The Mega Metal Diary of Cleo Howard: 1998 is the second in Sarah Ginger Tipper's second series. It's strangely encouraging to read Tipper's work as she has come incredibly far since her debut with the Eviscerated Panda series. Her essential strategy of writing youth fiction with a metal twist remains the same but her prose has come far and her storytelling ability, even in this fragmented diary form is wonderfully well done and makes for some really good reading. Sure this may not be high art, but it is a jolly good read!
This particular novel covers another year in the life of Cleo Howard. The character of Cleo remains a lot of fun to read and Tipper has become a lot more comfortable in writing about her. What's interesting to me about this particular text is that though it does not have the narrative tension that the first novel presented with the death of Cleo's father, we still find a lot to read about. It's strangely illuminating to read about Cleo's budding relationship with her friends and watch her grow into the character we know and love in the Eviscerated Panda books.
That being said, my big struggle with this particular text is the same as that which I had with the fourth Eviscerated Panda book, I'm kind of starving for more plot. Though Tipper does an admirable job for a young writer I sometimes find myself wishing we had a bit more moving things along than weekends with Barry. (Sidebar: Cleo's relationship with Barry is adorable in perfect in every way, Tipper went above and beyond the call of duty with that one!) I'm sure though that as the series progresses it wil be easier for Tipper to find things to fuel Cleo's adventures. After all, most teenage girls don't have a whole book series worth of gripping drama in their lives!
The point being, The Mega Metal Diary of Cleo Howard is a very fun read, and it probably will stand up to multiple readings too. Tipper has a lot going on and you start to develop a very deep sympathy for young Cleo and the day to day struggles that her existence as a young metalhead embodies. And yet beyond it all there is a wondrous sense of hope that guides her forward and gives meaning to the incredibly powerful work that Tipper has created here. Yes it's a suburban tale, yet it is one that many of us can relate too.
What I'm trying to say is that with her Heavy Metal-verse Sarah Tipper has been able to speak to the eternal power that metal has and the common experience that metal provides. She is turned on to what defined so many of our youths and gave so many of us meaning and for that I am eternally grateful. Beyond that there is something strangely refreshing about reading a book about metal from a female perspective, we need more of that. It makes for a work that is iconoclastic and endlessly enjoyable, a tasty addition to the metal canon!
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