Swans and tempests and camouflage, oh my! The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It (previously published as My Big Birkett in the author's native Australia) is a delicious blend of comedy and drama brought to life by a cast of outrageous characters, save one, who is trying her best to remain sane.
Years ago, a girl name Debbie dated a boy named Birkett. After Debbie broke up with him, he serenaded her at midnight with twenty original poems based on her name, waking up her entire family and all of her neighbors in the process. Ever since then, whenever anyone in her family gets overly emotional or upset, they say they're "chucking a birkett."
Fast forward to the present day, when Debbie announces that she's getting married to Brian, a man she's known for only one month.
But this isn't Debbie's story. This is about her younger sister, Gemma, and the sweet, terrible, glorious year in which she blushed, crushed, and survived.
At fourteen, Gemma's too old to be a flower girl. Instead of being a maid of honor like her sister's best friends, she's told she'll be wearing a swan costume, complete with webbed feet.
That's not the only bird flying into her life. Here comes Raven, one of the infamous De Head boys. All of the De Head kids are named after fowl and have foul reputations. When Gemma tries out for her school's production of The Tempest at the suggestion of a cute classmate, it is Raven's eye she catches.
Like Gemma, there's more to this book that meets the eye. An embarrassment of riches, you could say. This is a lovely book. Shanahan balanced funny and serious plotlines very believably, reminding us that life can be sweet one moment and terrible the next - and then sweet again. With humor akin to Susan Juby's Alice series and characters that stick with you like those from novels by Sarah Dessen, this book is truly glorious.
I have included this title on various booklists: Tough Issues for Teens, From a Land Down Under, Comedies for Teens, and Shakespearean Spinoffs.
Learn the story behind the story in my one-question interview with Lisa Shanahan.