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In her eagerly anticipated second novel Mail on Sunday Novel Competition winner Isabel Ashdown explores the treacherous territory of adolescent friendships, and traces across the decades the repercussions of a dangerous relationship.
It’s more than twenty years since Sarah Ribbons last set foot inside her old high school, a crumbling Victorian-built comprehensive on the south coast of England. Now, as she prepares for her school reunion, 39-year-old Sarah has to face up to the truth of what really happened back in the summer of 1986.
August 1985: Sarah celebrates her fifteenth birthday in the back garden of the suburban seaside house she shares with her ageing father. As she embarks on her fifth and final year at Selton High School for Girls Sarah’s main focus is on her erratic friendships with Tina and Kate; her closest allies one moment, her fiercest opponents the next as they compete for the attention of the new boy, Dante. When her father is unexpectedly taken ill, Sarah is sent to stay with Kate’s family in nearby Amber Chalks. Kate’s youthful parents welcome her into the comfort of their liberal family home, where the girls can eat off trays and watch TV in Kate’s bedroom. They’ve never been closer – until a few days into her stay, events take a sinister turn, and Sarah knows that nothing will ever be the same again.
With strong characters, a cleverly constructed story and masses of period detail, this vivid evocation of life in 1985 is a fine second book from a writer who first won The Mail On Sunday Novel Competition.
Ashdown's depiction of a vulnerable teenager and the magnetic pull of a toxic friendship will have you wincing with recognition.
Funny, insightful and often tragic. A fascinating book whose apparent simplicity masks complexity as it reveals once again the strength of Ashdown‘s talent as a perceptive and engaging writer. This is a fitting second novel from the author of the acclaimed Glasshopper and will appeal to personal readers and book clubs alike.
A darkly compelling read. A school reunion opens the floodgates to uncomfortable memories from 25 years ago in this powerfully compelling examination of the volatile and often toxic nature of adolescent relationships.
A very enjoyable and engaging read. Those who lived the eighties to the full will find lots to entertain them.
Ashdown's début novel Glasshopper was named as one of the best books of 2009, and this well-crafted follow-up doesn't disappoint.
Isabel Ashdown's Glasshopper was one of our favourite reads of 2009, and her second novel is another mix of compelling characters and 1980s nostalgia.
Ashdown has done an excellent job with her characterisation. My sympathy went out to Sarah and as for the other two – little madams, the pair of them. They came across as sulky, lazy, selfish, cruel ...especially Kate. And what stood out for me above all else was the dialogue. Natural and spot-on. I truly felt as if I was eavesdropping on these three girls.
The Friends Reunited touch at the beginning is good and draws the reader straight in to the story. Teenagers and their troubled friendships – with both sexes, are at its core. Very easy to read. Recommended.
In Hurry Up And Wait Isabel Ashdown has produced a perfectly pitched trip back to the mid-eighties.
Isabel Ashdown has captured every heartbeat of the uncertainty and excitement of growing up. Duplicitous friendships, awakening sexuality and the trials of school and exams are all depicted as Sarah’s story unfolds.
The storyline starts at a school reunion taking place twenty years later. Through this section the secrets of the past are finally revealed and Sarah’s story finds its resolution. Anyone who has ever attended a reunion with ambivalent feelings in their heart will identify strongly with this section.
I really enjoyed Isabel Ashdown’s first novel, Glasshopper but, if anything, would have to say Hurry Up And Wait is even better. I loved everything about it.
I still have the odd dream/nightmare that when the sun rises, I have to push myself out of bed, pull on an itchy purple wool uniform, trudge off to my least favorite place on earth and count down the minutes until three-thirty when I can leave again. When I read books like Hurry Up and Wait that uncomfortable, crawly-skin feeling descends and I am transported right back to a time when your best friend yesterday mightn’t be the same one you have tomorrow, and you mightn’t really like either of them anyway. Of course we don’t know any better, and most of us emerged unscathed from our relationships with school “friends” we don’t actually like. But what might happen if we didn’t?
In Hurry Up and Wait, Ashdown explores that very notion through the relationships between three school friends: Sarah, Kate and Tina, the alliances and animosity within them changing like the wind. It’s acutely observed and utterly realistic – every scene, down to the cruel taunting of their teachers and Sarah’s struggle between wanting to impress her friend and not disappoint her father, rings true.
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Second novels are like second albums. When you've really loved something, along with the anticipation there's always the fear that what comes next won't be quite as good, and that your new-found favourite author/musician will turn out to be a 'one hit wonder'. Any such fears concerning Isabel Ashdown's second novel Hurry Up And Wait were dispelled for me within the first couple of chapters. In fact, I think this is probably a better novel.
Isabel Ashdown's greatest strengths are her ability to create entirely convincing characters and place them in settings so vividly drawn that, at times, I almost thought I could smell those school toilets. Like Sarah and her friends Kate and Tina, I was at school in the 1980s. This beautifully written story brought back memories (not all of them good ones) of the agonies of being a teenager, and of friends who, in the blink of an eye, can become enemies.
So now I'm back to waiting again, this time for a third novel. But in the meantime I might just find myself reading this one again. I can't recommend it highly enough.
This book is dark and edgy, and rather than crushes and first kisses you can expect inappropriate relationships, loss of innocence and the consequences of both. What I liked most about this novel was it’s depiction of female friendships, especially the competitive rivalry-filled friendships that seem to form between teenage girls. The depiction of the relationship between Sarah, Kate and Tina, which seems to change on a weekly basis is insightful and perceptive and something that everyone will relate to.
Hurry up and Wait is certainly a powerful coming of age read, and for those of you who were teenagers in the eighties it will be a joy to read, and a pleasurable trip down memory lane that will really take you back!
Bursting with schoolgirl preoccupations of the 1980s – Andrew Ridgeley, Ryvita and rude words on the toilet wall – this lively journey through the embarrassments of growing up is tightly entwined with a darker tale. Sarah Ribbons is now 20 years older and wiser than her teenage self and has returned home for a school reunion. But what is it that is upsetting her so profoundly?
By turns touching and funny, Ashdown expertly depicts life in the two-faced world of teenage girls which will resonate with women regardless of the decade in which they went to school...In its themes of isolation, loneliness, selfishness, loss and misplaced trust Hurry Up and Wait is unsurpassed. The way in which past grievances are aired and resolved at the school reunion is both funny and sad, and the balance between the novel's lighter and more sinister aspects is perfect. Isabel Ashdown has created with great skill a coming-of-age story with characters and scenarios to which we can all relate, and whose secrets and shadows remain skilfully just on the edge of sight.
I enjoyed Isabel Ashdown's first novel, Glasshopper, but I enjoyed this even more. The style is so easy to read that before you know it, you're two thirds of the way through the novel – I read the last third in one sitting! I'd say hurry up and read Hurry Up And Wait!
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Hurry Up and Wait has been chosen as the first read for Etc. Magazine's new book club. For more information see Isabel Ashdown's blog.