Okay, so Moontrug usually reviews books for 8-12-year-olds but today she’s going to break tradition by talking about a socially awkward love story for 15+ years. To avoid frightening consequences, if you are younger than 15, Moontrug suggests you put cotton wool in your ears, blindfold up and, um, wrap yourself in bubble wrap for the next few minutes. So, Lobsters, the debut YA novel by best friends, Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen (who, once upon a time, dated at school…). I haven’t laughed so hard for a long, long time; the book so perfectly captures the awkwardness of being a teenager that you’ll find yourself squirming and giggling the whole way through.
Sam and Hannah have just one epic summer before uni to find ‘The One.’ Their lobster. But as fate works to bring them together (in a toilet), they must navigate social misunderstandings, the plotting of well-meaning friends, the general awkwardness of being a teenager and their own fears of being virgins for ever. In the end, it all boils down to love… And Ribena.
The book is told in alternating chapters where Ellen narrates the male side of the story (as Sam) and Ivison narrates the female (as Hannah) – and both authors have totally nailed the narrative voices. They sound just like teenagers – real, honest and funny – and on speaking to Ivison she revealed both she and Ellen composed the last few chapters of the book via MSN messenger! A pretty modern a way to write a book – appropriate for the techy world of teenage love. Hannah opens the book amidst a clamour of excitement – the end of exams, the start of the summer holidays and her thoughts on what it actually means to lose your virginity: ‘How can we live in a world where they can identify serial killers from their DNA, but we can’t figure out if Tilly’s a virgin or not?’ Meanwhile, Sam is kneeling before a big steel bucket with a friend. They are trying to burn their A-Level textbooks in an act of rebellion against the system, a sort of heralding that life is going to be a whole lot more exciting now school’s out the way. Only the textbooks are laminated – they ain’t gonna burn. Frustrating. Awkward. A fab prelude into the rest of the book…
The summer is fraught with socially awkward events: bikini lines, buying alcohol when underage (love that Sam’s friends arm him with conversational topics to use on the off licence vendor, like ‘tax’ and ‘Pink Floyd’), holidays in Kavos (and Sark), Panda onesies, celeb crushes (Ivison admitted to moontrug that her own school crush was Jared Leto – and she was so in love with him sometimes she couldn’t leave the house), dropping Alevel results in puddles, and of course, Ribena. It’s a miracle any of us made it through that ‘summer-after-school’ alive when you think about it… Sam and Hannah are two wonderfully endearing characters: self-deprecating, funny and kind. That’s not to say they’re perfect (at times Sam acts like an idiot, or as Stella would say ‘a tortoise-munching sociopath’, and Hannah whines like a baby) but that’s what makes them such real protagonists. And although the pressure from peers and the media tries to shape who they are, it’s great to see them being totally themselves in the Mad Hatters Tearoom Tent at the festival. Sam and Hannah manage to throw all social pressures to the wind – and that’s pretty cool.
Lobsters is a hilarious and totally original debut in its co-authored narration. It completely works (and sorry, Ellen, but I really like the character’s line about wearing yellow shoes so he can have ‘sunshine on his feet always’ – Ivison was right on that one – it’s kinda cute!). And although Bella from Twilight would have us believe those final years of school can be conquered by a sultry pout and a vampiric crush, Ivison and Ellen know the truth: that time of life is suuuuuuper awkward but very, very funny. You remember it forever – not as a series of perfectly-planned events but as a jumble of mad growingup-ness… There’s a fair bit of ‘naughty language’ in the book and, um, ‘scenes of a sexual nature’ – so librarians will need to take that into account when recommending to teens, and likewise, parents might want to read it first before giving it to their children. But it’s a BRILLIANTLY FUNNY book – a cross between Friends, The Inbetweeners and a younger version of Bridget Jones (minus the bunny ears).