young adult book reviews & more

Diva without a Cause by Grace Dent

Diva without a Cause (Diary of a Chav)Sixteen-year-old Shiraz Bailey Wood is not a chav. So what if she likes fake gold jewelry and hoodies? So what if the school she attends has been unfortunately nicknamed Superchav Academy? Just because she’s poor doesn’t mean she should be insulted as working class trash, but she doesn’t really know how she can change her situation. When a strict new English teacher sees potential in Shiraz, she dares to hope that there’s more to like that troublemaking and minimum wage. But as Shiraz’s situation goes from bad to worse with her best friend practically dumping her and a falling out between her mother and sister, it seems everything is trying to discourage her from reaching for her dreams. Can this sweet and authentic girl find a way to rise above her situation?

Diva without a Cause, formerly inaccurately titled Diary of a Chav, is told in sometimes funny diary entries form the perspective of a working class British teen. As an American reader, I was somewhat confused by the unfamiliar British slang and put off by the poor grammar, although I assume the lingo is part of “keeping it real.” That seems to be a big part of Shiraz’s mentality, but unfortunately, that was one of the only real desires I could pinpoint for her character, and getting to the bottom of the “real” Shiraz was an entirely difficult task. Despite diary entries being traditionally deposits for someone’s most innermost thoughts, I rarely felt like I was inside Shiraz’s private life. The majority of the time, I felt like I was listening to an overdramatic gossiper, which did more to annoy me than maintain my interest. Poor characters aside, I did enjoy this unusual portrayal of working class culture because even if I don’t agree with all of their values, as displayed primarily by Shiraz’s mother, I recognize them as authentic and universal, not just localized in London. At the same time, though, I was kind of disappointed there was no real statement made about these ideas, unless they speak for themselves; for example, Shiraz’s mom think the way to live a comfortable life is to marry a rich man, not to get an education and a good job, and while Shiraz does seem to want to continue with her schooling, nothing further is said on the matter. The feminist within me is disgusted and Shiraz’s own sister’s feminist opinions to nothing to negate that. I really don’t know what Dent was trying to accomplish with this novel, as the theme of rising above one’s situation is rather feeble within this novel. I’m quite disappointed, because I was looking for a fast, fun read that Diva without a Cause didn’t live up to.

Diva without a Cause is enjoyable enough and may be liked by fans of the more gritty Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert and The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees. I only reluctantly look forward to this novel’s sequel Posh and Prejudice because the continuation of Shiraz’s story actually has potential.

Rating: 3.25

Review copy from personal collection

5 munch(es) :

Thao said...

At first I thought this book and Diary of a chav had exactly the same cover. Silly me. It does not sounds interesting to me at all though : (

Bookworm said...

This looks cute, but kind of dull. However, I've read some of Grace Dent's other books and those were really fun!

Bookgeek said...

I'll start by saying that I'm English and that my cousin just gave me this book and said I had to read it. So I read it on the plane flight home. And laughed out loud through most of it. I do think it is very, very English - slang and characters - and horribly real. I also know the area in which it is set! These books are incredibly popular in the UK and almost seem like a younger version of Bridget Jones' Diary. And reminiscent of the Adrian Mole Diaries. I think Dent was trying to show beyond the surface of a group of people dismissed and ridiculed in the press. And captured some very memorable moments.

Anonymous said...

Loads of girls in my HS English class loved this series, although they're the girls who don't really read a lot. I thought I'd pick Diary of a Chav up because they were almost obsessed so I thought it's prob. good, but I'll put it further down in my TBR pile because after your review I think there are more interesting books tbr. Great review!

Anonymous said...

I just saw this book on another blog today for the first time -- and I got so excited to see it here, too! Definitely looks like something I would love... but I'm completely obsessed with all things English. Going to look for it!

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