How to Ditch Your Fairy: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine LarbalestierWelcome to New Avalon, the best city in the world–just ask any of its residents. New Avalon has the most important celebrities, the tallest buildings, and the best slang. It also has the best sports school in the country, but you probably already knew that since it has a reputation for training future famous athletes by the truckload.

As far as fourteen-year-old Charlie is concerned life in New Avalon is just about perfect, especially now that she’s getting to know here totally pulchy and crush-worthy new neighbor Stefan. The only real problem is Charlie’s parking fairy.

It’s not that fairies are uncommon, far from it. Many New Avaloners have fairies that help with everything from finding loose change to finding the perfect clothes. Some fairies make people charming and famous, some keep them from ever getting cold or losing their grip. Charlie’s fairy helps her find a perfect parking space anywhere, any time.

Charlie can’t drive. Charlie hates cars. Charlie is tired of always smelling vaguely of  gasoline. And Charlie is sick of being passed around to her all of her neighbors going to the doctor or some other important appointment where they need to find good parking.

Charlie is desperate to get rid of her fairy through any means necessary. And sometimes desperate people do stupid things like refusing to help one of the most important people in school and teaming up with their archenemy (and even a few other, more dangerous, things). Only time will tell if it will all be enough to solve Charlie’s parking problem in How to Ditch Your Fairy (2008) by Justine Larbalestier.

Larbalestier splits her time between Australia and the United States (specifically New York City) and has written books set in both countries. How to Ditch Your Fairy is set in neither. Instead, Larbalestier has created an imaginary country; an amalgam of the two. The effect is rather like being thrown into the deep end of the pool to learn to swim. The setting, the slang, and the culture are utterly alien and initially quite confusing. (The book includes a character as clueless as some readers will feel about the ways of New Avalon as well as several helpful glossaries at the end of the book.)

While the total immersion is a little daunting at first, it helps get right to the action of the story. Larbalestier introduces a fascinating and foreign city readers will love learning about throughout the story. Even though New Avalon doesn’t exist outside of this story, it feels like it does thanks to Larbalestier’s expert depiction.

Charlie is also a refreshing addition to the already rich cadre of young adult heroines. She eats, drinks and breathes sports (like most of her fellow students). Charlie’s passion for sports is embedded in every part of How to Ditch Your Fairy but there is more to the story, and the heroine, than sports. Some readers will fully identify with Charlie and her enthusiasm for all things sports. Others will appreciate her eagerness because it so clearly reflects the fierce commitment needed to follow a dream.

How to Ditch Your Fairy starts with a familiar girl, a character you could have met anywhere, but by the end of the story it will be clear that this book is completely original and completely entertaining.

Possible Pairings: Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Jungle Crossing by Sydney Salter

Exclusive Bonus Content: I had the very, very, very good fortune of talking to Justine Larbalestier at a signing event at Books of Wonder a few weeks ago (right before making a fool of myself in front of Scott Westerfeld, but that’s a different story) and mentioned to her my appreciation of her frank discussion of the problems surrounding the cover for her latest book, Liar. (Sound unfamiliar? I talk about it my review of the book and here as well.) Anyway, we got to talking and Larbalestier said she favored the Australian version of the cover.

Before talking to her I’d had my own dilemma deciding whether to get a hardcover or paperback version of How to Ditch Your Fairy. I tend to prefer hardcovers in my personal collection and I ultimately bought that one because I decided I preferred that cover art (the top photo here). I still do, but after reading the book I’m torn because I think the paperback version (bottom photo) is more true the story even though both capture the “spirit” or the book in some sense. I also like that both version keep the same attractive color scheme. I’m happy with my choice (and that Ms. Larbalestier applauded the power of blogs in my copy!) but I decided I’d present you with both covers here to get a fuller sense of the overall package.