Review: ‘The Anti Cool Girl’ (Rosie Waterland)

The Book
The Anti Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland
Published: HarperCollins, 2015
Genre: Memoir

Synopsis (from back of book):
Rosie Waterland has never been cool. Growing up in housing commission, Rosie was cursed with a near perfect, beautiful older sister who dressed like Mariah Carey on a Best & Less budget while Rosie was still struggling with various toilet mishaps. She soon realised that she was the Doug Pitt to her sister’s Brad, and that cool was not going to be her currency in this life.

But that was only one of the problems Rosie faced. With two addicts for parents, she grew up amidst rehab stays, AA meetings, overdoses, narrow escapes from drug dealers and a merry-go-round of dodgy boyfriends in her mother’s life. Rosie watched as her dad passed out/was arrested/vomited, and had to talk her mum out of killing herself.

As an adult, trying to come to grips with her less than conventional childhood, Rosie navigated her way through eating disorders, nude acting roles, mental health issues and awkward Tinder dates. Then she had an epiphany: to stop pretending to be who she wasn’t and embrace her true self – a girl who loved drinking wine in her underpants on Sunday nights – and become an Anti-Cool Girl.

What I thought:
Whoa. This chick has had a hard life. And for that reason, this isn’t an easy read. If you like stories of underdog-come-good, this is great, and ultimately uplifting, but it’s real, it happened, and a lot of what happened to Rosie Waterland wasn’t very nice. So yeah, not an easy read.

Now I don’t normally read memoir, and would I usually choose to read this book? Probably not, for that reason. I read it for book club, and it was enjoyable, well written, told with sass and recounts a tragic failure of the parental, government, foster and school system without self pity, self indulgence or sentimentality.

That said, I did feel at times like some important points that would have injected more emotion into the telling were left out or glossed over. But perhaps that was a deliberate choice, and perhaps given that the writer is still young and much of what she recounts didn’t happen to her that long ago makes this a necessary survival mechanism as much as anything else. And like I said, I don’t read a lot of memoir so I don’t know if this is the norm in this genre or not either…

Possibly also for that reason I found this book quite hard to get into at first, and some of the early stuff feels a little long winded, although that’s not to say it’s not interesting or gripping. Just that I think possibly some of the more recent parts of her life deserved a little more time in the limelight and some of the earlier events could have had a touch less. The kiddy stories about poo (there are a few, actually there are a lot of poo stories in general) are funny, but maybe a little laboured, for example. I think it’s done to set a certain tone (the Anti Cool Girl tone, aptly) but it did stop me getting really committed to the writing for a good few chapters.

I think if non-fiction is your gig, and especially if you watched every Bachelor episode with fervour and devoured Rosie’s recaps afterwards with even more so, you’ll really like this. And if you’re stepping out of your fiction comfort zone like me, it’s still a decent, snappy read, about a gal with a lot of heart, and a helluva lotta guts (the Coles story. That’s all I’ll say. If nothing else, read the Coles story…)


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