The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction
Tapas and Tears by Chris Higgins
Chris Higgins’ Tapas and Tears delivers the exact tone that one would expect from looking at the front cover: a bright, easy and fun read, which is perfect for an audience of 11+ girls.
The story is narrated by the protagonist of the piece, Jaime; a shy yet likeable teenage girl who lives with her single mother. Jaime’s life is turned upside-down when she reluctantly embarks on a foreign exchange trip to Spain, where she is paired up with the tempestuous character of Concha. In an effort to deal with the challenges of her new life in Spain and her tearaway teen partner, Jaime develops an alter-ego, Tira. Tira is not afraid to stand up to the aggressive Concha, and helps Jaime break free from her crippling shyness and attract the object of Concha’s desire, Pablo. But when returning to her home in England, Jaime finds that things have changed; her mother is acting suspiciously and her feisty new alter-ego doesn’t fit in quite so well at home. Just as Jaime thinks that things can’t get any worse, Pablo suddenly turns up in England, followed by an equally unexpected Concha.
Higgins manages to make the story fun and engaging, while dealing with teen issues along the way: going out with boys, growing up, experiencing alcohol, dealing with family problems, and being away from home. While the author does manage to successfully target these issues, it is done light-heartedly; the book is definitely very tame, with the raciest moment of Jaime’s teenage experiences being a brief kiss. While this may attract the attention of a younger audience, any girls above the age of 14 who are more used to watching Skins than reading harmless teen novels, may be slightly bored by the somewhat submissive character of Jaime, and disappointed by her innocent and tame teenage life.
However, while this may not whet the appetite of a more mature audience, younger teenage girls will definitely enjoy this fun and exciting read. Written in the first-person, the character of Jaime is both relatable and likeable, with a confiding tone that draws the reader in, and an enjoyable and often comic storyline to keep the reader thoroughly entertained.
As well as dealing with the topic of typical teenage issues, Higgins also manages to weave an educational element into the story. Set for the most part in Spain, the reader is provided with lots of details and information about Spanish life and culture, as well as including the use of Spanish words. The author doesn’t drown the reader with geographical or educational reference, yet the reader will find themselves subconsciously learning about the Spanish language, culture and lifestyle throughout.
In general, the story is well-written, fun and easy to read, with an engaging storyline and relatable characters. For a young, female teenage audience, it will be hard to put this absorbing and entertaining book down. However, the overall tone and plotline may a litle tame, (and perhaps somewhat predictable) for anyone over the age of 14, who is looking for a more mature and edgy approach to teenage literature.
© Emily Rogers Feb 2010
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