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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review

Angus, Thongs and full-frontal snogging
by Louise Rennison
HarperCollins Children's Books; (Aug 2005); Pages: 256
ISBN13: 9780007218677

• Ruby Ceriden Harrison

Georgia Nicholson could be the love child of Bridget Jones and Adrian mole, only funnier. British comedy writer Louise Rennison has taken the much overdone teenage bildungsroman and turned it into a comedy stand-up of epic proportions.

The books are aimed primarily at eleven to fourteen year olds, but there is no doubt that anyone who has ever been a teenager would hear her words ring true in their ears. Reviewing the first book, John Peel said he ‘laughed like a drain.’ An apt analogy.

The series is populated with ordinary people; friends, family, snog potential, teachers and pets. Yet through Georgia’s eyes they morph into comically bizarre caricatures of their true selves. For example, her three year old sister, Libby, can be found most nights stashing her dirty nappy and the foot of Georgia’s bed then climbing in with scuba Barbie and a whole host of other plastic toys that violently dig her in the ribs. Libby affectionately refers to her sister as Gingy, and believes firmly that Georgia is half cat – half sister, and treats her like one. ‘Libby started pushing my head quite roughly down towards the saucer of milk. ‘C’mon ginger, milky pops.’

Her parents, or Muti and Vati as she calls them (this is perhaps the only German she knows) are equally eccentric. Her mother is seemingly baffled by the teenager she has brought up, and is quite a flirt, also having ‘just the one basooma, a sort of shelf affair she balances things on at parties.’ Georgia treats her father spot on; with a resigned and fond distain, encouraging him to ‘rave on el beardo’ whenever he attempts to hold a serious conversation with her.
The last member of the family is Angus, a Scottish cat/Labrador type who experiences bizarre and vaguely frightening ‘call of the wilds’ episodes where he is driven to herd up and savage small dogs.

Her friends, aka the Ace Crew, are an equally crazy bunch and speak in an almost entirely invented language for their own in-jokes that consist of part French, part German part colloquial craziness. In particular, dippy Jas and Georgia have a friendship that is fantastically true to life, fervently hating and loving each other simultaneously; ‘sometimes it’s like talking to a sock.’

But it is the character of helpless character of Georgia through her own eyes which provides the most entertainment. She is, as most teenagers are, worryingly obsessed with her appearance, convinced ‘I am very ugly and need to go to an ugly home.’ At one point, bothered by her alleged orang-utan eyebrows she shaves them off, simple plucking not having the desired affect. The moment she snaps out of her temporary madness and looks in the mirror was a moment that had me in stitches. ‘They seem to have gone all haywire and akimbo,’ she writes and in a kind of desperately serious hyperbole adds, ‘I’ll be blind by November!’

Her self deprecating humour causes the book to ooze with a deadpan hilarity and irreverence that most comics could only dream of. Georgia displays a resigned, yet amused acceptance of her crazed teenage life; its glories and disappointments, and many, many embarrassing moments. Like all teenagers, every single thing which happens to her is a momentous, noteworthy occurrence and often very funny, ‘we all laughed like stuffed animals’.

Viewing her life in this manner is clearly why Georgia is always so worked up, but it also what makes the book comedy genius. The book defies synopsis, not because of its complexity, but rather that the joys of the book can be found in the smallest of happenings, such as when she first meets the SG, that’s sex god in Georgia lexis. ‘My face was frozen like a fish finger. All rigid and pale. (But obviously not with breadcrumbs on it.)

Suffice to say, Georgia battles with many things such as school, or Stalag 14 as she calls it, with dubious affection. The teachers within it are described with devastatingly close and true observation from how many wobbling chins her headmistress has, to counting the wrinkles and ladders in her RE teachers tights. The pupils are also given a Georgia makeover; Nauseating P Green, an unfortunate girl who the ace crew avoid like the plague, and the bummer twins, two chavvy mates who love nothing more than to bunk off school and steal makeup from Boots. And it’s all so true. For me, so much of the books humour derived from a feeling that Georgia was describing people I knew and had felt the same about, only not in so many conscious thoughts.

The book is written in a timed diary form although the conventions of this are flouted throughout such as when Georgia narrates the happenings of her life in present tense. But Rennison has substituted sense with laughs, and it’s a worthy swap. Even the titles of her diary entries are quietly brilliant, such as ‘Friday – Police raid’ or ‘Thursday – day before the last day of my life. Hunger strike.’

Maybe I should grown out of these books by now, but even picking one up and opening it at random still makes me laugh out loud. Its like being shown a photograph of what your life was like at fourteen but with all the irony and retrospect learnt from the following years shoved in for good measure.
© Ruby C Harrison Jan 2009

Ruby is in her final year on the Creative Writing Degree at the University of Portsmouth

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