I'd read The Ice Cream Girls when it was first released many years ago and liked it, so when I had the opportunity to review the novel to go in line with the release of the TV adaptation, I could not wait to re-read it.
Teenagers Poppy and Serena both fall in love with an older man, Marcus, who happens to be Serena's teacher. They both fall helplessly in love with Marcus and believe that he loves them too. Then the girls meet, and Marcus continues to draw them in with sweet words, attention, and promises that he loves them. However, it soon turns nasty, and manipulative, leaving emotional and physical scars. After a tragic event, Serena and Poppy are dragged through a court case in which the media refer to them as `The Ice Cream Girls'.
Many years later, the two girls have led completely different lives. Serena is now married to her husband Evan, and has children, although she is desperate to leave the past behind her and for no one in her present to discover what happened when she was younger. Poppy hasn't been as lucky, but is determined to set the record straight...
I've said this before and I'll say it again - for me, this is my favourite novel by Dorothy Koomson and I genuinely don't think it gets as much recognition as it clearly deserves. Even though the TV adaptation is good, and the actors and actresses have done a great job with the script they have been given, the adaptation is quite different, and nowhere near as BRILLIANT as the novel is. I really hope that the TV adaptation encourages all of the people watching to go out and buy the novel, and to discover that there is a deeper story that will hook you to the pages, move you, and in some cases, possibly change your life.
I originally read this book when I was younger and had a more naive view of the world. I didn't understand the true implications of emotional abuse and manipulation, of being haunted by memories, of wanting to forget your past and being desperate to move on from situations in life. I read about what happened to Serena and Poppy, and although I desperately felt for them, I never truly understood. And coming back to this book a few years later was an eye-opener for me. I understood that in the way Poppy and Serena weren't at fault for the things that happened to them in their lives, I was not at fault for the things that had happened in mine. And I came away from this book feeling oddly positive and more confident in the life I have now. I'm sure there are other women out there who feel, like I do, as though this story has said things that they couldn't put into words.
The Ice Cream Girls is narrated from the viewpoints of both Serena and Poppy, and also alternates between their lives now in the present day, and what was happening back when they were involved with Marcus. Although the novel does cut back and forth, Dorothy Koomson has written the story so well that the narrative effortlessly slips backwards and forwards through time.
The characters are fantastically written, I cannot fault a single thing. Dorothy Koomson has clearly done her research as the characters are so real, so raw and so lifelike. Poppy and Serena in particular are very well portrayed as teenagers, their pain, emotions and feelings are very strong, very real and although it can be difficult reading, it shows the true reality of situations such as this and ultimately, the realism of this book is what makes it so gripping to read. Dorothy has also excelled in her writing of Serena and Poppy as adults. She manages to show the aftereffects of their time as teenagers, how what happened to them has affected their lives in the present, the memories they try to leave in the past and the way their past causes their actions, thoughts and feelings today. Poppy and Serena are instantly likeable, from the beginning they both touched my heart an I wanted to reach out to them, I felt for them with everything they were going through, and very much cared about what happened to them.
The mystery surrounding the tragic event had me hooked too. Without going in to too much detail so I don't spoil anything, I was constantly changing my mind throughout the book, and even then, I wasn't prepared for the eventual outcome. Wow.
The Ice Cream Girls is a gripping story that will reach your heart. It is heart-breaking and compelling at the same time, and you will race through the book as I did, wanting desperately to know what had happened to Poppy and Serena, and how they progress through the story. There is a lot of tension, as we discover secrets, betrayal, family relationships, and the issues of innocence and guilt. It is so much more than just a novel, it has important messages and I genuinely hope that this novel continues to help people if they need it. This is a brilliantly written novel that is very thought-provoking, with some shocks, twists and turns, and The Ice Cream Girls will definitely start up many discussions among readers. This is a must read book.