Book Review: # 32: The Lives and Loves of Jesobel Jones by Anna Mainwaring

Monday, 13 April 2015

Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for the author. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. 
In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Product details:
Publisher: Portal Press
Format: Paperback
Length: 193 pages
Published: 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Source: ARC sent by the author

Jesobel Jones can bake. In a truly triumphant, appearing-on-TV kind of way. But this means nothing to the rest of the world, because apparently all that cake mix is starting to show – in all the wrong places. So when she lands an invite to the Party of Year by the Boy of Her Dreams, she wonders whether it’s time for a new, improved Jess. But will life still taste as good?

Anna Mainwaring’s debut is a light-hearted and sometimes poignant take on the pressures that face teenage girls. It’s hard to smile in all those selfies when you don’t like the girl who looks back at you. But which is more important – looking perfect or being happy?

So originally I was contacted by Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts about a blog tour for the book: The Lives and Loves of Jesobel Jones. Now unfortunately I was away on holiday when the blog tour would be running, but due to my interest in the book I agreed to help anyway I could. A few days later the author, Anna, contacted me asking if I'd like a review copy sent my way. Of course I just had to accept and I'm so glad that I did because frankly I loved this book. It was a quirky and uplifting contemporary that I managed to fly through on a three hour train journey down to London. I literally could not put the book down. So if I broke it down, what did I think of it?

In my opinion this plot is extremely easy to follow, it's well structured and develops gradually at a steady pace. Never once does anything feel rushed or ever developing at too slow a pace that makes the reader want to fall asleep. However, in this book there are two main plot points to focus on - the party and prom and how our main protagonist journeys towards these two destinations. The novel follows our main character Jesobel (Jess) and her journey as she deals with her weight, her friendships, her love interests and the relationships with her family. Now this book is pitched from the synopsis as a book that's primary concern is the weight issue that Jess has and while this is true and is a strong feature to highlight in a YA book these days, there is so much more to it. Jess's issue with her body image and her desire to confirm to societies demands speaks very strongly in representation of most female teenagers in the world today. It is important however to distinguish once again that this is NOT a book about a teenager's struggle with weight loss alone, but also the effects that attempting to fit in with the ideals of others can have on other factors in your life. 

Now this book takes on a humour that is very appropriate for the tone of the novel. For such a novel that approaches delicate themes that are not in any way as light and fluffy as a Victoria sponge, this novel approaches humour in a way that in no way underlines these issues but is used as a feature to enhance them. An example of this used in context is definitely through Jess's narration and her development as a character, but we'll get to that. For now I want to briefly mention the novels relatable factors and how I believe this would suit well for a teenage/young adult audience. The way that topics are approached are delicate enough to discuss but at times can also be blunt enough that you would only really understand having been a teenager once in your life - hence why I believe its so relatable, it impacts all. However, although I agreed with the subtle references and drops of youth culture in terms of acronyms such as 'LOL' and 'OMG', there was one or two that I had to think very hard about because even though I once used this horrific language in texts, I found some difficult to understand. On this front I think I would have liked a little more of a relaxed tone on some of the acronyms, but of course this is just personal preference.

This is probably going to be my favourite part to discuss in this review because there were so many characters that I loved. First of all, I have to get my feelings about Jesobel off my chest because I thought she was a kick ass female protagonist with a hearty sense of humour who wouldn't take crap from anyone. Exactly what we need in our teenage heroines! Her sense of humour is conveyed so well in her sarcastic and witty narration and some of her one liners definitely made me chuckle on the train. This is something that in books very rarely happens to me. I do tend to find books humorous but there are very few that do indeed make me Laugh Out Loud (LOL!) Behind her humorous traits, Jess is a girl that I'm sure some readers would find really relatable as some might have felt in her position before. She's slightly overweight and she's fine with it until the high school mean girls take it upon themselves to post a video online, showing Jess in her true form. I felt really sorry for Jess (I mean I know that's how you're supposed to feel) but I loved that as the novel progressed and Jess's life began to change that the message of the novel was to love who you are, no matter the flaws. Yes that extra slice of cake might be bad for you, but so what? You can work it off if you try. I loved this message so much. 

We also get an insight into Jess's relationships with her family - we have her mother, an uptight ex super model, a father who just wants everything to work out, one sister who has an eating disorder, one sister with an imaginary friend and a gran who spends her life being either drunk or high. I loved Gran. I have to say it, she was probably my favourite character in the book because behind the facade of spliff smoking there was the wise and just voice of reason that was needed so desperately in this novel to show true realism. Her advice was insightful and at times overly pragmatic but also quite humorous to read about. I thoroughly enjoyed how we got that special insight into each of the family members, especially her older sister as well and how her struggle with her eating disorder could be aided with the help of Jess, and vice versa. Jess' other sister Lauren was adorable and that scene with the using muesli as sawdust had me cackling with laughter. Her friends Hannah and Izzie were equally exciting to read about although I would have liked to see as much as death with Hannah's character as we got with Izzie, just to balance it out a bit. Matt was the stereotypical douchebag that everyone loves to hate, especially after his treatment of Jesobel and I delightfully enjoyed Alex as a character. What at first I was unsure about in terms of Jess and Alex's relationship was soon replaced by thoughts of how true to life it actually was. Not every relationship can be as classic as a Disney tale, you do often have times where friendships come in between and this is why I found it so realistic - I thought this was very true to life and I'm glad Anna included it.

So what did I think of it overall? Well frankly each element of this book was decorated to perfection - an extremely enjoyable read. The Lives and Loves of Jesobel Jones was light hearted, quick and thrilling read with humour that will make any reader laugh out loud. Anna Mainwaring tackles a sensitive subject that teenagers of the age will understand and appreciate! I give The Lives and Loves of Jesobel Jones a 4 out of 5 on my classification scale! 

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