Charm School

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

In Brief: Light-hearted dig at the obsessive preoccupation of young girls with their appearance

Cover of Charm School

Author: Anne Fine

Publisher: Corgi

Published in: 1999

Age Range: Pre Teens

Period: Contemporary

Setting: A community centre

Genres:  Growing-UpHumorous


  • Bonny is a girl forced to take a Charm School class at the community centre. Grumpy at first, she brightens up when she realises how she can make a difference to all the other girls.
  • Toby is working at the centre part-time to earn money to buy a new violin. He is soft on one of the girls in the Charm School.


Bonny's family has only just moved into the area, her Dad's stuck in a lay-by somewhere and her mother has to take a bookkeeping course at the community centre so Bonny is signed up for an all-day Charm School. This is run for (presumably) pre-teenage girls by Mrs Opalene who is full of tips about beauty, charm and style which the girls lap up and which horrify the plain and down-to-earth Bonny.

By lucky chance, she is mistaken for the electrician's assistant and ends up arranging the sound and lighting for the girls' Curls and Purls show (!) She decides to do something to liven things up a bit, helped by one of the girls with whom she gets on slightly and by Toby the tea-boy, working to save up for a new violin, whose witty comments keep her sane throughout the day.


This is in effect a wittily pointed two-act play in which down-to-earth Bonny mocks the other girls her age who are ridiculously serious about their appearance and looks. By the end she's convincing them there's more to life than appearances. The glamour girls are catty with each other, using all sorts of tricks to put the others off their stride, each trying to win the term's award. Although the context makes all the Charm advice faintly ridiculous, we're clearly not expected to dismiss it all: much of it is quite sensible. It's only when it's packaged up and taken so seriously that it's laughable.

Resisting the urge to shove this pushy visitor over backwards, Bonny said frostily, “Are these the sort of manners you've learned in Charm School? Because, if they are, maybe your mother should ask for her money back.”

“And maybe yours should send you back where you came from.”

“Oh yes?” challenged Bonny. “And where's that?”

“Well, from the look of you,” the girl said, “I'd say, The Land of No Style.”

“Better,” said Bonny icily, “than crawling here from The Land of No Manners.”

The girl was pointing now. “You realize the pattern on that blouse looks like a skin disease?”

“You obviously missed the class called Secrets of Flattery

Saturday 26th July 2003