Paperback, 352 pages.
Release date: May 1st 2014.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
My best friend was now my deadliest enemy, the one person I'd hate beyond all measure for the rest of my life . . .
Franny Barker's best friend, Alice, is the worst girlfriend in the world according to the many boys of Merrycliffe-on-Sea. She toys with them, then dumps them. But she'll never dump fashion-obsessed Franny. Nothing and no one can come between them.
Not even tousle-haired rock god, Louis Allen, who Franny's been crushing on hard. Until Alice, bored with immature boys and jealous of Franny's new college friends, sets her sights on Louis. Suddenly, best friends are bitter rivals.
Is winning Louis's heart worth more than their friendship? There's only one way for Franny to find out.
Sarra Manning is such a brilliant writer. Every time you think she’s outdone herself, she comes back with another great release that’s bound to take the UKYA scene by storm.
Everyone in Merrycliffe-on-Sea knows about Alice Jenkins: feisty, flighty, a breaker-of-boys-hearts, she is unmissable. She is The Worst Girlfriend in the World (according to the graffiti on the wall of the local boys’ toilets). What most people don’t know is that hidden in Alice’s shadow is her best friend Franny Barker. A fashion fan and newly accepted into a college where Alice won’t be around for her to hide behind, Franny’s about to be forced to make her mark on the world – and maybe even the guys of her new college life.
But Alice is bored with being the only star in a tiny seaside town, and when rugged teenage musician Louis Allen literally rocks up onto her doorstep, Alice sees a way out of her humdrum existence. If only Franny hadn’t been crushing on Louis first. All it takes is one moment for these best friends to turn into mortal enemies and in the battle to win Louis’ heart, they don’t care who gets hurt.
I don't often mention book covers in my reviews, but I have to admit I loved this book's loud, green cover image right from the start. It's so eye-catching and ideal for the fun, youthful story within - and from the instant I opened the book, that story felt completely real. The opening scene is so visual and funny, it makes reading on almost irresistible. Alice and Franny’s adventures will have particular resonance with anyone who grew up in a small town, as they frequent their favourite haunts and dream of escaping the dull backwater streets of the less-than-thriving Merrycliffe-on-Sea.
More than any of her other books, The Worst Girlfriend in the World reminds me a lot of Manning’s debut, Diary of a Crush. It has the same British feel, the same ‘new girl at school’ scene, the same emphasis on the ups and downs of teenage love and camaraderie. It’s about two girls fighting over a boy, but more than that, it’s about friendship. The relationship between Alice and Franny is something so many readers are going to be able to identify with. Both of them face challenges in this novel and they both struggle with overcoming life’s little obstacles – especially now that they don’t have each other to turn to.
There’s more to this story than meets the eye, however, and Manning as ever does not shy away from tackling tough subjects. The circumstances of Franny’s uncertain home life were handled particularly well, with courage as well as sensitivity. Manning’s down-to-earth, no-nonsense writing style paints a humourous yet unflinching portrait of her protagonists, throwing relief into the darkest shadows and never failing to entertain.
Franny herself is a surprisingly driven heroine, fuelled by ambition and passion for her craft – it just takes a second glance for you to uncover it. Starting college shows her that she can survive without Alice constantly by her side – but that’s the last thing that bitter, envious Alice wants. Alice is the kind of girl who makes snap judgements and craves attention. She loves toying with people; acting the puppeteer is the only way she can keep herself from sinking into bored oblivion. As a reader you can see that Alice’s actions – namely, making a move on Franny’s longtime crush Louis – come from a place of insecurity, but I just couldn’t relate to her at all. She’s cruel and petty, and while there are occasional glimmers of redemption, I couldn’t understand why Franny felt so attached to someone who made her feel so miserable. Franny is by no means perfect – she’s evolving all the time and frequently makes mistakes – but Alice was just plain selfish.
In short: a relatively easy read with huge UKYA appeal, The Worst Girlfriend in the World will never be my favourite Sarra Manning book (for a more unique and engaging story, see the fabulous Adorkable) but I don’t doubt that it will find its way into the hearts of many readers, so it gets a strong 3.5 stars from me.