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The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly,…

The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It (2006)

by Lisa Shanahan

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Things you will like about this book: the idea of a “big birkett”...a couple who meets on the spice aisle...the De Head family...a high school production of a Shakespearean play that is amazingly deep...a high school aged flower girl...and much, much more. ( )
  debnance | Jun 27, 2014 |
I mostly found this book terribly interesting because it was the first fictional book I've read that sounds like creative nonfiction that was written by a woman (a noticeable change from all the guys I've been reading who use this style).
I also thought that some of the things that Gemma considers throughout the novel were quiet interesting, as well as the fact that it was set in Australia. Some of it was outrageous, but I guess that would probably help keep a younger reader interested. Over all, most of it was quiet realistic. ( )
  swampygirl | Dec 9, 2013 |
Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for TeensReadToo.com

Gemma Stone will be the world's oldest flower girl. A fourteen-year-old flower girl dressed as a giant swan. Since her bridezilla sister is intent on a wedding theme of "animals who mate for life," Gemma will be paired up with a war-crazy tomboy from her sister's family-to-be and forced to waddle down the aisle.

As the big day approaches, Gemma occupies her time with the school drama club as she attempts to get close to her crush, Nick. Unfortunately, Gemma finds herself practicing for auditions with the fascinating Raven De Head, of the town's most dysfunctional family. Will Gem be able to look beyond Raven's anger and cynicism and her own prejudices to find a new friend--possibly more?

I laughed my way through the first several chapters as I got to know the quirky Stone family. Shanahan created a zany cast of characters, and they all had supporting roles for the protagonist.

Gemma delivers in every chapter: loving and sweet, bold and sassy, uncertain and questioning. She struggles to find a balance between her comfortable past and a roller coaster future as she puts childhood behind her and ventures into a new world of personalities and relationships.

Raven's family has the most to teach her, though the lesson of how an abusive family can still have a strong bond is a tough one for Gemma to learn. Any book that can make a reader like me both laugh and cry, as this one does, is worth picking up! ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 13, 2009 |
My Big Birkett is Lisa Shanahan’s first full-length novel. She has previously written picture books for young children – and it definitely shows. This book resonates with the kind of delightful, heart-warming humour that all my family’s favourite picture books are fuelled by. Shanahan manages the emotions of her readers effortlessly, making them laugh one minute and nearly cry the next. Without question, the best thing about My Big Birkett is that all its emotions are perfectly balanced – never too much of anything, never too little, and nothing too quickly. The more you react emotionally to your reading, the more you will enjoy this novel.

It took me a few chapters to get used to Shanahan’s characters. Most of them are mere caricatures, with one defining attribute that is exaggerated to create the humour. Gemma’s dad is overly stupid, her mum is overly embarrassing, and her best friend Jody is overly gossipy and girly. Only the characters of Gemma, Raven and, to some extent, Nick, are fleshed out in any great detail. Until I settled into this slightly melodramatic cast of characters, I found the action in the novel somewhat unrealistic. After twenty pages or so, it turned from unrealistic to funny, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the book.

The take-home message from My Big Birkett seems to be that ‘life is an emotional roller-coaster, but the ride is always a precious and worthwile thing.’ This book is all about the ups and downs of life that make living so special, and the unexpected joys and sorrows of people who are more than they seem. If you are open minded and light-hearted, then this book might just fill you up with the same warm, fuzzy happiness that it filled me up with.

My Big Birkett is for all those who love to read the odd picture book from the bookshelf of their younger sibling or child. It gets a thumbs up from me – a worthy candidate for this year’s CBC shortlist. I look forward to reading Lisa Shanahan’s future work.
  SamuelW | Jun 15, 2009 |
Gemma's family describes an emotional outburst as a birkett (after her sister's ex who was prone to chucking them). Her sister is getting married to her boyfriend (who proposed to her in the supermarket) and Gemma herself has a crush on a guy at school. Despite her incredible stage fright she joins the school play to get closer to him, but it's Raven, one of a family of delinquents and criminals, who she ends up spending time with.
This was fun, and funny, with awkward moments (but nothing too embarrassing), till it abruptly became more serious.
  alasen_reads | Jan 16, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385735162, Hardcover)

IN MY FAMILY, when anyone rides the wave of their emotions, we say they're chucking a birkett. When the emotion drives out all common sense, we say they're chucking a big one. The telltale signs are: flaming cheeks, shortness of breath, bulging eyes, and a prolonged illogical outburst.

Gemma Stone is convinced that it's always unseemly to chuck a birkett and that it's actually insane to chuck one in front of a complete stranger. But that was before she fell for a boy who barely knows she exists, before she auditioned for the school play, before she met the family of freaks her sister Debbie is marrying into, before the unpredictable Raven De Head took an interest in her, and before she realized that at the right time and for the right reason, a birkett could be a beautiful thing.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:06 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Fourteen-year-old Gemma Stone struggles to understand her shifting emotions as her older sister plans her wedding, she overcomes her nerves and tries out for the school play, and she gets to know one of the most notorious boys in her class.

» see all 3 descriptions

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