Pride and Premiership by Michelle Gayle, published by Walker Books
I'm really nosey. I want to know all the details of people's day to day lives. Even when I say I'm interested in history and try to sound like an intelligent, cultured person, what I actually mean is I want to know all about who historical people slept with and what sort of pants they wore.* Now finding this sort of stuff out about celebrities now is ever so slightly tainted with thoughts like 'I wonder how the newspaper found this out..' and 'I am a stalker', so I think fiction is the best place to go.
So when I discovered that Michelle Gayle had written a YA novel about what it is really like to be a WAG I casually mused I HAVE TO READ THAT. It would be a way of finding out what it is like to go out with a footballer without those pesky super injunctions getting in the way. But there are more important things going on than my stalkerish interest in footballers. Michelle Gayle decided to write this book because she'd found out that two thirds of teenage girls had stated becoming a WAG as one of their career dreams. As someone who has been a WAG (she was married to Mark Bright for ten years), she thought she'd give girls an honest look behind the scenes of the glitzy life of WAGdom.
Pride and Premiership is the story of Remy Louise Bennet, a wannabe WAG. Her sister Malibu has the same plan and has drawn up the WAG Charter:
1. At first, pretend you don't know he's a footballer.
2. Stick to kissing on the first date.
3. Don't let him see you drunk (or he won't trust you when he's away on the pre-season tour).
4. Never dispute a thing his mum says (they worship their mums)
The rules work and Remy strikes gold(en balls) with Robbie Wilkins. He takes her for expensive meals, sends her texts full of kisses, nicknames her 'princess' and seems to be behaving like the perfect gent, if you'll overlook the dodgy highlights. When Remy's family life takes a turn for the dysfunctional, Robbie offers her an escape. She can live at his swanky Essex pad, where all she has to do is shop and make sure she has shepherd's pie on the table (just like his mum does it). She doesn't need to worry about her plan to open her own beauty salon, because he'll buy her anything she wants.
You may have guessed that it doesn't go quite that smoothly. Remy has to deal with pressure to look good and wear the right thing, keeping up with her pre-WAG friends and worrying about what Robbie's up to on nights out.
The book is written in a lively diary format, with plenty of smileys, texts and references to real-life celebrities, giving it an up-to-date and exciting feel. There are also codes to scan with your iPhone for extra content (doesn't work if you have a brick phone, sob).
But importantly, underneath all the high-teckery, there is a genuine, funny and heartfelt story. You spend about a third of the book getting to know pre-WAG Remy and so when she enters WAGdom you feel a bit like one of her 'old' friends moaning that she's changed because you know how fun and full of her own ideas she is really.
The book isn't judgemental of WAGs, but just questions how happy you can be if you live through someone else's life rather than doing things for yourself. And it highlights the intense pressure on these girls - one of the most telling bits of the book being when the WAGs go out planning to 'accidentally' gatecrash the footballers' night out as a surprise. This aspect got me thinking a little bit about the link to P&P and those other Bennet sisters (sorry, but I shall shove a bonnet in here). For Lizzie and the gang, marrying a rich bloke was really the only way of having any sort of life. Lizzie's friend Charlotte Lucas decides it is preferable to marry a complete arse than to be a spinster. So really Remy and Malibu are just doing the same thing 200 years later. But, of course, being a WAG is no longer the only option. Girls like Remy are capable of doing a lot more. And this, I think, is the rather uplifting message of the book.
Rating: 4-0 Back of the net! (That means I liked it)
If you like this book, read: Diary of a Snob by Grace Dent, Popular by Gareth Russell and The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
* Here's a recently learned history fact: William II ruled over a 'lascivious' court (which I imagine to be a room full of people lolling about eating and fondling each other, but I could have invented that. It means they did BAD things) where he and his courtiers all sported the same trendy hairstyle - they grew their hair down to their waists and shaved the tops of their heads... Religious commentators of the time saw this as a symbol of how immoral they were. I would be more worried about the King of England looking like a complete weirdo, but there you go.