Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Never Grow Up

Teen Girl Book Series Reviews

There's something about books aimed at the teen/tween girl market that I adore. Whenever I get the chance to spend a day in bed with hot chocolate and too many biscuits it's always these books that I pile up beside me. You can't read On The Road with hot chocolate. You can't read Lean In with greasy hair and pyjamas on. But books about girls who describe themselves as "utterly average-looking" whilst attracting all the hottest boys in town? They're perfect for this sort of self-indulgent literary wallowing.

The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot

I read the third installment in this series when I was around twelve, having borrowed it from the library, and I think I read it around eight more times that year before I could get my hands on the rest of the books. The story revolves around Mia Thermopolis, a teenager living in Manhattan (already lightyears cooler than tween-me) who finds out that she's heir to the throne of a small European country. There are all the hallmarks of a great story here: Mia is interested in both Greenpeace and Lifetime movies, teetering on the boundary between nerdy and slobby like I always did, she eventually wins the heart of a devastatingly attractive and intelligent man, and she gets the ultimate makeover from geeky teen to princess-in-waiting. I still read this books continuously, they are clever and hilarious and so on-point with my feelings as a teenager. The movies are good in an airy, overly-theatrical way but let's face it, Julie Andrews is just not fierce and cruel enough to play Grandmere as she's portrayed in the books.

Confessions of Georgia Nicolson - Louise Rennison

Have you ever embarrassed yourself, ever, in your entire life, in front of anyone? Then you can empathise and enjoy these books. Of all the series listed here, this is the one that was probably closest to my own life as a teenager (although hello, I wasn't allowed to go to nightclubs when I was sixteen). Georgia is perpetually caught up with some boy who she will either like too much, too little, or embarrass herself in front of constantly. This is with the exception of Dave the Laugh, the just-a-friend character that you has you constantly screaming "GEORGIA WHY CAN'T YOU SEE THAT DAVE IS THE ONE FOR YOU JESUS CHRIST GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!". I literally LOL at this series and figuratively LMAO too. They aren't the sort of books that I read again and again but they're great to devour and taught me important things about make up application and kissing. A+ for hilarity, B- for storyline.

Private - Kate Brian

This is the ultimate boarding school/rich girl/murder mystery series, sexing things up whilst keeping it relatively PG. Reed Brennan is a poor suburban brainiac who gets a scholarship to Easton Academy and immediately falls in with a group of unfeasibly rich, essentially sociopathic and model-beautiful girls. Various mysteries unfold throughout the books (Reed is always struggling to find out who's committing the murder/blackmail/deceit, basically) and after four or five it just got so ridiculous that it's outright hilarious. If Reed were a real fifteen year old girl her parents would probably be charged with neglect for allowing her to stay at the school where she is essentially a murder target at all times and ringleader of a number of criminal investigations. The story is pushed a bit too far at points (there's a spin-off where the girls all find out that they're witches) but it's overall an exciting and easy read, the sort of book you'll fly through in four hours and then wish you had the next one immediately on hand.

House of Night -  P.C. & Kristin Cast

Another boarding school series here, but one that combines another of my favourite subjects: the supernatural! I essentially spent my whole childhood pretending that I was a witch (brief interludes as a mermaid whenever I went swimming) so the premise of these books, that some people get "marked" and become vampires who must immediately go to a boarding school for vamps, sounded like my cup of tea. The storyline is okay but I stopped reading after five or six of them because the language the characters use is like a parody of teenage vernacular and there are a lot of slut-shaming statements throughout the books (plus a few instances of transphobic and ableist language) that really put me off. The storyline had potential but the books are really just an endless ream of love affairs with the same cookie-cutter sort of guy.

Gossip Girl - Cecily von Ziegesar

Let me play the teen-fiction hipster for a moment here: I was reading Gossip Girl long before it was a television show. I got so used to writing Cecily von Ziegesar's name on my Christmas list every year when I asked for the books that I don't even need to spellcheck it. The books are far superior to the show and to this day, I channel book-Blair Waldorf when I need that special blend of baddest-bitch-in-the-room confidence. I loved these characters, I loved their privileged lives, I loved that they smoke and drank expensive vodka and went to charity benefits, I loved that they wore designer shoes to school and that they were all a little bit jaded. The books are also just linguistically brilliant, von Ziegesar is a truly talented writer and has a knack for creating characters that you won't necessarily like but will absolutely want to follow. If you want bitchy high-school drama with the added zest of couture and New York nightlife, these books are for you.

Twilight - Stephanie Meyer

I get it, guys, it's cool to hate on Twilight. It exists at the special intersection of implausible, badly-written, and lacking in storyline. I just want to put forward the idea that it's not wrong to like books that are objectively bad; you are allowed guilty pleasures and you don't even have to feel guilty about them! There are actual issues with this book, like the creepy and borderline abusive relationship that the series revolves around and the lack of strong female characters, but we've addressed those. I get it. As long as the readers can acknowledge the problematic aspects of the series then I say go for it, read these stupid books, be Team Edward (ahem, losers) or Team Jacob (ahem, yes), and revel in their romantic silliness. Meyer had a good plot idea that she didn't execute particularly well and it sounds like she's now pretty embarrassed by the books, which is sort of sad. I read these right before the first movie came out, when I was around sixteen, and I have to admit that I really liked them at the time and wish that some of the problematic undertones weren't so horribly pervasive.

1 comment:

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