Lily Upshire is a girl who just wants to win in life and it starts with her demand for an apology from her favourite smoothie producing company.
She had purchased her favourite smoothie, a blueberry flip smoothie (Blueberry and banana smoothie) from Mr Bashett (a.k.a. Retingham Essential Supplies), in Retingham, Nottinghamshire, England, UK, as was her usual practice, but then came across a contaminant in form of a purple pea in the drink so that she had to dispose of the rest of the drink as well as the purple pea, losing a pound and crushing what could have been a great evidence for a potential lawsuit according to her neighbours, Fred and Nancy.
Now, in Nigeria one might not think twice about the matter, definitely grumble and maybe make a vow to never buy the smoothie again and proceed to buy it the next day or film the contaminant and send it on social media, warning people against the product and the company – everyone could assume that the blueberry flip smoothie was a pirated version and we’ll all examine the likely differences or lack thereof.
The novel begins by taking us through Lily’s everyday life. She is bullied in school, has poor grades and is referred to by her teachers as a bright girl who is distracted, spends a lot of time on Facebook and lesser time on Instagram.
She is an orphan living with her step-grandmother, who loves her to pieces and centred within a community of people who either have their evaluated predictions for the poor girl’s future or her friends, who see her as a mess, who is a lot to deal with. However, Lily is a little madam – mature for her age, a tween with sophisticated character and a clear set of values and principles, which is undoubtedly, stated when she clearly insists on an apology as a faithful and valued customer through the series of correspondence which takes place between herself and the American company.
This simple incident, however, is overshadowed by rising claims all pointing at the same smoothie, so that Mr and Mrs Bashett, shop owners have to stop selling it and a major group supporting her unclaimed claim is set up, “Friends of Lily Upshire group”.
The beauty of Lily Upshire is her mind and the relationship she has with her grandmother, plus her outstanding personality; however she has to deal with bullying in school, being accused of being the bully instead, fake accounts on Facebook masking catfishes and online predators, plus a pathetic friend named Brian, who can’t defend her against the violent abuse from her female bullies.
The company keeps getting her name wrong by referring to her as Mr Upshaw or Dear Lily Upshaw, but she is insistent on her apology regardless of how persuasive the company is: coercing her with vouchers, sending a representative for a bribe and going as far as sending over two travel tickets for her to travel over to their company, but the “We are sorry” is what’s important to Lily.
This smoothie matter draws out the attention of an ambitious reporter, Rayzor, who after careful investigation publishes an article: “Faceless Firm Breaks Child’s Heart” on the Retingham Post, making Lily Upshire a celebrity, but narrows the lens on her inner life, which is well hidden mess.
It escalates the situation in school, the bullying increases and Lily is even set up for dealing in drugs. Lily Upshire’s life isn’t the only one affected by all these. There is Fred, disillusioned with an illness from the blueberry flip smoothie and Nancy, the care giver, there is Grace Deacon, Lily’s wise Grandmother who is terrified by her parenting skills, but bringing her up the best way she can with the best options available to her and most importantly, there is Mr Frank Salesman, who is growing increasingly angry with the press, especially with the new article about the child “Lily”. Lily is quite fascinated by Mr Salesman as she wishes to run a business of her own someday and so listens to every available interview and press conferences, where he gets to speak.
The book explores Lily’s friendships and her disposition towards her different friends.
There is the long standing friendship with Brian that ends abruptly, when Lily decides she has had enough of it: Brian happened to be her grandmother’s little informant on personal matters and he didn’t even defend her when she was getting beat up, so that she had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. Their friendship becomes like the Russian cold war until she sees him getting beat up by two boys, at this time she’s taking up boxing lessons, so she uses the element of surprise to her advantage, startling the bullies, taking a hit in the process, but embarrassing Brian, who ends up bringing her flowers and their friendship grows into something more. This still jeopardizes Lily Upshire’s reputation in the long haul and proves the community predictions true.
There is Mack, who is like a sister from another family, but the friendship is a shaky and deep one, which stands the test of time, even after it grows deeper than expected. There is Petra, her most striking and unexpected friend that gives her a three-fold heartbreak and last of all we have Gloria.
When I started reading this book, I really enjoyed it and read it to the last page. However, the ending was not to my taste, giving off the idea that there could have been a clearer conclusion regarding her relationship between Gloria and Mack.
The most outstanding thing about this book is its unbiased plot: it is unpredictable and mature. It reminds us of those mirror gazes of maturity we all display now and then when at that age and in various levels of relationships and it talks about things people avoid, like self-harm, the realistic state of bullying when it is ignored and shines the torch on human nature when it is full of spite and hatred in the case of the Bizzells.
OLily Upshire made the most of her lot thanks to the support systems around her. For instance she got three stars A in Business Studies, Maths and English and came outside the evaluation of her community to become the business woman she dreamed of becoming.
I wouldn’t quite recommend this book if you are looking for a clean fiction, because this book is full of hard truths and many reservations. It was an amazing read, however, that brought me back to my former self, awed with a good read after such a long time.
Just imagine what might have happened if the company had sent a handwritten apology to Lily Upshire, their valued customer: the blueberry flip smoothie could have received a star rating, but Nancy might have succeeded in coercing Grace Deacon to convince Lily to file a lawsuit as the company had succumbed to their mistake, but then again, Lily Upshire is such a mature girl with an independent mind and Granny Grace Deacon is so respectful of Lily’s choices so that Frank Salesman’s company as well as his long laboured vision might not have ended in such a tragedy.
- Purchase link: https://mybook.to/LilyUpshireIsWinning
- Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63076187-lily-upshire-is-winning
- Genre: Young adult / new adult fiction; satirical fiction
- Print length: 376 pages / 130K words
- Age range: 14+ to adult (but see trigger warnings below)
- Trigger warnings (these are more extensive as it is a young adult book; no adult-level triggers noted)
- emotional and physical bullying
- non-injurious deliberate self-hurt
- off scene reference to mild self-harm by a peripheral character
- touches on teenage sexuality and issues surrounding sexual orientation; mild non-graphic sex scenes as an older teenager
- satirical depiction of US big business
- a dog survives being thrown into a canal
- Amazon Rating: 5*