Charlie is a student at New Avalon’s sports school, the best in the country and probably in the world, because new Avalon does have the best of everything. To her enduring misery her performance at the first year basketball tryouts was so bad she only made the D squad, but she’s a B squad member in her second love, cricket.
Her bigger concern, though, is her useless fairy. Practically everyone in New Avalon has their own fairy, whether they believe in them or not. Charlie's best friend Rochelle, for example, has a clothes-shopping fairy, who ensures that everything she tries on suits her and is on sale. The school's most popular girl, Fiorneze, has an attract-all-boys-her-age fairy, that sadly includes the gorgeous new guy, Steffi. Well, she's not so popular among her female peers. But fourteen-year-old Charlie is stuck with a parking fairy, which is a fat lot of use to her. Charlie hates her fairy - its presence not only makes people take her with them when they don't want to pay for parking but also garners her the unwelcome attention of school star and unquestionably odd Andrew Anders.
She’s heard that you can lose your fairy by cutting it off from its area, and has been steadfastly refusing any wheeled transport for two months, but the move has her racking up demerits, and her fairy doesn’t seem any further away than when she started. Desperate to exchange it for a fairy with a more useful power, Charlie discovers that pastures really can seem greener from afar, learns not to judge others, and discovers her own value.
Like Larbalestier’s Magic trilogy, which takes place in both Sydney and New York, New Haven is a deliberately ambiguous blend of Larbalestier’s native Australia and her husband’s American home. I did enjoy the former series, but I loved How to Ditch Your Fairy. It’s a perfect combination of humour and angst, compelling narrative and crafted characters, romance and suspense. Larbalestier has taken a leaf out of her writer husband Scott Westerfeld’s writing, particularly the Uglies series, by creating and seamlessly integrating new slang that fits and adds a level of credibility and resonance to her young narrator’s voice. I particularly liked benighted, torpid, injured and malodorous for things (respectively) horrid, boring, lame and hideous, and pulchy (or pulchritudinous) for attractiveness. I also liked the way a cute new boy allows Charlie to see her home town and practices in a new light, and the undeniably direct way she discovers how much greener the grass can be. I really, really hope that Larbalestier decides to write another novel set in new Haven. - Alex