I was so giddy when I saw this on the shelves at Hay Festival last week as its publication date isn’t until the 4th of June (Walker Books) which is why I’ve been able to read it early. I was already feeling very excited to be seeing Non at a talk but this pushed my excitement to new heights, so much so that I had to nap it off in the car on the way home…
Remix is Non Pratt’s second novel following on from the tremendously successful Trouble. Dealing with friendships, relationships and heartbreak, Remix tells the story of best friends Kaz and Ruby’s first time at a festival. The summer after GCSEs is always the longest summer holiday ever and is often when teenagers develop a sense of real freedom for the first time. A festival is the perfect setting for a book filled with best friends, boyfriends, new friends, sex, alcohol and music because none of the accompanying madness is out of place when inhibitions are forgotten and emotions are high. Remix is Trouble’s wild older sister and I loved it!
Non describes music as being ‘VERY important’ in her life and it was this passion that made her chose a festival setting. Music fills every page of this book from the story to the chapters named after songs, making it so easy to become completely immersed into Kaz and Ruby’s weekend. Non is so good at making her books feel utterly complete and perfectly formed, and they are such a joy to read. She’s also managed to capture the first-time festival feelings so perfectly that even if readers haven’t experienced a festival for themselves, they won’t feel excluded. The detail and descriptions in this book are so good that the festival I imagined whilst reading was nothing like the festivals that I’ve experienced in real life- I loved being able to imagine the festival in Non’s mind, rather than relying on a memory of my own.
Remix is written in dual narrative with the voice changing when necessary for the storyline – often switching many times in a chapter. I thought that dual narrative was particularly effective in this book as Non was able to portray the friendship between Kaz and Ruby in a realistic and humorous way. For me, the best uses of dual narrative are when Non describes the girls’ text messages to each other because misunderstandings over text are something that everyone can relate to; hearing one girl’s intent as she sends the message immediately interpreted completely differently by the other allowed Non to steer the story and provoke a powerful reader’s emotion (usually a ‘nooooo that’s not what she meant!!!!’ whilst still keeping the pace and flow of the book.
It took me a little longer to get into Remix than Trouble which I think was because in this book both voices are female and it took me a few pages to recognise each girl’s tone. However once I’d separated their voices this was as easy and enjoyable to read as Trouble. I think that Non did a wonderful job of portraying Kaz and Ruby’s closeness through their speech whilst still maintaining very separate characteristics for each. I was surprised to hear that this was a difficulty that Non faced when writing this book because she makes Remix read so effortlessly, ‘because Kaz and Ruby are so close, I did struggle with separating their voices to start with, but Ruby’s voice was always the sparky, sharp and short voice, Kaz’s the more closed-off and considered – hers took the longest, for sure!’ All of the voices in this book felt absolutely real and by the end I felt as if I had gained a handful of fictional friends!
Primarily, Remix is about friendship and the struggles and heartbreak that come along with it. I’m so pleased that Remix presents a realistic view of friendships because I think that often the relationship between best friends in novels isn’t explored in a way that I’ve found relatable. I asked Non why she chose to write about a friendship to which she replied, ‘I have a particular fascination with friendship and want it to take centre stage in YA. Not everyone has a romance, but most have friends.’ I saw Non speak at an event at Hay Festival last week and one of the comments made by both Non and Louise O’Neill (author of Only Ever Yours) was that the first and worst heartbreaks are often caused by friendship not a relationship and I completely agree; Remix portrays every aspect of friendship and I’m so glad about it.
Another topic that was discussed at Hay was diversity and representation in YA and I think that Non is so good at creating characters who defy stereotypes. In Trouble we saw teenage pregnancy and casual sex presented in a blame-free manner and in Remix we again see teenage sex talked about openly, realistically and without stigmatising those involved. Remix also introduces us to Lee and Owen, a gay couple whose sexuality isn’t important to their storyline. I think that Non is a brilliant author whose ability write about ‘different’ characters with ease and care makes reading her books so effortless and enjoyable.
Just as with Trouble, Remix is a fantastic representation of what it’s like to be a teenager and I can’t recommend this highly enough. If you’re after an easy but exceptional summer read then this is the book for you!
So many thank yous to Non for again being so kind and responding to my questions, which again were sent on a Sunday… I will stop interrupting your weekends from now on!