Review: What a Way to Go by Julia Forester

Challenge criteria: A book recommended by someone you just met.

(Disclaimer: I won this book in a competition and was not asked to review it.)


1988. 12-year-old Harper Richardson’s parents are divorced. Her mum got custody of her, the Mini, and five hundred tins of baked beans. Her dad got a mouldering cottage in a Midlands backwater village and default membership of the Lone Rangers single parents’ club. Harper got questionable dress sense, a zest for life, two gerbils, and her Chambers dictionary, and the responsibility of fixing her parents’ broken hearts.

Set against a backdrop of high hairdos and higher interest rates, pop music and puberty, divorce and death, What a Way to Go is a warm, wise and witty tale of one girl tackling the business of growing up while those around her try not to fall apart.

Image via Goodreads

What I liked:

I love the 80s culture, and this being set in the late 80s – the year before my parents married, too – was so up my road.

It also dealt fantastically with being a child from a separated family – I’ve no experience in this, but I felt it was covered pretty well – I think we all know the feeling of moving away from where you grew up, or even lived once, and not coming back to friendly faces whenever you came back to visit.

This book is perfect for young adult readers, as it deals with a lot of issues you’d have growing up: a first experience of death, first love, first periods. If I’d read this about ten years ago, I’d have eaten it up.

(bonus point because the copy I had received was signed. Julia Forster, what a cutie.)

What I didn’t like: 

There were a number of short chapters in this, and I think we all know my thoughts on short chapters.

There were also lots of references to cultural issues in the UK at the time (Thatcher being one) and, not having grown up in the time and place, I have to admit I wasn’t very familar with them so a couple of references did go over my head a little.

Out of five:

Five. This was a wonderfully funny book, completely honest and a little heartwarming at times. From a first novel, Julia Forster has made a fan.


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