The Very Heavy Metal Diary of Cleo Howard by Sarah Tipper follows the life of Cleo, a teenage Metaller, growing up in 1990’s England. The narrative is told in the form of diary entries, revealing her inner most thoughts and fears about reaching adulthood as well as painting an authentic view of life in Reading.
At the age of 15, Cleo and her best friends Ian and Jenni are described as an inseparable unit who trade metal magazines, make mixtapes and propose various hypothetical scenarios to each other as themes of sexual desire and future careers lay before them after their GCSEs.
What works about this novel is the intimacy and naivety shared between these friends and their romantic interests as you get a strong sense of personal growth throughout. The majority of their free time is spent at Reading’s esteemed metal pub The Green Man where Cleo and her extended friendship group of Sixth form Goths truly flourishes.
Cleo’s journey throws her into both emotional and physical dilemmas throughout and it is her ability to contend with these adverse set of circumstances that ultimately make her a character that we can both sympathise with and relate too.
Sarah Tipper’s must also be credited for her ability to factor in key events that took place during the 1990’s. From the rise of the Spice Girls to the launch of Channel 5 and the death of Princess Diana. All of this serves as a backdrop that is both rewarding and nostalgic to be a part of.
The ending did seem somewhat abrupt in one sense but also suggested a strong sense of promise for the characters within the novel. Whilst it would be interesting to know what happens to them next, this is nonetheless essential reading for anyone who grew up listening to metal and battled against the pressures and expectations of mainstream society.