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Diary of a Chav
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there isn't much to worry about in this funny coming-of-age novel. Some characters drink and have sex, but Shiraz only has one drink and, later, gets one kiss. She is a mouthy character who does poorly in school and hangs out with some trouble-makers. There are references to fast food and lots of British slang throughout (a "chav," for instance, is an insult for a white working-class person who dresses in hip hop clothes).
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What's the story?
Shiraz gets a diary for Christmas instead of an iPod, but she dives in anyway, detailing her life in a working-class British suburb, with friends who are often in trouble at school and in town. Mouthy Shiraz plans to go work at a sporting goods store when she's done with school, but a pushy teacher, a driven sister -- and her own experiences with the real world -- encourage her to dream a bit bigger. But even as she begins to achieve, Shiraz never loses her spirit, or forgets her roots, from her obnoxious but loving family to her friends at the derisively nicknamed "Superchav Academy."
Is it any good?
Shiraz is an unlikely young adult heroine; a working-class girl who hangs out with hoodlums, and who dreams of finishing school and working in a sporting goods store. If she's not picked up for a reality show that is. But readers will quickly realize that behind her mouthy, insulting comments, there is a really smart, funny -- and caring -- girl who will eventually find a bigger dream. But while there is a good lesson here, this is certainly not a serious book. There are plenty of outrageous moments: To fix her fighting family, for example, Shiraz writes a letter that lands them on a British talk show. (In her letter she complains that her mother doesn't want her to continue her education, even though Shiraz now wants a good job "where…I don't have to pull mashed rats' feet out of lamb kofta all day and go home smelling of a dead sheep's bumhole.")
Readers may not always understand Shiraz's world -- or her slang-filled language -- but the will find themselves laughing at her spirited antics and often brutal honesty. And they will be surprisingly moved by her transformation into someone who wants something more from life than an iPod and golf hoop earrings. Especially because she figures out a way to grow up without forgetting her roots.