Wendy Darling's Reviews > Preloved

Preloved by Shirley Marr
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's review
Jan 01, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: aussies, young-adult, pn-ghosts, asian, read-2012, poc, supportive

Join us on the blog today for a Poolside Birthday Party Vlog with the adorable Shirley Marr! We have three copies of PRELOVED to give away, along with a beautiful sterling silver locket necklace just like the one in the book.


I had a horrible sensation in my stomach only because, like, a billion things could go wrong when you try to tell a girl that her Eighties-flavoured boyfriend from a past life was trying to hook back up with her.

Preloved is the story of 16-year-old Amy Lee, a girl who lives in the fictional Australian town of Middlemore with her Chinese mother. On her school's Eighties Theme Day, she's dressed up as Buttercup from The Princess Bride and battling her love/hate relationship with her best friend Rebecca when she accidentally stumbles upon a silver locket with a picture of a boy from the 80s inside. Her life gets complicated when the boy's ghost appears and begins to haunt her--but not for the usual reasons you might expect. First of all, Logan wears his collar popped. And he's persistent. And he's annoying. But as Amy grows closer to her ghostly companion, her heart begins to yearn for the things it cannot have. Because Amy wasn't meant to pick up the locket at all...Rebecca was.

Distilling the essence of what this book is about doesn't even begin to hint at the reading experience, however. Written with fast and funny prose that is bubbling over with good humor, this is a ghost story that doesn't happen to be scary and a love story that doesn't happen to be about dating. Amy has a lot going on in her life even before Logan appears, since she feels overshadowed by nearly everyone in her life, even though she deals with it with amusing offhandedness. She describes herself as Rebecca's "short, awkward, Asian best friend. Which did have its advantages, because everyone instantly believed I was O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill, with martial arts skills." She's also trying to figure out who she is, since she doesn't quite fit in with the nerdy Asian kids at school, but also chafes at her mother's superstitious adages and old-fashioned beliefs.

While Preloved is chock-full of Shirley Marr's trademark humor and moves along at an entertaining clip, it is admittedly very different from her first novel Fury, which had a darker, more subversive edge. The plot is a little looser and more free-form as well, and the madcap zaniness of many of the scenes seem more suited to younger YA readers. There are also so many 80s pop culture references that it will be interesting to see if most 13 - 18 year olds will respond to that.

Still, adult readers will likely appreciate the flashback to a more innocent time and the trip down memory lane, and it's hard not to be won over by the author's writing style. Her sharp observations about human behavior and quick character sketches are right on target, such as when Amy observes that her nemesis Nancy "Fancy Pants" Soo is "stereotypically good at maths" and "exactly the sort my Chinese mum would love to have as a daughter. Me? Until recently, I thought an algorithm was a type of dance move."

I would love to see the author delve a little more into emotional themes in her next novel, however. There are so many flashes of deep feeling in Fury and we skate around the edges of some serious emotions in Preloved, but I'm convinced there are even more depths to be plumbed that the author hasn't shown us quite yet.

"I see you, this girl who lives inside herself, invisible to everyone, even to herself. You're hungry for your mother's touch, hungry for your missing father. You're hungry for life and you're hungry to be a proper character in your own story."

There is an appealing sweetness and sadness in Amy and in this book, and there is also an additional love story that I didn't expect--specifically, the one between Amy and her mom, which is actually my favorite part of the story. I've known a lot of Asian mothers and the loving exasperation with which Amy deals with her rings very true. What may seem a bit of an exaggerated cultural caricature isn't really exaggerated at all, nor are the occasional emotional blackmail, Amy's consciousness of her potential unladylike behavior, her expectations for her daughter, etc. It's a pleasure to see the wry closeness between the two of them, as well as how the relationship changes and develops as the two of them learn more about each other.

I thought about Mum's vintage shop. How she believed that if she found something broken and lovingly put it back together, that someone would come along and love it again.

Isn't that a lovely way to look at things? And it makes the title of the book, as well as Logan's situation, all the more poignant. Amy is a very different character than Eliza from Fury, but she too embraces what life throws at her, even if they both do a little kicking and screaming at first. When it comes to smart, flawed, memorable characters and vivacious prose, Shirley Marr's flux capacitor is totally functioning at full throttle--and I can't wait to strap in for the next ride.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. Recommended for fans of Meg Cabot's Mediator series, Babe in Boyland, Pink, Geek High, So Over You, and for younger YA readers.


About the Book

This Aussie YA title is available in Australia and New Zealand, as well as through Fishpond.com. Check back with us next week, however, because Shirley Marr is stopping by our blog as part of the Preloved Blog Tour! We have an autographed copy of the book to give away as well as a beautiful prize for one of our lucky readers.

Check out my Preloved Inspiration Board on Pinterest, too! It might give you a little feel for the mood of the book.

Make Amy's Preloved Snack!

I was very intrigued when I read about a popular Australian snack that Amy likes to munch while she's watching The Princess Bride: popcorn with icing sugar! After much discussion with my GoodReads pals, especially the helpful Taneika, I decided to make a batch, except I thought it'd be fun to make the the popcorn pink and give it a little subtle flavor as well. Since Amy drinks strawberry milk in the story, it seemed like a no-brainer to make strawberry popcorn.

If you'd like to try it out yourself, download the 4 x 6 recipe card for Preloved Strawberry Powdered Sugar Popcorn on our blog.

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Reading Progress

January 1, 2012 – Shelved
April 3, 2012 – Started Reading
April 3, 2012 –
page 17
6.25% "Fresh popcorn dusted with icing sugar? I can already tell this was written by the sweet-toothed (and very sweet) Shirley."
April 4, 2012 –
page 145
53.31% "I could feel prickling all over my skin like ice, even though Logan was nowhere near me. He was standing at the other end of the room, a sad, quiet shadow. "I'm sorry," I mouthed to him. I knew he was a ghost, that he had to have died, but I'd wanted to pretend he was my own lovable imaginary creature, neither living nor dead. Like a unicorn. A Care Bear. A perfect boy. Seeing the proof was a reality shock."
April 6, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 20-69)

message 69: by Princess Allie (new)

Princess Allie Cannot find this book

Wendy Darling It's one of those infamous Aussie YA books, Princess Allie. You can purchase it online from Fishpond, which does offer free shipping worldwide.

message 67: by Lissa (new)

Lissa *flail*

message 66: by Celine (new)

Celine Wendy, is it true that Fishpond ships worldwide with no cost? I've been meaning to buy books to be sent to other countries via Fishpond but then I saw the shipping rates information on the website and got a bit worried. But I'm sure you've bought books from the website?

Wendy Darling Celine, I had the same issue as you did once--it's a little confusing. It looks like www.fishpond.com ships free worldwide. www.fishpond.com.au has free shipping to Australians, but there is a charge to ship anywhere else.

message 64: by Celine (new)

Celine Wendy Darling wrote: "Celine, I had the same issue as you did once--it's a little confusing. It looks like www.fishpond.com ships free worldwide. www.fishpond.com.au has free shipping to Australians, but there is a char..."

Awwww...then I can't actually open www.fishpond.com since I live in Australia and it always goes to www.fishpond.com.au

Sometimes I want to buy Aussie books for friends living in other countries but was not sure with the shipping rates written in the website but now I know! Thank you so much, Wendy!

Wendy Darling You're welcome, Celine. I wish it weren't so difficult to send books to friends in other countries! :( I love Book Depository, but most Aussie books are not available there either, except for the ones that are also available for us here in the States. And don't even get me started on ebooks, hah!

message 62: by Celine (new)

Celine YES, precisely! Aussie books are mostly not available in The Book Depo and ebooks are just not as good as hardcopies! Sending a book from here to other countries is really expensive and it even costs more than buying the book itself.

Anyway, thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed Preloved. Definitely need to read this soon!

Wendy Darling I agree--I love ebooks for their convenience, but for certain books, nothing beats the physical copy. :) And no problem at all, Celine. I hope you get a chance to read this one soon!

message 60: by Experiment BL626 (new)

Experiment BL626 Wendy, would you mind helping me find the ebook? I can't seem to find it. Y_Y

message 59: by Wendy Darling (last edited Apr 06, 2012 08:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wendy Darling I doubt anyone outside of Australia and New Zealand is going to be able to get the ebook--all the places I used to buy Aussie ebooks have now caught on about international rights, it seems, and I can't find any sources that will sell to those of us overseas. :(

I don't really think this is an Expy book anyway, however--it's very girly!

message 58: by Experiment BL626 (new)

Experiment BL626 What a bummer. =/ Even so, I still want to read it. Gotta support cool authors, ya know? ;)

Wendy Darling I know. :) You can always buy the actual book--Aussie ebooks are actually pretty closely priced to their DTBs. Which means yes, I have paid $20 for an ebook. :/

message 56: by Experiment BL626 (new)

Experiment BL626 Ouch, my wallet hurts from reading that. I think I will buy the DTB, but I will do so till the price is lower. $20 for a single book is a good chunk of my budget. =X

Wendy Darling I understand. Australian publishers are smaller press, though, with smaller print runs, so that's why the prices are so high. If you decide to buy one eventually, of Shirley's two books, I would suggest purchasing Fury. I think you'll personally like it better.

message 54: by Michelle (last edited Apr 12, 2012 02:01AM) (new) - added it

Michelle Experiment BL626 wrote: "Ouch, my wallet hurts from reading that. I think I will buy the DTB, but I will do so till the price is lower. $20 for a single book is a good chunk of my budget. =X"

That is cheap for a book in Australia. Some paperbacks can be up to $30 and that's months or years after they're published. We really get ripped off. That's why I love the book depository, unofrtunately when it comes to Aussie books I have to pay a lot :( I think our book industry is just very heavily taxed. I try to get books from the library most times. It's a real treat to buy a book. Add to that there happens to be hardly any bookshops where I live, this book is hard to get hold of, even in Aus.

On a lighter note, this is a wonderful review Wendy. I'll have to keep an eye on your blog for the giveaway :)

Wendy Darling It's a shame it's so expensive even for you Aussies, Maree. It would help so much if TBD started carrying more Australian books. I understand why ebooks are harder for us to get, but the hard copies? I wonder if the terms are just too difficult/expensive for them to deal with.

At least Fishpond seems to be on top of things. After we cleaned them out of FURY, it's finally back in stock over there! Hopefully they'll keep this one in good quantity as well.

message 52: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle It's so unfair that even ebooks here can still cost between $10 and $15 if I get them for my kobo. I think it must be something to do with the taxes we impose on the books for you and the taxes the government must impose on imports for us. For example, I looked at buying Unearthly, but that was $27 and although I said Wonder was on sale, it was still $15, which for me seems cheap haha.

I can't wait until I'm old enough for a visa card to shop online. I have to get my mum to pay for everything and I pay her back. I really should check out fishpond :)

I've started Fury and am enjoying it so far :)

message 51: by Andrea (new)

Andrea The book industry in Australian isn't highly taxed, Maree (though we do have to pay 10% GST when purchasing). Australian publishers publishing just in Australia can't produce books as cheaply as US/UK publishers because our population is so much smaller. To combat this they petitioned the government to prevent "parallel importing" so bookstores can't buy overseas published books for overseas prices. [Individuals can, just not bookstores.] Unfortunately this all combined with the Australian dollar crashing to about 60 cents US a decade or so ago. Even though we're now back up to parity, Australians are still paying "special prices" for a lot of books. It's a lose/lose situation for everyone. Added to the mix is the Book Depository, which any sensible Aussie gets almost all their books from now, sending a hell of a lot of cash outside the Australian economy altogether.

It's really sad to see authors being published by Australian publishers whose books aren't readily available outside a limited publication in Australia, and who aren't picked up by overseas publishers. Particularly when it would be so damn simple to put up at least a World English release of an ebook.

Something's got to change about this situation sooner or later...

Wendy Darling Andrea wrote: "Something's got to change about this situation sooner or later... "

Thanks for your insight, Andrea. And agreed--the ebook laws are just ridiculous, for all publishers worldwide. We consume our media too quickly now for these kinds of restrictions.

message 49: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle Thanks Andrea, it's good to finally know what it's all about. I am all for supporting Aussie book stores, but being a uni student and book lover you can probably imagine I can't really afford to spend so much on one book.

It's also quite hard to buy books that aren't new/popular releases where I live because the only places I can really buy books are Target/Kmart/Big W since A&R closed down.

Something really does have to change

message 48: by Wan (new) - added it

Wan Oy. Finally a young adult POC book comes along and it's hard to come by. Bummer. Lovely review though Wendy. Being Asian I'm really interested in reading about the mother daughter relationship. It seems like it'll hit close to home.

Jenna I LOVE that you made the snack! I want it right now. The book too. Great review.

message 46: by Bridget (new) - added it

Bridget Must not be out yet here in the States since I couldn't find it on Amazon. Great review as usual.

message 45: by Taneika (last edited Apr 12, 2012 07:44AM) (new) - added it

Taneika I'm disappointed I got your tweet too late! I WAS GOING TO GUESS STRAWBERRY! I am definitely going to try the frozen strawberries with it, icing sugar is delicious enough, but with strawberries? Mmmm!

As usual, you've written a marvellous review! One of my goals in life is to be able to articulate my words as well as you one day haha. I'm really looking forward to this now, although I'm a 90's kid, it sounds right up my alley :)

Oh and I also thought algorithm was a dance move. But maths never has been a strength of mine.

Also, in regards to the price of books in Australia, $20 is pretty much standard! I'm so curious about the US prices!

PS- Did you like icing sugar on popcorn?!

message 44: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin Ooohhh. That premise is pulling my heart strings.

message 43: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Stupid question but what's a DTB?

Prices of ebooks are ridic these days. I mean, who wants to pay $15-20 for an ebook?

And being an international buyer is the worst. U.S prices change because of the territory rights, etc.

This is why I love the book depo, b/c we don't get that many great books here, esp the hardcover ones, which would cost us anywhere from $35 and up. :/

Fury is still out of stock at the book depo but Fishpond has it!

Wendy Darling Wan, this is one of the most true-to-life portrayals of an Asian mother/daughter relationship I've read. I'd love to hear what you think of it if you get around to reading this book.

Belle, you should've seen my kitchen after I finished making the snack, though! Pink powdered sugar everywhere. ;) It was fun to make, though, just as the book was fun to read.

Bridget, you won't find this title on Amazon and there isn't a U.S. publisher for it, so it's definitely a purchase from Fishpond (as linked in the review!) if you want it. :) And thank you!

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did too, Sam! Thanks so much.

Taneika, make sure that's freeze-dried strawberries, not frozen ones! The one will crumble beautifully, the other will just make everything soggy, hah. I did like the flavor quite a bit, it was lovely to inhale the powdery sugar with the popcorn. It was a little unusual because it really didn't stay on the corn very well, though, or maybe I just like a lot of sugar with it! ;) I may fiddle around with sugared corn recipes to see what I can come up with for future. Thanks again for helping me figure out this one!

We complain all the time about the price of our books in the U.S., especially ebooks, but it's true that we have nothing on you Aussies. :( A typical YA paperback is probably around $10, a hardback around $15 - $20, depending on the author. There are a lot of retailers so you often get a lot of variation on pricing, though, and often you can get really good deals. Adult books are priced much higher.

There are a lot of very touching moments in the book, Erin. :) Lovelorn ghosts and uncertain heroines is a good combination.

Lisa, "DTB" is the terrible slang for a "dead tree book" or hard copy. And agreed, ebook prices are outrageous, I really hope publishers settle on something reasonable eventually, especially in regards to the silly territory rights. The Book Depository is great! And Fishpond to fill in with Aussie titles.

message 41: by Kelly (new)


message 40: by Wendy Darling (last edited Apr 12, 2012 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wendy Darling Hah hah, Kelly!! I know what you mean. It's actually especially depressing when I think about the fact that this is written for people who don't actually even remember/or didn't live through that era! Blehhhh. :)

But then I remind myself I can tote around all the Hello Kitty bags I want to, and no one objects. Well, practically no one. At least not to my face.

message 39: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I was a kid, but old enough that I remember much of the 80s. My adolescence was in the first half of the nineties, so I remember that even better, along with my awful perm and parachute pants. I guess next we'll have grunge ghosts. ;)

Anyway, the book sounds really good. Even if it does make me feel old. ;)

message 38: by Wendy Darling (last edited Apr 12, 2012 09:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wendy Darling I WANT YOU TO HAVE IT, Skyla! Awww. :) I'm actually giving away *three* copies of the book, so your chances are good if you stop by my blog next week, hah. The big grand prize is an autographed copy plus something really, really lovely.

Those are some awesome 80s memories, too, lady. Grant Chapman? Little Mermaid? Strawberry blond hair? That is NATURAL? Shoo, you're making me depressed. I remember canvas Esprit bags like this (except I had a black one and a white one--don't ask me why I had two) and rolling up my jeans.

Oh man, the 90s...we should pretend that never even happened, hah. I enjoyed this one, Kelly, although I think I'm a little out of the targeted age range for the book. But I suppose I am for most of my reading material, so...dilemma!

Thanks Cillian m'love. :) I tried to do the book justice.

Wendy Darling My blog stop is on Shirley's birthday--April 18th! :)

Bleh, I am envious of the dark reddy-brown, too. Mine's a similar color, but it doesn't come naturally. *sigh*

message 36: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte Cillian wrote: "This review is beautiful!"

I agree, Cillian. :)

Wendy Darling Hooray Skyla! Maybe you should buy lottery tickets, too. ;) Good things come in threes, you know. Congratulations, btw! That's so exciting.

And aww, thanks Charlotte. You can only work with the material you're given, and in this case, there's so much in the book to enjoy.

message 34: by Emilia (new) - added it

Emilia Wow, I just heard about this book and now I can't wait to read it!

message 33: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Yes, I had a really frizzy perm, though God knows why because my hair was foofy and frizzy enough already.

Wendy Darling Yay, I'm glad you'll give it a shot, Emilia! :) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I think we've all had a perm at least once in our lives, right? Or maybe just those of us who lived through the 90s. *sigh* Thank heaven those days are over.

message 31: by Experiment BL626 (new)

Experiment BL626 Wendy Darling wrote: "And agreed, ebook prices are outrageous, I really hope publishers settle on something reasonable eventually, especially in regards to the silly territory rights."

We might be getting that, Wendy. News for everyone here: Department of Justice sue Big Publishers for Price Fixing

message 30: by Becky (new)

Becky I was reading about that last night, Experiment. Very interested to see how it all turns out.

message 29: by Experiment BL626 (new)

Experiment BL626 I hope the settlement will be approved. I'm considering to save my money from buying Big6 ebooks and then to splurge it all on Xmas.

Wendy Darling I saw that, Experiment. I hope that really does happen and quickly. I think overall the ebook structure needs some tinkering, though, especially when it comes to rights in different territories.

message 27: by Shauna (new)

Shauna You should try Nigellas's Party Popcorn too, Wendy- sooooo good!

Wendy Darling Really, Shauna? *perks up* Is this something I buy or make? I haven't heard of it!

message 25: by Shauna (new)

Shauna Oh yes, easily made. Have at it. ; )
I'll definitely be giving this recipe of yours a go too..Strawberry Powdered Sugar Popcorn just sounds so girly and indulgent!!

Wendy Darling Oh my, that sounds really good. (I love Nigella!) Thanks for the link. :)

Fair warning that it seems as though you have to keep sprinkling on the powdered sugar as you work your way through the bowl--or else I just like it really sweet, hah. I wanted to try that because that's what was discussed in the book and I liked it, but I think I will also experiment with a few other sweet popcorn techniques and recipes I've seen. :)

The pink powdery stuff is very girly, though! I wish you could better see how pretty it is.

message 23: by Mimi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mimi Valentine Wendy, I absolutely LOVE your review! <3 It's making me crave this book and popcorn -- my mom laughed at me when I said I wanted to make some to read! She said, "Save it for the movies, sweetie."

Those were her exact words x)

Wendy Darling Aw, thank you Mimi! I'd love to know what you think of this one. But hush your mama now, popcorn is NOT just for the movies! Especially if it's pink. ;)

message 21: by Sophie (new) - added it

Sophie I will add this to my ever growing TBR list! Do you have a favorite book of 2012 so far?

Wendy Darling Oh good, I'm glad you've added this to your list, Sophie! :)

This has been such a good year for YA. Here are a couple of my shelves you're welcome to browse:

2012 favorites
2012 5 star books

I think my aboslute favorite this year is still Hallowed at the moment. :)

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