BOOK REVIEW (Apr 2014): Weirdos vs. Quimboids by Natasha Desborough

Confession: this isn’t actually the first book I’ve read for my April UKYA Readathon. But you know that feeling when you hear a song and you’re like “oh my… This song is *me*! This person *knows* me. I must become best friends with them immediately!” Well, that’s how I feel about this book and it’s author. So it just had to be my first review.

A slightly delirious fangirl moment between me and WvQ

A slightly delirious fangirl moment between me and WvQ

Seriously. I picked it up at about 4pm yesterday and soon realised that everything I had planned for the evening was gonna go out the window. Stopping for dinner was an inconvenience. My husband was banned from playing on his XBox because I considered it too distracting- although my giggles and exclamations probably drove him to distraction. Everything was put on hold until I finished the book, which I did at about 11pm with a cry of “There are no words!”

Twenty four hours on, I’m attempting to find the words to tell you why this book is so great without sounding like a total incoherent fangirl.

‘Weirdos vs. Quimboids’ (WvQ) tells the story of Blossom Uxley-Michaels (AKA Bumface) and her partner in crime, Petrina-Ola Olsen (Poohead), the school Weirdos who find themselves propelled into the limelight when they join the school radio station and start their own band, Camel Toe. But how much of themselves are they willing to sacrifice and who are they willing to hurt in their quest for fame and the affections of the two hottest guys in school?

Me at 15... Complete with Mount Vesuvius erupting on my chin

Me at 15… Complete with Mount Vesuvius erupting on my chin

At school, I was a Weirdo (the capital W is important). I had what was considered at the time to be a dubious fashion sense. I never went to any of the cool house parties. I had little to no luck with members of the opposite sex. I expressed my emotions through song lyrics and wrote melodies using the only four chords I knew on my guitar (I spent more time polishing the thing than playing it…). My classmates made it excruciatingly clear that I was not, and would never be, cool. “Vicks Vapour Rub” is a nickname that haunts me to this day (oh yeah, my real name is Victoria- you kinda need to know that for the nickname to make sense…)

But the one place I felt at home was at the hospital radio station where I volunteered and hosted the requests show every Friday night. On the air, I suddenly became confident and witty and my somewhat retro music taste was something to be admired rather than ridiculed. Just like the girls in WvQ, working on a radio show was where I blossomed (yeah, I went there- puntastic!).

What I’m trying to say is that Blossom’s voice speaks to me because I am a Weirdo. Luckily, as you get older you find that pretty much everyone is. But I remember that conflict between what you think is cool and what everyone else thinks is cool and wrestling with how much you’re willing to sacrifice in order to *be* cool. And Natasha Desborough captures this perfectly in WvQ. She *knows*. Even Slangers of the highest order, like Fiona Tittledown in the book, have their Weirdo elements as much as they’d do anything to hide it. One of the things I love about this book is that it says don’t hide it. Embrace your inner Weirdo and everyone will be so much happier. Ultimately being a Weirdo *is* cool, and the ultimate kind of cool at that because you’re being true to yourself.

The depiction of Blossom’s bizarre family life is another highlight of the book for me. I don’t know many people who weren’t embarrassed by their parents at some point, but the Uxley-Michaels take it to another level (Level 3 on the Scale of Shame) with public nudity, rampant veganism, and duelling with Wizards at dawn. It’s a big moment in your life when you realise that your parents are merely human and not, as they would have you believe, perfect. Blossom is in the process of learning this, but there is such love and family unity in their household that all indiscretions can be forgiven and all quirks embraced.

And then there’s the theme of friendship. They say two is company, and Blossom and Petrina’s friendship is honest and, at times, enviable. But three is a crowd and poor Walter, who has been friends with Blossom forever, finds himself increasingly estranged from his former best buddies. I was rooting for Walter all the way through- he’s a great character and really comes into his own by the end of the book.

The story itself is perfectly paced and totally believable. Desborough has this amazing knack of setting up a situation so you may guess what the outcome will be, but the joy is in waiting for Blossom and those in her world to figure it out themselves. And the ending is not totally unexpected, but it’s exactly the ending you hope for and has a few surprise twists that left me fist-pumping the air at their sheer geniusness (I know that’s not actually word, but I’m working on it).

All things considered, WvQ is funny, freaking hilarious in fact, but it has a real depth and warmth. I know it’s my first review but I don’t think I’ll regret giving WvQ a full 5 out of 5 with two thumbs up. It’s everything I want from a book and more. Also, if you don’t already, make sure you follow Natasha on Twitter, @TashDesborough. As she tweeted me the other day: “Power to the Weirdos and all that!”

‘Weirdos vs. Quimboids’ is available now. The sequel, ‘Weirdos vs. Bumskulls’, is released May 8th, 2014. Both are published by Catnip Publishing Ltd.

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