Monday, 31 July 2017

Review: 'Piglettes' by Clémentine Beauvais

PiglettesIt's not often that a book really lives up to its hype for me, but Piglettes is an exception to that rule. As far as YA novels go, I usually reach for the ones set in far off mystical lands or that adapt fairy tales and legends. Occasionally a contemporary romance slips in, but, while they do entertain me, they tend to bore me as well. So I was slightly apprehensive about starting Piglettes. Would I enjoy it as much as I was promised? Turns out that yes, I would be. Beauvais utterly charmed me.Thanks to Pushkin Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 06/07/2017
Publisher: Pushkin Press
A wickedly funny and life-affirming coming-of-age roadtrip story - winner of France's biggest prize for teen and YA fiction 
Mireille, Astrid and Hakima have just been voted the three ugliest girls in school by their classmates on Facebook. But does that mean they're going to sit around crying about it?... 
Well, maybe a little, but not for long! Climbing onto their bikes, the friends set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris. The girls will find fame, friendship and happiness on their journey, and still have time to eat a mountain of food (and drink the odd glass of wine) along the way. But will they really be able to leave all their troubles behind? 
Piglettes is a hilarious, beautiful and uplifting story of three girls who are determined not to let online bullying get them down.
Many books try to discuss the crushing weight of expectations on young girls, but not many do it with as much wit and heart as Beauvais does in Piglettes. Three girls find themselves crowned the top three "pigs" in their school for being ugly/fat/fill in any pejorative you can think off. Yet, unexpectedly, this ends up bringing these three girls together in a way that is unlike what I've read before. Piglettes strikes me as truly different from other YA novels in that it doesn't set out to get revenge on bullies or change these girls until they are accepted. Throughout the novel Beauvais makes it clear that although the girls are getting praise for their actions, there are also those who try and find any and every reason to bring them down, to criticise them or use their story for their own gain. So although their world doesn't change, Mireille, Astrid and Hakima do, and that is where the true brilliance of this novel lies. Yes, the way our world treats teenage girls and women needs to change, but just because it's doing so slowly doesn't mean we can't still grow and rise. Piglettes will fill you with a happiness and cheer that makes facing any challenge possible.

In Mireille Beauvais creates a stunning protagonist. Although the novel is about all three girls, it is really Mireille's perspective we get throughout. Her thoughts about herself, her friends, her family and the world are exactly those of a teenager, but Beauvais manages to avoid making her into a cliche. Perhaps no 15-year old is quite that witty or loquacious, but it is fitting. All three girls grow and mature throughout their journey but Beauvais manages to avoid the traps of the genre by not romanticising them. Mireille and Beauvais see those traps and then circumvent them masterfully. I was very intrigued by the characters of Hakima and Kader, the former who finds herself inclueded in the Pig Pageant in part due to her skin colour. Their stories are both drastically different and, in some ways, similar to those of Astrid and Mireille and one of my favourite parts of the story is the growing understanding these characters have of each other.

Clémentine Beauvais's writing throughout the novel is pithy, witty and emotive. The book is both light and heavy at the same time, a balance that is very difficult to achieve. Also, there is a meta-quality to the novel, with Mireille frequently addressing the reader and their potential expectations from her story. This allows Mireille to claim the story as hers in a way I enjoyed very much. Beauvais divides her book into three parts which function very neatly as the three acts in any play. There's the set-up, the juicy middle and the climax, each with its own resonance. Beauvais doesn't allow any too lofty morals or "lessons" to overshadow the fun of her book, but they are there and reveal themselves at the right time. Piglettes is definitely a modern novel. Beauvais intersperses her narrative with Tweets and newspaper articles as the girls travel to Paris, adding another dimension to her story. In the end, it is not the world that has changed but the girls who have grown. They realise that the goals they set for themselves at the beginning are perhaps not what they truly want, that people change, or don't, and that not everything is always as it seems. I was both surprised and impressed by the ending of this novel, which is what set it truly apart for me from other YA coming-of-age novels!

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

I adored Piglettes and its quick wit and heartfelt emotions. It's both funny and touching, both true and outlandish enough to change how you look at things. I will definitely be looking for more of Beauvais' work in the future. I'd recommend this to fans of YA and coming-of-age novels.

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