Those of you who have read my reviews before will know that Julia Lawrinson is one of my all time favourite YA writers. Not only does she appear to have a stylistic and emotional range which is triple that of the normal person, but I can honestly say that once upon a time, Skating the Edge changed my life.
It won't come as a surprise then if I tell you that her latest book, Losing It, only took me two days to read, nor that I rudely requested it from the library even though someone else was already reading it. Oops. What can I say, if you've had it longer than a week you're just not keen enough!
Losing It seems to have an almost American Pie like premise. Four friends make a vow to lose their virginity before Leavers (which you Eastern States readers might know as schoolies' week) and plan to compare notes on their various liaisons when they get there. Unsurprisingly, the initial pledge is somewhat motivated by vodka, as all the best worst decisions are. Each girl has her own personal barriers to achieving this goal, and the story is told in five parts; one from the point of view of each girl, and one final segment which centres on all of them. Zoe, the pushy and outgoing, boy-crazy one, sets her sights on her lab partner Matty when it seems apparent that a) he's a shy and nice guy so obviously he would jump at the opportunity to... well, jump Zoe and b) that resident school hot ticket Adam Lenello isn't going to disengage from tonguing the popular girls anytime soon. Abby, a conservative shy-girl with a whole lot of emotional and religious baggage also finds herself gunning for Matty. After a family incident, she runs away and meets him at the park; realising that talking to him makes her feel better, Abby decides that she'd like to do a little more than talk, but soon discovers it doesn't make her feel any better. Mala, strangely not uber-religious but still bound to house arrest by strict Greek parents actually does have a thing for Matty and engineers a devious plot to get him. It goes horribly wrong, with hilarious results. In the final section, Matty meets the beautiful Bree at a popular kids' party and they decide to get out of there. But Bree (who funnily enough is similar in both characterisation and naming as the Bee/Bridget character from Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants) has a serious impediment to getting the deed done, despite the pact being her idea in the first place. You'll have to read it to find out what though, because I won't be the one to spoil it for you.
Now either the book is superbly plotted or I am psychic, but I found myself thinking as I read the first section (Zoe's) "Gee, wouldn't it be funny if all four of the girls hooked up with Matty!" The fact that the idea was ingeniously sown into my impressionable brain is testament to Lawrinson's knack for dramatic foreshadowing. My one gripe is that the ending seems somewhat rushed. Okay, so all the girls have documented their first times or lack of them, and they meet at leavers to share, but what about the other stuff? How do Matty and Mala get to be together after what happened with her parents and grandmother? Does Bree come to terms with her secret? Does Abby forgive her horrible brother and make peace with his new child-bride? And will Zoe ever stop being such a heinous bitch? (Can you tell I liked her least?) The final chapter races for some sort of happy ending which while soft and fuzzy, is less than realistic.
Losing It is populated with familiar people, from the Scotch College boys who refuse to acknowledge a world outside of PLC girls to couples getting frisky in cars at Bold Park. It is a heartily enjoyable book, slightly less dark than Skating the Edge and Bye, Beautiful but honest and thought provoking all the same.
I give this book four out of five backpacks full of prophylactics, and recommend it for ages 15 and up (maybe a mature 13 and up) and for the young at heart.