Like some novels for young adults this will likely prove popular with older readers too.
Taking Down Evelyn Tait by Poppy Nwosu. Author image and book cover image via Wakefield Press.
Taking down Evelyn Tait is Poppy Nwosu’s second contribution to the YA genre. Like some novels in this genre, while it is squarely aimed at young adults, it is also likely to be popular with older readers.
The narrator of this story is Lottie, a schoolgirl at an age when romantic prospects are becoming more important but also when being able to confide secrets to a ‘best friend’ remains essential too.
Lottie’s father has remarried after his wife left him. Consequently, Lottie has acquired a stepmother, a baby brother and an unwanted stepsister – the Evelyn of the book’s title – who is much the same age as Lottie. Lottie says of their relationship:
'As far back as I can remember Evelyn Tait and I have been trying to destroy each other. And when I say as far back as I remember, I mean since last year on the twenty-first of March when she and her mother both moved into my house.'
As Lottie tells her story we see the damage a divorce can inflict on young people. And we become aware once again how easily people of good will can misunderstand each other. And Nwosu brilliantly evokes the intensity with which teens live in the present.
When Lottie’s relationship with her best friend, Grace, is threatened by Evelyn, the sparks begin to fly. Lottie also has a long-time platonic relationship with the boy next door, Jude. Whereas Lottie is a cheeky, over-exuberant prankster who hates to study, Jude is more phlegmatic, studious and conventional. For the most part these two get along well even though Jude isn’t a fan of the heavy metal music Lottie adores.
Lottie’s school headmaster also makes a few brief appearances but they are enough to make you wish for such a person to be at your school. And readers will readily identify, and perhaps identify with, many of the characters in this book although Evelyn is perhaps a trifle less plausible than the others, though that could be because we see her through Lottie’s prejudiced eyes.
That this novel does not shy away from serious issues does not stop it from being a good yarn. The story romps along at a brisk pace: adventure follows adventure, plots and counter-plots abound, there is never a dull moment. And Lottie, whether in spite of or because of her peccadillos, endears herself to the reader to the extent that when you get to the end of the book, you still wish for more.
4 stars out of 5
Taking Down Evelyn Tait by Poppy Nwosu
Publisher: Wakefield Press
Categories: YA Fiction, Australian
Pages: 264 pp
Release Date: 23 March 2020