International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review
Angus, Thongs and full-frontal snogging
by Louise Rennison
HarperCollins Children's Books; (Aug 2005); Pages: 256
Ruby Ceriden Harrison
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 Georgias 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 Georgias 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. Cmon 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
its 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, Ill
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, thats 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 its
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 its 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
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.
C Harrison Jan 2009
Ruby is in her final year on the Creative Writing Degree at the University
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