Wednesday, 22 October 2014

'Stella' by Helen Eve

*This review will contain spoilers!*

I don't think I have enough words to describe my hatred of this novel. I don't understand how it got published and I hope no one else reads this book, because it's one of the biggest waste of spaces I've ever experienced. 
'Stella' is a typical teen drama, along the lines of 'Pretty Little Liars' but with no likable characters and no redeeming factors. It tells the story of new girl Caitlin Clarke, who is absolutely in awe of the perfect and popular Stella Hamilton: the queen of the school, the ruler of everyone, blah blah blah. So far, so extremely average.
The actions of the characters fit better in a young child's book (putting their hands in the middle and chanting "Stars aligned!" is absolutely pathetic; I am a teenager and I know lots of teenagers and none of them are as childish as this), but there are so many things in this book that I utterly condemn, it makes me physically burn with anger:
1) It promotes anorexia. Not in a "I'm just gonna touch upon this here and then leave it", but in a shoving it down your throat that you will never amount to anything unless you starve yourself. As someone who has struggled with eating a lot in the past, I'm automatically very wary of books that include this issue, but promoting it? That's absolutely ridiculous! There are enough media outlets trying to convince young girls to starve themselves, we don't need published books encouraging them to as well. How does this book promote anorexia, you ask? Let me put a few of the quotes that are included:
  • "She never eats. It's amazing."
  • "It means we can eat, or more accurately, not eat, any time we please."
  • "Stella didn't eat a bite."
  • "After Fourth Form you don't get picked on for being skinny."
  • "[They] only ate visually appealing food in public. If they ate anything at all, that was."
  • "I no longer ate junk food."
  • "You've got so skinny I doubt any of mine will fit you."
...Is it just me that thinks this is absolutely inappropriate? None of the girls get any ill or receive any negative attention for it either; none of them get warned that they should probably start eating again, or that they really need to look after themselves, or that they're going to end up seriously damaging themselves. I think that is extremely inappropriate for a published novel that is aimed towards young girls. Whoever let this book get published with all of that content is ridiculous. 

(On a side note; If you want to read a good book about anorexia, read 'Wintergirls' by Laurie Halse Anderson. She deals with the subject matter so well and it doesn't promote it at all, but rather teaches you exactly why it's a terrible disease and an attitude you should not adopt.)
2) It promotes promiscuity. Yeah, yeah, I know that's not a massive deal for anyone anymore, because society has completely changed how people think about one night stands and sleeping around, but again I have a problem with this sort of conduct being encouraged towards young girls. Stella constantly convinces everyone else to sleep around, despite not having done it herself and being to embarrassed to admit that, when really it's better to encourage people that losing your virginity is not the be all and end all, it's just another step along a very long road that you can take your time to walk along. 
3) It promotes alcohol and drugs. Again, for an older reader I'm used to reading books about this so it's not a big deal to me, but when there is a twelve year old character drinking wine, getting drinks bought for her by older men and smoking it seems like something has gone seriously wrong there.
I'm sure you're thinking "well there must be some redeeming factors in this novel!". Well you would be wrong there. Generally in a book that has a double narrative that are fighting against one another, you're supposed to like one character more than the other. As Caitlin is the first character we encountered, I assumed that our liking was supposed to be swung towards her, but by the end I absolutely despised her. If you make a big point of saying how much you hate the way the school is run and then turn into the evil overlord you've been attempting to overthrow, you are ridiculous. Therefore, this novel is ridiculous. The ending is rushed; where it could have been fleshed out well to cause some actual real life in danger conflict it's over in two or three pages, contrasting to the long dragged out high school arguments that really could have done with being cut down. And with the open ending hinting towards a sequel, I highly hope that's not going to happen. 
I cannot recommend this novel. If you ever think about picking it up, please just put it down and run away. I've lost precious hours of my life to this book and I'm never going to get them back. 


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  2. " It promotes anorexia". Who doesn't?
    Right from TV reality shows to top "who -call-themselves" models have espoused this formula.

    1. I'm reviewing just this one book, not society as a whole. Yes, society is broken, but it doesn't mean that we should condone it!