I don’t remember being particularly into music as a teenager. I’m sure I thought I was: I read the NME. But I don’t remember being into music, or unironically into anything, really. I mean… my favourite movie was Fight Club. (Okay, my favourite movie is still Fight Club.)
Right now I’m listening to Florence and the Machine’s new album How Big How Blue How Beautiful, released today. The moment I bought their second album, Ceremonials, is etched on my memory. It was Halloween, and I went out and bought the only copy in the French port town I was living in, and I listened to it again and again in what was one of the loneliest times of my life. I walked along the docks, letting Florence Welch sing me the sea. In the spring, I went alone to one of her shows at Alexandra Palace, and the songs that had been living inside my head for months took on new life. Those moments, hundreds of strangers mouthing the words I had carried with me in another country, the music and the passion and the joy of it… Is there anything better? More importantly, in those moments you ask yourself, “Is there anything else?”
In Remix, when best friends Ruby and Kaz get their hands on tickets for the eponymous music festival, they’re understandably excited. Not only is it the perfect chance to blow off some steam post-GCSEs, but their favourite band is playing! It’s set to be a truly unforgettable weekend, a non-stop party where they can forget all about relationship drama and just enjoy the music. The only problem? Well, you never know who you’re going to meet at a festival…
Non Pratt’s debut Trouble was a revelation, contemporary YA that dealt with dark and difficult things through witty and authentic (and very distinguishable) teenage voices. When I found out that her second book, another standalone YA contemporary, was coming out in the summer, it shot to the top of my anticipated list, and when I got hold of a proof I devoured it. I fell hard for Hannah, Trouble’s troubled heroine, so I had high expectations of Ruby and Kaz. Thankfully they didn’t disappoint. I love abrasive Ruby and quiet Kaz, and – vitally, wonderfully – they love each other. The drama that unfolds between them and their friends, family, exes and enemies is full of twists and misunderstandings, resentments bubbling up to the surface and needling making its marks, and (provided you can keep track of the characters) it’s totally gripping. Their friendship is the bedrock of the book, though, and you can’t help but root for them.
Remix effectively captures the mayhem of the musical festival, and its highs and lows. It’s an excellent setting for getting characters lost, and having them bump into just the right (and the wrong) people. Having so many people in a small space, and so many events in a short amount of time, makes for a hectic and intense experience, and our main characters are certainly put through the wringer. There are fun moments and moments of complete disaster, and one disturbing event towards the end of the book that I thought well-handled, but still upsetting. Pratt treats her young female characters with the respect they deserve, and they have every freedom to make poor choices without the narrative punishing them unduly for their mistakes. As with Trouble, she doesn’t shy away from the realities of teenage life, and writes well about sex, friendship, alcohol, and socially awkward situations.
The cast is understatedly diverse: Kaz is mixed race, Ruby’s brother is gay, I’m probably forgetting others. I’m also in love with Sebastian. He very nearly made my Book Boyfriends list. That’s how you know it’s serious.
As a teenager, I also made a big deal of being Just Fine On My Own Thanks. These days, I know that my friends are the best of me, partly because they let me yell at them about the music I love. The characters in Remix get there years before I ever did. If I had a teenage sister, I would give her this book. Seeing as you’re not my teenage sister, you’ll have to buy it yourself, but please do. It’s excellent.
Remix by Non Pratt is out 4 June 2015 from Walker Books.