‘Chelsea High’ – Jenny Oliver


The first thing I have to do is apologise for starting this in the expectation that I was going to get a fluffy cute read that would entertain me for a while and that I would probably then forget about. The cover and blurb had me begin it thinking one thing, when what we got was more than that.

The basic story is straightforward. Our main character, Norah, has a somewhat bohemian lifestyle living with her parents on a houseboat and living in a very close-knit community. She helps her mum run a vintage clothes stall and is, generally, pretty happy with her lot. Her big dilemma here is that her father has got caught up in a money-making scam that has resulted in many people losing their savings. He is about to face trial, and the family are being uprooted. That would be unsettling…but we learn that her father’s family are very wealthy and come from a background of privilege. They are paying for lawyers and are paying for Norah to attend the exclusive Chelsea High.

Our story is about Norah coming to terms with her father’s actions and the impact it will have on their family and friends, but it’s also a ‘fish-out-of-water’ story as Norah has to navigate this new environment and the people within it. There’s the stereotypical mean girl queen, Coco, who is just as insecure as any teenage girl could be but is better able to hide it with her money and influence. There’s the hangers-on in Coco’s group who have to decide whether to follow what they’ve always done or to act for themselves. Of course there’s a love interest, and there’s the expected dramatic scenes so beloved of this kind of story to help people grow and develop.

While there’s a lot in this book that can be found in other books/films, the development of Norah was more subtle than I expected. She made mistakes, but she wasn’t too stubborn to admit them. The adult characters were also more intriguing than I expected, and I definitely think there’s more stories to come.
I was excited to see there’s a second part to come for this, and I look forward to catching up with Norah and cast in the not too distant future. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for letting me read this prior to publication.