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What a Way to Go

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  47 reviews
1988. 12-year-old Harper Richardson's parents are divorced. Her mum got custody of her, the Mini, and five hundred tins of baked beans. Her dad got a mouldering cottage in a Midlands backwater village and default membership of the Lone Rangers single parents' club. Harper got questionable dress sense, a zest for life, two gerbils, and her Chambers dictionary, and the respo ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 7th 2016 by Atlantic Books
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  176 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What A Way To Go is a beautiful and vivid homage to the 1980s. Julia Forster introduces the reader to Harper and her broken-up, on the edge, very nearly mad, family.

Although Harper is just twelve-years-old, she has more sense than most of the other adults in the book. She's kooky and funny and smart, she's also a young girl - almost woman, who is dealing with the break up of her parents' marriage. Nowadays, that's not unusual, but back in the late 80s it was still quite rare to have divorced par
Kim Ebner
Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Oh, this was a lovely read, and it was a nice change from my usual psychological thrillers. Harper is such an absolute character and I would love to meet her again as an adult. The book is set around Harper, and what's happening in her world in 1988, which also meant that I was able to take a trip down memory lane, back to my favourite decade. Who didn't love the 80's - the music, the lifestyle, the freedom? This is more of a character driver story, and as such, it doesn't gallop along, but it w ...more
Renita D'Silva
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Beautiful and heart breaking
K.J. Chapman
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review is featured on my blog: Writerly Bookish Stuff.

Harper is a 12 year old girl, navigating life and school whilst still coming to terms with her Mum and Dad's divorce and subsequent lifestyles in 1988. The pubescent, sometimes snarky girl, is going through that awkward age of life where she is trying to discover who she is, where she fits, and some of life's ugly truths.

Harper is an endearing character, and Forster captures her voice perfectly. I could hear the twelve year old speaking
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Surely this is YA??? And bady written/plotted YA at that. It felt so light compared to recent reads and I just never got into it or bought into the narrative tone. The 80s stuff made me nostalgic but also felt strategically placed.
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an extract from the full review at If These Books Could Talk, do go and check it out, as well as a guest post from the author Julia Forster.

It’s 1988, and 12 year old Harper is doing her best. Constantly keeping tabs on everyone around her, selflessly putting the needs of others before her own, she’s navigating ‘life’, and not doing too bad a job of it. Being the child of divorced parents isn’t easy as it’s rife with stigma and lack of understanding, but Harper rises above it all, concen
Blodeuedd Finland
Jan 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This was a sweet book. Harper was a happy tween, well as happy as they can be. She has a bit of snark, sort of. She loved music. She wanted pets. And so the story begins.

We follow her going between her mother's house to her father's on weekends. Her father goes to a club for single parents and their kids. Her mother loves shoes and is trying to do her best to keep their house.

But it's not sweet all the time. There is a bit of heartache and loss. Though it's never sad. Well not crying sad. Just,
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In her debut novel What A Way to Go, narrated by the adorable protagonist 12-year-old Harper, Julia Forster captures the true essence of 1988 and deftly masters key elements of storytelling: setting, characterisation, dialogue and plot.

Indeed, it’s a novel I found fresh, heartwarming and very funny… a hoarder of books in any nook or cranny I especially loved the rather bizarre, but brilliant, dual purpose bookcase!

sarah kenchington
Jun 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ya-contemporary
I don't fully understand what the plot of this was meant to be - the sad thing is that for many people I'm sure this book would be hilarious and wonderful, but I was literally dragging myself through it. Harper didn't resonate with me properly, and I found her parents to be deeply frustrating, which was probably the point, but the thing is that when I don't click with main characters, it just makes it very difficult for me to continue reading. ...more
Angie Rhodes
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
LOVED IT!! Laugh out funny, Harper is a delight to read about, Her family are hilarious, ,, BUY this when it is published, !! Have passed it to my daughter, great read for anyone, from age 12 to 100!
Shaz Goodwin
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Harper is feisty, honest and very loyal. Took this 12yo into my heart.

Review coming soon.
Steph Bennion
Being from the Midlands myself and old enough to remember the 1980s in vivid detail, I thought this was worth a read. I must really stop picking up random books just because a quote on the cover says it's "very funny". Amusing in parts, but that's about it. There were a few things that jarred because they didn't fit the 1988 setting - the joke about having HMRC initials, for one (the tax office was called Inland Revenue back then), also references to Quorn and early mobile phones which I'm fairl ...more
Lisa Bywell
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was always going to love a book about a 12 year old girl with separated parents set in 1988 because I was that age in that era with separated parents! Throw in a sharp, intelligent, well read, funny, warm narrator who loves gerbils, Judy Blume and Five Star and you have a stunning debut book about divorce and growing up. It was a joy to be taken back to the time of The Waltons, Smash Hits, cola Mr Frosty, The Top Forty, the return of Bobby Ewing from the dead and not forgetting having to wear ...more
Huw Rhys
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
If you can imagine a reality TV show in a novel, trying desperately to recreate seminal moments that a 12 year old might have experienced in 1988, this is this novel in a nutshell.

For the majority of it, not much happened, and when it did, it felt awfully contrived.

I think it was supposed to take us 40+ somethings on some sort of a nostalgic trip back to our youths. But for me, it fell a very long way short, I'm afraid.

But there were some quite funny moments, and some of the characterization was
David Ebsworth
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this! Not my normal thing but it was recommended by a friend - and how great to have friends who know good books. It's beautifully written in a "teen" style that's crafted so it doesn't become annoying. And an entirely believable view of the world as seen through the often confused eyes of a girl trying to cope with the rigours of divorced parents, family disputes, her own adolescence, flawed friendships and more than her fair share of bereavements. It's quirky. funny and at times sad. But ...more
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
What a truly delightful read. The main character, Harper, and her divorced parents are lovely to spend hours with, witty, honest, sweet and heartfelt.
Being 12/13 (or a parent) in the UK in the 80s makes this read filled with nostalgia and comedy. I'm very glad I stumbled across this book in my local library and highly recommend 👍🏻

And I end it as Harper did with her favourite quote from 1984 "Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one" 🤗 this sums up this riveting read!
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Things I liked about this book: characters who were unapologetic about themselves. The dialogue. The straightforward 12yo at the heart of the story.

Things I didn't like: lack of direction. How are there so many people looking for a random marriage. Confusing at times. I kept losing track of what country they were in till over halfway.
Helen the Bassist
Mar 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book full of heart and humour with lots of 80s nostalgia. Harper likes Frazzles (as do I) and gerbils and she uses the phrase 'tough titty'. I liked her and her motley collection of relatives and friends. I really enjoyed the book. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Docked a half star for some of the annoying speech conceits imposed on the protagonist...ear chimneys?! ...more
Emily Treloar
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely adored this book and finished it one day. its so refreshing hearing the story from the viewpoint of a 12 year old yet still being under the YA category, not everyone's lives are clear cut and this really puts that message across ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you ever wondered what it may be like to live in a less than stable family by legal measures, board this ship. I have never felt so much lost, at the edge of tears and blessed at the same time as a reader.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Funny, occasionally sad; I enjoyed this look at the late 1980s, of which I was only just born in but feel a part of anyway.
Charlie Allison
Feb 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book is dreadful. It is a poor storyline as a sorry excuse to pile in a million cliched social references to the 80s. Boring, contrived,don’t bother.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
a refreshing, riveting read
Catarina Coelho
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funny, charming, heart-warming.
Anna Gunn
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
A comfortable rainy day read.
Alix Long
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As you can probably tell from the 5*s, I absolutely adored What A Way To Go. It was such a comforting read, with a fantastic narrator, that really made me think about the importance of family and the various shapes and sizes family can come in. Although Harper's parents are divorced, and are not on the best of terms with each other, Harper has a happy life at home with her Mum and Kit, then has weekends with her Dad that are spent attending Lone Ranger's single parents club events, and listening ...more
Jackie Law
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a Way to Go, by Julia Forster, starts off as a bittersweet, humorous tale of life as a child of divorced parents. Set in 1988 it softens the harsh reality of loneliness and judgemental neighbours with insight and nostalgia. It is perceptive yet gentle in its representations of the prejudices of the time.

As the story progresses the layers are peeled away to reveal the secrets that have shaped each of the adults’ lives. In amongst the bad hair and worse dress sense are stories of poor decisio
Lynsey Summers
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I didn't know what to expect from this book, but I was looking forward to reading it and taking a little break from psychological thrillers. I wasn't to be disappointed, I found it to be a gentle, beautifully written story, with really likable and funny characters.

The reader is told the story through the eyes of the eyes of twelve-year-old Harper, who I adored. Julia has managed to bring to life a real character here - capturing perfectly a 1980's 'nearly' teenager. There was no cartoon-like man
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Set in the 1980’s a decade of colour and change a time of Kylie Minogue and Culture Club you either loved this era or just wanted to hide for the next decade.
We meet 12-year-old Harper Richardson, she is wise and funny and is split between her divorced parents who to say the least are somewhat dysfunctional and Harper tries to make sense of the life around her.
It is 1988 and Harper spends a lot of time reading as money always seems to be a little tight. Forster has written What A Way To Go ver
John Fish
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Set in the 1980’s a decade of colour and change a time of Kylie Minogue and Culture Club you either loved this era or just wanted to hide for the next decade.
We meet 12-year-old Harper Richardson, she is wise and funny and is split between her divorced parents who to say the least are somewhat dysfunctional and Harper tries to make sense of the life around her.
It is 1988 and Harper spends a lot of time reading as money always seems to be a little tight. Forster has written What A Way To Go ver
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