Thursday, 5 March 2015
A very merry World Book Day and a happy book birthday to SPOTLIGHT ON SUNNY by Keris Stainton!
Here are 10 things I love about Sunny:
1. Book friend!
I have to confess a bit of nepotism here – the main reason I published this book is because Sunny is my friend. And Hannah and Kitty are too. This is one of those books where you feel an instant familiarity with the characters and I have to remind myself that I didn't actually hang out with Sunny, Kitty and Hannah when I was 14. I love that friendship is at the heart of this series – as I feel it can often get elbowed out when romance comes along. But here friendship is firmly elbowed in. Sunny, Kitty and Hannah are totally comfortable around each other and know each other inside out – so when they keep secrets you know it's a huge deal.
Which is lucky really, because it would make the whole editing thing a bit awkward if I didn't like Sunny. We'd be there scowling at each other and mouthing obscenities while Keris tried to smooth things over and make polite conversation. But luckily it was completely the opposite and the editing process was more like me going up to Keris and saying 'Can you tell Sunny she's really cool?'
In STARRING KITTY I thought that Sunny really sparkled in the background – Keris kept enough from us to make sure she didn't distract from the love story between Kitty and Dylan, but gave Sunny enough funny lines to get us to notice her – and feel she had a story to tell. With her perceptiveness and dry humour book one Sunny came across as a girl who knew her own mind, but in a quiet and thoughtful way. This is still the Sunny we meet in book two, but when we get inside her head we find lots of questions. There are things she knows – like she isn't going to have a boyfriend now and that she's going to study medicine at uni – but when she finds she enjoys making films so much and she meets a boy that she really gets on with she starts wondering. Is she making these decisions for her parents? Or for her religion? Or for herself? And can you really separate all those things out?
3. I WANT TO GO ON A FILM COURSE
The film course that Sunny and her friends go on sounds so much fun. They try out different ways of writing scenes, come up with TV show ideas and get to make their own film. I would love to go on this course (if it weren't for the fact that I'd be asked to leave for being really old).
4. Story of my life. And other people's lives. And just life.
Something that I think is so important in Keris's books is something that isn't even a thing. In these books you find, as the lovely Kirsty says in this review, a truly diverse cast of characters. You know, like in real life. And it probably says something that I notice this and find refreshing, rather than it just being what all books are like.
That Sunny is Muslim is a vital part of this story, but it is not the story itself. It is a story about discovering who you are and what you want in relation to the people you love and, for Sunny, in relation to her faith. But it is so important to represent the diversity of readers in characters – particularly main characters – and so it still important that this is a thing that is not a thing. (Until this is just what all books are like).
I don't want to do any plot spoilers, so I will just say there is a new character called Will and I can't wait for you to meet him!
There's also a character called Danielle, and she is another reason I love this book – I wonder if you will agree!
7. It's good to think
It's very easy not to think. I do it all the time (usually while eating crisps and watching awful TV). And knee-jerk opinions abound with Twitter and the general internet making it easier to react to things immediately. This book sits you down, hides your phone, snatches the crisps and makes you think. It questions the assumptions so many of us will have made about what women choose to wear – and about people's choices in general.
8. That's what makes you taboo-tiful
I've been to a few talks and read lots of articles on 'appropriate' content in children's and YA books. And a bit of a trend in some of the articles was that we publishers are all queueing up to outdo each other in putting in more shocking stuff and cramming in the taboos in books for young people. But one really big taboo that people don't tend to talk about is *whispers* religion. It's the one thing Sunny doesn't really talk about with her friends, because she's worried they will think she is weird. And as Kirsty also says in her review (sometimes I think she steals thoughts out of my brain) there are plenty of negative stereotypes around – stories, with thought, humour and living, breathing characters, are the antidote.
9. It's all these little things
(I have realised that the titles for the last two points are One Direction songs. I may have just revealed a bit too much about my working-from-home playlists...)
The next thing is lots of small things – I love that in Keris's books she gives us those tiny, everyday moments that capture exactly how two characters feel about each other, or show a friendship sparking off or secret being hidden. Keeping with the no-spoilers theme, I will just say that in this book my favourite ones involve gold sandals, a gorilla and pringles (not all at the same time).
10. A big papery hug
The final thing is being able to share this book with all you lovely bloggers! We want to shout loud about our books, but being so tiny it isn't always easy to be heard – so when you guys love the books as well and get behind them it means the absolute world to us. One of my favourite descriptions of the previous book in this series, STARRING KITTY, was from Sister Spooky, who said it 'felt like a cuddle in a warm blanket in book form'. So here, from the wonderful Keris Stainton, and everyone at Catnip, is another big book hug!