Downside Up by Hayley Long pretty much screams tweenage girl from beginning to end, and is perfect for anyone that liked Catherine Wilkins’ My Best Friend and Other Enemies or Holly Smale’s Geek Girl, from the clever use of word scatterings, thought bubbles, tweets and sarcasm to the completely wondrous fun of getting to read half of the book upside down. Yes, folks, upside down (or should that be downside up?). Ah, the joy of those second takes as people realize your book is the wrong way up, the looks on their faces… priceless.
Ronni’s life has been turned kinda upside down before the story even really begins, since the day that her dad walked out. Ever since, she’s been exerting control by playing up with her mum, staying in bed as long as possible, acting out at school, and generally living in a fantasy land where she’s a mega famous pop star, a world she slips into at will when the real world gets too much to handle. But when Ronni gets a bump on the head, she seems to have been knocked into an alternate reality where she really is a mega famous pop star. A mega famous pop star surrounded by people who are strangely familiar and yet somewhat different… But is being a mega famous pop star all it’s really cracked up to be? Especially when your biggest nemesis is there on the next stage, taunting you, taking over from you…
Hayley Long brings Ronni to life with wonderful clarity, acutely tapping into the pain and emotion of big family issues whilst writing a story that is fun and funny, and seamlessly blending Ronni’s real world with the fantasy one. She is the epitome of the teenage conundrum: she simultaneously wants people to listen to her, but doesn’t actually want to talk (though I don’t think this particular emotional status is actually exclusive to teenagers). Then there is spikey haired Nan to contend with, and Yuri, who is a slightly strange, quite tall, quite thin and quite ordinary looking, but generally invisible Russian boy – isn’t he? So why does he keep turning up? Ronni, though, only has eyes for Stuart – or StuBo - who is generally acknowledged as the best-looking boy in the entire world, if not the entire universe. Isn’t he?
Overall, Downside Up is a brilliantly packaged and cunningly told story that is sure to get the thumbs up by 11-14 year old-ish girls around the country.