Cherry Crush (The Chocolate Box Girls) ISBN: 9780141384795
Published by Puffin Books, 2010
This is the first in a series of five books about girls in a step family. Each book centres on one of the girls, and in this one we meet Cherry Costello, half Japanese and half Scottish, who lives with her father in a flat in Glasgow. She and her dad are very close, but Cherry finds school difficult because of bullying and because she tells tall stories - actually they are lies. Her English teacher says she has an 'active imagination' but her school mates are not fooled, and and know she is telling porkies about her missing Japanese mum and her dad's importance. When dad meets Charlotte Tanberry on an internet site and they begin to get serious, Cherry is pleased for dad, but very anxious about Charlotte's four daughters. When dad announces that he wants them to move to Devon to help with Charlotte's B & B business and to start up a new chocolate shop, Cherry is very nervous she won't fit in as she never has before. They are greeted happily by the whole family except for Honey, the oldest girl, who is 14 and very 'into' boys, particularly local, good-looking Shay. From this point, the book becomes a love story, with Cherry, who is 13, and Shay becoming more and more interested in each other. Honey, who is fixated on her parents getting back together, which isn't going to happen, becomes actively hostile to Cherry and her father, and plans to go to London to live with her dad. She is also extremely jealous of Cherry and Shay's growing interest in each other. The three younger girls are Skye and Summer, twins, a year younger than Cherry, and Coco, a tomboy, who is younger still. All three are welcoming and if it weren't for Honey's problems, all would be well. Cherry, though continues her tall tales, and while the three younger girls understand that she is imagining it all, Honey turns nasty. Cherry is all too aware that she shouldn't be too friendly with Shay, but she also realises that he is not as interested in Honey as she would like to believe. There is lots of detail about family life and all the readjustments and the start-up of the chocolate business, but when the girls' father announces he is going to live in Australia, Honey goes quite wild, and by the end of the story, we know two things - first that Cherry and Shay are seriously interested in each other, and secondly, that Honey may be becoming slightly deranged. This is the aspect of the book that will have girls coming back for the rest of the series. It is a page-turner, a good read, and, yes, chick lit, but the relationships and the problems are well constructed and very interesting. and for girls in step-families, there will be much that is recognisable.