Pages: 344 pages, paperback proof
Acquired: Proof kindly sent for review by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads): Alice Jenkins is the worst girlfriend in the world according to the many, many boys who've shimmied up lampposts and shoplifted from New Look to impress her, only to be dumped when she gets bored of them. Alice has a very low boredom threshold.
But she never gets bored with Franny, her best friend since they met at nursery school. Friends are for ever. Ain't nothing going to come between them. Girls rule, boys drool is their motto. Well, it's Alice's motto, Franny doesn't have much time for boys; they're all totes immature and only interested in one thing.
But then there's Louis Allen, lead singer of The Desperadoes, the best band in Merrycliffe-on-sea (though that could be because they're the only band in Merrycliffe-on-sea). He's a tousle-haired, skinny-jeaned, sultry-eyed manchild, the closest thing that Franny's ever seen to the hipsters that she's read about on the internet and she's been crushing on him HARD for the last three years.
She's never worked up the courage to actually speak to him but she's sure on some deeper level that goes beyond mere words, Louis absolutely knows that she's his soulmate. He just doesn't know that he knows it yet. It's why he cops off with so many other girls.
So, when Alice, bored with callow youths, sets her sights on Louis it threatens to tear the girls' friendship apart, even though they're better than fighting over a boy.
They strike a devil's deal - may the best girl win. Best friends become bitter rivals and everything comes to an explosive conclusion on their first trip to London.
Can true friendship conquer all?
Story: Well, if anybody knows how to put a spin on the slightly tired 'two friends after one guy' story it's Sarra Manning.
Franny has been holding out for the 'right' guy, who she's convinced is Louis Allen, lead singer of the only band in her small, insignificant hometown. Her lifelong best friend, Alice, is commonly known as the worst girlfriend in the world. She strings guys along, steals them from other girls and promptly dumps them as soon as she gets bored.
When Alice gets jealous of the new friends Franny makes on her college course she decides to set her sights on Louis and, well, you can imagine that that doesn't go down too well with our protagonist, Franny. The girls decide to form an bet to see who can ensnare Louis first and, once the rules are drawn up, it's game on between the two besties. Or should that be former besties?
As the story develops we learn about Franny's troubled home life, which was handled beautifully and sensitively. Huge props to Manning for tackling this largely unexplored issue; the situation with Franny's mum isn't something I've really come across in YA before and I love the way it was handled.
Writing: As always, Manning's writing is first class and she's absolutely at the top of her game in The Worst Girlfriend in the World. The dialogue is sharp, funny and wholly British and the whole cast of characters are electric and hilarious.
This one reminds me more of Diary of a Crush than any of Manning's other books and it was so wonderful to be reminded of my favourite teen book. There's art and music and fashion everywhere and Franny and Alice's hopelessly attempts to look cool in a town that will never appreciate them reminded me only too much of my teen years. Saturday night spent in a sticky-floored local club, followed by cheesy chips and a long walk home? Check. Been there, done that, probably vomited on the T-shirt. Man, I love this book.
Characters: Franny and Alice's friendship is truly tested when Franny heads off to college on her own and slowly (but surely) makes a few new friends on her course. Franny knows that nobody could replace Alice but Alice, terrified of losing her only friend, acts out in the only way she knows how, by stealing the one guy Franny has ever been interested in.
With friends like that, eh? However, there's a lot more to it than that and, while Alice definitely has her moments, I couldn't help but warm to her and understood why Franny found it so difficult to question their friendship.
Franny is a brilliant role model for teenagers - she knows what she wants, she aims high and she's determined to turn her dreams into reality, however difficult they might be to achieve. Her focus is on her, not on looking good or getting attention from guys, well, except Louis of course, but then no one's perfect.
Final thoughts: ...And she's done it again! The undisputed Queen of YA (and my personal favourite UKYA author) has smashed it with The Worst Girlfriend in the World. It's brilliant.