Three years on from the events in Paradise Lodge and Lizzie Vogel is now 18. She's managed to get a job as a dental nurse, living in the flat above the practice.in Leicester. Lizzie should be having the time of her life, she's young and living a city. But Lizzie is a bit homesick for her home in the country with her alcoholic eccentric aspiring writer mother. On top of that Lizzie hates the dentist she works for, a xenophobe who's obsessed with becoming a Free Mason and who is also in a relationship with another woman who works in the dental clinic . Lizzie starts seeing Andy and in true Lizzie fashion things are never quite clear. Are they seeing each other, is he more into in bird watching than having sex? Things get even more complicated when Andy becomes a lodger at his mother's house.
The book is very much character driven, there is a story arc but it's quite slow. The main focus are the characters and simple observations made throughout the book. Stibbe has a knack for mentioning things that might seem mundane or rambling coming from other people but from her they are charming and sometimes hilarious. There's nice descriptions and touches for life in the early 1980s, nostalgic without being over the top or too schmaltzy. I really enjoy the characters and how they interact with each other, Lizzie and her dysfunctional family are very entertaining. In Man at the Helm, Lizzie was this perfect mix of childhood innocence and maturity for her age. In Paradise Lodge, it's a coming of age story where Lizzie is trying to get to grips with getting older and being a teenager. In Reasons to Be Cheerful, we see Lizzie becoming an adult and trying to find her groove in life. I love her quirks, she's very endearing and it was a pleasure to see Lizzie bloom and grow into the woman she wants to be. I found myself rooting for her. I love Stibbe's writing and look forward to her next book.