Louise Levene - The Following Girls (3 stars)

A high school novel full of 1970s period detail but lacking in character

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Louise Levene - The Following Girls

(Bloomsbury Circus)

Sixteen year old Amanda Baker finds school unremittingly tedious. Her only solace is her gang, The Mandies, who live off a diet of cigarettes, gossip and practical jokes. That is, until Amanda is chosen to be the confidante of golden girl with a dirty secret, Julia Smith, who soon complicates everything.

The Following Girls captures secondary school life very well: the endless dull days, the restrictive nature of routine and the yearning to be an adult. But although the book includes plenty of troubled young girls, as well as absent mothers and angst-filled fathers, the narrative never lingers on anyone long enough for the reader to become anything more than a passing observer of the character’s lives.

Those who attended school in 1970s England will revel in the period details and Levene also includes some clever barbs at the limited career choices for young women. But The Following Girls lacks the one thing that teenage girls always have in abundance: feeling.

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