Tremendous Things by Susin Nielsen
Worst. Holiday. Ever. by Charlie Higson
Books of the Week: 18 July 2021
Now that the temperature here is registering 30 degrees celsius and there are only a few days of term left, here are two great reads that feature holidays.
In Tremendous Things we are back in familiar Susin Nielsen territory with loving families, quirky friends and a central character who is self-conscious, awkward and sympathetic. Wilbur recounts his life of what he sees as an agonising list of failures and embarrassments, before a French exchange student called Charlie lands in his life and things start to look up. Charlie is gorgeous, self-confident and sophisticated and Wilbur is smitten, but can he get her to look past his eccentric mums (who he calls The Mumps), his 85 year old best friend Sal and his dachshund Templeton who has some pretty unappealing habits? When Charlie returns to France, Wilbur’s friends persuade him to undergo a ‘Queer Eye’ type transformation and, in the romantic setting of Paris, set him up to try and persuade her to view him in a different light.
Worst. Holiday. Ever. is a departure from Charlie Higson’s action-packed adventures like Young Bond and The Enemy series. Stan is an ordinary boy who doesn’t have to deal with zombies or super-villains. He is, however, worrying about all the things he hopes he never has to do:
- Bungee jumping
- Anything where you have to use a parachute
- Dancing in public
- Going on Strictly Come Dancing
- White-water rafting
- Alligator wrestling
- Going on holiday with people you don’t know
The problem is that he is going to have to do number 10 and it may even involve number 11. Felix in his class was meant to be going on holiday with his best friend Archie, but Archie broke his leg and everyone else was booked up. In desperation, Felix invites Stan and Stan panics and accepts. Now Stan is stuck in a villa in Italy with a motley collection of Felix’s family and friends and feeling very out of his depth. There’s Felix’s distant and slightly scary dad, a group of intimidating girls, a man who spends his entire day on the internet and another who is never seen without a glass of wine. Stan is not only worried about disgracing himself but, when the news from home is less than reassuring, he wonders if he will be able to cope at all.
Charlie Higson conjures up a believable cast of characters that are alternately worrying, touching and hilarious and a holiday situation that we can all imagine ourselves experiencing. This is, in my view, his best. book. ever.