“I feel like getting wasted tonight,” I announce.
One family, three sisters.
GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student.
AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion.
And MIA, the mess in the middle.
Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers.
When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves.
But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.
The main reason I borrowed this book from the library is because I really enjoyed Lisa Williamson’s first book, The Art of Being Normal. I knew when I started it that this book has a whole different plot, but it felt quite far away from the previous book. It’s not one I’d pick up usually, and not a plot I really care about, but I read it because of the author really.
Mia is the middle child, sandwiched between two successful sisters. One, Grace, is perfect A student, with a place at Cambridge, and the other, Audrey, is a medal-winning swimmer hoping to swim at the Olympics. Mia? She just likes to drink, a lot. She hasn’t found her ‘thing’.
Finding what her ‘thing’ is seems to be the key, and I thought the narrative would focus on that more than anything. But no, it starts off with her wanting to get wasted, and then finding out her sister Grace is coming back from Greece early. Mia groans at this, then when Grace turns up pregnant, she laughs. Her perfect 19-year-old sister who can do no wrong, has got pregnant. She finds it HILARIOUS. So begins the downward spiral for Mia.
She’s an odd character. She’s unlike any character I’ve read before. She’s fierce and confident, but she spends a lot of time moaning and feeling sorry for herself, or blaming everyone else for everything that’s wrong with her life. She doesn’t make life easy for the people around her, and her problems come from her behavior. I think she just needs to rein it in a bit. When her parents aren’t angry at Grace for getting pregnant, it tips Mia over the edge.
“I stand up straight, so my face is level with hers and we’re eyeballing each other, and try to pinpoint exactly where it all went wrong between me and my big sister.”
But this is the thing, she spends all her time comparing herself to her sisters, and concluding that the only thing to do is drink and try and forget it. She’s got loads of pressure on at sixth form with her tutors talking about personal statements and university all the time (which I admit I hated at college too). But she doesn’t do anything to make it easier for herself. She just accepts that she’s useless, that she doesn’t have a ‘thing’.
I didn’t feel much connection between the sisters, because our focus is always from Mia’s perspective, and we don’t really get a chance to see things from other people’s perspectives. I liked Grace and Audrey, they’re great characters, but I feel like they were just entities floating around outside of Mia’s bubble. Yet they both have the power to burst it. They don’t, because Mia bursts it herself by ruminating on her sisters all the time.
She’s always complaining, always finding fault with everything Grace does. She finds so many problems with her pregnancy. Finding it ridiculous that she’s drinking special tea, or reading baby books, or calling her baby ‘Bean’ instead of ‘it’. For a girl of 19, Grace is so mature and adult-like that I often imagined her in her 20s already. She’s just trying to do her best, but Mia makes her out to be some kind of evil force in her life. As if Grace is the reason Mia hasn’t got a ‘thing’. But Grace sums it up at their parents wedding. Grace and Sam (her boyfriend) have just surprised their parents by singing their song, and Mia is furious that nobody told her about it. That she might have wanted to do something too. Te truth is, Mia just didn’t think to do anything, because she’s wrapped up in her own mind. Grace says:
“No one was stopping you, Mia.”
Nobody is stopping her from doing anything, and as a reader, we can see that. We can see what Mia can’t. I was invested in the story even if I couldn’t relate to any of it. I wanted to see how things would all turn out for her. I wanted to know if she would find her ‘thing’. But there’s frustration too, because I remember being that age, and I remember knowing the pressures and the potential that are around at that age. How what you do at that point really matters for the future. My decisions then pretty much shaped my life for the next three years, and then another year, to where I am now. I feel like Mia needs to stop her behaviour for five minutes, and just think rationally about what she wants for herself. I think she half expects her sisters success to be something they just have, and she doesn’t realise how hard they worked for it.
She’s a good character, because it’s characters like her that gets readers’ minds thinking from a different perspective. But Mia is such a force, and so bold and wild that sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Sometimes I just wanted her to stop and take things slowly, and stop complaining.
I also feel that the character development only started towards the end. There was a change in her, but I fear that she will miss her chance. There’s lessons learnt, and I like to think that she has found her thing by the end of it. But for me, the book went along too long. The ending should have been just after the middle, with room for a proper reflection and possibility at the end. The revelations in Mia that I was waiting for, they sort of happen right at the end, and then the book is over. I wanted those to be explored more, but instead the book focuses on Mia getting drunk a lot and making a load of mistakes and not even caring about them most of the time.
To sum up: this book contains the kind of possibility and potential that Mia is seeking. It’s a quick read, with a memorable main character, but the plot and pacing is a bit off for me, and I feel like I’ve still got story left to read, things to find out…so I’m left feeling like Mia’s story is unfinished.
Link to the book on Goodreads: All About Mia