Jemima Small Versus the Universe

Unhappy people do not always make great central characters. Being around a cynical, defensive know-it-all is not the most entertaining way to spend your time, but Tamsin Winter has created a very compelling protagonist with Jemima Small.

She’s a big girl with a big brain and a big mouth that she doesn’t always keep in check, and she has a big emotional hole inside her that needs filling up. By being less than likeable, Jemima has room to grow beyond the experiences that have shaped her, into a better, funnier more confident version of herself.

Jemima is obsessed with facts and she dreams of appearing on a popular TV quiz show, but she hates the thought of being looked at and judged. The relentless bullying she endures at school is daily mental torture. Teachers see very little, but when she is forced to join a healthy lifestyle club, she begins to develop the tools to fight back. Her frazzled father, irritating brother, eccentric auntie and one good friend all believe in her, but Jemima must change from the inside.

Tamsin Winter cleverly uses the positive speak of the club to pass on tips to young readers who might need similar support. At a time when young girls are becoming increasingly obsessed with how they look and how they are seen in the world, Jemima’s story is right on the money. No one should be afraid to take up space.