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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Ice Cream Girls: TV tie-in
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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.
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112 of 118 people found the following review helpful
The Ice Cream Girls is one of the most cleverly crafted novels that I have read for a long time. It would be so easy to judge this book by it's cover and assume that it's going to be frothy chick-lit - don't fall for the cover - this is a psychological thriller that gripped me from page one and kept me hooked until the very last page.
The story is narrated in turns by Serena and Poppy - the 'Ice Cream Girls' of the title. Serena and Poppy were never friends but their lives have been linked together by a tragic event that happened over twenty years ago. This event shaped their lives and their futures - moulding both of them into the adults they have become.
With flash-backs to the event and alternately narrated chapters, this story twists and turns on each page. The story covers some very emotive and often horrific events, it is a novel about growing up, about falling in love and about betrayal and hate.
Poppy and Serena are two excellently written characters, both have their faults but both have been shaped by falling in love with the wrong man and it is this man that is so central to the story line.
A compelling and often breathtaking read with a unique storyline and fantastic characters - I cant recommend this highly enough.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2013
I originally read The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson several years ago but when I saw that there was going to be a TV drama based on the book I had decided to re-read the book before watching the series.

Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe were two young impressionable teenage girls who fell for the charms of an older man, supply teacher Marcus. The girls didn't know each other until they were introduced by Marcus, they both thought that they were his only girlfriend but soon find themselves being manipulated and controlled by him.

Finally both girls realise independently how damaging his influence is and want to bring an end to their abusive relationships with Marcus but instead they find themselves in the midst of drama. A crime which sees Poppy sentenced to years in prison, for which she insists she is innocent, whilst Serena is acquitted of all charges and free to get on with her life.

Years later when Poppy is released from prison she sets out to try and clear her name by tracking down Serena to get her to admit to being the real culprit. In the interim years Serena has married and is now living in Brighton with her husband Evan and two children but she's never told them anything about her past and the fact that she was one of the two 'Ice Cream Girls' as she and Poppy were dubbed by the media due to one of the photos that Marcus had staged of them. So when she discovers that Poppy has been released from prison she worries that her comfortable life will come tumbling down...

Even reading this book a second time round it's hard to read about young 16 year old vulnerable girls being drawn into such damaging relationships, it's clear to see that Dorothy must have done a lot of research into abusive relationships as it was all so believable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2013
A very intense book, without the gaping plot holes it would have probably been a good read.

However, the courtroom case was unbelievable - A teacher sleeping with two students under the age of 16 would have been considered rape thus the girls being the victims - however in the book it is the teacher who is shown to be the victim in the courtroom as people believed that the girls "seduced" him - I'm sorry but even if the girls had tried to seduce him, he was the adult and shouldn't have been sleeping with them in the first place. Also would the hospital not have records of the times when the girls were brought in that could have been used as evidence?

Secondly, at the end of the book Poppy said that she received letters from girls who also fell victim to the mental, emotional and physical abuse from Marcus. Where were these girls at the trial? They said in their letters that if they were in Poppy's position they would have done the same thing, so why didn't they come and stick up for her?

Also, the wife had clearly caught Marcus sleeping with one of his students due to the answerphone message she left on his machine ( "find another 15 year old girls virginity to steel") - why was he allowed to continue working as a teacher? Surely she would have alerted the authorities of the incident and had him fired?

Furthermore - both Poppy and Serena had to go to hospital after being beaten up by Marcus, how did their parents not notice?

There were also annoying subplots that were never fully developed - for instance when Serena's sister got upset because she wanted a baby and that her partner wouldn't marry her - seemed pointless to include when it was never referred back to once it had been mentioned.

I also didn't really understand Poppy and Serena's relationship - how they hated each other and not the man that was abusing them. I get that they were being portrayed as young naive girls, but with them having no one to talk to Marcus about (they couldn't tell their parents, siblings and had no friends because of him) - I feel it would be more likely for them to turn to each other for support as opposed to hating each other.

I also guessed the twist at the end, and was disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2012
I read this book as it was our Book Group choice for the month. It didn't sound like a book I would like as I thought it sounded rather frivolous. However, a few pages in and I was gripped. I loved the way the author chose to ell the story, using the different voices of the girls, and there were some deep themes of family, love, growing up, love and betrayal running throughout the story. I'm looking forward to our Book Group discussion and to see what others felt about this one. I had to sit up 'til the early hours to finish it, as I couldn't work out what the resolution could be, and was surprised by it. usually I think I work out the 'who did it' element of this genre before the end!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The book has an alternating first person narrative between Serena and Poppy, and as usual with Koomson's writing, it is easy to follow and keep track of. It has the narrator's name above the chapter but you can tell by the way the characters speak who the chapter focuses on. I really enjoyed this alternating narrative because it gives a much broader scope of story, and enables Koomson to build the tension as the story is slowly revealed through each of the women a little at a time. We see the most of Serena at first, for reasons that become clear later in the book, but I found it easy to get into Poppy's narrative when this comes along too.

There is a secret going through the book which is the main crux of the plot. It's told to us fairly early on what secret the two women hide but it isn't this that keeps the tension. Both women have reasons to hide what happened when they were younger, and as the plot deepens and more is revealed, the tension becomes greater and you are soon engrossed in the book. I found that I couldn't put it down because I was so eager to see how it all ended, and when the end came around, I was shocked because I certainly didn't expect the way that it happened, and I loved that Koomson was still able to make that surprising for me.

The topic of the book is not an easy one to read anything about, but Koomson covers it in a very delicate way. Some of the scenes can be a little awkward to read because of the subject matter but they are needed because it sets up the feelings of both Serena and Poppy through the book and helps the reader to sympathise towards them. It took a while for me to understand the title of the book as well, but it does become clear as you read more of the book and is actually much more sinister than you would initially believe.

Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough. If you've read any of Dorothy Koomson's work before, this is going to be a book you will love, and equally, if you haven't read her work before either, you will love this simply because it is such a well written and tension laden book that will keep you hokoed for each of its 452 pages. The characters of Poppy and Serena are perfect, so much so that you can imagine each of them in this scenario and they are both so real too, they seem like normal women with a shocking hidden past. I loved this book, and I was lucky enough to interview Dorothy Koomson too, so you can catch my interview tomorrow! Enjoy the book, I hope you love it as much as I did - it is fabulous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2011
I felt the story took a long time to get to the point and the main characters were not believable as real people so it was hard to feel any empathy with them. The peripheral characters were completely one-dimensional and the style of writing and the words all of the characters used just didnt ring true a lot of the time. I agree with the reviewers who say there are too many coincidences and holes in the storyline. It's not the worst book I have ever read and I am sure a lot of people will enjoy it but I agree with others that it would be more believable had it been set, perhaps, in the 1950s rather than the 80s and I think it may have worked better for me as a short story.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 14 September 2010
Despite the appearance of the cover (which although it didn¡¯t put me off, I am convinced that it will disuade others from even picking it up to read the blurb on the back) this is more pyschological thriller than chicklit.

The Ice Cream Girls has two narrators: Serena Gorringe and Poppy Carlisle. The book starts with a newspaper clipping reporting the story of the trial of two teenage girls accused of the murder of history teacher who is reported to have been the victim of a jealous school girl crush and tortured before the final stab that killed him. The paper shows a photo of Serena and Poppy wearing bikinis on a beach and eating ice cream which is how they came to be dubbed The Ice Cream Girls by the press. What the paper doesn¡¯t report is that the two girls were never best friends; in fact they hardly knew each other, and that they were the victims, not the teacher.

Over twenty years later, Poppy Carlisle is released from prison and she vows to clear her name but in order to do that she must get Serena to confess. Serena is happily married with two children and the last thing she wants is the past raking up, especially as she believes that the right person went to jail.

The book alternates between the two girls and also between time periods so that the reader learns only snippets of information at a time, and is kept guessing. This format works really well as it kept me turning the pages and guessing what had happened to the girls to bring them to that fateful day back in 1989.

I have to say one last thing about the names of Serena and her sisters, Faye and Medina but only because I have seen so many reviews point this out ¨C I am about to show my age now In the book, when talking to each other, the three sisters call each other Sez, Fez and Mez, which hasn¡¯t gone down well with some reviewers. However, growing up in the 80¡äs I can report that name abreviations of this kind were pretty much the norm in the UK at that time. School playgrounds were littered with Caz, Daz, Baz, Shaz and Maz¡¯s. It¡¯s more that likely that Serena and her sisters would have called each other by these names back then.

Anyhoooo¡­

I read this book on holiday and I have to say that it was a perfect sunlounger read: it was pacey, engaging and entertaining. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2013
I love Dorothy Koomson's writing and I thought this book was excellent. Don't think by the cover that it is chick lit; far from it. This book has a serious message. I saw the recent TV adaptation before reading it (which I knew differed from the TV mini-series) and found the book to be far more powerful. The outcome is made clear from the very first page with the inclusion of clippings from the local newspapers. A teacher has been killed and the two protagonists Poppy and Serena were tried for his murder, Poppy jailed and Serena acquitted. But which of them did it? Each of them blames the other and the story follows Poppy who is jailed for the murder, released on parole and tracks down Serena in order to make her confess and get her life back.

The writing is absolutely superb although I do feel there are some inconsistencies in the way the girls were brought to trial and the events leading up to it (why did the parents not notice what was going on as they dressed and acted out of character; why was the ex-wife not interviewed; why did the neighbours not notice anything and most of all, Serena has a very unique name and I found it impossible to believe no-one had heard of the events of 20 years ago). This is not a police procedural though and focuses on the psychological games and appalling manipulation and abuse the two girls were subjected to and it is a scary read. You find yourself hating Marcus with a passion and asking so many questions. The story is told from alternating points of view of Serena and Poppy, both in the present day and with the many flashbacks. I found it very easy to follow and very relatable as we travelled back and forth in time as I am the same age. I felt heartbroken for Poppy, and though they each get their happy ending of sorts, I still felt sad for each of them. The narrative alternates between Poppy and Serena in the first person and is very detailed, which I liked as it gives an insight into their thoughts, feelings and motivations. A brilliant read and I am now looking forward to Marshmallows for Breakfast. 4.5 out of 5.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed this book a lot. It certainly held my attention throughout and was quite gripping. The way that the two girls involved are completely manipulated by the much older teacher is horrific.

However, my only niggle with this book Is that I cannot believe that a teacher who takes on two of his pupils of fifteen years old as sexual partners would be seen only as something of a fool for getting into the situation.

Also, the ex-wife was apparently never questioned or interviewed by police, even though it was well known that she frequently visited him without invitation AND that the custody of their son was constantly a topic of arguments. My own (limited) knowledge of police action is that an ex-wife or ex-husband would ALWAYS be interviewed in such situations, even if the murderer confesses - which never happened here.

However, that said, the story was good, the location interesting and the characters believable.

The only thing NOT interesting or believable, was the love-interest. Shame.
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