'A blend of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and The Wicker Man that is as savage as it is suspenseful.' The Independent

Read about it here:


. . .examines the pressures being yourself and trying to fit in. Big, bold and brave.
— J17

 Weight is a big issue in Carmen's life - not surprising when her mother is obsessed with dieting and is determined that her daughter will be thin. But with a long list of failed diets behind her and a mountain of empty wrappers under the bed. Carmen knows the comfort of forbidden food. Swept off to Birmingham by her mum. Carmen finds her old life disappearing - her home, her friends and her father. With everything to gain and nothing to lose Carmen starts to ask: if she were thin, very thin, could it all be different?

And here's a blog I wrote recently about the book . . .

And my favorite review from Alison from Canada who wrote on Amazon:
'An Amazing Mistake: I was leaving for a family vacation, so as usual I stopped by the book store and library. I happened upon this book because it was one of the few I hadn't read in the section I wandered into. I was pleasantly surprised. This is an amazing book with a really good story, I would recommend it to anyone who likes the works of Francesca Lia Block, or suffers with an eating disorder or family problems.' 


Dirty Work

‘Gritty . . . pitch perfect . . . provocative.’
— The Observer

'Like Patricia McCormick’s Sold, this novel gives headlines about sexual slavery a human face.' Booklist

‘Bell’s debut, Massive, was a powerful exploration of body dysmorphia and Dirty Work, published on the bicentenary of Parliament’s vote to abolish the salve trade is as timely as it is punchy.’ The Times


‘Follows in an illustrious literary tradition of taking readers, through story, into the seedier side of a reality that cannot be ignored even if most people would rather avoid it’ The Guardian

Dirty Work is about Oksana and what happens to her when she leaves her home in Russia thinking she’s going to Italy to work as a waitress. And what happens to Hope, an English girl, when she finds a strange Russian stowed away in her camper van. 


. . .boldly yet sensitively explores complex interactions between emotional and nutritional needs . . . perceptive and disturbing.
— The Bookseller
. . . told with sympathy and humour and somehow manages to be enjoyable as well as thought-provoking.
— Big Issue
Novels for teenagers about eating disorders can be tricky. Bell’s debut novel is tough, grimy and truthful as it looks at three women in the same family with food problems. For Carmen’s mum Maria, thin equals success. She despairs of her podgy teenage daughter and, when a job opportunity arises in Birmingham, she whisks Carmen away to the big city. Soon Carmen is discovering her roots, including a grandmother who equates food with affection. Bell comes at her subject with a clever obliqueness, using the dislocated experience of the strange city to reflect Maria’s and Carmen’s fixations on food. A small chink of hope at the end suggests that Carmen will break the vicious circle and that the legacy will not be passed on.
— The Guardian








Extract from Dirty Work

© Julia Bell

Prologue: Oksana

“‘When I wake up, she is gone.’ That’s what I tell him, over and over. It’s the truth, even though I know, right now, he doesn’t believe me.
He stamps around the room, kicking the furniture and shouting. Don’t I know how much money he will lose? Don’t I know how much she’s worth? I shouldn’t have been sleeping! I should have been watching!
And by then he’s given himself enough reasons, and he punches me in the arm and then he slaps me across the face. Tomorrow we are supposed to be going to London. Zergei has made a good deal with his contacts. Ten thousand for two, delivery included. First class, he said, laughing, to the man on the phone.
We’ve only been in Amsterdam for a week, just so he can sort out some paperwork, and then we get the ferry to England. When we get there Zergei’s going to help me escape, that’s what he says, and we’re going to run away from ‘all this shit’ and start a new life some place. But ten thousand isn’t enough in any currency to run away with me and starta new life. The moment he gets that money in his hands, he’s going towalk away and fly to Rio where the girls hang out on the beaches in bikinis and you can get all the tits you want for free. I’m not stupid, I can see how life works.
Which is why, if Marie had found a way to run away, I wish she told me, because I would have gone with her too.
He comes back later, rushing up the steep stairs to the top of the house. He’s swearing and shouting my name, which is bad news.
‘We’ve got to go. Quick!’ He throws a bag at me. ‘Get your stuff.’
When I ask him why, he won’t look at me.
‘Did you find her?’
He nods.
‘Where is she?’
He takes his time, rubbing a heavy hand over his face. ‘She is dead, Oksana. In– in the canal.’”
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