Going out with Poppy & Olivia


What characters look like is a funny thing because I always know but they don’t always tell me. Then I get confused and wonder why I know so surely, am I sure that I wasn’t told?

After the road-trip that the blurb promises but which feels like it lasts about 10% of the pages proivided starts, Charlotte turns up the radio because an unspecified well-known American Country song has come on and she wishes to sing. Eureka!

I knew but I was not told that it was Stand By Your Man, which I don’t even know for sure is “a country song”, whereupon I understood why I had lightningbolt accepted that Luke looked how he did*.

I think Banbury used to have an Oxfam Books near/next to Poppins cafe at the door to the arcade, and that was where I met the book Poppy when I was in Primary School. Poppy called to me from the shelf by her spine; it was different, and I don’t know how. It wasn’t quite square-bound? The cover illustration stretched around without a dignified spine design getting in the way? I don’t know.

I fell in love with that book and I didn’t need to know what it was about because the cover told me it was truly, deeply, for me. There was a brown-haired girl sitting propped by one hand and I think she had flared jeans, she was illustrated in a sort of.. it was graphic and low-detail, and reminds me in hindsight of the line-quality you get when you use one of those little wax-droppers to make batik art. Ah, memory, thou art a traitor. But look how that title is pinned on! Teen. Aged.

You see, one SHOULD be able to judge a book by its cover; all books should be covered so well as that.

As it turned out it was a book that felt as familiar and spurring as thinking to yourself, and since I was still in Primary School the idea of a thirteen year old having a boyfriend who she had actual human interaction with didn’t yet seem bizarre and frightening – only glamorous and adult.

Poppy is sequelled with Olivia, and Olivia is Poppy’s best friend. In Poppy’s book Olivia’s father has left her mother for a drippy (definitely “drippy”) secretary and her mother has taken to alternating between cursing him as a bastard/selling pottery fairies at art fairs, and playing “Stand By Your Man” loudly whilst waiting for him to come home.

Poppy spends most of the book doing I-don’t-know-what re: boys (I think there is a bad one who does her wrong? It seems like there should be) but by the end she has accidentally and so-nicely fallen in love with her shy friend: Luke. This Luke is described.

It’s not that I think all Lukes look the same, it’s just that Scarlett Thompson, as mentioned previously here, writes books that feel like water pouring from my heart. Poppy was an earlier version of that.

Other highlights from Poppy:

..I can’t think of any that sound as good as they are when you read it, aged young. Give it to your wee relatives. I didn’t love Olivia as much and I can’t remember a single thing that happens in it. At the time, and now, I suspected that it was because Olivia’s cover did not match Poppy’s.

Other highlights from Going Out: Everything, + the fact that it’s not as good as her later novels +
how I never notice the blatant thematic clues in the early chapters and laugh when it’s all given away at the end


I didn’t want to look up who wrote Poppy & Olivia before or whilst I was writing this, because being able to just KNOW EVERYTHING is not emotionally authentic, internet. It was Rosie Rushton. I love you, Rosie.

*Basically like my cousin Timmy in ten years, but less un-hopeless

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About Claire Napier

Real cool gal
This entry was posted in admiration, art, books, character design, characters, complimenting the professionals, cultural religion, hurray!, me, stories, things i heart, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Going out with Poppy & Olivia

  1. Stand By Your Man is most definitely a country tune. It’s my karoke standard. I love how you write about filling in the gaps as you read and realizing that the author doesn’t always tell us everything.

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