1 June 2012

Review 41: A Midsummer Tights Dream by Louise Rennison

"'In my squirrel room, looking out over the moors to Grimbottom, thinking about Alex. When he next sees me, I will be up there on the wild moors, lost to the world, unaware that I am being observed. It's only when I glance up, that I notice Alex in his breeches and fancy shirt. He runs to me and takes me in his arms. I close my eyes and hear... "We is here, wiv our bumbums out." And open them to see the toddler twins at my bedroom door, naked from the waist down.' You know when something feels really bad, worse than a bat trapped in your mouth? Or kissing the boy who just wants to be your friend? Tallulah Casey does. She's your kind of mate."

This is the gloriously silly sequel to Withering Tights, the romantic mishaps of Tallulah Casey, aspiring actress, hampered by her out of control knees and distinct lack of acting ability. Rennison's charm is her ability to manage to get inside teeenage girls heads whilst also introducing enough ridiculously bizarre situations and characters to make her books stand out from the hundreds of imitators out there. If you are a girl who grew up in the 90s or 2000s in the UK, you will struggle not to be charmed and endlessly entertained by Rennison. This series is not  as funny as Georgia but still has many laugh out loud moments and is a quick, fun read despite not being as tightly written as the Georgia series.

First Line: "Performing Arts College, here I come again, hold on to your tights!"

Why I read it: I grew up reading Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series and have a huge affection for her as a writer so whilst I am no longer the target audience for these, and they don't make me cry with laughter any more, I still enjoy reading them and having a giggle at the complete silliness.

Who I would recommend it to: Fans of Chris Higgins or Jaclyn Moriarty. If you fancy a quick and silly read that manages to blend the absurd with some real truisms about growing up as a girl.

In Withering Tights, Tallulah had her first summer at Dother Hall, a dilapidated girls performing arts school in Yorkshire. There she met her 'Tree Sisters' as well as a selection of boys for them to talk about, 'Tree Sisters' being her group of friends who bonded by doing large amounts of silly dancing around a tree they found in the woods around Dother Hall. Tallulah is back again, staying with distant family in the village amidst various Yorkshire stereotypes and very odd people including the local landlord and his band, the Iron Pies, and the Hinchcliffs, a rough local family Tallulah does not have very high opinions over until she has a nose-licking incident with the moody yet handsome Cain. Nose-licking is indicative of both the level of silliness and also the focus on boys. As the tagline of the book says, this is the boy snogging misadventures of Tallulah Casey. The main focus of Tallulah and her friends is boys so come prepared for teenage over-analysis of what 'see you later' means.

As a side-plot, Dother Hall is in financial straits and they end up doing a performance at the local pub to encourage donations and raise awareness of their plight. The chosen play is A Midsummer Night's Dream and Tallulah is given the role of Bottom by the headteacher who cannot abide Tallulah's inability to perform without disaster striking. Unfortunately for Tallulah, the costume department is rather bereft and she ends up wearing furry leggings and a Dumbo mask in front of the whole village. The funniest moments for me and Georgia and Cain's interactions and I see that Rennison is setting Cain up as a bit of a Dave-the-Laugh character (from the Georgia series), but some of their exchanges, including the aforementioned nose-licking, did have me giggling away to myself.

Whilst Georgia was more scandalous and outrageous, Tallulah is far more likeable and endearing. Unfortunately this does make her a rather less exciting heroine. It's such a shame that Rennison has chosen to finish the Georgia series and I hope she resurrects it in the future as this series does seem to lack some of the spark. There were moments in this that did make me laugh out loud, but not to the same degree as Georgia did. I also felt this dragged somewhat in the first half and I got a little bored of Tallulah's endless worryings about her various love interests. The final few Georgia books came out when I was most definitely an adult, so not in the target market, but I still devoured them, often in one sitting with tears running down my face. Through the ten books, Rennison really managed to build up characters you cared for despite the ridiculousness which maybe she still will with Tallulah but it isn't there yet. I read this is bits and bobs whilst I was reading at least two other books that captured my attention to a much greater degree.

So whilst this is a fun and frivolous read, it is not as engaging or funny as Georgia was. Hopefully as the series continues Rennison will build up the humour and characters but for now I would recommend reading the Georgia series in full, starting with Angus, Thongs and Full Front Snogging.

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