Australian Writing Review: Puberty Blues

By Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette
ISBN 9781742759289 (TV tie in edition)

You may more recently be aware of Kathy Lette as the author of The Boy who Fell to Earth but in 1979, she and co-author Gabrielle Carey brought out a book which was to capture the essential essence of what it was like to be a beach-combing teenager.

The book has touched the hearts of many Australians, and the new edition includes quotes from Kylie Minogue and Germaine Greer.  For the last few weeks, thousands of viewers have tuned in to channel ten to watch the television series adaptation, and have fallen in and out of love with Debbie and Sue and their whacky families.

Imagine my surprise then to discover that the book is totally different.  For a start, Debbie and Sue seem totally indoctrinated into the Greenhills mindset, and are completely blasé about drug taking and under-age sex.  At times they seem just as uneducated as the rest of the characters, and without the bad behaviour of the parents to offset this frankly frightening world of peer pressure, the book takes the reader to a depressing, yet compelling place.  I read the book in a sort of wide eyed fugue, comparing the world I was reading about to the one in which I lived, and breathing heavy sighs of relief.  The narration style is clunky and lacking in energy, peppered with confusing sexual slang occasionally explained by footnotes.  Mostly it follows Debbie's point of view, but will sometimes inexplicably switch to Sue's. Supporting characters are two dimensional and walk in and out of the plot interchangably, and sometimes counter-chronologically.

I expected this book to touch my heart and speak to the teenager still residing within me, comforting her.  Instead it made me thankful for the upbringing that I had.  The only blessing was its brevity.

Raw, humorous and honest?  More like crude, awkward and badly behaved.

Two out of five surfboards.