There are so many different types of reality shows on TV these days, involving everything from singing and dancing, to cooking and building. Suzanne Collins took the reality show idea and turned it into a fight to the death in The Hunger Games and in Catherine Bruton’s new book, Pop!, one of her characters has worked out the rules of talent TV and reckons she knows how to play the system.
The first round of auditions was a bit mad. All these wannabe popstars sitting around trying to look wacky/soulful/tragic (delete as appropriate) to catch the attention of the TV cameras.
At least we had a cracking back story. The story of me, Agnes, Jimmy and baby Alfie; the tears, the tragedy, the broken homes and feuding families, the star-crossed lovers. And only some of it was made up.
If I say so myself, it was genius: a sure-fire golden ticket to stratospheric stardom. Or at least that was the plan…
Pop! is a terrific story full of moments that will make you laugh, cry, cringe, jump for joy, and possibly want to slap a certain character. The story is told from the point of view of the three main characters; Elfie, Jimmy and Agnes. Elfie is the smart-ass who always comes up with crazy schemes that Jimmy gets roped into. Her mum is incredibly unreliable and always walks out when times get tough, so Elfie is often left to look after her baby brother Alfie. Jimmy and Elfie have been best friends for as long as they can remember, so Jimmy always gets involved in Elfie’s schemes. Jimmy is a fantastic swimmer and his dad trains him hard so that he might get a chance to go to the Olympics. It’s one day when Elfie and Jimmy are hanging out under the bridge that Elfie announces their next big scheme – they’re going to enter the Pop to the Top talent contest. Their only problem is that they don’t really have any talent. Then they hear a girl singing. That girl is Agnes, the daughter of one of the ‘immos,’ the immigrant workers who have taken the jobs of local workers at the power station. Agnes has an amazing voice and so Elfie ropes her into being in her girl band for Pop to the Top. Agnes and Jimmy have no idea what they are getting themselves in for, and as Elfie weaves more and more lies, their lives and the lives of those around them spiral out of control.
Catherine Bruton has created three very different characters who are all doing what they believe is right. Even though Elfie creates these twisted versions of their lives, she is only doing so to try and win the money that she thinks will solve all their problems. She cares so much for her dad and her little brother and wants to give them the life they deserve. Jimmy and Agnes go along with Elfie’s scheme because they want what’s best for their families too. At first Elfie made me laugh with her plans and her fake back stories, then she made me want to slap her, but by the end of the story she had redeemed herself. Agnes is a really interesting character because she really grows throughout the story. At first she’s quiet and withdrawn because nobody, apart from her family, talks to her. Not only is she the daughter of an immo, but she also doesn’t speak much English. She says that she is a collector of words and she picks up new and interesting words from listening to conversations. Throughout the story she grows in confidence and manages to settle the moths in her stomach when she sings.
I absolutely love Pop! and the wonderful characters that Catherine has created. Whenever I watch a reality show now I’ll be looking out for people who know Elfie’s Rules of Talent TV. If you love Frank Cottrell Boyce’s books, like Millions and Framed, then Pop! is definitely the book for you.
5 out of 5 stars