Dead Romantic is the newest release from Chicken House published author CJ Skuse.
I met CJ when I was lucky enough to get some work experience at Chicken House because at that time she also worked for them as the Office Manager. So, full disclosure, I know and like the person whose book I am (only kind of) reviewing.
I wanted to start actually doing more than mentioning books on this blog and Dead Romantic seemed like a good place to start. This is a rich time for me, publishing dates wise, as many people I am lucky enough to call friends have new books hitting the shops, and CJ’s was the first of the wave.
CJ has made her mark writing teen fiction which is both edgy and hilarious. Her first novel, Pretty Bad Things, followed two teenagers as they took to a life of crime in Vegas. Next came Rockaholic, in which teenage Jodie manages to kidnap the musician she idolises. Dead Romantic plays with the ideas of the Frankenstein’s experiment, though the story unfolds over the period of time in which the body is built, rather than focusing on the aftermath.
There’s so much to love in CJ’s books, and so much to learn as a writer. Her characters, who the Daily Mail would probably identify as troubled, are believable teens. They are all experiencing growing pains of one kind or another; poor parenting, grief, the loss of friends and subsequent identity crisis. All are clever and funny, but perhaps less loquacious than most teen narrators. CJ uses malaprops and similar techniques which mean that her characters don’t have the heightened vocabulary most teens in novels are blessed with, and feel more believable for it.
Sense of place is also very strong in all three novels. I have never been to Vegas, but you can tell CJ has. And the places she depicts in Rockaholic and Dead Romantic are finely drawn provincial English towns. Both identities are easily guessed by those who have visited them. One is based on Frome, where the Chicken House have their offices, and the other on Weston Super Mare.
CJ’s books always have great secondary protagonists and Dead Romantic is no exception. Whilst both girls involved in building The Boyfriend are believably weird, Louis, the human love interest is all indie-boy hotness and sweetness. I fell in love with him very quickly, and then could only despair at Camille’s blindness. But again here CJ’s use of language is subtle and clever. We see Louis through Camille’s eyes but her inability to recognise his adorableness, or his interest in her is perfectly drawn.
I would have loved to read these when I was a teen. I love CJ’s humour, a rare trait in high-end teen fiction. As a writer I want to become as clever at building strong, loveable and flawed characters to inhabit my own stories.
Thanks CJ for providing such enjoyable and inspiring reading material!