BOOK REVIEW: Darla Decker Hates to Wait by Jessica McHugh

Darla Decker Hates to Wait by Jessica McHugh is an energetic leap through the hilarious misdeeds of an almost-sexually-aware 11-year-old, Darla

Darla Decker Hates to Wait

In essence: Darla Decker Hates to Wait

Darla Decker is a feisty sixth-grader with a wicked streak and frequent doses of good and bad luck. Her many crushes turn into dates and boyfriends with a breathtaking fickleness and in between kisses, she manages to fit all kinds of naughtiness. From her condemnation of her parents’ marriage, to her showstopping performance with unusual make up. Darla comes off looking either very good or very bad. There is no half-measure, and there are plenty of laughs. Actually laugh-out-louds.

Does Darla have a serious message?

There is a message hidden in Darla’s pages, but it certainly isn’t contrived.

Darla’s youth and willingness to go along with what other people want – despite her own thoughts and sometimes misgivings, written down in her diary – leaves her open to a certain kind of exploitation and while it doesn’t make for especially uncomfortable reading, still gives you a slightly icky feeling. Nothing is ever said outright, but Darla’s youth is at the heart of the message, and its cleverly achieved.

One of the best parts is where Darla’s friend explains that they need to grow up and be kids. That they’re ready for dates, not relationships. That for me summed up the youthful fickleness and the strong feelings. This author gets that just right. Because that’s the other thing Darla Decker does if you’re an adult. She brings you a feeling from when you were a kid and leaves it imprinted in your mind.

Will you like it?

If you’re expecting Jessica McHugh to be some kind of Judy Blume, you’re going to get a lot more for your reckoning. Darla is loud, occasionally obnoxious, and she is learning fast about what boys want – without giving too much away. Feature roles are given to diarrhoea, bad french kissing, and a seriously evil older brother. Oh, and Darla is far funnier than anything ever written by Jude Blume, although it caters to the same audience.

This is a young adult book, with a sophisticated structure that enables it to hit an older age group just as effectively. It’s a bit like the Simpsons effect. It’s a good story with funny characters that you care about; it has a rude attitude and the fresh vulgarity of an eleven-year-old which is funny and invigorating.

If you can’t bear to read about almost-pubescent kids and grade school and a lot of snogging, then Darla Decker Hates to Wait definitely isn’t the book for you.

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