Sarah Tipper is a writer with a fine heavy metal obsession and a strange habit of feeding snacks to her Motorhead Snaggletooth poster. I mention the latter because Snaggletooth’s diet isn’t too far from this book’s eponymous heroine and I do worry about Ms Howard’s digestive system. She claims she can cook but frankly there is precious little sign of it here between giant Rolos, Pot Noodles and a variety of inadvisable crisp- and-something-terrible sandwiches (presumably with white sliced bread).
This is the fourth of the Very Metal Diaries, set in the Very Metal World of Cleo and these are prequels to the so far five volumes of Eviscerated Panda and their not exactly setting the music world on fire life and gigging times. The diaries though are the inner world reflections of the outer world life of a teenage metal fan in the late nineties and they are written in the idiosyncratic voice of Cleo that I have come to know and love.
This time it is A levels and the first steps outside of Reading and into University life in Coventry. It is an introspective tumble and tangle of junk food, metal, social and love life and the worries that assail a young lady who is both keenly intelligent and curiously bewildered by many things in the world. Definitely a worrier and a dreamer and gently eccentric in the way she clings to some more childish habits; not a refusal to grow up, more a need for things that have always comforted her as the world grows bigger and more complicated around her.
She has her close and loyal friends Jenni, Shot and Ian, her not so friendly friends, and armed with a fairly useless boyfriend Barry (out of bed at least), a healthy dose of kindness and certainty that being nice to people is A Good Thing To Do she talks us through the year 2000.
Sarah Tipper here continues to grow as a writer. The improvements in style and technique are excellent and her ability to capture the nature of her characters in perfect, simple ways is exemplary and her humour is just perfect and sometimes poignant too. Whereas the Panda books have sometimes suffered just a little from the absence of dialogue (but partly made up for it in the easy way Ms Tipper lets a story or a scene unfurl), here she can use the inner workings of her heroine’s mind to wonderful effect with her curious questions, her terrible eating habits and continuing list obsessions. She worries, She jumps from thought to thought like a grasshopper trying to avoid sunbeams but they somehow fall back together. She has developed a real voice here, you really feel you know Cleo through this book and it’s so much fun.
This is a great read on a sunny day, or when you’re feeling a little down. It is a little bit of joy.
I’m sure Sarah will keep writing and there for also continue to entertain me. More power to Heavy Metal Panda I say… Thank you Sarah Tipper.