Jul 19

Book Review – Loathing Lola by William Kostakis

Title: Loathing Lola
Author: William Kostakis
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia, 2008 (346 pages)
ISBN: 978-0-33042-416-5
Suitable Age: 13+

Loathing Lola by William KostakisSummary:

Fifteen-year-old Courtney Marlow didn’t exactly think it through. She thought the offer to have her life broadcast on national television was the perfect solution to her family’s financial troubles.

She was wrong.

Mackenzie Dahl, the show’s producer, promised to show Australia a real teenager. Courtney was going to be a positive role model, someone on television without a boob job and an eating disorder. But as events in her life are deviously manipulated to create drama, Courtney begins to realise that ‘ordinary’ does not translate to ‘entertaining’.

Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame via a little bit of Courtney – especially her conniving friend Katie, and her stepmother, Lola. But Courtney is not the pliant teenager everyone seems to think she is…

I recently read about Loathing Lola by William Kostakis at Persnickety Snark and was intrigued by the concept of the novel. I was also keen to read some youth fiction by someone who was of the same generation as the characters in the book. The author’s own recommendation on my Reading Wish List that the book was “made of awesome” pushed me over the edge and I picked up a copy and moved it to the top of my teetering TBR pile.

After a shaky start with a funeral scene that didn’t quite work for me, I really enjoyed this novel. The characters were fun and the story moved along at a nice pace. There is a lot of humour in the dialogue with the characters making the kind of witty comebacks that I would have loved to have been confident enough to make back in high school.

While each character did have a slight edge or quirkiness that stopped them being predictable, for me the major characters did more or less conform with a stereotype for their role. I’m not sure if this is what Kostakis intended, but for me this worked well as a reflection of the very staged and edited “cast” of characters present in most reality TV programs.

To illustrate my point, here is a list of some of the main characters:

Courtney: friendly, well-meaning, wants to make a difference, divorced parents
Tim: Courtney’s best friend since kindergarten. Funny, thoughtful, smart, supportive
Katie: Tim’s twin sister. Gorgeous, fashion conscious, vamp
Jackson: Hot potential boyfriend, gorgeous and talented
Jordan: annoying younger brother
Mother: caring, overworked, too many worries
Father: insensitive, irresponsible
Step-mother Lola: ditzy, insensitive

Kostakis is apparently currently working on a second novel that will centre on Katie. Of all the characters, Katie is the one with the sharpest sense of humour and I enjoyed her one-liners. She is a character with a lot of spunk and, for me, seemed to share quite a lot of the spotlight in Loathing Lola as well. After all, it’s hard to ignore someone who is willing to strip to their underwear to help take unwanted attention from a friend.

Loathing Lola was very entertaining to read with a very natural feel to the dialogue particularly. I think that it would also work well as a starting point for high school classroom discussions about how much “reality” there really is in reality TV programs. This is a great debut novel for Sydney-based author Kostakis and I’m looking forward to seeing how his writing style develops with future books.

Literary Road TripThis is review is part of my contribution to the Literary Road Trip hosted by GalleySmith. I am highlighting authors from New South Wales, Australia.

Related Links:
Adele at Persnickety Snark interviews William Kostakis
William Kostakis website

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  1. William Kostakis

    Thanks for the review :-). I’m glad somebody’s finally commented on how every character plays a certain role. It was my quiet, little joke that Courtney desperately wants to break the mould and be different, but she, and everyone she knows, are so stereotypically normal it hurts.

    Lots of people are turning on the funeral scene recently… what was it that irked you? Criticism’s good for the soul, so let me have it! Funnily enough, thought, it was actually the scene that scored me the book contract (and still my personal favourite scene). It’s the most autobiographical scene in the book (and is atually toned DOWN from real-life events, believe it or not), that’s why I laugh when it’s criticised for being wildly unbelievable 😛

    But yeah, thanks again for the review. Now, back to Book #2…

    P.S. A Katie-centric book is definitely on the cards, but it’s very, very far away.

    1. Susan

      Thanks for your reply. I’m glad you weren’t offended that I refered to the characters as somewhat stereotypical. I loved that about them – that they were unconsciously filling those roles.

      As for the funeral scene, I think that it was the overt competition between Courtney and the other girl (I don’t have the book in front of me and can’t remember her name, sorry). It wasn’t so much that they were each trying to outdo each other, but the fact that they turned the service itself into their battleground. There was no mention of the family and the one-upmanship over which was entitled to speak at the funeral seemed insensitive.

      I could see how it set up each of the characters and illustrated their relationships with each other, but it just left me feeling a bit uneasy. Just a personal thing, I guess. If I’d been at the funeral, I probably would have grabbed each of them and dragged them outside for a stern lecture on appropriate behaviour at serious social occasions. Just goes to show what an old stick-in-the-mud I am. 🙂

      Despite this scene, I did want to read further to find out more about the characters. I especially liked the way the profiles were given for each character during this first chapter. Very TV script-ish and it fit in well with the sense of everyone being a cast member of the reality TV show.

  2. William Kostakis

    Hahaha, unfortunately, that’s a pretty accurate representation of the only teen funeral I’ve been to.

    The funny thing is, neither of them were as entitled to speak at the funeral as say, his Mum, or other family members. Chloe actually knew Liam, and was friends with him *longer* than Courtney – little things like that onlstruck me after re-reading it recently and I realised that Courtney is far less innocent than I thought she was when I was writing her, and certainly more innocent than she thinks she is.

    What’s surprised me about LOLA is that every time I re-read it, or at least, skim through it, before a speaking event, I discover another layer that completely alters my perception of Courtney. I put the sequel on hold because I just simply didn’t like her anymore. But I guess no fifteen-year-old would hold up very well under close scrutiny. And it’s also a good thing, it means she has a lot of growing up to do, which means I have a lot more to write about 😛

  3. William Kostakis

    onlstruck! my new word 😛

    *only struck

  4. Michelle

    Hey Road Tripper!

    Ugh, I wish it was easier to get international (to me) book because this one sounds right up my ally. I’m addicted to youth fiction (YA) and snarky/witty is the best part of all. I also think it would be interesting to see the take on the reality television culture since it’s hugely prominent here in the States.

    Awesome review!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Booking Through Thursday =-.

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