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The International Writers Magazine: Review: Diary of a Chav: 'enjoyable and fast paced'

Diary Of A Chav by Grace Dent
Published by Hodder Children’s Books Feb 2008.
ISBN – 13: 978 0 340 93219 3
Rebecca Wass

My initial view of this book, and its title in all its glittering majesty, was that I would hate it. ‘Diary of a Chav’ appears from the outset to be a book that’s trying to hard to be socially relevant, and the first few chapters do little to change this opinion.

The story begins with the protagonist, ‘Shiraz Bailey Wood’, complaining about where she lives and her family, and talking about wanting to move to London. The setting is stereotypical, as you would expect of a book with the title ‘Diary of a Chav’, a working class family in Essex, a pregnant sister, a drug-dealing neighbour, and a girl with a dream to leave. T
he language is forced, with witty sentences and fantastic jokes being ruined by phrases like ‘innit’, making the whole thing pretty difficult to get into.

However, I struggled on, and I am so pleased that I did. Once you get past the somewhat stagnant plot at the beginning of the novel, the book transforms into a wonderful story about working hard and achieving your dreams. Shiraz quickly learns that in order to get on in life she has to leave some of her more ‘chavvy’ qualities behind her, and learn to get on with people; however, it is her confidence and the fact that she ‘keeps it real’ that makes her a relatable and likeable character, and ultimately lands her a job in journalism.

The book is enjoyable and fast paced, and once you get used to the style you become absorbed in Shiraz’ world, and will her on to succeed. As a reader you become involved in her highs and lows, and find yourself cringing along with her throughout most of the narrative. You begin to see things from her point of view, and realise that as a reader you have come at the novel with the same preconceptions as the employers, I feel that this is part of Dent’s reasoning behind the title. She sets her novel up as a stereotype and then blows it apart by creating a character that is relatable and intrinsically good.

The moral of this book rings true not only for its protagonist within the story, but also for the reader: to never to judge a book by its cover, innit.

Rebecca Wass March 2008
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Rebecca is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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