HOW TO KEEP A BOY AS A PET
(OR HOW TO GIVE A GIRL SOME REAL POWER!)
In Diane Messidoro’s debut novel, How to Keep a Boy as a Pet, audacious fifteen-something, Circe Shaw, embarks on an urgent journalistic mission to reveal, ‘The Official Truth about dating the male human species’. But while the book is most definitely a romantic comedy, and early reviews have compared Diane to both Jilly Cooper and Louise Rennison, there’s rather more to her story than first meets the eye…
‘Like Circe, I lost contact with my dad when I was 12.’ Diane explains, ‘It rocked my confidence and got me into all kinds of boy trouble. I’ve written the book I wish I’d had then: a funny take on a painful situation, which I hope will resonate with readers struggling to understand the strange goings-on in their own families. But it’s not just about helping girls to catch a cute ‘pet’ boyfriend, it’s also about encouraging them to appreciate their own worth – what I call their, “natural sparkling pizzazz”.’
With so many girls now growing up without dads around, and with swathes of the media saturated with misogynistic images, this message, Diane believes, has never been more important. ‘In retrospect, I was lucky, when I was a teen the media was relatively benign. Girls today are under such enormous pressure to conform to a batty-lashed dolly look, and drip-fed crazy ideas about becoming “empowered” by pole dancing. It’s easy to see how they can be convinced to set themselves aside.’
But what of the ‘male human pet control’ experiments woven through the book – do they actually work? Can taming a gorgeous boy really be as easy as walking a dog? Diane grins, ‘Of course! At the launch party at Waterstones in Covent Garden I led a short obedience training class, inviting girls to command boys to “fetch” my book for them. Although a fair few of the ‘girls’ would better be described as highly sceptical women and as many of the ‘pet boys’ were actually extremely reluctant ‘pet men’, it went pretty well – in fact, we broke the store’s all-time events sales record!’
How to Keep a Boy as a Pet is published by Electric Monkey, Egmont (May 2012)
Diane is a passionate advocate of girls’ ‘natural sparkling pizzazz’ and is also happy to talk about how her own father’s absence has affected her life.