Preloved Review & Pink Sugared Popcorn!

April 12, 2012 2012, 3.5 star books, australian authors, crafts based on ya books, giveaway, recipes, shirley marr, Wendy 75

by Shirley Marr
 
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. 

Shirley Marr Aussie YA Author fury preloved
Shirley Marr in Wonderland

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 aricature 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 on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. Recommended for fans of Meg Cabot’s Mediator series, Babe in Boyland, Geek High, Pink, So Over You, and for younger YA readers.

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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 as part of the Preloved Blog Tour! We have an autographed copy of the book as well as a beautiful prize for one of our lucky readers. This is the loveliest item we’ve ever given away and one that ties in directly with the book, so be sure not to miss it.

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

preloved by shirley marr popcorn snack strawberry pink recipe
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 from Flipping Through Pages, 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! Just print it out on cardstock and trim to size. This snack turned out to be so tasty and so pretty, as well as the perfect thing to eat while reading this book.

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preloved popcorn pink snack recipe shirley marr

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75 Responses to “Preloved Review & Pink Sugared Popcorn!”

  1. Sarah (saz101)

    Hummm… can I say, that when I made my comment on the tour top giveaway about the Princess Bride, I’d not yet read your review… now I read it, and voila! THE PRINCESS BRIDE! If I wasn’t sold before, I am now. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies :D

    Ummm, seriously, I’m loving this book already, especially the kind of… it seems like Amy kind of thinks she’s playing a supporting role in her life… but even from the little you’ve quoted, she sounds so vibrannt, quirky, and wonderful.

    Ummm… seriously, I need to stop writing comments until I’ve read all the way through (I’m writing as I read), because I wrote THAT ^, and then read the “I see you…” quote! Hehe!

    Oh, Wendy, LOVELY review. I’m going to pick it up if I see it in-store, and if not, I’ll be ordering it. WONDERFUL xx

  2. Celine

    I really need to read this book soon! I haven’t read any books by Shirley Marr but I know that she is an Aussie author! I definitely need to read her books! And aww, I love that popcorn image! It sounds like a perfect snack while reading Preloved!

    Awesome review, Wendy! ♥

    • Wendy Darling

      Shirley’s a sweetie pie in addition to being a great writer, Celine. You must check out her books sometime when you get the chance! Thanks so much for your sweet comment. :)

  3. Wendy Darling

    I think you’d enjoy Shirley’s writing style, Heidi. Did you ever get yourself a copy of FURY? If not, I’m still touring it, so let me know if you’d like to borrow it!

  4. Heidi

    Any author who references the 80s and Kill Bill in one book is probably an author I’m going to love. I’ve wanted to get my hands on Shirley Marr since I saw Fury last year, hurray for Fishpond! This sounds like so much fun, a good twist on some things we’ve seen before. And that popcorn looks delicious (and matches!), I may try it tonight.

    • Wendy Darling

      I hear the book is already sold out at Fishpond just 24 hours after this review went live, hah–but hopefully it will come back in stock soon, Nicola! Hope you enjoy both book and recipe when you get around to them. :)

  5. Fairday Morrow

    I haven’t heard of this book before. However, after reading your decription of Preloved I can’t wait to read it. It sounds amazing. I love The Princess Bride- so right away I am intrigued.

    I heard about your amazing blog on Sparkles and Lightning. I am so glad! I am now following you. :)

    ~Jess

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh good, I hope you enjoy it, Jess! And thanks so much for stopping by, I’m coming by to check out your blog, too. :)

  6. A Canadian Girl

    Wendy, I’ve heard really good things about Marr’s Fury so this one sounds pretty different from it. The YA genre seems to lack characters that aren’t Caucasian so I’ll be adding this one to my wishlist.

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m a big fan of Shirley’s work–I hope you get a chance to check out FURY sometime, Z. I agree, it’s always good to see POC depicted in YA, especially when it’s not the primary focal point of the story, as those can get a little tiresome. ;) This one’s very sweet!

    • Wendy Darling

      Just be prepared to inhale a whole bunch of it, Nat. ;) I don’t know whether it’s because the flavor is more subtle with the powdered sugar, but it was hard to stop eating it!

  7. Rachel

    This quote had me cracking up: “Me? Until recently, I thought an algorithm was a type of dance move.”

    I’m always fascinated and entertained by comments and conversations I stumble on with Shirley. She is truly hilarious and witty. Just from the description, this story appeals to me a little more than Fury. I do want to read both of these but Fury seems a little darker than what I usually like. I still would like to read it though because, as I said, Shirley fascinates me. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah hah, I thought that was a really fun quote as well. I had to stop myself from posting more, actually, there were so many amusing lines throughout the book!

      Shirley’s really fun to follow/friend on GoodReads, Rachel–she’s totally friendly and approachable, and I’m sure she’d love to be pals if you reach out to her. :) Not to mention she actually READS.

  8. Rebecca

    I am a total child of the 80′s. I don’t know how I didn’t know about Preloved before your review, but it had completely slipped my radar. Sounds like I would like it after reading your review. Thanks! And I will have to make some strawberry popcorn:)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh fellow child of the 80s, welcome to Shirley’s orbit! She’s great fun to read. :) Even without strawberry popcorn.

  9. Linny @ Linnys Literature

    I probably won’t end up reading Preloved, since you say it’s more for a younger YA audience, but the story is intriguing. Love the idea of the ’80s ghost and that the locket was actually meant for her love/hate friend. Well.. maybe I’ll read it. I’ll definitely have to check out Fury though.

    P.S. The popcorn sounds delicious, especially your strawberry kind! I’ll have to try out the recipe sometime for sure.

    • Wendy Darling

      The book did have a sort of younger, more innocent feeling to me, Linny, but that’s not to say that older readers won’t love it, too. I am a big fan of FURY, I hope you have a chance to read both sometime!

      If only every day were filled with pink popcorn…

  10. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    I think I have found my next favorite Australian author (the list is getting Gi-Normous, btw) I haven’t read anything by Shirley Marr, though her name has been on my radar for a while. I’m a thirty-something, so anything w/ 80s references is going to capture my interest! Loved the review Wendy:)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, she’s definitely one of my favorite Aussie authors, Heather. She’s really fun to follow on GoodReads as well, and is an author who actually reads *gasp* and writes honest reviews. *gasp* ;)

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Mandee! What’s your Pinterest user name? If you like, I can add you as a contributor to that board so that you can add other Preloved inspiration things to it! :)

  11. Lynn K.

    I think I need to get myself some pink popcorn! So tantalizing!! O.O

    Thanks for the review, I’m definitely looking forward to this this then cause I really liked the Mediator series when I read it a couple years back.

    • Wendy Darling

      The Mediator series came to mind because they’re similarly fun, lighthearted books with a boy ghost. :) I hope you enjoy this one too, Lynn!

  12. Zoe

    Great Review Wendy! I will definitely be checking this out (along with Fury). At first when you mentioned the sugared popcorn I was like the other Australians: WAH?! but then I remembered as a kid I actually had had it at parties and you could buy them in different colours which were pink, green and yellow at the shops.
    I myself was born in the 90′s and I am 18 now but I do know a bit about the 80′s since I love their music over current music. I have also watched several 80′s movies including the Princess Bride. But I am an exception to my generation I guess since I know most people in that age group most likely won’t get it and sadly won’t care which is a shame because I kind of sometimes wish I was able to have been born in the 80′s although I still love been a 90′s kid.

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Zoe! I wish I’d had a childhood filled with sugar-dusted popcorn. ;) I’m really curious what you’ll think of this one–please let me know if you enjoy it when you get around to reading it!

    • Wendy Darling

      Hi Carrie! It’s from a publisher in Australia, so the book isn’t available here. There’s a link in the review to the online retailer where you can purchase it if you’re interested, though. :)

  13. Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings

    I totally want to read this one, being a child of the 80′s…shhhh don’t tell anyone…I know I will love all the throwbacks, plus add in ghosts and Shirley’s rebellious wit, I know i will love it…sigh if Only they would make it available here :( any chance of another Shirley tour? Thanks for the recipe as well, Wendy. I am a popcorn junkie so I would love to try it. Thanks so much for this excellent post :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I know, the combination of all those things is too good to pass up!

      This book is brand new, so right now I think it’s better to encourage people to buy this one if they can. I wouldn’t rule it out down the road, but I do think it’s nice to support small publishers and great authors where we can! Thanks for stopping by, Heidi. :)

  14. Sam

    I need to get my hands on this. Hopefully it will be easier for me to order than Fury was. Aussie books are always so hard to get hold of! Anyway, I am really looking forward to reading this myself and can’t wait to meet Amy! Wonderful review Wendy. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      FURY is back on Fishpond.com, Sam, if that helps at all–I guess they’ve restocked since we cleaned them out last time, hah.

      I hope you enjoy this when you get your hands on it, Sam! Amy’s a pretty special heroine indeed. :)

    • Sarah (saz101)

      At risk of sounding like I’m plugging the company, Booktopia.com.au is selling both Fury and Preloved… though I suppose I’m not sure of international shipping… I’m only suggesting because I’ve heard a couple people having difficulties with Fishpond’s reliability, and I’ve never had anything but the utmost professionalism from Booktopia ;)

  15. Candace

    I hadn’t heard of this one yet and I totally am DYING to read it now! It sounds pretty freaking awesome cause I love stories with ghosts! Definitely adding this to my wish list!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ooo, I live to make you die, hah. It’s a very gentle sort of ghost and a very gentle sort of ghost, which is a really nice change from all those nasty ones. ;)

  16. Lexie

    Really fantastic review. Between your review and the gorgeous quotes sprinkled throughout, I really, really have to read this. Not only do I love the quiet, humorous tone that it seems to have, but: family relationships! I absolutely adore seeing a family relationship be a real part of the plot, so I would read this book for that alone.

    • Wendy Darling

      I am such a fan of Shirley’s writing, especially her characterizations and humor. And yes, the family relationship is extremely important to the book, in a way that surprised me, in a very good way. I hope you get to read it soon, Lexie!

  17. Savannah Valdez

    Hmm, this book sounds great! And I love the quotes from the book. I am such a 80′s fanatic that I would probably love this book! Thanks for the awesome review Wendy :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, this book is stuffed with 80s references, Savannah. :) If you’re a fanatic, that’s something you’ll probably have a great time with!

  18. Mimi Valentine

    Watch me sigh and smile and want to listen to 80s music while reading this — I absolutely LOVE your review, Wendy! I’ve never read a single book by Shirley Marr book even though I’ve heard some cool things about Fury, but I think I might make this one my first because I have a weakness for more sweet and lovely books like this one. I kind of felt like you were talking to me about this — especially with those popcorn snacks! I love how you added that in! <3

    Beautiful review, Wendy! :)

    P.S. Who doesn’t love the Princess Bride?? That movie is AMAZING! x)

    • Wendy Darling

      Heeee. I think we need to come up with a mix tape/play list for this book! There are definitely plenty of suggestions in the story. I think you’d enjoy this one too, Mimi, it’s adorable.

      And anyone who doesn’t love Princess Bride clearly doesn’t have a sense of humor. :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Missie! It’s not really that much of a “recipe,” hah, but I thought it was a fun little thing to offer up anyway. :) Anything that inspires more popcorn-eating is always good.

  19. Betsy

    Ghost, the 80′s, Chinese culture, set in Australia, and all while eating pink-powdered popcorn, I’m in. Sounds like such a fun story!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yay, I’m glad this fits your checklist! It’s a super fun book, Betsy, I hope you get a chance to read it soon. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  20. Melliane

    what a beautiful review! The cover is really fun, I confess I didn’t know it (yes again, well you always make me discover new books) but it sounds like nice story. I really need to read more novels like that.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, thank you Melliane! I find new urban fantasy books to read from visiting your blog all the time, so it’s definitely a mutual thing. :)

  21. Karen

    What a beautiful review. I love the Princess Bride and I *cough* graduated int he 80′s so I will probably have a lot to relate to lol.

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah hah, I was just talking to some friends on my GoodRead review about how depressing it is that this book is written for readers who weren’t even around during that time. *sigh* Let’s just say I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, too.

  22. Jenny

    I need to read something by this author! I heard such good things about Fury, and this one sounds great as well. And based on those few snippets you posted, her writing is beautiful:) Thanks for putting this one on my radar Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Jenny–I would dearly love to loan you my copy of FURY. I think you’d like the prickly, defensive, murderous Eliza. I have to remember to send you a PM to see if you’d be interested in borrowing it, I have a couple of books that are touring right now.

  23. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    I am so in love w/the premise of Preloved. You had me at The Princess Bride and 80′s pop culture. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, despite it not bring as in-depth as Fury. I am definitely adding Prelived to my TBR.
    Great review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw, in love with Preloved! I’m glad it’s on your radar, Andrea. This is a smaller publisher and a book that’s a little harder to get, so I’m always really happy when a fellow blogger considers picking it up. :) Hope you enjoy it when you get around to it!

  24. Amy

    Awesome review!! The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies!! I watch it probably once a month. I love the 80′s too, so this book sounds really great to me. I totally want to read this book now!!

    • Wendy Darling

      I looove Princess Bride too, Amy. I’m glad the review has convinced you to give this one a try–it’s very cute! I think you’d enjoy. :)

  25. KM

    I want this book SO badly! I’ve been dying to read it! I love a good cute contemp but also paranormal, and this sounds like a perfect mix of both! And you pointed out some bits in your review that make me want to read it even more, so yay! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw, I hope you get a chance to read it soon, KM! It’s a very cute book, with some light paranormal thrown in to keep things interesting. :)

  26. elena

    Oh, Wendy! This is such a lovely review. You already had me by mentioning a Chinese mother because Asian mothers are definitely something I can relate to. Shirley Marr is definitely an author I would like to check out, everyone says such good things about her and it’s a shame her books are more widely available in the States. The popcorn sounds perfect for someone with such a sweet tooth like me. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s really unusual to see Asian mother/daughter portrayed in an accurate way that still manages to come across as loving, you know? I’d love to hear what you think of this one if you read it.

      I have such a sweet tooth (okay, and a salty tooth too) that I knew I had to try out that snack immediately!

  27. Shirley

    Oooohh I spy an Aussie book :) This looks like a fantastic read! Ghosts and the 80′s culture has always intrigued me, so I’m looking forward to reading this! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Wendy!

    Popular Australian snack?Hmm….looks like I’m not Aussie enough :S But wow! It does look delicious :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Hee, this did turn out to be two Aussie books in a row for us on the blog!

      And okay, I thought it was a popular Aussie snack because at least FOUR people chimed in saying “Omg, you must try it!” when I posted a status update. But I’ve now heard from a few Aussies saying “…what?” too, hah.

  28. starryeyedjen

    Oh, Wendy, this book sounds lovely! I am always immediately enamored with books that reference The Princess Bride (my all-time favorite movie EVAR) and the inclusion of 80′s pop culture references will solidify my love for this novel, when I get my hands on it. :) This sounds like such a cute, touching story, and I can’t wait to read it. Your reviews always have that effect on me. :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Princess Bride is one of my favorites too, Jeannette! I could watch that movie over and over again (and I have) without ever getting tired of it.

      I think you’d like this one, it’s very cute. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  29. Jasprit

    Wonderful review Wendy, you’re so lucky you got to read a copy early on, it sounds like a truly beautiful read. And the Preloved Strawberry powdered sugar popcorn sounds so scrumptious, I’m off to download the recipe :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I am VERY lucky to have a copy of this. :) Thanks so much, Jasprit, hope you enjoy book and popcorn when you get around to it!