"Tamara Goodwin has always got everything she's ever wanted. Born into a family of wealth, she grew up in a mansion with its own private beach, a wardrobe full of designer clothes and all that a girl could ever wish for. She's always lived in the here and now, never giving a second thought to tomorrow. But then suddenly her dad is gone and life for Tamara and her mother changes forever. Left with a mountain of debt, they have no choice but to sell everything they own and move to the country. Nestled next to Kilsaney Castle, their gatehouse is a world away from Tamara's childhood. With her mother shut away with grief, and her aunt busy tending to her, Tamara is lonely and bored and longs to return to Dublin. When a travelling library passes through Kilsaney Demesne, Tamara is intrigued. Her eyes rest on a mysterious large leather bound tome locked with a gold clasp and padlock. What she discovers within the pages takes her breath away and shakes her world to its core."
This is actually the first book by Cecelia Ahern that I've read; I own three others, but they never really intrigued me enough to actually read them, I'm ashamed to say. This book however fascinated me as soon as I heard about it months ago. The story seemed great, but I somehow still expected the story to be cheesy - luckily, it was anything but that! In fact, in was absolutely fantastic (good win, very dead *wink wink*) and all I can say is W-O-W!!!
What I loved most about this book was definitely the narrative voice of Tamara Goodwin. I can't say she's the most likeable character ever as she even herself confesses she's a spoilt selfish mean brat among other things, but on the other hand I thought she was just a typical teenager, always arguing with her parents and moaning for no reason. For the first 16 years of her life, she led a very privileged life and took everything for granted, but after her father's death she is forced to learn a few hard life lessons. Despite all her flaws, I really really really enjoyed her narrative and her fantastic snarky remarks that had me in stitches several times (I still chuckle just thinking about some scenes, lol).
Luckily, Tamara's character wasn't the only one that was immensely well portrayed - I pretty much loved ALL the characters! My favourite was probably Marcus (even though that subplot wasn't quite resolved the way I hoped it would be) - the Bookman with his lovely Bookmobile, but how could you possibly not love the nuns who enjoy Mills & Boon books and drive around in a yellow Fiat Cinquicento (hey, I used to drive an orange Fiat Seicento so who am I to judge :p)?! Yep, Sister Ignatius was the best nun ever - talk about defying steretypes, hehe. Or the mysterious relatives, an uncle who rarely opens his mouth and a strange aunt? Honestly, you couldn't possibly wish for better characters, they were pretty much perfect!
The plot was also fantaaaaastic and I loved the whole mystery surrounding Tamara's new life, which is only increased by her new surrounding, a cottage in the middle of nowhere, next to the ruins of a mysterious deserted castle. There were all these questions that kept popping up: Why is Tamara's mother acting so strange, even for a grieving person? Why does uncle Arthur barely speak? Why is aunt Rosaleen so peculiar (you could tell there was more than meets the eye, but I was certainly not expecting the final twist!!)? What's in the garage? Who lives in the bungalow? What happened to the people in the castle when the fire broke out? What does Sister Ignatius know? Sooo many questions and I was pleased to say that everything was satisfactorily explained in the rather explosive conclusion which quite resembled an action film, hehe. Talk about a life-changing twist, whoooooa!
Ms Ahern is famous for her magical elements in her works and in this case it was this diary that contains the entries from the future, giving Tamara a chance to change it or act accordingly. (What would you do, huh? :)) It may sound a bit weird, but it worked out really well in the course of the book, I thought it was quite clever actually!
(By the way, do you think the last sentence in the book implies a sequel? Ooh, I'd love one!)
I'm not quite sure which genre the book belongs to though ... It's more YA than chicklit if anything, but I don't think it quite fits either so I've decided to label it as general as I think it would appeal to everyone!
Seriously, what's not to love about this book?! The narration/writing is fantastic, the characters are lovely, the plot is wonderfully mysterious (gripping stuff, honestly) and the cover is gorgeous! This EPIC WIN of a book blew my mind and jumped straight into my Top 5 reads of 2009! Surely Ms Ahern's previous can't be any better than this? But even if they're half as good, I'll definitely give them a try now! I'm so hyped up and can't stop raving about this book now so I think I better stop before I get slightly carried away - oh, wait, is it already too late for that? :)
overall rating: 5/5
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 5/5
Additional reviews: Leah, Chloe, Dot - be sure to read those too! :)