YOUNG ADULT//You Only Live Once- Jess Valance*


YA fiction has become so much cooler (and, in some cases, better) than it was when I was younger. The topics on offer are such that today’s teenagers can safely explore all aspects of growing up- and I envy them so much! I was attracted to this novel for two reasons:

  1. The cover is AMAZING (I know, I know, never judge a book etc…)
  2. It’s set in Brighton, my adopted hometown. Apparently I know someone who used to work with Jess Vallance, which is even cooler.

Gracie finishes her GCSEs and takes herself off to A&E after deciding she has a life threatening tropical disease that’s definitely going to finish her off. Except… it doesn’t. So, armed with the liberation of no study and a summer to do whatever she wants, Gracie goes off on a journey of self-discovery. This isn’t an X-Factor journey, either. This is a journey that sees her grappling with first love and sexuality, an Australian hippy, death and a bungee jump type experience that’s a little… cheeky.

I loved Gracie. She reminded me a little of Georgia Nicolson (I discovered Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging on my first holiday to Brighton, coincidentally.) She reminded me of all the clever, funny, dedicated girls I taught during my years as a teacher and I understood that feeling that students get after they finish their exams- the deflation that they could feel after so much pressure being heaped on them, with a side of order of uncertainty. I even sympathised with her when she was at her most unsympathetic; I would not be a teenager again if you paid me. Special mention needs to go out to Gracie’s no-bullshit best friend Til, too. A voice of reason in the midst of Gracie’s melodrama (I saw A LOT of my teenage self in Gracie), I loved her no-nonsense approach to everything her friend threw at her.

I also loved that this book is purely, unashamedly funny. There are not enough funny, joyful books in the world. Yes, Gracie makes some really annoyingly bad choices at times, but her voice is so relatable and she’s so endearing that you forgive her anything eventually.

Teenage girls are brilliant, maddening, funny and weird- and I feel like Jess Vallance got this spot on. I’m also really glad that this is the start of a series, because I reckon these might become as beloved by their audience as their forebears. If you know any teenagers doing their GCSEs, buy them this book. They might even show you some gratitude.

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