Review Blog

Apr 08 2020

Taking down Evelyn Tait by Poppy Nwosa

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Wakefield Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781743056974.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Always getting into trouble, temper flaring and hyperactive, Lottie reacts and says things she shouldn't and invariable ends up in the principal's office. Not that she cares, she has developed a free and easy manner with Jerry, or Mr Virk as the other students know him, and enjoys her time on the couch in front of his desk. She doesn't understand how everyone in the school seems to be sucked in by Miss Perfect, Evelyn Tait, the girl intent on undermining her and turning her life upside down. Now Lottie faces suspension - unless she can work out a plan, turn the tables, and become more perfect than Miss Perfect. Her long-time childhood buddy Jude, the boy across the balcony from her apartment building, encourages her to become nicer and kinder than Evelyn, and expose Evelyn's insincerities.
Lottie is a very loveable character, she charges through this story, unaware of her impact on others, the long suffering Jude, her steadfast best friend Grace, even her own family, in disarray following her parent's divorce and father's remarriage. The challenge from Jude, originally motivated by Lottie's vengeance towards Evelyn, gradually becomes a new way of behaving, and perhaps Lottie will finally discover the true meaning of 'sonder', the realisation that others have a life as complex as one's own.
I read this book in one sitting; the main characters drew me in so easily, and I wanted to know what happened. While some of the themes are very familiar - vengeance against the mean girl, rebellion against the step-parent, the childhood friend who turns into a boyfriend - the way they are explored in this novel seems very true to life, and it is so well written. This is not a thriller in the style of The twin by Natasha Preston, though the two books share many themes, Taking down Evelyn Tait is very grounded in real life, sharing more with the loveable You must by Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied.
Nwosa's book is a sympathetic study of divided families, LGBQTI+ relationships, and developing teenage identity learning to negotiate relationships with others. I thoroughly recommend this book for adolescent readers.
Themes: Rivalry, Divorce, Kindness, Friendship, Love.
Helen Eddy

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