by Laura Kemp
A tender, funny and haunting coming-of-age novel which asks if the past can ever be part of your future.
Twenty-one and insecure, Vicky Hope comes up with a plan on the eve of traveling the world with her high-flying friend, Kat Lloyd: if she isn’t married by the time she’s thirty, she’ll marry her geeky best mate Mikey Murphy.
Fast-forward eight-and-a-bit years, Vicky, now Vee wakes up on her thirtieth birthday in Brighton, expecting a proposal of marriage from her arty boyfriend Jez. Instead, he tells her their relationship is over and she has no choice but to return to her parents’ home.
Devastated and alone in her childhood bedroom, she decides she has nothing to lose and tracks down her two old mates. With shock, she discovers Mikey, now Murphy, is a successful app designer driven by his tragic upbringing. Kat, or Kate, never made it – but she hides a devastating secret, which threatens the happiness of all three.
‘Well, why don’t we make a pact? You know, if both of us are still single by the time we’re thirty and ancient, we get together.’ … ‘You must be joking! I’m never getting married. Not to you nor anyone. Not even Laura Croft.’
But if she was dissected at this very moment, they’d find she was one hundred percent No Use To Anybody, a composite of devastation, grief, self-loathing, failure and fear. And they’d find no evidence of water because she’d cried it all out.
I’d started eating meat again when I got back to Mum and Dad’s… I was vegan for years because of Jez, well, apart from my secret cheese stash. I used to feel terrible about that, but now, well, I wish I’d shoved a salami up his arse.
‘Would you like to play my anger drum?’ he said, earnestly. Her jaw dropped. He was weird, she knew that, but she’d never put him down as a pervert… ‘But it helps, having a good bang. It’s a release. We can do it quick while the shop’s quiet.’ … There was no way she was standing for this. Before she could run away, he was back with a huge smile… And a hand drum. A bloody instrument. That was what he’d meant!
It was as if they’d unscrewed a bottle marked ‘chemistry’ and sniffed, drunk and bathed in it. To think it had been there, bubbling under all this time. Mind you, maybe it was only so intoxicating because they’d waited so long.
The morning after he told her how beautiful she was when she was sleeping. He’d watched her into the early hours. She almost died from the romance of it – until he said he’d even found her dribbling cute.
I was quickly sucked into this tale and remained entranced and fascinated with each story thread until reaching that oh so satisfying conclusion. Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope’s Back Up Man was heaving with clever humor, witty banter, heartbreaking misunderstandings, family drama, secrets, and endearingly quirky and complicated characters. Ms. Kemp’s cleverly entertaining writing style was crisp, refreshing, and so highly amusing that I was smirking, snorting, chuckling, chewing my lip, and cradling my kindle all day. The storyline was brilliantly crafted and ingeniously well-paced. I was rapturously engaged, intrigued, and impatient with myself for being a weak human that required bathroom and meal breaks, as well as severely hampered by my need to read every word (I didn’t want to miss a thing) and limited by an inability to read faster, as I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Poor Vee, she was expecting to celebrate her thirtieth with a long-awaited marriage proposal from her scruffy boyfriend, only to get a scribbled blow-off containing among other things, two of the sentences no one ever wants to hear.
About Laura Kemp
Laura lives in Penarth, Cardiff with her supportive husband, gorgeous son, playful dog and ancient cat. Writing is compulsive to Laura. With 15 years journalistic experience and several successful books to her name, writing is her escape and her love.