Review Blog

Dec 16 2015

All of the above by James Dawson

cover image

Hot Key Books, 2015. ISBN 9781471404672
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. The small town of Brompton-on-Sea is the last place on earth sixteen-year-old Toria expects much to happen. But when she moves there, it turns out she experiences a lot more than she bargained for, including but not limited to: self-harm, one particularly attractive bass player, two chances at love, eating disorders, a broken-down mini golf course, a very unusual group of friends, and one statue of a disapproving seal. There's one thing for sure - school will be the least of Toria's worries.
One of the best things about All Of The Above is its characters. While several of them are mildly stereotypical, e.g. the overtly 'cool' rebel with pink hair, the flamboyantly gay friend, etc., there are just enough subversions to the norm that the characters feel fresh and real. Toria in particular is an excellent narrator, witty and relatable without being too perfect.
Special mention should be given to Dawson's excellent treatment of serious issues like eating disorders and self-harm, among others, and also in his treatment of sexuality - it's rare to find a book that approaches LGBT issues and characters as well as this.
All of the above is actually quite long for a simple teen novel, but it never quite feels that way. It's not like it roars along at a quick pace, but it flows well and it's easy to read - not just in the technical sense, but in the compelling way the characters and the plot unfold. The humour helps too, smoothing over what could be awkward scenes with Toria's sharp inner dialogue and amusing references to popular culture.
It's hard to find a teen book as funny as this that has such great characters and tackles such serious issues, but All of the above succeeds - truthfully - at all of the above.
Rebecca Adams (university student)

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