Wednesday 2 September 2015

Reviewed: How to Get Ahead in Television by Sophie Cousens

How to Get Ahead in Television will be published as an ebook exclusive by Corvus on September 3, 2015.

Thanks to Alison at Corvus for sending me a copy of this book to review.

It’s so refreshing to pick up a book and have no idea what to expect. I’d read no reviews of How to Get Ahead in Television, heard nothing about it other than it’s Sophie’s debut and it won the #loveatfirstwrite competition hosted by Corvus and Lovereading. All I knew was that at soon as I sent this book to my Kindle, it was calling my name and I had to read it straight away. Well if that doesn’t make me sound strange enough, I have to say that I am thrilled the book called out to me in such a way because it was such a fabulous, entertaining read. I loved every single second of it and I want more! I want a sequel, definitely, and I want to hear more from this group of characters and especially the main character, Poppy, who was so chaotic but equally loveable and a delight to read about.

Poppy Penfold is a car-crash of a character, in the nicest possible way. She lives her life falling from one disaster to another – clumsy may well be her middle name – but you know, what I liked about Poppy was how she could always manage to end each day with a smile on her face, no matter how much was going wrong. Her character won me over instantly with the determination she showed to chase her dreams of working in TV. Her parents tried to discourage her, her finances were going to be a mess if she went and pursued any TV opportunities and it wasn’t the safe, settling down attitude to life she was told she should have. Yet I loved how Poppy was unwilling to give up on this dream of hers, to settle for a career, a life even, that she didn’t want. She was committed and hard-working and I loved her spirit.

So, Poppy wants to work in TV. She sends off her CV to everywhere she can think of and grows used to the rejection and the lack of people willing to give her a chance. Until one day she is offered a three-month placement as a runner for RealiTV, a big, well-known production company. She’s unaware, at the time, that she will be competing with another runner, and only one of them will get a job at the end of the three months. But Poppy, staying true to herself, is up to the challenge. I’ll be honest, the overall theme to this book isn’t the most original in the world. I’ve read a lot of books that feature young women wanting to make it in the world of TV, some of them not that great. They try too hard, they force the humour, the drama, the demanding characters. Sorry to say that I sometimes find myself cringing my way through those books. But How to Get Ahead in Television was a whole different story. Sophie Cousens has showed these authors how it’s done! The content to this novel was witty, barmy but all so very natural and believable. Sophie has truly written what she knows and it stands out and adds to the brilliance of this story. The author has worked in the television industry for several years and so you get the feeling she definitely knows what she is talking about. Everything is paced fantastically, delivered to a believable yet still at times hilarious level. It’s perfect escapism, but even better, not the kind of escapism that you get from an enjoyable book with scenarios you know could never actually happen. The scenarios in this book not only had me giggling away, but also picturing so clearly and imagining real-life celebrities in the place of the catastrophic fictional celebrities. I felt like Sophie was letting us in on a bunch of secrets we weren’t meant to know and I mean, come on, everybody loves hearing that bit of top-secret gossip! It’s exciting. And How to Get Ahead in Television was exactly that.

I feel like I could talk about this book all day and not have a single bad word to say about it. With debut novels, at times I probably do expect them to be a bit clunky, a bit messy, to have a few pacing problems. So I’m kind of baffled by how well written this one felt. I felt like I was reading a book from one of my favourite authors. I couldn’t get enough of it and I can’t deny that I am sulking now I’ve finished it. I want more, Sophie! And I will be shouting at everybody to read this.

The characters in this book, other than Poppy whose fanclub I am now the founding member of, were great fun to read about. Where do I start? There’s Poppy’s family, most prominently her mother, who is crazy and so funny. Her idea of this brilliant present for Poppy cracked me up. She was so excited by her own ideas and got carried away by them. She was impossible to not smile at. Then there was Rhidian, the runner Poppy is competing against. Well excuse me if I just swoon a little because I developed a pretty instant crush on Rhids and I am not ashamed to say it! Once I got over the swooning (ok, I admit it, I still haven’t got over it), there was a real interesting and unexpected side to his character too. I also loved reading about JR, Helen and David – other workers at RealiTV. The dynamics in the office were very amusing and I loved the wacky set of characters. David was a sweetheart, so nerdy and passionate about his movies, so offended when nobody understood them… Speaking of the office dynamics, there was a double-cross from one of the RealiTV team which I saw coming from a mile off, but you know, that didn’t matter to me at all because I loved seeing how it all transpired in the end.

As I’m writing this review (or maybe it’s an essay now, I’m not sure), I keep reliving moments from this novel and laughing all over again. Some of the antics of the reality TV stars on the apt and fantastically named programmes were simply gold. I laughed from one page to the next. Another thing I loved about this novel was the format. Each chapter was set out as step, a tip on how to get ahead in television. It was just the simple touches that made me enjoy this novel so much. The chapter heading gives us a brief teaser and insight into what’s to come and every time I read the chapter heading, I knew one more chapter wouldn’t be enough… I can mention more things I loved. The emails and texts between Poppy and Nat, her best friend, were warm and witty. I liked how Nat brightened things up by seeing the funny side to everything, except when she knew she needed to talk a bit of sense into Poppy. As we see the growth and development of Poppy’s character throughout this novel, I couldn’t stop myself from being a bit jealous of Nat. I want Poppy as my best friend! Ok, I do need to end this review sometime soon so I’m just going to declare my love for How to Get Ahead in Television once more. It’s probably one of the most light-hearted, fun and effortlessly entertaining books I’ve read all year. Oh, also I need to express how much I adored the romance in this novel which was just, perfect. Can I use that word again? More books, please, Sophie, I’m getting impatient already…

Fresh, funny, fabulous - I LOVED this debut novel!

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