I read (and adored) this book years and years ago, and just now realised it's by Charles de Lint, set in the very same world I fell in love with a few weeks ago thanks to his beautiful [b:Dreams Underfoot|186444|Dreams Underfoot (Newford, #1)|Charles de Lint|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316131091s/186444.jpg|14299464].
The adoration hasn't faded with time, or with re-reading (as so often happens with childhood favourites) and this book is making it's way to my "all-time favourites" list. Now - here comes the love letter (my apologies, I can't help but wax a little lyrical with books like this!)
The characters are wonderful and likeable, transcending cliché. Yes, there's the Geek, the Outcasts, the Mean Girl, the Meathead boy, the Difficult Mum, but it feels always as though the author is poking fun at the stereotypes. Imogene actually talks to her mother (shock horror) who seems supportive if a little flaky. The Difficult Mum (Maxine's) actually turns out to be better than first thought and is actually a fully formed character - we get glimpses of the issues that make her so strict in the first place. The Geek isn't all that likeable - without meaning to sound too harsh, we kind of see why he in particular was so picked on. Doesn't make it right at all, just a little more understandable. The Mean girl has depth but doesn't suddenley change and become nice, again, it just becomes clearer as to why she is so awful. And etc etc etc.
The romances happen naturally, without drama or buildup, or even being at the forefront of the plot! (A non-romance centred plot? In YA writing? What is this?!) In fact, nothing feels formulaic in the plot, which is a refreshing change from almost every other YA book out there.
To finish: I love the inclusion of familiar characters (Christy Riddell, mentions of Jilly and Sophie etc) but when I first read this I had no knowledge of Newford, or even that this was part of a sort-of-series, and that lack of knowledge did not impact my reading at all. The climatic face-off with the anamithim
is wonderfully irreverent (actually, most of this book is) and the writing is lovely to read.