When Amanda Baker was 14 she found a letter written by her runaway mother to her unborn child: 'Dear Jeremy' it began 'or Amanda...'
Mrs Baker still sends Christmas presents - Meccano, a fishing rod, a Spare Rib subscription - but her daughter is now in the coolly capable hands of Mr Baker's second wife, Pam, who trots home from work on her stacked heels to her formica 'dream kitchen', where she curls butter, grills grapefruit and swigs sherry from the bottle hidden under the sink. Meanwhile Amanda's dad, soured by his experiences with free-spirited women, crossbreeds fuchsias and salivates over glossy prospectuses in search of a new school for his disappointing daughter.
The happiest days of your life? Not for Baker, sixteen and sick of it as she moves miserably between lessons packed with palm fibre and the use of the dative. Baker's only solace is her fifth form gang - the four Mandies - and a low-calorie diet of king-sized cigarettes, until she teams up with Julia Smith, games captain and consummate game player. And so begins a passionate friendship that will threaten her future, menace her sanity and risk the betrayal of everything and everyone she holds dear.
The Following Girls weaves the minutiae of Seventies girlhood into an unsparing tragi-comedy of shrinking horizons, dangerous alliances and not-so-happy families.