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Today I skim-read a new teenage romance novel, which was... er... interesting.

The book is by Meg Cabot, who wrote the very popular "Princess Diaries" series. This latest one is called Avalon High. It's told by a girl called Elaine, who likes floating on ponds. Her parents are both academics. Her mother is researching a book on Elaine of Astolat, after whom Ellie has been named. (Strangely, this research is done from home and doesn't libraries at all. At one point, she discovers a hitherto unknown bit of Arthurian literature that proves that Elaine of Astolat existed in legend before Tennyson! She also says that all academics agree that the Arthur / Guinevere / Lancelot love triangle is historical fact.) Her Dad is writing a book on a twelfth century sword, which the museum has let him take home, so it's sitting there in the family living room.

Ellie starts her new school, where she falls madly in love with the school god, and all-round paragon. He's called Will, but since William is only his second name, and his first name starts with A.... Well, do the math, as they say. Will is going out with Jenny, a pretty-and-shallow-but-nice cheerleader - but Jenny is having an affair with Lance, Will's best friend. (Lance is a "nice but dim" football player.) Will has an evil half-brother, Marco; a dog called Cavalier; a boat called Pride Winn. He also has a compex family ife, that has strong echoes of the Uther/Igraine story.

There's also the English teacher, Mr Merl... I mean, Mr Morton, who seems to be trying very hard to push Ellie and Lance together. It turns out that he's a member of an ancient order who know that Arthur will be re-incarnated one day. Trouble is, every time this has happened, the forces of Darkness have got to him, replaying the old love triangle and getting him killed through the agency of the Mordred character. So Mr Morton is hoping that Lance and Ellie will fall in love, so Jenny will stay with Will, and disaster will be averted. (Ellie is not impressed. "No way am I the reincarnation of a dope like Elaine." Hmph!)

Anyway, it all goes horribly wrong, then it all ends up okay, when Ellie gives Will the sword during a big show-down in a storm, and the sword goes all glowy and nice in his hands. Turns out she's not Elaine of Astolat after all, but the Lady of the Lake. Mordred goes to prison (as if the Forces of Darkness (OMT) can't break him out of there); Arthur and Ellie kiss a lot; and one day, soon, when Will is grown up, he will probably become King of the All The World and lead us to a shining new tomorrow. No pressure, then.

(Sorry, Pellinor. There was no eccentric Mr Pelly, the school janitor, who kept rushing around in the background, searching for the strange beast who kept trashing the stationery cupboard.)

I have to admit to a guilty fondness for teenage girl romance novels, though I hated them when I was a teenage girl. It's frothy nonsense, of course - in a different league from something like the Owl Service. I wonder if it will inspire one or two fourteen year old girls to take an interest in Arthurian legen for the first time.

The thing I found most amusing, though, was imagining a certain person whose name starts with G reading a book with such a bright pink cover!

Totally unrelated: Anyone know of a science fiction novel that ends with the line "And the lights went out." A reader in one of our libraries want to know.
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