All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher

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Reviewed by Annabel

Subtitled ‘Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully’, All I Know Now is part memoir, part advice guide for teens, by one of the big stars of vlogging. Carrie Hope Fletcher is no Zoella though, she has no products to push, instead, she wants to be your (or your teenaged daughter’s) honorary big sister, which is a really nice thing!

Apologies to our younger readers, but I need to explain who CHF is to our older readers. She is a multi-talented, singer, actress, vlogger and now writer. Now 22, she is the little sister of Tom Fletcher from bands McFly/McBusted. She is currently starring as Éponine in Les Miserables in London’s West End.  She started vlogging on YouTube a couple of years ago, singing covers of songs, then she started adding in video diaries, book reviews and, as her popularity grew, ‘ask Carrie’ features wherein she gives advice.

Having watched a lot of her vlogs for research, and having seen her in Les Mis (my daughter got her autograph afterwards and she was lovely), she comes across as bubbly, confident, grounded, and friendly. That comes off the page too – her writing style is very informal and chatty, funny yet serious when needed.

Split into ‘acts’, the book covers all the big topics that teens worry about – making friends, being shy, surviving school, being bullied (and how to recognise if you’re the bully), first kisses, falling in love, the birds and the bees, being dumped, internet etiquette, making your own luck, making the most of opportunities, happiness, being nice, and reflecting back on it all now she’s been through the worst.

A fun prologue lets one of her friends, a colleague at Les Mis, and her brother tell us all about her through answering a questionnaire she set them, which is a great way of making you feel at home.

Carrie gives her sisterly advice alongside anecdotes from her own life. Although she started performing on stage in Mary Poppins at eleven, she didn’t go to stage school – just a normal school where she was shy and bullied, so she is able to speak from experience and freely admits that she has made mistakes too.

She uses some great references from touchstone books and films for teens to help make her points – from Shrek, “Ogres are like onions”  — to assorted quotes and themes from the film Mean Girls (which I haven’t seen, but which my daughter loves) and Harry Potter as in the chapter about pigeon-holing people …

The main reason I signed up to that [Pottermore] website was because I’d heard you could be sorted into one of the four Hogwarts houses by taking a test that had been written by J.K. Rowling herself – it was extremely accurate and whatever house you were sorted into, you could trust to be right. I answered all the questions and, as it turns out, like Harry, Ron and Hermione, I am a Gryffindor! But I had always thought I was a Hufflepuff…

(I’ll admit, that I did do the Pottermore Sorting Hat test after reading that, and I’m Ravenclaw)

She’s good at ways of encouraging positivity while helping readers to realise that largely, you make your own luck by hard work and not waiting for things to come to you. Being cheeky, she says, helped her to get her current job – and even then, she didn’t land the role the first time she auditioned. Equally, she knows that everyone will be down at times – and there is a good section at the back of the book called ‘Props’, with contact details of helplines and professional advice.

Accompanying the text are illustrations drawn by Carrie – these are mainly of herself and tend to be cute and kooky, with her trademark big hair, and lighten things up for her teenaged audience.

If there are any parents whose daughters haven’t got this book yet, I would urge them to buy a copy – and have a quick gander before handing it over, you’ll see that for the primary target audience this book is on the money.

In summary, she seems a lovely girl and an ideal role model for teenagers. This book is full of good advice and I can’t think of a better person to be an honorary big sister to anyone who needs one, (and, bookfans, she reads!)

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Annabel is one of the editors of Shiny New Books, and has a teenaged daughter who devoured this book too.

Carrie Hope Fletcher, All I Know Now, (Sphere, London, 2015) ISBN: 978-0751557510, hardback, 352 pages.

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