This is the first book I’ve read from Chantelle Atkins and I loved it. I’m amazed that this is her debut novel, it was that good.
It is an emotional, character driven tale about a sixteen-year-old girl coping with the difficulties of being a teenager and living within a broken family (her mother is separated from Lou’s father and is in a new relationship.)
Lou doesn’t want to be that overlooked, overweight girl anymore. The passages about her not wanting to eat are powerful and frightening to read.
The Mess of Me is also a tale of friendship, of love, mothers, daughters, parents and sons. There are many hard hitting topics throughout including escalating family violence, alcohol and drug use, drug trafficking, self harm, and cries for help but these subjects are handled with great sensitivity. The dialogues are sprinkled with wonderful teenage banter to add touches of humour to lighten the narrative.
My two favourite characters were Lou and her best friend Joe who she’s known forever… since she was a baby! Marianne, and Joe’s older brothers Travis and Leon were also well written as were all the adults in the book. Perhaps the only character I felt less connection to was Sara, Lou’s older sister.
Life can be confusing and awkward for teenagers but this also applies to adults too! I loved how The Mess of Me conveyed our vulnerability, our frailness, how making mistakes and bad choices can have a huge impact on our lives and the lives of those we love. Sometimes parents get it spectacularly wrong and The Mess of Me does a fantastic job of portraying that flip side too.
There are many wonderful scenes with Lou and her mum chatting, drawing closer together, beginning to understand each other. I was so touched by these, having two daughters myself, remembering those teenage angst flare ups made me cry. As a parent all you want is for your children to be happy, safe and well and when that is threatened the fear and helplessness is immense. I don’t want to go in too much detail for fear of spoiling the book for you but The Mess of Me portrayed that fear and hopelessness so well.
After finishing The Mess of Me I was left with a sense of hope rising up from this dark tale. I enjoyed it on so many levels.
I will definitely read more from this author. One of my favourite books of 2021.
Highly recommended – 5 stars.
I will be interviewing Chantelle about Chasing Driftwood – her creative writing group soon.
If We Were Having Coffee I’d have so much to say that quite possibly I might lose my voice!
It has been some week. My husband has been away skiing on his annual trip abroad with his male friends. This year they went to Ischgl in Austria , and unfortunately one of them had to get air lifted off the mountain in a helicopter. The poor chap had broken his shoulder in several places. So that wasn’t a particularly good start to the holiday week. Men and adrenalin! Speeding skis can be dangerous…
My mum and dad have been visiting Cambridge which has been very nice. We’ve been out for a lot of meals, and coffees this week. I was sad to see them go on Saturday, particularly when my dad said, “Bye my lovely girl,” as he left. That really touched me and I felt kind of weepy as they went. But I’m seeing them again soon, (it’s my mum’s birthday on 2nd of April and we are having a weekend away in Brighton to celebrate…)
We had a very odd dinner out on Friday night. My mum, dad, and my youngest daughter and her boyfriend came out with me for a meal to a local pub nearby. On the way there the car decided that it wasn’t really in the mood, and a nasty looking symbol lighted up on my dashboard, an engine warning light. This wasn’t looking good. Fortunately we managed to make it to the pub without incident. We began looking at the menu, and then suddenly Georgina’s boyfriend alerted us to the fact that my mum had inadvertently popped the menu on top of a tiny little tealight candle and it was burning a perfect hole right through. There was much commotion, but we managed to put out the burning circle, thanks to G’s boyfriend’s quite wittedness! My dad went of on a mini tirade about how they shouldn’t put candles on tables as they are fire hazards….. in between laughing and calming down dad we managed to decide on our chosen meals.
The waitress came to jot down our order and take away our menus. I have to say the burning smell was still lingering a bit…. but I don’t think she noticed that the burnt menu was slotted at the bottle of the pile by G’s boyfriend! Sitting immediately behind us were a family with young children. One, or perhaps was it two children, started to howl and dad being a typical man of his generation made a loud comment about how noisy they were!
Soon our meal arrived looking tasty, so that silenced us from further comment, and we calmed down, munching away quite happily.
Oh I forgot to mention the wine shenanigans. Take another sip of extra strength coffee – I must tell you about that! Mum and dad suggested ordering some wine, but G’s boyfriend said he wasn’t allowed alcohol in restaurants because of his age, and asked for a glass of water instead. Dad, being a somewhat eccentric old chap answered this with “A glass of water in a dirty glass?” Apparently this is a well known Grandfatherly joke as G’s boyfriend then said that his Grandad says this joke too! Or perhaps he was just being polite, can’t say I’ve ever heard of that one before! The tired looking waitress came to take our plates away and inadvertently knocked over my dad’s wine glass, which crashed to the floor shattering to tiny little shards which spread everywhere. Luckily no one was hurt but the wine splashed on my black trousers! Of course I pretended that it hadn’t as she looked so mortified. It wasn’t red wine so no real harm done. She replaced dad’s glass of wine with an even larger glass of wine, that my mum and dad ended up sharing.
What a first introduction to my extended family – I wonder whatever G’s boyfriend made of us! It was brave of him to come – he’s only fifteen, (but looks older,) my daughter’s sixteen! His age escaped my parents notice because on the way back was it my mum or dad that asked him if he’s learnt to drive yet…. Anyway, I’m glad to report that we got home safe and sound, with me at the wheel. It was a bit of a worry as we had to cross a railway track. I had visions of the engine cutting out just as we were crossing, and us having to abandon the car to the approaching train while we made a run for it. Which would be a frightening thought as my dad and mum can’t run but fortunately this didn’t happen. Cars, ugh, looks like the nuisance engine will have to make a visit to the garage….
That sounds like it should be the end of my If I Was Having Coffee post but no it’s not quite.. On Saturday I popped into town to meet an old friend of mine and we went to a favourite haunt of mine – Jamaican Blue, a lovely little coffee house/restaurant in Cambridge. It was nice catching up with my friend. Our daughters have been friends since infants so the pair of them went off shopping, while we sipped our lattes and had a chat. Anyway after a time I began to talk to my friend about the title of my novel, several possible names came to mind: The Crystal Cottage, Krystallos, The Golden Healer, and then after we chatted some more I came up with a new possibility : The Curse of Time. She liked it. I liked it. Somehow The Curse of Time has a certain ring to it … do let me know if you like the sound of it.
So that’s it more or less, my first If We Were Having Coffee post. I’ve been meaning to do one of these for ages. I am a right old chatterbox once you get to know me…
If you’d like to join in with Diana’s Weekend Coffee Share at Part Time Monster here’s the link:
My one-liner for Linda G. Hill’s #1linerWeds this week is : This is how the poor chicken or should I say the cockerel got a bad name!
Just look at him, he looks a downright rascal doesn’t he! He deserves the title: You piece of Chicken!!
This is silly. I realise that but that’s okay. The odd silliness is allowed. This expression, you piece of chicken, is a bit of a family joke. My youngest daughter coined the phrase. We use this secret coded message when someone annoys us. Being a household of three women and only one man we tend to be a bit naughty and sometimes use it when we are ganging up on the only male in the house! Wicked witches. My poor hubby!! When he does something annoying we whisper: ‘ he’s a piece of chicken,’ and giggle….
It’s all in fun of course! No one was hurt using this expression….
Families are funny that way, we all have these strange idiosyncrasies.
With this one-liner in mind, I thought I’d do a piece about the things that tend to irritate me.
I came across a post a while ago from the lovely Jenny at Neverland about the things that irritate her:
I have intended to do one myself so here goes. These bug bears are in no particular order, just take them as they come. Do feel free to make paper darts out of them. No. 23 on the list is bound to crawl, so make sure you stamp on it before it takes over your household. If that doesn’t work get a full strength insect killer to eradicate it just to be on the safe side. Do hang in there until the bitter end. No. 24 will be worth the effort, I promise. No napping, you might just recognise someone you know.
People who take pleasure in being rude. Why? Come on you Rotten Tomatoes! This behaviour is unacceptable. Being nice doesn’t cost you anything! Don’t walk into people. You might just hurt someone, especially if you are particularly huge beefy tomato and they are a petite cherry tomato. It would be like a tank coming into contact with a mini. Think. Behave you Rotten Tomatoes!
2. Bad Tempered Customers. When I was working in retail there were a few annoying customers who made a fuss about all manner of things but one of the most common complaint was paying for 5p bags. This is Government law now so bring your own bag and stop complaining. If you forget then dig deep and find a 5p. Your purse will probably be glad that you got rid of some of that spare change.
3. When folks are always late. This one stems from my coming from a family who are obsessed with time keeping! We are always on time, often we’re early, so these habitual latecomers are bound to irritate me! They swan in as if it’s their goddam right. Sometimes they make matters worse by not apologising but ….. and now here’s the interesting thing ……. they get livid if you keep them waiting in return. Some are even more wicked and play sophisticated tricks on you, knowing that you hate to be late. They offer to take you to the station to catch your train, start fiddling around at the last minute, and you end up rushing to catch your train. Or worse still you miss it. I could write a whole post about this one…
4. Over sensitivity. We all get moments when we feel sensitive. I get that. I’ve been there. But what I don’t understand is when the over sensitive person in question shows an inability to be sensitive to your needs in turn. It has to work both ways.
5. Spitting. The only kind of spitting that’s okay is sausages, and burgers, spitting on a BBQ, any other kind is disgusting. Yuk, as is picking your nose and toe nails in public, etc, etc. Keep those disgusting habits for the bathroom, away from others’ eyes!
6. Bad listeners. This can get a bit annoying…. It tends to often be the domain of people who like to talk about their lives rather than take the time to listen to others.
7. Swearing in excess. We’ve all come across this one, you’re in a pub and a group of people are swearing. It’s not just a few words it’s every other word. I can’t stand this. Okay the occasional swear word is understandable if you’re angry, or upset. Perhaps you have just crashed your car, stubbed your toe, or broken your ankle, but just peppering your speech with expletives for the sake of it is pointless, and ugly. There are no prizes for this pastime!
8. Insincerity. Another pet hate. I can’t bear it when people say something they don’t mean. Just be honest, don’t say I’m going to miss you so much and then never get in touch. Or I’d love to read your blog and then never do so. That one really hurts! Yes I’m a bit sensitive about that one! Or act all nostalgic and pretend you like something when you don’t just to impress someone. Say what you mean, and do what you say. So whatever you do, don’t be insincere unless your livelihood depends upon it……. If you’re a salesman!!
9. Control Freaks. Sometimes you’re in a desperate hurry and you have to leave but the person you are with tries to tell you their life story just as you are about to disappear. What’s with that? Is it a kind of control thing?
10. No humour. Lads and lasses with no sense of humour. We all need humour to survive in this world that we live in, so fire it up, keep it burning, don’t douse it out.
11. No sense of adventure. When you ask someone about their holiday abroad in some exotic destination and they reply in one boring sentence that tells you nothing: ‘It was nice.’ As if they’d just been to the end of their road and back. I tell you it is like pulling teeth. Perhaps they prefer to talk about their visit to the dentist? Why are they so reluctant to fill you in on all their holiday details? Perhaps they went to a nudist camp and don’t want to say! I’d love to hear all about their travels abroad, nude bits and all, so this really, really, disappoints me!
12. Liars. Yes, these exist, some swear that they don’t ever lie but believe me they do. They’d swear on their mother’s grave that they’re telling the truth, but it’s all lies. So unless you’re Pinocchio keep those lies to a minimum.
13. Over inflated Egos. People with an over inflated ego, who think they are God’s gift. Just get off of your cloud and come down to reality. Nobody’s perfect, believe me. We’re all flawed humans. All of my best friends are imperfect human beings and so am I, that’s what makes us so interesting. Perfection is boring. Imperfection is alluring.
14. Obsessional guys and girls. Chill. What’s with all that cleaning, dusting and tidying? Unless you suffer from OCD then of course I forgive you. Life is too short. Take a break, put your feet up, the boring housework can wait! But reading can’t!
Take a tip from this fellow he knows how to relax! Isn’t he cute?
15. Lack of respect. This one appeared on Jenny’s list too. Respect other people and their choices. Whether it’s the books they read, the films they enjoy or perhaps their sporting pastimes. If you would never consider playing golf in your lifetime that doesn’t mean that you should criticise your friend’s interest. Same with writing, or any other activity, if the person loves doing it be a good friend and encourage them to continue, and be happy for them when they share their successes. Okay, my dad has so many golf cups and medals that I’ve kind of lost touch but I think it’s lovely that he is still enjoying playing golf at the ripe old age of 87. Go dad…. You’re my hero.
16. Unforgiving. Sometimes you have to forgive and forget to move on from past hurts. Life is too short to be unforgiving. This one’s a difficult one. I suppose in extreme circumstances forgiveness is hard to accept into your heart, but in principle it is better to forgive, and move on. Otherwise you can harbour hate, and be held back from recovering yourself. I’ve dug up a whole philosophical debate with this one… Perhaps it’s time to move on to….
17. Lack of Positivity. Some folks just can’t seem to be positive. They’re all doom and gloom. Morose and Miserable. What’s with that? Try to be positive. I know life’s hard and competitive, but try.
18. I can’t see it. There is a tendency for people to be unsympathetic if they can’t see an illness but that doesn’t lesson its impact to the sufferer. I suffered with terrible problems with my balance following a severe inner ear infection many years ago and believe me it was horrendous. My ears are still shot, and the problem recurs if I am stressed. The ‘I can’t see it’ scenario is also true of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. It’s not a physical illness but it is debilitating. According to Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. So be kind, and supportive if you know someone who is suffering.
19. Bullies. I can’t stand bullies, and any form of aggression. We all come across bullies at some point in our lives. In my case I have done so at school and in the work force too. If only we could weed out bullies, pluck them out by the roots. But sadly this isn’t possible. There is only one way and that is stand up to Bullies.
20. People who rabbit on. Some folks rabbit on about the most mundane things. Their bowel movements may be of supreme importance to them but they really aren’t gripping my interest. Sorry. Moving on…
21. People who snore. I know it’s not their fault but really? Don’t you know that you’re damaging my health. I need my sleep. Often snorers are also prone to doing other wonderful things like sleep walking, grinding their teeth and lashing out in their sleep. Just wonderful. I need protective armour on, a CCTV camera to check what the sleep walker has been doing plus an ability to switch of my hearing overnight.
22. People who scratch. Hey, what’s this? It follows on from no. 22. Some people scratch their skin in their sleep. This is beyond irritating. I should know, my daughter sometimes does it and sharing a room with her is…. an itchy, noisy, business. Poor wee soul, eczema isn’t nice. So unless you are a monkey, or have eczema, please don’t scratch!
23. Nits, aka head lice. Shame we can’t groom ourselves like they do in the monkey kingdom… This particular problem is now thankfully in the past but I still have nightmares about it. Gross. How can you send your child to school with a head teaming with nits, especially if the child in question is doing Hairdressing GCSE? Ugh.
I never realised that so many things annoyed me, that’s quite a lengthy list… But no. 23 is an odd number somehow that doesn’t seem quite right, wait.
24. I reached 24. But I can’t think of anymore…… So I’ll make one up. Writers. Boy you’re an annoying, solitary, crazy, obsessive bunch, all you think and talk about is writing. Oops, what am I saying? That’s me!
That’s about all folks….
I must be a bit of a miserable so and so, Jenny only had 20, I have 24 moans. Well, perhaps I will be forgiven as I’m a lot older than Jenny. Given that, four more ain’t too bad! But no more bug bears, for now. Next time I should do a list about things that make me happy. I’d have to have at least 24 smiley lines of glowing positivity or else I’ll be in trouble.