Stay Another Day by Juno Dawson is a glitter-laden delight and I’m hoping Santa pops a copy into every discerning teen reader’s Christmas stocking. Written with Dawson’s trademark brio and wit, it’s the story of three siblings, reunited for a festive family gathering. Coming home from uni, student Fern is longing for the perfect Christmas, her twin Rowan bitingly dismissive of his uncool, drab family, while younger sister, Willow, awaits them, ‘pale and tragic, some gothic attic secret.’Rowan’s fears of dullness are decidedly misplaced. Hold onto your party hats as the tinsel hits the fan.
We learn early on that Willow struggles with anorexia and that it has dominated family life for a while. Wondering how she will cope with calorific festive feasting, Willow’s anxiety fizzes away inside her on a shortening fuse. She is, however, looking forward to seeing her siblings and the guests they’re bringing, Fern with her gorgeous boyfriend, Thom, and Rowan with his very cool friend, Syd. A yuletide gathering blessed with mixed-race, non-binary, and sexually fluid participants, the siblings are wincing at the prospect of their unhip parents inevitable conversational blunders.
In the best traditions of soap opera Christmas episodes, secrets and drama begin to bubble along with the Prosecco. Why are Mum and Dad behaving so oddly, and which characters are grappling with unforeseen desires?
I absolutely loved this book. It’s typical Dawson, frankly discussing cultural issues and the binds of convention, while being screamingly funny and smart. Dawson has said that as she approaches middle-age, she’s fearful of getting the tone and dialogue wrong in her YA novels. Well, there’s no hint of trying to be ‘down with the kids’ here. This romcom-esque novel is razor-sharp in both dialogue and characterisation.
The publisher has labelled the book as unsuitable for younger readers, probably because it features random helpings of sex and swearing. Well, what Christmas worth its salt doesn’t?
Stay Another Day by Juno Dawson is published by Quercus Children’s Books, 309 pages.