The Devon Bookshop

Demelza Rice is not very nice

Sophie Miller isn't cool. She never has been, and she's never pretended to be. Nor is she brave – even food makes her anxious. It's partly her parents' fault. Mum wears twinsets and has her hair set once a week, while Dad has two main obsessions: his car and the pub. With their genes, Sophie wonders how she could ever have been normal. The thought of starting secondary school fills her with dread and when, on the first day, she's targeted by bully Demelza Rice, she knows it's not going to end well. Her best friend, Darcy Doolittle, tries to reassure her, but then she laughs at Demelza's name and her fate is sealed. Demelza makes it clear she’s not just going to forgive and forget when she breaks all Sophie’s eggs on the way to home economics, leading Sophie to attempt to find a weakness by spying on her with Darcy’s dad’s telescope. It doesn’t work, and Sophie gets stung by a wasp and is made to feel inadequate by Demelza once more.

Parents' night arrives and, as predicted, Mum and Dad completely humiliate her. It all ends in disaster when Sophie's older brother, Max, shows Demelza a picture of his bearded dragon and exposes her phobia. Now Sophie knows her weakness but fears she might kill her for it. In the meantime, Darcy goes missing and starts acting really strangely. It turns out her mum, Racy Stacey, the polar opposite of Sophie's, has run away. Mum gets a job and Sophie feels abandoned, Max and Darcy start going out, and Demelza posts an embarrassing newspaper article on Instagram, prompting Sophie to do something completely out of character – plant Max’s bearded dragon in her locker. Demelza faints in front of an Oftsed inspector and the school faces the threat of special measures, then her even less pleasant mum turns up demanding a public apology. The question is, will Sophie, a self-confessed wimp, be brave enough?