Diary of a Chav: Grace Dent

I have a penpal who’s from the UK.  And one thing she likes talking about is Chavs.

Yes, Chavs.

Being American I have no idea what she’s talking about, even after a lengthy explanation about the hideous overuse of tracksuits and fake tans.

And then I saw this book….

Yep, I now know what a Chav is.  Thank to Ms. Dent’s book.

And I feel for Livvie.

To be honest, normally I wouldn’t like a book like this.  The characters are horrible people.  The writing is grating at times with numerous grammatical errors and slang that has even my BBC America watching brain shaking my head (thank you Dent for the glossary).  And the plot is basically non-existant save for that stupid climax at the end which I’ll try to forget happened for what’s going to be a fairly positive review.

Yes, I said positive.

Because despite its numerous issues. I  enjoyed this one a lot.  Mainly because the concept of what a Chav is is sort of making me nostalgic for some TLC.

Because that’s what a Chav is.  Its like putting Kate Plus Eight, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and Sixteen and Pregnant, and Jersey Shore in a blender and getting a very bizarre human being (and yes, I know two of those shows are on MTV but essentially they’re almost the same network these days).  And reading about someone that is so low brow makes for an interesting read.

To be honest, this book would’ve been better if it would’ve been written for a different market.  I can see this really hitting the spot if it was written for the literary crowd.  Dysfunctional family check, unlikeable but intriguing characters check, nuevo writing style that’s not quite right but works check.

Add a little bit of seriousness and a bit more style to it and it would be in business.

But as a YA novel it just doesn’t do it.  I almost felt like Dent tried too hard to be YA.  It almost sounded like she was trying to emulate The Princess Diaries.  In fact, there’s a Princess Diaries reference in the book.   It’s just that Dent isn’t Meg Cabot.

As annoying as Mia got she was still endearing.  Shiraz is anything but endearing.  Despite the fact that Dent tries to portray her as some diamond in the rough…to put it simply Shiraz is your stereotypical Chav.  How are all her problems solved in this book?

Well, reality TV.

I kid you not, a reality TV show solves all our characters problems.  It’s really that simple.

And in ironic way I’m not peeved about it like I should be.  It’s annoying, but as vapid as these characters are it sort of suits them.

I guess I should talk more about the characters and the irrelevant plot.  I’ll start with the plot first since it’s barely there.

The gist of the story is that our dear heroine is about to take her GCSEs and sort of doesn’t give a fuck. In fact, no one at her school gives a fuck.  Till an awesome teacher comes in and…

Well, it starts going that route than stops.

Thankfully.

Though it’s still an annoying subplot.

And it’s not like Shiraz is fully reformed at the end anyway.

And I don’t really understand why Super Teacher thinks that Shiraz is some great writer.  Maybe she has great ideas but she’s essentially a functional illiterate.

Really, she is.

Just like she’s borderline TSTL except there’s nothing she really does that’s TSTL because she does nothing.

But even though I hated her, she works as a character.  Because there was something relatable about her as awful as she was.  Maybe it’s because I’ve seen and dealt with kids that are like her.  Maybe it’s because I felt sorry for her growing up with her crazy mother.  But as annoying as she was, I was able to tolerate her unlike other characters.

Another thing I liked about this book was that it wasn’t romance heavy.  Admittedly I like me some man candy in YA, but if the romance in this book would’ve been fully formed I think it would’ve been detrimental to the book.  Shiraz, for one thing, was way too emotionally immature to have a relationship.  And the guy she’s crushing over really isn’t worth much.

Besides, as I said before, the strength of this novel looking at the working class in the UK through Shiraz’s family.  As insufferable as a lot of these characters were, they were all realistic or depicted a part of their culture like Shiraz.  I think probably the best and most infuriating character was the mother.  Yes, she is totally unrealistic.  You’d never expect a person to act this way or treat their children the way this woman does, but I felt like her character served a purpose.  And even though she was an annoying bitch, you wanted to keep reading about her and what awful thing she was going to next.

So overall,  this was a strange book for me to read.  Character wise and plot wise it wasn’t great.  The characters were unlikeable and the plot was nonexistent, but it worked.  Maybe it’s because I wanted to figure out what the heck Livvie was complaining about, or maybe Dent actually did a fairly decent job depicting what is known as the  TLC: UK Edition.

Overall Rating: Seven out of ten.  It’s enjoyable enough but not everyone is going to like it.  Be forewarned, that it’s not your typical YA book and not everyone is going to like it.

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