When her life is irrevocably altered by a post-Rave tryst on her mother’s floral patio recliner, Erin Roberts’ long-standing relationship with Humiliation takes her down a path that’s not so much ‘less well trodden’, more ‘perilous descent down sheer cliffs’.
Armed with a fierce devotion to her best friend and the unrequited love for the boy she might have accidentally married at age seven, when Erin falls pregnant at sixteen, life veers off at a most unexpected tangent.
Her journey to adulthood is far from ordinary as Erin learns that protecting the hearts of those most precious to you isn’t balm enough when your Love Punked heart is as sore as your freshly tattooed arse.
Whilst raising football prodigies and trying not to get stuck in lifts with Social Work clients who hate her, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to circumnavigate the globe to find the very thing that was there all along.
When Nia got in touch with me to see if I’d be willing to review this book, I was immediately excited as I read the blurb above. I was interested to see how she would handle such a difficult subject matter in what sounded like a jovial and playful text and what else would befall Erin Roberts. From the first page, I was hooked. Nia’s unique writing style is easy to read and hugely entertaining, meaning I flew through it. I awarded this book a massive and undeniable five star rating and I am dying to reread it already.
One of my favourite things about Love Punked is the fantastic characterisation. Nia introduces us to a world of well-rounded and completely relatable characters. Erin Roberts is an incredibly strong young woman, dealing with a situation I could never imagine in such an admirable way, and yet I feel so close to her as a character. While being an amazing mother and continually sacrificing what she wants for the good of her two boys, Erin is still a young girl trying to overcome the same high school obstacles the majority of us can recognise: exams, friendship problems, first romantic and sexual relationships, etc. While I read with a tear in my eye, in awe at the way Erin deals with everything that has thrown her way – things that I cannot understand as I have not experienced them myself – I can still relate to her in other ways and, therefore, am able to put myself in her shoes and wonder how I would have managed such a difficult adolescence. Another thing I love about Nia’s characterisation is the lack of stereotypes, which you would probably expect in a piece like this. For example, Jay – the father of Erin’s children – could easily have been written as that cliched bad dad, who abandons his children and their mother in order to go and live out his youth, unhindered. However, Nia writes him as someone we can sympathise with – not a bad person but someone who struggles to be a good one, also making sacrifices to ensure his children have a childhood unlike his own. Reading this book, I fell in love with these characters, their quirks and their vulnerabilities, as I’m sure other readers will too.
Another aspect of this book that I love is the quick-witted writing style. Nia Lucas is clearly an intelligent human being and, damn is she witty. She had me laughing out loud within the first few pages. The style reminded me a little of books like Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and other chick-flicks. This is a category of literature that so many authors get completely wrong – they try to be cleverly funny whilst remaining relatable but fail to provoke more than an inward sniff and, ultimately, become a little embarrassing in their failure. However, Nia gets it spot on. One of my favourite lines reads, “I couldn’t tell you what my body looks like in the area from my navel to my knees. Not seen it for a while, it might have sprouted feathers and answer to the name ‘Duncan’ by now for all I know” (15%). I mean, come on, if you didn’t laugh at that you need to have a serious search for your sense of humour. What is most commendable about Love Punked is its ability to make you laugh out loud while also being incredibly emotional and addressing important issues. I cried countless times while reading this book and if I have one thing to say to you it is “Do not, I repeat DO NOT, read this book on public transport” because you will embarrass yourself, much like I did, snivelling away and avoiding eye contact with the businessman in pinstriped suit looking at me quizzically across the table on the train. Nia creates beautiful relationships, tear-jerking (but importantly, not cliched) moments and touches on meaningful issues, like race, all while maintaining an overall uplifting and lively atmosphere.
Without giving too much away and spoiling it for those of you who intend to read the book, I want to make a final comment on the ending. It was one I was wishing for for the vast majority of the book and was written so unbelievable perfectly. Love Punked is one of those books that teases you with a plot development that you want so badly and then yanks it away again, leaving you just as heartbroken as Erin herself. However, I couldn’t have been happier with the way Nia chose to bring the novel to a close – finally granting Erin the life she deserved, while maintaining her quick-witted style right up until the very end.
If it hasn’t become clear to you by now, I adored this book and I urge each and every one of you to give it a go as soon as bloody possible. Have you read it yet? What do you think of the premise? Let me know in the comments below!