Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Review: Puberty Blues, by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette

I was snuggled up on my couch one Friday night, happily watching So You Think You Can Dance on TV, when it came to its inevitable end at exactly 9.32pm. Just as I was ready to flick off the TV and continue with my pleasantly relaxing evening, an ad for the next show to air that night came on - reruns of the 2012 miniseries Puberty Blues. I was overseas at the time the show had originally aired, but even then I'd heard about it and wanted to watch it. Now seemed the perfect opportunity, so I thought to myself.....

And so I did.

I watched it, and really enjoyed it! But, because this blog is predominately about reviewing books and not about TV shows I like (even though I could technically write about the show because this is my blog and I'm allowed to write whatever* I'd like to on it), I won't go on to tell you how I was drawn into the narrative of the show from the get go, or how wicked I thought all of the costumes and other 70s paraphernalia in it were. Because that would simply be a waste of your time. Instead, the show's mention has merely been a brief explanation of how it ultimately sparked my interest in reading the book of the same name. Voila.

In short

Puberty Blues follows the adventures of Debbie and Sue, two thirteen year-old best friends desperate to belong to the ‘in’ group of the Northern Cronulla surf gangs. The writing captures the suffocating boredom and feelings of entrapment that I could relate to from when I was a teenager, along with yearning for independence and opportunities for exploring ones identity. Barely any uncomfortable topic is left untouched in this novella; with sex, rape, alcohol, drugs, teenage pregnancy and abortion all featuring regularly in an unnervingly blunt manner. At the same time the story is punctured by some incredibly hilarious and uniquely Australian colloquialisms, which reprieve the reader from the otherwise intense nature of the narrative. Though the outrageous colloquialisms could also be off-putting to some readers, I think it captures and allows you to escape into the incredibly dangerous, yet exhilarating reality, of 1970s teenage beach culture of coastal Australia.

In three adjectives

Raw. Confronting. Thrilling.

What I liked
  • Being transported to life in 1970s coastal Australia and the lives of teenagers entirely different to what I experienced
  • The book’s honesty 
  • The authenticity of the narrator voices; which made me laugh, gasp, cringe, and so much more

What irked me
  • The authenticity of the narrator voices – sometimes I found these too forced and over-the top
  • The matter-of-fact manner that serious topics were spoken about. At times, it all got too much for me and I had to stop, look away from the pages, and take a few deep breaths before continuing on with the narrative
  • Reading about the deeply disturbing and cringe-worthy sexist attitudes of that era
  • Debbie, the main narrator. At times I felt so frustrated by her actions and just wanted to shake her and say ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF!!????’

You will like this if you enjoy reading
  • Stories about teenage life and culture
  • Reading about uncomfortable and confronting topics
  • Australian cult classics

Other representations

2012 8-part miniseries, Puberty Blues

Bruce Beresford's 1981 film, Puberty Blues

*within reason

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