Anyone who’s known me over the last couple of years should know by now that I’m a massive fan of Lisa Williamson. Her debut novel, The Art of Being Normal, is one of my favourite ever books, as well as a book that I think is astoundingly important in putting trans people at the centre of the narrative. It was the first book I’d read that featured a trans protagonist and yes, I acknowledge that maybe that should have come from a trans writer, but I don’t think that takes anything away from just how good The Art of Being Normal is. (Seriously, read it.) So, as you might expect, I was awaiting Lisa’s next book with bated breath. I was lucky enough to win an early copy of All About Mia in Non Pratt’s twitter giveaway and I devoured it in a matter of hours. In case you hadn’t guessed, I was not disappointed.
One family, three sisters. GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student. AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion. And MIA, the mess in the middle. Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers. When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves. But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.
All About Mia is just gorgeous. I loved the entire family at the centre of the novel, especially the parents, but Mia is obviously the character we get to know best. She’s a typical middle child, and although she’s a bit of a whiny brat sometimes, there is also some truth in the way she feels. And middle child or not, I think we’ve all been in that position where it seems like everyone is out to get us, or that no-one appreciates the things we do. Throughout the book, Mia slowly comes to realise the truth of this too – her siblings and parents have their own issues that they need to work through and she’s not the only one struggling. More than that though, Mia learns that she doesn’t have to struggle alone and that if she shares her problems instead of ignoring them then she’ll find life much easier.
I loved the relationships between the characters. Although Mia now resents Grace, you can see that this wasn’t always the case, and you can also see how much it hurts Grace that it is like that now. Audrey is adorable – she loves her older sisters without question and just wants them to get on like they used to. And their parents, struggling with Grace’s announcement, Mia’s wild child ways and Audrey’s swimming schedule, while trying to plan a wedding, are so clearly Good People, still madly in love, even after 20 years together, and desperately trying to be good parents. I adored them, even when I didn’t like what they were doing. I mean, I was slightly horrified that Mia’s mum was the same age as me, because the thought of having a 19 year old daughter is terrifying, but I adored the two of them just the same.
In case you hadn’t realised yet, All About Mia went straight on to my favourite books list. It’s diverse (Mia is mixed race), it’s funny and it’s moving (I cried happy tears). I wanted to re-read it as soon as I’d finished it to be honest. It’s out this Thursday, 2nd February and you need to go and buy it.