What I like and what I don’t like about my own book! On this page I dare to self-review Abbie’s Rival!*
Abbie’s Rival is my second book for children and is loosely based on a real life experience I had with a Swedish pen-pal I had many moons ago, when I was about nineteen. She was a Liverpool supporter like me and my best friend at school and she advertised in a football magazine for a Liverpool supporter like herself to write to; so myself and my friend wrote to her and went to Sweden to meet her. What a disappointment she turned out to be! Neither of us liked her, and our dislike was reinforced when she returned the visit to Liverpool the following year. After that we stopped writing. Her parents were lovely, though.
For the purposes of this book, and because my main character Abbie is much younger, fourteen, I decided to make the pen-pal (or e-mate as Abbie calls her, because they only send emails to one another) French in order for it to fit in with school and French classes. This ties with the romantic interest of good-looking Richard Farnham, the French teaching student, whose mother happens to be Abbie’s French teacher. Colette is also a little older than Abbie, aged sixteen, and she is very slim, fashionable and beautiful. When Abbie falls for Richard, after he knocks her down in the school playground with his bicycle, she knows she has no chance of attracting him. He’s too old for her, for one thing, and because of her glasses she considers herself to be too plain for him, anyway.
When we first meet Abbie, she is in a bit of a dilemma. Colette has emailed her, saying she wants to come to England in the summer holidays to meet her, and Abbie is happy, but if Colette does visit she will find out that Abbie has lied to her, making out she is as beautiful, grand and as rich as Colette, whose father owns a successful vineyard. Abbie decides to put Colette off from visiting, telling her she is going away for the summer. Abbie’s best friend Shireen is happy about this, as she’s jealous of her friendship with Colette, but she makes fun of the lies Abbie keeps telling and reckons she will regret them. When Colette turns up unexpectedly, with her stern, quiet older brother, Antoine – over in England on business – she is horrified to find out what Abbie’s home life is really like. Colette is all Abbie imagined her to be, but Abbie lives in a terraced house with her sisters Ellie and Lydia and Lydia’s twin Leon, and also with stepsister Tanya, who Abbie doesn’t get on with at all: she is not the rich only child she has claimed to be, nor is her house a large mansion. Although Colette is annoyed about Abbie’s fibs, she gives Abbie a meeting gift, a gold locket, which Abbie treasures. She is upset that Colette is angry with her and does everything she can to make amends; but a shopping trip ends in disaster with Shireen and Colette falling out, and Abbie starts to realise how spoilt and selfish Colette is. When Richard meets Colette and asks her out, that’s when Colette becomes Abbie’s rival, and Abbie’s opinion of Colette starts to go downhill.
What I Like
I consider this to be a good old-fashioned story about family, friendships, jealousies, rivalries and unrequited first love. I put the book in the children’s 9-12 category because it is simply told, though some might argue that the theme of young romance should place it in the young adult category, but the ‘romance’ is nothing but a crush on Abbie’s part and there is no sexuality.
I also like Shireen, who is down to earth and feisty, and unlike Abbie and Colette doesn’t care how she looks. Although she pokes fun at Abbie she is fond of her. The book has a hopeful and happy ending for Abbie.
What I Don’t Like
Probably the book is a little too simple. Family stories are a little unfashionable these days and it certainly hasn’t been as well received as my other books. Although there is conflict between Abbie and Colette, Abbie and Tanya, Colette and Shireen and Tanya and Colette, there isn’t much more happening in the way of drama. I want to pull Colette’s hair out and I wondered if I should have gone for someone less obvious than French to reflect the more diverse languages being taught in schools, Russian, maybe, or Spanish. I’ve drawn Richard to be too good-looking with no faults and I think Abbie is too easily led by her heart rather than her head.
For all that, however, I did enjoy writing this book. It was easy to write and I attempted to make it easy reading.
* This review is for this site only
November 30, 2014