17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Fun Read, But Missing A Few Things..,
This review is from: How to Ditch Your Fairy (Hardcover)Charlie is a 14 year old girl who lives in New Avalon, a city that seems to be a mix of USA and Australia. Almost everyone has a personal fairy that allows them to be better at certain things - for example, her best friend has a "clothes shopping" fairy that helps her find the best deals. Unfortunately for Charlie, who is too young to drive and obviously doesn't own a car, she has a parking fairy! The book revolves around her attempts to lose her fairy, snag the new boy in town, and oh yes, stop getting into trouble at school.
This makes for a very quick read - I think I finished the book in 1.5 - 2 hours? I found the concept of a personal fairy really neat - in fact, I'd loved to have an "Impersonates You Perfectly at Work so You Can Loll About in Bed and Read All Day" fairy. Seriously, how wicked would that be? However, in all likelihood I would have a fairy much worse than Charlie's - mine would probably be a procrastination/lazybones fairy that would only make life more difficult! Then again, now that I've read about all the problems poor Charlie goes through over the course of this story, I wouldn't want a parking fairy either.
Charlie herself comes off as a sweet and smart girl, with the same desires as any other teenager. She wants to do well in school, would like her friendship with the new boy Stefan to develop further, and doesn't want any more demerits than she already has because who wants to get in trouble with teachers? Let's also not forget the main premise behind the tale, which is to get rid of her lame parking fairy and find a better replacement. As she tries a wide assortment of techniques, [some with more disastrous results than others], she makes the unlikeliest ally, and gains better understanding of society and herself.
Although the basic plot is pretty straightforward, there are quite a few interesting components that make this book stand out. The first one I noticed was the barrage of new lingo like "doos" for cool, "pulchritudinous" for hot/sexy, and "pox" for crap. Made me think of A Clockwork Orange, heh. Another interesting aspect was the fact that all the kids attend athletics-specific or arts-specific schools with very strict rules and tough regimens [unless they're so untalented they have to go to a "mixed" school]. Famous people originating from New Avalon are addressed as "Our ---", and any prospective Ours are given a lot of preferential treatment.
It was neat to read about a female protagonist who was not only extremely into sports, but just as good [or better] than her male counterparts. The coolest thing is that she's not the only one like that - all her friends are great at what they do as well [without coming off as a horde of "Mary Sue"s] and no one bats an eye over men's vs. women's teams - something that definitely isn't true in our world. She also mentions same sex couples with nary a thought because it's nothing outside of the norm. Seriously, no gender or sexual biases in this world - if that's not downright awesome, i dunno what is! :D
Stefan, her crush, points out how New Avaloners take their obsession with their own nation to extreme levels, how they don't exhibit any curiosity about other people and how they think that everything that comes from their country has to be the best. The steepest street in their town must be the steepest in the world, the most famous celebrity from New Avalon the most famous in the universe, and so on and so forth. This totally reminded me of my first few months in North America, where the level of ignorance about the rest of the world displayed by my peers and even teachers was nothing short of astounding. I think it's a wonderful point to be made in a YA book.
However, despite all the positive features of this story, I feel like a lot is left unfinished. We're told fairies haven't been around forever, but we don't find out anything about how they came into being. Most people have fairies but some don't, and a few don't even believe in fairies to begin with - but we don't find out if the non-believers or non-fairied folk are better/worse off than the rest of society. Some reference is made to the historical background of New Avalon, its settlers, ethnicity and the way characters look, but these points aren't fully clarified. One particular character is up to no good and uses Charlie, but we don't find out why her assistance was required. In the same vein, we're even shown how some fairies give you the ability to get away with really nefarious acts, but that's just mentioned in passing. Most importantly, the consequences of having a bad fairy or successfully ditching the one you have are never explored.
If Justine Larbalestier had further elaborated on all those points, i think we would've ended up with a really stellar story. The way it stands now, I'd say it's a book you should get from the library instead of actually purchasing.