by Louise Rennison
I Read the Avon Books Mass Market Edition (yep, pink cover and thongs), 2003
First Published, England, Picadilly Press, 1999.
recommended ages 12-17.
Angus: I should have guessed all was not entirely well in the cat department when I picked him up and he began savaging my cardigan.
Thongs: What is the point of them? They just go up your bum, as far as I can tell.
Full-Frontal Snogging: Kissing with all the trimmings, lip to lip, open mouth, tongues … everything. (Apart from dribble, which is never acceptable.)
“retained with limited access at the Maplewood Middle School Library in Menasha, Wis. (2008). The coming-of-age novel, which has sexual content, was found offensive by a parent. In addition to retaining the book, board members voted unanimously to adopt procedures intended to secure and record parental consent before limited access books are released to students.” (ala.org)
There will be plenty of parents offended by Rennison’s first Georgia Nicolson book (and no doubt subsequent books) featuring the irrepressible 14-year-old and her amusing and highly “inappropriate” confessions. 14-year-old girls worried about their looks, their sexuality, their home-life, boys, and friends?! Okay, perhaps it is the way in which the subjectively drawn text expresses herself. Making ideal use the of diary trope, Rennison has created a singular character with both popular and unpopular views on things, recorded in the privacy of her journal. If you are Politically Correct in your Journals, you aren’t doing it right. Alright, maybe she is a bit of a scary adolescent for many (dare I say most?) parents even outside of journaled thoughts, after all, much of the entries are the recalling of events. I can laugh with and at Georgia, but she does scare me. N is 11, all discussion of maturing girls give me nightmares.
In Slim’s office today for a bit of a talking-to. Honestly, she has no sense of humor whatsoever.
The main difficulty is that she imagines we are at school to learn stuff and we know we are at school to fill in the idle hours before we go home and hang around with our mates doing important things. Life skills, like makeup and playing records and trapping boys. (85)
My understanding is that this is not a book being turned into classroom workbooks and required reading for 7th or 8th graders, let alone 6th. That would be interesting. No, it is that people are not comfortable having this in the school library. I am curious to know what about the sexual content was worrisome. I am betting it isn’t Georgia’s fears of never having a boyfriend and becoming a Lesbian; or the comments regarding her Phys. Ed. teacher. If you don’t believe homosexuality to be a worry-inducing trajectory, than you may be offended–if you didn’t pick up on the exaggerative tones in the novel. Regardless, Georgia isn’t delicate, she can take the criticism. I am guessing, rather, it is to do with all the full-frontal snogging: [there could be quite a list here]; and suggestive talk of boys, one of whom referred to as “sex-god.”
I am a facsimile of a sham of a fax of a person. And I have a date with a professional snogger.
Georgia Nicolson and all are well developed characters who rise up out of the pages and inhabit the show as an original cast. This is one novel that isn’t meant to take you anywhere but there–inside it. There is safety in the utter subjectivity of the characters, the circumstances, and the trope, no matter how universal an event/emotion. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging should hardly prove to be an agent provocateur. Rennison is not reinventing adolescence; the novel has its spins on names/scenarios, but little should be unfamiliar–no matter how terrifying we find this. There are painful moments, but even those own a sense of hilarity. The novel is Comedy, an outlet in which to laugh at one’s self/society in order to navigate anxieties. Given enough exaggeration amidst the ridiculous, the subject becomes an object of ridicule; i.e. fearing to become a lesbian as if it is the only recourse for being ugly and dateless, or that it’s a given that a lesbian is a pervert, portrayed in the venue of a comedienne’s antics will in turn ridicule the fear and the misconceptions. Popular Ideas can be undermined–and Ideologies can be solidified. Rennison is capable of both.
Rennison’s novel is actually a refreshing member of the Middle-School and Young Adult Shelves. She tackles many of the “inappropriate” subjects/scenarios in a coming-of-age, without all the intensity of the serious realists (and the vampiric); though I do say that the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson houses all, if not more, of the melodrama as the other books for this age. Rennison makes the reader laugh, a lot, and there are tears enough as it is.
Can’t say I would recommend Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging to just anyone. Likely girls are the readers here; no, boys will likely gain no insight into the female world other than a familiarity in a girl’s potential for coarse humor and indecipherable action. The comedic timing, the characterization, the writing and use of the diary trope is great. If you are looking for a tightly controlled plot, forget it, but it moves, change occurs, and there is an ending (which introduces a great beginning for book two). 12 is a good recommended earliest age, but listening to my 11 year old and her friends…Primarily, the humor depends on some adolescent angsts, so hormones kicking in (or having kicked in) is a bit of a necessity to really enjoy the ridiculousness found in the novel. Georgia is such a marvelous character–scary, yes, but brilliant. Her self-image is worrisome, as are her thoughts about her parents and school. And there is the casual interjections of “ending it.” But she is allowed to have these feelings, and though they sometimes get her into trouble, it is all a part of her subjective view-point. And just how seriously are we to take Miss Nicolson’s self-evaluation. Regardless, there is no mistaking that the novel is all about Georgia Nicolson–no one else. Any one else would be incidental. She is irreverent, and sometimes too selfish to be a perfect friend. But she has a spark. If a young person reader had to fall under any influence of the novel, no one should mind if they are inspired by Georgia’s irrepressibility. She can make an ass of herself, lament it, but you can count on her not staying down long.
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging takes care of its own audience in that the Reader can quickly decide if it is a bit too much or not up their alley reading-wise. Rennison uses a time-honored venue for this coming-of-age novel/series. There is a definite need for her wit in every library. The confessions of Georgia Nicolson needn’t be agreeable or even likable. Offended can be a great position to be cast. Just mind what you do in that role.
Many liken the Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging reading experience to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, which I have yet to read. (Sean keeps recommending it, the book, not the film because he knows how I feel about Ms. Zellwegger.) The New York Times Book Review is quoted (on the book cover) as saying, “Suppose you combined two modern British diarists, Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones. Here’s what you get. A little raunchy and quite funny.”