3.5* – I’m reading a lot of promising debut novels these days, and Poptastic is another. For the longest time, I didn’t know where the story was going, but I was enjoying the atmosphere, which is reminiscent of British TV shows such as Skins or Lip Service. It was fascinating in the way a car accident on the opposite lane is.
While celebrating her twenty-seventh birthday with her best friends, Julia falls under the spell of the sexy and scandal-prone singer Krisha. For a short while, this new relationship seems to brighten her otherwise mundane life, where the most exciting (and unwanted) thing is her role as a bridesmaid at her ex Freya’s wedding. She soon finds out that dating a pop star is not all it’s touted to be.
The main character, Julia, is, at first, as shallow and unlikable as can be. But as the story goes on, there’s some real character growth after Julia hits her version of rock bottom.
It’s kind of obvious from the start that the right person for her is just in front of her, and even the author’s hints aren’t exactly subtle about it (they’re not entirely in your face either) but subtlety and mentions of booze every other paragraph don’t really go hand in hand, so it makes sense. Julia goes through a lot of long-overdue soul-searching and faces choices about the kind of person and friend she wants to be. She also realises her rock bottom isn’t everyone’s when one of her best friends goes through an even tougher time.
The narrative is gritty and seedy, which makes it a tad surprising that the one love scene the story has been building up to is fade to black. I mean, if we can read about vomit and suicide attempts, maybe we can get a little skin and heavy sighs too? Also, what’s wrong with collecting Star Wars figurines? Though I guess the rules are not the same for nerdy lesbians and bullying straight guys.
I wasn’t sure what to think of this book, and I’ve had a hard time rating it. There’s not a lot of what I usually enjoy in it. Yet there’s plenty of other things, things I don’t always go to, that take me out of my comfort zone. I liked that it sometimes made me laugh when I least expected it, that it’s also so very British in that dry tenderness it brings to pathetic characters. Poptastic might not be the kind of book I usually reach for but I’ll keep my eye out for Holmes’ next one.