Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Review: Giant Days by Non Pratt

Non Pratt, author of Trouble, is releasing a new Young Adult book called Giant Days. The novel is based on the BOOM! studios hit comic book series which carries the same name.

The text follows the adventures of three university freshers: Daisy, Esther and Susan. The three girls are very different and appear to not have very much in common. Daisy, an innocent, home-schooled girl, studies archaeology, takes her studies very seriously and loves yoga. Esther an English Literature student often described as ‘goth’, doesn’t attend lectures and hates yoga. Susan is a medicine student with a shielded past.

Despite their differences, the girls are flatmates and become great friends in the first few weeks of university.

There were quite a few moments in the novel which I personally found highly amusing because of how relatable they were. For example, Daisy goes to the activities fair at the beginning of freshers and ends up with 203 emails from different societies in her spam box. We’ve all been there – the people at the Societies Fair are so friendly and so convincing that you end up signing up for the mailing lists of multiple societies you’re not even remotely interested in.

The three girls are very different and appear to not have very much in common

Daisy goes to the activities fair to find somewhere she can fit in. When she meets Elise, third-year Philosophy student, who introduces her to a yoga society, ‘The Brethren of Zoise’, she thinks she’s found her perfect society. Elise tells her that it’s a new form of yoga, with a big focus on community. From the outset, Elise and the Brethren of Zoise plays on Daisy’s vulnerability of not feeling like she belongs anywhere.

The members must share their possessions (Daisy gives a necklace that her grandma gave her for her sixteenth birthday), bring a friend or stay to do housework as they make a ‘sacrifice’ for their family. If they don’t, they must leave the society.

Throughout, the Brethren of Zoise constantly play on the idea of the society as a ‘family’ to homesick first years. In fact, the only members of the society are first-years and Daisy didn’t find out about it from a stall at the activities fair; she bumped into Elise and she told her. Strange things, such as missing students and monogrammed robes everywhere, start happening around campus. Why didn’t anyone question when these freshers stopped attending their lectures, became withdrawn and disappeared? It can’t have been an official society in the Student Union.

Why didn’t anyone question when these freshers stopped attending their lectures, became withdrawn and disappeared? 

Another amusing moment was when Elise said that organising the yoga society was for her CV because no one else could have something like organising a ‘yogic cult’ on their job applications. It definitely is a different take on why you shouldn’t be so focused on your CV and should do something because you enjoy it. This emphasis of ‘it would look good on my CV’ is so hilarious and ironic because organising a cult probably wouldn’t look good on your job applications.

There are a few different plots in this novel. There are the endless societies that Daisy joins (and tries to attend) before settling on the Brethren of Zoise and becoming a bit too involved, Esther’s desperation to befriend Vectra and Susan’s history with McGraw, a friend from home who followed her to Sheffield.

I wish there was time to explore Susan’s history with McGraw a little more, and whatever else she is hiding from her new friends. We are constantly told that Susan likes to keep her past separate from her ‘fresh start’ at university, which plenty of first years do. But even towards the end of the novel, Susan doesn’t open up and it seems to bug Esther. It would have been nice to delve into her character a little more and, because the text is written in third person, the reader could find out what she isn’t telling Esther and Daisy, whilst maintaining that she isn’t telling them.

The text does well to highlight the insecurities of freshers making friends. We see Daisy trying to attend all the societies she signed up for at the activities fair, trying to find where she belongs. However, the result is only that she is tired and calls people by the wrong names because she isn’t dedicating enough time to any single group of people. We also see Esther trying to make friends with Vectra, another ‘goth girl’ on her course who she first sees walking around campus and ended up being in her creative writing seminar. Esther sees her from afar and plans meticulously to leave lectures at the same time as her so they can speak.

The text does well to highlight the insecurities of freshers making friends

It turns out that Vectra isn’t really a nice person, but that doesn’t stop Esther from wanting to be her friend for most of the book. I think it would have been beneficial to have some insight into Vectra and why she is the way she is, if there is a reason. Despite her horrible nature, there is something alluring about her to Esther which we just can’t understand. I couldn’t connect with her character, and found myself rolling my eyes at the way she reacted to people and situations.

But as someone who remembers the whirlwind of experiences first year brings, Giant Days gets the thumbs up for realism and entertainment.

Giant Days will be released on 21 August.

★★★★☆

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