Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Youngest Girl in The Fifth by Angela Brazil

If you like Malory Towers, Chalet School or any of those sorts of books then you'll like this. Full of pranks, punishments and grades, this shows both Gwen's home and school life, which is something that neither Malory Towers or Chalet School dwells on.

I remember one of the first times I was talking to someone who had been to boarding school. Of course, having read Malory Towers, Chalet School and The Youngest Girl in The Fifth, I thought I knew all about it. Midnight feasts, picnics, swimming by the sea, lessons outdoors, head girls and of course plenty of real-life mysteries just outside the door. But in reality, boarding school is no where near as 'perfect' as in the novels. I must admit I have had no personal experience but from what I have heard midnight feasts certainly don't take place as regularly as one might think.

Despite the slight differences between truth and fiction, I cannot help but enjoy these novels about growing up. The Youngest Girl in The Fifth particularly focuses on themes and issues that can be relevant in 'normal' life. For example, Gwen struggles with feeling left out because she is pushed into the year above. This means that her friends from the year below become jealous and stop speaking to her, and no one in the year above wants to befriend her either because they feel she is too stuck up. This leaves Gwen feeling isolated and alone, especially since her only friend seems to be her worst enemy.

The other interesting aspect of this book is that Gwen doesn't board at school, instead returning home at the end of every school day. This adds another dimension to the story as we get to see Gwen's interaction with her family and friends outside, as well as inside, school. We get to see how Gwen is encouraged to persevere no matter how hard things may seem, and how her family are always there for her to turn to in times of difficulty.

Angela Brazil manages to create a unique book that, although similar to Malory Towers and Chalet school still manages to hold its own and adds a different colour to the classic school story genre. Even though I wouldn't read this book again or necessarily advise reading it, I would say that if you enjoy this type of book it is well worth reading.

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