Tag Archives: William Nicholson

Dare I recommend a book?

Well. Do I?

Some discussion broke out the other day after my review of Losing It. I was halfway to sending an email to a young reader of my acquaintance, suggesting he/she read Losing It, when I came to my senses and thought I might have to ask permission from the parents first. And my next thought was that they’d think ‘there goes that tiresome woman again’. So I didn’t.

Steve Augarde left comments saying he thought recommendations were fine, but even he felt he’d prefer it to come to him rather than directly at any child of his. I brought the subject up with some visitors to our house yesterday. They also felt recommendations were OK, but they too would like any ‘sexy’ recommendation to come via them.

So we’re back to my old complaint about school libraries where they are afraid of parents turning to the press if any child comes home with a dubious book.

I could position myself in a bookshop near the shelf that hopefully houses Losing It and point it out to prospective readers. How long until they kick me out? I know it can work a treat with ‘ordinary topic’ novels, but probably not with sex. And as I said the other day, there is really very little of it in Losing It.

When I read Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden a few weeks ago, I was struck by how sensitively, but graphically, she wrote about the taboo lovemaking. It made me compare it with William Nicholson’s Rich and Mad, which the press have written about a lot more. Presumably because that lovemaking is OK, where incest isn’t.

I’m doing a lot of remembering all of a sudden, wondering why old people believe that young readers will copy any behaviour they read about in a book. Someone I knew had a son aged fourteen at the time Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now was published, and she felt that if her son was allowed to read HILN, he would automatically assume that sex between young cousins is perfectly all right, and go ahead and do it. Why would he? Reading such a marvellous novel won’t instantly change your intelligent child into someone with no sense at all.

Let’s face it. Do young readers even want old people to recommend books with a potentially sexy content? We’re embarrassing.

And did Son clear reading Doing It by Melvin Burgess with me? He felt a strong need to vet it. You can’t let a mother read just anything, can you?

Della says: OMG!

My lucky eavesdrop bore fruit a few days after the love and sex event at Waterstone’s. Keris Stainton who was telling William Nicholson and Melvin Burgess about her new novel in the signing queue, very kindly offered to send me a copy of the book. I did hint very heavily, I must admit, but it was sweet of her, even so.

As Daughter said, turning the book over and studying the cover of Della says: OMG!, it’s quite good. She liked the Facebook page design, and thought the plot sounded OK too. That’s also what Meg Cabot says in her cover quote, so I reckon we are all fairly agreed on this.

This is a well written, and easy to read, book about young love. It says it’s not suitable for younger readers, but I’d like it to be read by fairly young girls. You’re only too young for it if the forthright language upsets you. It’d be worth young girls getting the message before it’s too late, so I think earlier rather than later.

Della’s diary ends up on Facebook, and gets quoted in text messages (to the new boyfriend, no less) and pages find their way to people she knows. Who’s doing this? And how will Della cope?

She and her best friend Maddy discuss their boyfriends in depth, and we see the problems facing them regarding bitchy girls, gorgeous boys, fancying more than one, and tricky sibling relationships. It’s light, but still deals with things girls like reading about.

When Melvin met William

It was almost ‘ladies only’ at Waterstone’s in Deansgate last night. We’d come for the sex. A little bit of love, too, but mostly sex. I noticed on the poster that it was titled Adult Author Talk, which would explain the ban on under-13s. Melvin Burgess is no longer the only one. William Nicholson has joined him in the very small club of writers who have tackled sex for YA readers, without confusing the issue with vampires and things.

William and Melvin warmed up in the adjoining Costa, and when they arrived in the events room they sat down in the wrong chairs, but dealt with it by swapping their books round to where they sat. Alistair Spalding from Egmont introduced them, and didn’t seem to get them too mixed up.

William Nicholson and Melvin Burgess

The very well spoken and polite sounding William started, on the grounds that it was he who has a new book out, Rich and Mad. (It’s confession time again, because I’ve not had time to read it. Yet. I’d seen the news that William’s doing the Groucho Club tonight, with his book, and been a little disappointed that I couldn’t make it. So a last minute piece of intelligence that he’d be coming here pre-Groucho was more than welcome. I lead such a boring life that I was free. Naturally.)

William Nicholson

He may be 62, but inside he’s still 16, and he told us about his early love life, such as it was and about what passed for p*rn in those days. He feels there’s a need for more books like the one he’s just written, and he and Melvin did that thing where people admire each other’s work. Whereas William’s teen years were quite chaste in his boys’ school with the purposely ugly ‘hags’ employed so as to avoid stirring any sexual feelings, Melvin reckons that a film from his teens would need to be an 18. Yes, well.

Melvin claims to have been scared of girls in his teens, while William was taken to a brothel at 18. He fantasised about American cheerleaders, and Melvin really didn’t like school at all. And as Anne Fine found, he did want to shock when he wrote Doing It. William has been all set for a ‘storm of outrage’ and it hasn’t materialised. Could it be that we are seven years on from Doing It?

We all agreed that the hardest thing with books like these is to get them past the parents of prospective readers. The cover of Rich and Mad might make it hard for it to be unobtrusive, and I heard there was one school that has cancelled an event due to fears of upsetting people. The head teacher read the book between booking William and the event.

Melvin Burgess

Not surprisingly, Melvin wants readers to be ’empowered rather than protected’ and feels that schools are just the right places to do this, if they could just escape their fear of complaints to the press. He told us about Morris Gleitzman turning up at an event wearing his dressing gown which didn’t go down well with the school. On a brighter note, William had a good school event on Wednesday morning, and was heartened by the students’ discussion on love and sex.

Anyone who wants to discuss anything with William is welcome to email him on his website. He describes it as ‘Paypal’ style, where your email address isn’t made available to him, so you’re quite safe. He’s used to silly questions, but would most likely prefer good ones. He’s had mainly good feedback for Rich and Mad, and he read us a short excerpt from the book.

William Nicholson and Melvin Burgess

For the signing afterwards it looked like many in the audience had brought all their favourite books along. Not great for sales, perhaps, but it’s good to see how keen people are. I believe my local blogging colleague from Wondrous Reads was present. I meant to say hello properly, but gaga-hood struck (me) again, and then she was gone. When Waterstone’s staff started removing the chairs I took the hint and stood up. It takes more than some missing chairs to make a bookwitch leave. I hung on to the bitter end, but not so late that it was dark for my walk through Manchester.