely intricacies of emotional attachment and the distorted reality of relationships between Leo, the ‘fanciable’ bohemian father of three of the gang of kids, and their friends Grace and Tyler (who are both seemingly infatuated with Leo for different and complicated reasons) are drawn out beautifully, not clichéd or hackneyed as could so easily have been the case – the girls are not trying to ensnare like little Lolitas, nor is Leo taking advantage, like a modern-day Humbert Humbert.
It’s not high-brow literature, nor is it to be sneered at as a trashy, light-hearted read. The Girls is written in a straightforward fashion, yet shows complex insight into the dynamics of relationships, from those of family to friends and enemies. Offering a compelling and well-structured plot as well as unexpected twists makes this novel well worth staying up past bedtime to read in one big sitting.