Friday January 4, 2013
Growing up without a father
Review by ROSHINI ANTHONY
This young adult fiction novel does a good job of handling a serious subject with humour and understanding.
Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks
Author: Ellie Phillips
Publisher: Electric Monkey, 295 pages
YOU might be forgiven for thinking that Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks is a book by a stand-up comedian telling the tale of his or her funny growing-up years. At times, it certainly felt like one when I was reading this book. In actuality, though, this is a light-hearted, humorous way of dealing with a rather serious topic: growing up without a father. Mind you, the father in question is not actually dead, though we don’t know that at the beginning of the story.
The book opens with a family dinner to celebrate Sadie’s 15th birthday. The guest of honour is keeping to tradition and opening her birthday cards at the dinner table when she finds one sent by her father. The father whom she has never met, whose identity she doesn’t even know, as he was pretty much an anonymous sperm donor.
Could it be a cruel trick played by former best friend Shonna, with whom Sadie is feuding at the moment? Or could it really, truly be from the other half of her DNA contribution?
Whoever sent the card, it gets Sadie thinking about her father and sends her on a quest to find this nameless figure. Does she succeed? Somewhat, but that’s all you’re going to get from me.
I have to be honest: this book started out a little slow for me. The writing seemed rather young, though I feel a bit embarrassed about saying that since most books that I read are supposedly aimed at a much younger audience.
Nonetheless, Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks seems to be more “young” and less “adult”. However, after about 50 pages in, it started to grow on me a little. After all, what’s not to love about a teenager who has a dry sense of humour (as opposed to the usual broody ones that populate this genre) and whose hobby is trying out various hairstyles (there are several hairstyles to try out in the book if you’re into that) and dreams of owning her own salon someday?
I really loved the concept of Sadie as a protagonist with a personality, still managing to keep her wits about her while on a mission. At some points, I could almost visualise her standing beside me, hand on hip, making sarcastic comments. Yes, more often than not no one likes a sarcastic teenager, but in Sadie’s case, I beg to differ.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was that unlike so many other YA books that conveniently have a complete lack of parental or familial guidance for the teenaged main character, in this one, the protagonist has strong family support.
While the book does bring up the bucket-load of issues Sadie seems to have with her mother, the constant presence of her protective uncle, almost-but-not-quite-deaf great-aunt, a cousin who manages to be more reliable than annoying, and even a friend who could be more, Sadie seems to have more family and loved ones around her than most YA fic protagonists.
Unfortunately, the book did have its negative points, a main one being that I feel that the author left a few strings untied, ones that in my opinion are crucial to the story, though I’m not sure whether that’s because the author has a sequel in mind to tie up the loose ends.
These days, when families are a little more complicated than the standard issue mum, dad and siblings, Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks presents a lovely way to explain growing up within an atypical family.
More importantly, while it starts out as a search for a father, what it ultimately comes down to is a story about finding oneself and being grateful for what one already has. All that and a bunch of fancy hairstyles to try out!