Series Review: Stella Etc by Karen McCombie

Frankie, Peaches and Me, Sweet-Talking TJ, Meet the Real World, Rachel, Truly, Madly Megan, Amber and the Hot Pepper Jelly, Twists, Turns and 100% Tilda, and Forever and Ever and Evie
Contemporary, Adventure, Humour | Published by: Scholastic
Rating: ★★★★★

Stella Etc. was another one of our all-time favourites. Back when the summers were only six weeks long, we’d read one book a week (always skipping the final book because it was when Stella went back to London so you did’t see all her Portbay friends). This time Maddie and I managed to read all seven books in one day! Stella Etc. is full of summer adventures, friends and sea-side fun!

F  R  A  N  K  I  E  ,  P  E  A  C  H  E  S    A  N  D    M  E

Frankie is moving from her home in Kentishtown, London to Portbay, a small seaside town that only her parents have visited. That means leaving her super cool best friends behind and having zero friends in Portbore. Before she left her friends threw her an amazing going-away party and Stella had to say goodbye to her crush, Seb. So things are look a bit depressing for Stella when her bedroom still hasn’t been painted and her dad is dead-set on becoming a DIY superstar to fix up their crumbling cottage. In this book Stella learns about the history of the town and meets a cast of strange characters like the cat that smells like peaches and cream and the old lady that feeds cupcakes to seagulls. It’s a great moving home story, and shows Stella becoming more independent and confident despite some…unfortunate accidents.

S  W  E  E  T    T  A  L  K  I  N  G    T  J

In each book Stella finds a new friend and the first is TJ who everyone thinks is a bit of a thug due to some nasty local vandalism. TJ is reppin’ as the only boy in the group (and Stella’s never really had a boy as a best friend so that indicates more of her character development and confidence growth!) Sweet Talking TJ is probably one of my favourites of the series, particularly filled with mystery and fun related to the mansion house on Sugar Bay. But the absolute best bit about this story is the extra side-kicks: Bob the dog and Ellie, TJ’s younger sister! The gang is so diverse and their dynamic is super entertaining.

M  E  E  T    T  H  E    R  E  A  L    W  O  R  L  D  ,  R  A  C  H  E  L

Rachel’s book probably had the best opening of the whole book. It’s incredibly hot so Stella and TJ decide to go to the lido where they run into Rachel and her gang of bitchy friends. Then Rachel faints and Stella and TJ have to dive down and save her from drowning! Meet the Real World, Rachel is also one of the only books where the mean girl seems to get a side of the story. You see how vulnerable she actually is, and as much as it’s about Stella finding a new friends, it’s also about Rachel learning how to be a better person, and appreciate the people that really care about her. Rachel’s book is filled to the brim with drama and even more mystery surrounding the fainting episodes, as well as the psychic powers Rachel seems to have acquired…

T  R  U  L  Y  ,  M  A  D  L  Y    M  E  G  A  N

Megan is the obligatory holiday friend. She’s staying in one of the cliff top caravans that overlooks the sea, and she’s arrived for one of the most exciting weeks on the summer calendar! With the talent show and parade! Megan is quirky but lonely seeing as her older sister has found a bit of summer romance, leaving her alone and lying to her parents about where she’s been. Truly, Madly Megan has a bit of scandal and mischief, which really bonds the group together, Megan is another one of my favourites, though it’s hard to put them into any sort of order.

A  M  B  E  R    A  N  D    T  H  E    H  O  T    P  E  P  P  E  R    J  E  L  L  Y

Amber is the grumpy waitress that’s popped up in all of the other books. She’s got a thing about phobias and doesn’t stick up to her family’s expectations. Amber lied to her mother that she had a date to a family wedding, so she’s managed to get herself into some pretty stressful situations. She’s a little bit awkward and doesn’t seem to have many friends, so Stella Etc is the perfect group for her! Amber and the Hot Pepper Jelly is mostly about the gang trying o help someone else, showing her the power of friendship and support! I love the idea that Stella’s become someone who really roots for the underdogs and makes the people who are usually left out feel included.

T  W  I  S  T  S  ,  T  U  R  N  S    A  N  D    1  0  0  %    T  I  L  D  A

Tilda is the final addition to the group, and she’s another character that they’ve spotted around town posting notes to the lampposts to a mysterious recipient. Tilda’s book also has one of the best scenes in the whole series: the Sleepover! It’s reminiscent of the Ugly Fashionshow found in Megan’s book and just makes you wish that you were part of the group! This book kind of reveals how formulaic this series can be, but the plot is equally as fun! And it’s always fun how Stella, the new girl, can makes all of the residents that live in Portbay appreciate their local history!

F  O  R  E  V  E  R    A  N  D    E  V  E  R    A  N  D    E  V  I  E

The final book in the series, is the only book of this series that I’ve never read. The rest were re-reads, but this was completely new! In takes place after the holidays, actually int he October half term, so Stella summer adventures have pretty much come to a close, but there’s still one thing left over: her missing granddad, which was a strand of the series that gets steadily more important as it goes on. Stella goes back to Kentish town hoping to learn more about her own family history. What I loved about this was how it dealt with not being very close to people that you used to love. There are so many instances where Stella manages to alienate her old friends and visa versa, and it’s completely realistic! You really can’t expect to stay friends with people forever. Friendships can be tough and you have to put work in them in order to maintain them. It think if I had read this when I was first interested in the series then I would’ve been completely on Stella’s side and not been able to see how she was perhaps hurting those around her too. I mean, her old friends were blatantly toxic if when she was with them she felt plain and nervous – her stammer even came back as soon as she was there! It really made me realise that as fun as this series is, it’s also got some really deep messages and valuable things to take away from it.

The writing is ridiculously entertaining, full of voice and things that’ll make you laugh. And the progression os time is also really well managed, that sounds like a silly thing to comment on, but it just felt smooth. It’s a bit of an older series, but one I would completely recommend. In the re-read, I found it’s just as good the sixth time!

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