Random House Australia
Imprint: Arrow (Young)
Extent: 272 pages
From one of the world’s best- selling authors comes his newest YA novel – an illustrated diary from a clearly unusual character. James Patterson introduces Margaret, Maggie, more usually self-styled as ‘Cuckoo’. Amidst the hell that is high school, Maggie’s friends who are one of the unpopular ‘nations’ decide to beat the Haters at their own game and call themselves The Freakshow. Cuckoo, Brainzilla, Zitsy, Eggy, Tebow, and Flatso have been friends a long time and amongst the warzone groups at North Plains High School they support each other in the face of ‘the Jocks, Nerds, Twinkies, Otaku, Barbies, Goths, Eurotrash, Jailbait, Stoners, Joiners, Glommers, Delusionals, Haters, Wankstas, Thespians, Teachers, Terror Teachers, Zomboids, Robots, Gleeks, United Colors of Bennetoners, Libertarians, Activists, Juvies, Baristas [and] Blahs’. Whew! Pretty much sounds like any normal high school to me.
Maggie gives herself her nickname because she spent ten days in the local mental hospital, after her mother took off and left her with no money and no food – and just didn’t come back. Recovering from this sadness, Maggie now lives with her neighbour Mrs Morrison who is just the kind of caring foster-mother Maggie needs in her life. She also starts a diary so she can continue with her healing process but mostly because she loves to write.
With loads of humour and some fabulous cartoon illustrations with a Gothic manga style, this novel deals with some fairly intense teenage problems which are sadly far too common with a deft hand. Problems with teachers, problems with boys, problems with bullies, problems with parents and problems with life in general are dealt with in a way which lessens the trauma without desensitizing the reader. And the satisfactory ending is not an ending but segues into the next instalment to which I anticipate readers, including myself, will look forward.
I doubt that boys will go for this given the female protagonist (and the hot pink cover) which is a shame as I think it would definitely appeal to both. There is some mature content which leads me to recommend this for Middle to Senior students. This is a great read (one sitting!) – easily accessible language for the easily daunted reader and with a very fast pace.
Find out more at James Patterson’s official Australian webpage.