Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe


I enjoyed the three previous Nina Stibbe books, and I was happy to listen to the foibles of Lizzie who is now 18 years old.

Lizzie gets a job as a dental assistant, replacing the current assistant who has become the dentist’s girlfriend. The job includes an apartment above the dental office, so this job means Lizzie will live on her own for the first time. She becomes the almost-girlfriend of Andy, who makes dentures for the office. He is considered unsuitable for her as his family is as unconventional as hers. He becomes a lodger with Lizzie’s mother and stepfather as Lizzie’s room is now available and there is a worry that her mother will seduce him.

The dentist himself is relentlessly unpleasant and it’s hard to find the humor in his eccentricities. Lizzie herself is growing more bold and when the dentist breaks off one of his teeth while trying to remove it himself, Lizzie removes the root. She didn’t have time to wait for another dentist to come to the office as she was due to pick up her little brother from daycare.

As with her other books, this is somewhat autobiographical, though one hopes it’s mostly fiction. It’s set in the 80s and has many references to individuals that I believe were TV or movie stars, so for people growing up in Leicester, it must be a fun trip down memory lane. This one has a very sad event which gave it poignance.

Nina Stibbe, Reasons to Be Cheerful, Little, Brown, 2019, 288 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the UVa and public libraries, and from Amazon.

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