First Term at L’ Etoile by Holly & Kelly Willoughby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It will come as no surprise to you that I enjoy a school story. It’s a genre that is ripe and perfect for the reader to embrace, being as it is a reflection of a world experienced by pretty much all of us. And it’s one of those genres that keeps giving; it can be translated into pretty much any context you require, can be span into any time period and also has a fairly handy excuse for a massive cast (because, you know, they’re all there). I talk a bit more about the joy and the potential of the school genre here.
Can you tell I don’t know where to begin with this book? Can you tell that I am dodging an actual review of it somewhat? I imagine you can, because it’s screamingly blatant to me, and so we must actually begin.
Firstly: it is promising. Honestly. It’s a bit school story by numbers, but that construct is a construct for a reason and that reason is because it works. We have protagonist twins, a sidekick called Sally, a scholarship girl and a Gwendoline. And all that’s good. It’s handled in a light, fun way with a lot of love for the genre. Which is nice.
Secondly: it is a little too twee at times. I think something like the excellent Alice-Miranda at School books balance the needs of this age-group against actually giving them a good story. There’s a few too many coy asides from the author to the reader, and whilst that is good, I hope it’s pulled back in the succeeding novels. Girls of this age are smart, clever, individual readers and whilst I know a lot of them that would love this, they’d love it in a very transitory way.
Thirdly: The School is called L’Etoile. The pupils call themselves the L’Etoilettes. Please say that final bit aloud (possibly run it past a French speaker) and I think you might understand one of my key issues with the book.
Fourthly: Despite all of this, it’s actually not that bad. I mean it. There’s some major issues (see 2 and 3) but these are issues that could be resolved in the following books. I wonder whether a lot of this is self-consciousness and nerves in a way, and I hope it’s something that is addressed because this book has promise. Honestly. During the better moments, it’s delivered with a breezy lightness that is undoubtedly appealing. It just needs work.
Fifthly: So. Yeah. About that L’Etoilette thing.
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