Sometimes it can be kind of hard to find a book for younger teens that have strong female protagonists and are downright funny. Well my friends, look no further. My Brilliant Life and Other Disasters (Nosy Crow, 2013) by author-comedian Catherine Wilkins is brilliant and will make you chuckle.
It will not consider for even a moment that you may be reading the book in public and will be getting some strange looks from fellow train passengers as you burst out laughing. How inconsiderate!
Jessica is back in the sequel to the equally funny My Best Friend and Other Enemies and everything is going great in her life. She’s best friends again with Natalie, school is going good and her masterpiece of a comic is about to be launched. Her cartoons have given her quite a name in the playground.
Some kids are even asking her for personalised drawings. She’s been paired with Natalie on the big environmental school project, much to the dismay of her frenemy Amelia. Her family is still bonkers but so is everyone’s.
Yes, things are looking good for Jess. It’s almost too good to be true.
Enter Scarlett, the super-cool, super-annoying cousin of Amelia. Everyone at school loves Scarlett, who seems to know everyone cool and has all the best clothes. Jess is not convinced, particularly when she finds out that Scarlett is a budding cartoonist as well.
She assures herself that her drawings are much better but when Scarlett submits some of her artwork to be printed in the comic, Jess realises that she’s actually pretty good. This means war. There is no way she’s losing her friends and new found fame to this imposter.
Everyone is taking this school project very seriously, especially Natalie who is determined to work hard and do everything by the book to take first place. Jess has never been much for studying. She’s smart but gets easily distracted and can find herself spending hours on cartoons without really realising.
Natalie is worried. Jess has promised her a big name in the world of environmental fame – a real A-List of celebrities – but Natalie is starting to doubt Jess’ dedication to the project. She’s even starting to doubt Jess as a friend. Poor Jess now has to prove that a) Scarlett is a horrible horrible person that should be on an episode of Crimewatch and b) she is dedicated to the project and to being Natalie’s BFF. Good thing she has a plan. It’s ambitious but by golly, is it going to be good.
Jess quickly gets to work working on the wildlife project’s secret mission and has her fingers and toes crossed that things goes according to plan. Her nutty Aunt Joan has come to visit which is always a whirlwind of fun and chaos.
Jess has always liked Joan as she believes in herself and her crazy schemes always leave a lasting impression in the family. Jess’ mum and Joan seem like chalk and cheese:
“Lately I’ve noticed my mum seems to be trying to start her own nicknames. She’s always going on about muggins or muggins here. I’m hoping it’s just a phase and she’ll grow out of it. I know you’re supposed to let them live their own lives and make their own decisions, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m collluding in establishing a stupid name. For a start, you’re not meant to give yourself a nickname. Otherwise everyone would be called AceHead or Mr Fantastico.”
With the boost of confidence thanks to Aunt Joan, Jess is determined to scoop first prize at school and prove that it’s okay to be different from the crowd. It’s okay not to wear designer clothes and it’s more than okay to have your own opinion.
With comic-style illustrations throughout by Sarah Horne (bravo, Ms. Horne!), this book is a great read. The characters are so real you will definitely be able to relate to them quite easily. Wilkins’ writing style is fast-paced, quick-witted and clever.
Jess is a feisty young girl who has opinions, confidence and is hilarious. Like every teenager, she has some ups and downs with her friends but ultimately, she is quite a rational person and always wants to end the drama.
“I definitely need to stop worrying about the petty things, and live and let live.”
What a great message to send to young teenagers! Less drama, more fun.
We love this book so pick up a copy today and prepare for some funny looks from strangers as you too laugh out loud!
- Author: Catherine Wilkins
- ISBN: 9780857631596
- Publisher: Nosy Crow
- Age range: 9-13