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2017 - Shortlisted
The Anti-Cool Girl is a memoir about a childhood that by most standards would be considered disturbing. The story starts before Rosie was born and takes us through her first twenty-eight years which are packed with most varieties of trauma: both the author’s parents were addicts, she witnessed her mother trying to commit suicide, there were narrow escapes from drug-dealers and dodgy boyfriends, she was severely bullied at school — and yet, Rosie Waterland makes us laugh. She tackles her life story as if it were a particularly over-the-top television drama — hilarious in its extremes — while acknowledging the impact of a damaged childhood. Rather than shaping her memoir around the familiar trope of overcoming hardship, Rosie Waterland takes a fresh angle, creating her story around the desire, and spectacular failure, to be cool.
There are many memoirs of a difficult life and it takes the originality and insight of a writer like Waterland to transform a hard-luck story into knife-edged humour. At the same time hilariously conveying contemporary culture, the online world and a world where posting a letter is a forgotten skill. Parental addiction and neglect are not conventionally the stuff of comedy, but The Anti-Cool Girl is not a conventional memoir. Its fiercely intelligent, blackly comic and enormously warm and engaging narrative leaves the reader cheering for the coolest anti-cool girl there ever was.