Reviewed by Jodie
When I reviewed The Girl at Midnight I mentioned how great it was to read a story with a female friendship at its heart. Lo and behold, Remix by Non Pratt – another 2015 book about a female friendship: how it formed, how it developed, and why it remains so special for the two girls involved. Two stories about female friends published within two months of each other. Sometimes YA delivers exactly what I want.
Remix concentrates on the friendship between main characters Ruby and Kaz. The girls are near opposites. Ruby makes plans at the last minute, is the ‘girl all the bad guys want‘ and has a tough outer shell. Kaz is responsible and academic, has a hard time believing any guy would want her, and cries at the drop of a hat. Yet, the pair are inseparable; kept together by a very long history of friendship, recent heartbreak and a shared love of the band Goldentone.
The novel unfolds over three days and the story is split into three sections, one for each of the three days the girls spend at a music festival called Remix. Goldentone are the main attraction (although they’ve got a rubbish slot considering how big the novel makes them out to be) and Remix is the girls’ chance to subsume their troubles in drink, sunshine and music. Ruby’s poor A-Level results, her bad relationship with her parents, and, most importantly, any memory of Kaz and Ruby’s exes, are left at the gates.
Unfortunately, it turns out Kaz’s ex-boyfriend Tom is also at Remix. Worse still, as Kaz learns just a bit too late, he’s not alone. His new girlfriend, Lauren, joins him on the Saturday. And it turns out that Ruby’s cheating ex, Stu is also at the festival. Remix just got real.
Remix crams a lot of different relationship issues into its 304 pages. The unlikely friendship between Kaz and Lauren. The romantic push and pull of Ruby and Stu. Kaz and Tom’s lingering feelings. The connection between Kaz and a boy called Sebastian. Ruby’s worries as her brother Lee prepares to leave home. And even the foundering relationship between Lee and his boyfriend Owen. A festival provides a pressure cooker setting that allows the story to pull out a variety of emotions in a short space of time. Characters can’t get far away from the people they came with without doing something drastic, and so emotions and drama have a habit of springing out at every possible turn. This stranded situation also makes it easy for the characters to make the kind of unwise choices we have all made around our exes, manufacturing a high degree of drama.
Ruby and Kaz go through a crash course in friendship over the course of the three days as both girls deal with how their own insecurities affect their relationship. In the midst of all the friendship drama, Pratt is always keen to emphasise that the girls remain connected. The section where they eventually see Goldentone sees Kaz providing a running commentary of all the Ruby memories a particular song brings to mind, and this moment is an especially lovely validation of their friendship. And I’m please to report that the two girls come out the other side of drama and drink with a friendship stronger than ever; both individually more self-aware and independent.
There are some relationships I wish Remix had been developed more. I loved Lee and Owen’s set of friends, and would have liked to see Anna with her own minor storyline just like Parvati and Dongle. And I wish we’d had more access to Lee after he pours his heart out about his failings, and his relationship with Owen. It would be nice to know both guys were going to be able to move forward even if they can’t get a romantic happy ending together. As it stands, the reader leaves Lee in a screwed up limbo. In contrast, his sister, whose issues mirror his own, gets to move a little way through her insecurities and work on her trust issues with a partner she loves. I’d like to know if Kaz and Lauren can work their way back to friendship, and if Kaz can find the strength to stand up to her new friend about Ruby (implying someone’s a slag because you don’t like them is not cool).
Another area Remix is strong on is sex and regrets. Hand this to any teenager who thinks her first time needs to be like the movies – you’ll save her a lot of heartache. At the same time, you’ll avoid accidentally putting them off sex for life. Remix is truthful about sexual letdown, cheating and post sex regrets, but it also has a space for good, fulfilling sex between consenting people. And perhaps most impressively, it makes clear that people can enjoy sex even if they find a reason to regret it straight after. Kaz may regret having sex with Tom when she finds out he’s cheated with her but Pratt writes their sex scene as something Kaz enjoys.
By the end of this novel I wanted more than the three days the novel includes. I could easily read an ongoing series about these characters, and it’s a shame contemporary YA seems to be low on series and high on standalones at the moment. I could certainly stand to see a few more books about these girls, their friendships, and the personal relationships of their group from a talented writer like Pratt.
Non has written an article for us about presenting sexual experience in YA novels – click here.
Non Pratt, Remix (Walker Books: London, 2015). 978-1406347708, paperback, 299pp.