Book Review: All of the Above (James Dawson)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 319

Release Date: September 3rd 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there’s Polly…love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles…


This review might as well be titled ‘James Dawson, get out of my 16 year old head’. Seriously, reading this book could have been reading my own thoughts 8 years ago. It’s incredible to me how a grown man can so embody the thoughts and feelings of a teenage girl. It’s some incredible character writing there and Dawson deserves applause just for that alone.

The thing I like about All of the Above seems to be the thing others criticise it for. I’ll admit, it does cover an awful lot of topics: there’s sexuality, self-harm, eating disorders, family struggles and about a dozen other things. Some seem to feel that it should have focussed on one of these things, and gone into it in more detail, rather than skimming over a wide range. But to me, that’s what makes the book feel more true to life. When I was in school, my whole life wasn’t just about discovering my sexuality or struggling with an eating disorder: there was a multitude of things going on, because that’s what real life is like.

As mentioned before, the narrator, Toria, is a likeable and realistic narrator and I could relate to her completely, even though it’s been a while since I was her age. She’s a bit cynical and kind of calculating/paranoid when it comes to social reactions – she even has ‘making friends’ down to 3 easy steps – which is very like me. She probably makes friends a bit easier than I ever did though…

I loved the friendships that were formed in the book, as well as the relationships. The intensity of it all is very teenager-like: it’s all or nothing, getting sucked into these friendships until you feel you need a break from each other, and obsessing over a new boy and eventually finding out that was more fun than actually being with him…

I loved that this book didn’t really try and make me think in a certain way about it’s issues: it just highlighted them, without being too preachy or judge-y. I think it’s a great book for teenagers to read, and I know I would have loved this when I was younger. Dawson really is the Queen of Teen fiction and I can’t wait to read more of his books.


If you enjoyed this, you might like Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten


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