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3.3 out of 5 stars
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3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 17 March 2017
brilliant
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 September 2009
Disturbing and ultra-realistic, this book will remind many adults of their own adolescent yearnings to fit in and be accepted by their peers, even to the point of doing things that they really don't want to do.

The fourteen-year-old un-named narrator (who I shall call X throughout this review) is the focus point throughout. What she sees, what she thinks and how she behaves is the sole viewpoint throughout the book. There is graphic sexual content and Rebecca Ray calls it as she finds it. Written when Ray was eighteen, the immediacy, intensity and powerless frustration of adolescence is brilliantly depicted. X experiments with sex, finds she hates it, but sex is the only currency by which she can achieve a measure of acknowledgement, and a certain skewed status. This book is equally uncompromising and unflinchingly observant of family dysfunction. X's parents are floundering in an unhappy, often abusive marriage, her only friend is the clingy Dawn, who makes periodic phone calls to X's father to tell him what is going on, but Dawn is incapable of understanding much beyond her own feelings of jealousy and need.

When X becomes involved with Oliver, a much older man (he is 31), there are episodes of physical abuse, welcomed by X, who later subjects herself to self-mutilation, which is described in graphic detail. Self-harming gives X a measure of relief from the dreadful, endless bickering of her home life and the emptiness of her sexual adventures. The book ends in a Christmas argument when Oliver attacks X's father.

As I read this book I felt a number of temptations. To stop reading it was only the most frequent, but at the same time I found myself recognising some of the intensely painful despair of adolescence. One is never going to be beautiful, one is never going to be special, or clever or even very likeable. Everything around one is fake, dross, rubbish. Everything one really wants is unattainable. These sensations may not be uniformly lasting or strong for most people, and obviously, not everyone ends up in the blind-alley of self-harm, but this book does depict the alienation and often self-punishing detachment (powerlessness degenerating into self-hatred?) from what is going on in their own lives that many adolescents experience. X is unlucky in her family, who are incapable of helping her much, though her tired mother does try. Almost everyone in this book is locked into their own solipsistic nightmare.

In terms of readability, this book is often quite pedestrian, especially towards the end, but this also reflects the banality of thinking that many adolescents embrace - the "Am I bovvered" generation, perhaps? It is inch-perfect in its depiction of the powerful contradictions of this "certain age", but the truism that youth is wasted on the young was never so aptly demonstrated as in this book.
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on 17 May 2017
Read this book when it first came out in paperback and still have it. It was an enjoyable read with some challenging ideas and feelings. Can't add much more than that, other than get it. You won't regret it.
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on 14 January 1999
I must agree with the previous reviewer. This is an excellent book which tackles difficult issues without fudging the issues. The descriptions of the heroine's loathing of the sexual adventures that she has are disturbing and evoke our pity. Despite the sensitive subject, there is a lot to laugh about in this book. The world, as seen through the eyes of a 14 year old girl, is often an amusing place. Indeed, much of the humour is directed at the heroine herself - it is her reactions to things which we as adults perhaps take for granted that make us smile. The social situations are well handled too - dialogue between mother, father and daughter, dysfunctional though it is, reads as an extremely credible and sincere view of the family unit.
I would recommend this book if you are able to handle the concepts of drug use, underage sex and self-mutilation - you don't have to agree or even sympathise with the protagonists opinions, but you will become drawn into the vivid social web.
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on 27 October 2003
This book is brilliant. The writing style, the conversation, the shifts of emotion brilliantly paced and crafted. A book where the nearly final paragraphs are barely taken in whilst galloping to the finish to enjoy the festivities of Christmas with the family! Characters excellently depicted, deep and grittily real (shame about Michael who never seems to be anything but a smaller brother with no impact...) The topics covered self-harm, sex in very realistic teen-girl descriptors, relationships, school and the emotionality of teenage girls magnificently worded and the masterful drawing out of family relationships, especially girls and their "letting-go" dads. A gem of a book I accidently bought for want of something better, the best I have read all year - hope all my future accidents are as lucky!
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VINE VOICEon 20 April 2008
I imagine that a lot of people will find the sexual content of 'A Certain Age' quite shocking. This is the story of a fourteen year old, who is initially involved with a boy her own age, and then becomes involved with a twenty-seven year old. We never know her name, and I think this is probably one of the reasons I came away feeling so downbeat....this is just anaother anonymous teenage girl, lacking any self-worth and willing to let boys and men, as well as friends, do anything they want to her. However, I found the realtionship with her father even more creepy than the realtionships she has with the paedophile. There seems to be a sexual tension between the daughter and the father that left me very uncomfortable.

I think this novel is well written, especially as it was written by a teenager. It will shock, but ultimately it's just bleak.
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on 13 April 2000
I found this book to be one of the most honest and frank accounts of life as a teenage girl that I have read for a long time. Rebbeca Ray deals with issues that face almost every young girl, discovering her sexuality the main character deals with it in some surprising and unusual ways whilst also in ways that are familliar and easy to relate too. The novel is shocking, moving, realistic and in parts funny. However I do not entirely agree with other reviewers such as Tina that the book is about a 'relatively normal childhood', and therefore is nothing special. In parts yes it is and this is something that the author should also be praised for as she provokes feelings of sympathy and understanding through issues we can all relate to. Although the self harming and peodophillia are not things that I would consider normal in a 14 year old girl. There are parts in the book that can make you very angry such as her lack of confidence to tell the people around her how they hurt her, her incredibly annoying best friend and her lack of ability to see when something or someone is hurting her. The novel can drag in parts and the ending leaves you lost. Nevertheless I think this is a brilliant book, I reccommend it to girls growing up, girls who've grown up and tried to forget, parents who rather wouldn't know and boys that don't realise the effects they can have.
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on 1 June 1999
Much has been talked about this book but I get the feeling that its author has achieved just what she intended: a searing, unsensationalised account of one girl's childhood, warts, sex and all. I'm impressed that she chose not to go the glamorous, night-clubbing and loads-of-fun route: this is a book about what happens when a girl realises her parents are vulnerable and transfers her affections for her father onto a man, who initially attractive and charming, turns out to be a weasel. But then even he turns into a three-dimensional, credible character and that's more impressive than anything. This author is going to go right to the top if A CERTAIN Age is is merely the first flowering of her talents. And, despite the fact that I'm a good many years older than her, I found the novel reminded me of a lot that doesn'tr change across the generations. Yes, it is difficult and painful at times but then who said fiction should simply entertain?
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on 23 June 2016
A Certain Age is the harrowing and at points vulgar story of a young girl who makes all the wrong decisions. Falling for the wrong people and rebelling against her hippie parents she is a child living as an adult.Read more...

I've had this book on my to be read list for years, it was a suggested title because I had read Lolita. I can see the idea that this is a similar book, a young girl swept up into a romance with a truly unsuitable older man. The unnamed girl in this book is the teenage girl that exists in so many fictional works that I've yet to ever meet. She is sexually open and uses it as a weapon to get her immature and violent boyfriend to like her.

The vision of sex in this book by the main character is just plain sad. She never really enjoys the sexual acts she has and endures being humiliated by her partners. There is no positive narrative to having sex or being close to someone, it is purely used in her world to shut people up and get people to like her. I know not all books are 'feel good' idealistic visions of the world but there is not even a glimmer of hope or a wish for anything better than she has.

Her parents are one of the most bizarre aspects to the book. They are both ex-hippies and are simultaneously overbearing yet disconnected from their children. They fight at every occasion and most of the dialogue in the book are these bickering adults. After reading a few fights you get bored with the back and forth, just wishing the story would skip over these parts and get back to some sort of plot.

The romance is this book can barely be called romance. The girl very quickly falls for a man who works in a store she buys her 14th birthday present from. There is never any charm to this man, he never really treats her well or sweeps her off her feet. He just happens to be slightly better than the violent schoolboy she was with at the time. Both of these males treat her badly, never respecting her as a person and both abusing her in different ways.

No doubt the most disturbing thing in this book is the reaction from the parents when she says she is dating a man thirteen years her senior. Her mother is slightly concerned for a few moments then seems to be more interested in what he is like rather than the fact he's a paedophile. Her father has more of a reaction but in the end even he comes around to he idea of her having underage relations.

If you enjoy shock fiction I suppose this is something you might be into, a cross between the film Thirteen, Lolita and Trainspotting. Unfortunately for me I pressed all the wrong buttons and left me shocked on how bad it was.
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on 20 January 2006
I was given this book last week and picked it up to read last night…..then did not get to bed until nearly 2am as could not put it down!
I thought this book was very realistic. The whole point of it, I thought, was just to see things that happened to the girl through her own eyes, at her age and understanding of things. It reminded me in a lot of ways of when I was at school. Not liking to use the toilet cos people would hear you, trying to fit it and just going along with things because although you know it might be wrong you think you can handle it because you do feel grown up. And how the boys acted, and how sex was not any fun and you just thought it was supposed to be like that. And I knew many people who “self harmed” although it was something started like the girl in the book, carving words or names into your arms. And also knew many girls from school who went out with older men who were paedophiles but you don’t see it at that age, it is not til you get into your 20’s you suddenly realize you might have tried to grow up to quick.
The book did bring across how crap you feel at that age, you don’t belong and nothing you do seems right or pleases anybody else.
I would recommend this book, spesh to people who think school and teenage life is like Dawsons Creek. Its not, its much darker than that.
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