I couldn't really tell what kind of story it was from the brief description - which is one reason I ultimately read it, in my latest 'buy all the lesbian Kindle books to review!' spree, so I knew if I was putting it into the right categories in the bookstore.
Bianca is a middle class British teenager who gets expelled from her expensive boarding school for something she didn't do, but goes along with it because she hates the place. And right from the get go, I can tell she doesn't have much of a future in the 'real world' - it never even occurs to her that that kind of thing sticks around.
She's smart enough, supposedly, but happily skips school and isn't really interested in studying; is slightly overweight - or thinks she is, much like she always uses makeup; has a fairly stable family life, but is basically ignored by, and tries to ignore, her parents; has few friends locally, and is happily - though very quietly - lesbian. In other words, she's your average self-conscious, slightly defiant teenager, who is more interested in hanging out with her best mate than her family or school.
Except for this mysterious hole in a wall, that has been calling to her all her life. And one night she jumps through it and discovers a stereotypical fairytale princess in a cage, rescues her - and ends up with a naive and magical princess on her hands. Bianca, her best friend and his mates band together to protect Alexandra, sneaking her into school and enthusiastically introducing her to the myriad of weird and exciting things in their world - from toast to cinemas.
Bianca is falling hard for her pretty princess, but so is one of the guys. And Bianca is still trying to persuade Alexandra that she's not her Prince Charming - when a prince actually does ride up and take Alexandra away.
Luckily - or not - he turns out to be a not-so-good-guy, and Alexandra's fairy godmother turns up to get Bianca to come to the rescue. So the band of disaffected teens clamber through the hole in the world, into a series of magical challenges, and personal discovery - and happily ever after, of course.
I can tell four things about Sophie Robbins from reading it:
1) it's her first book
2) she's in her teens
3)...and it draws strongly on her own life experiences
4) I'll probably be picking up any future books she writes.
It's a very decent fantasy aimed at young adult readers, that writes from the perspective of a teenager too well not to have been written by one. It's fun, it covers the perspective of a teenager who hasn't yet come out, and it sidesteps the whole awkward coming out drama, because it's her society that has the problem, not her. Plus, angsty teenage romance!
It could be better - like almost any first book - but it is well worth reading, and a lot better than it could be. And the next book from her is probably going to be twice as good. Given the lack of lesbian teen fantasy, I recommend it highly. Given the lack of self-conscious middle class British lesbian teenagers, I am especially pleased to welcome this book to the tiny genre of lesbian YA fiction!
You can download A Hole in the World for only 99c on Amazon! (Go reward a new lesbian author!)
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