Title: WitheringTights by Louise Rennison
Release date: July 8th 2010 by HarperTeen
Age group: Young adult
Grade rate: C
Hilarious new series from Queen of Teen – laugh your tights off at the (VERY) amateur dramatic antics of Talullah and her bonkers mates. Boys, snogging and bad acting guaranteed!Picture the scene: Dother Hall performing arts college somewhere Up North, surrounded by rolling dales, bearded cheesemaking villagers (male and female) and wildlife of the squirrely-type. On the whole, it’s not quite the showbiz experience Tallulah was expecting… but once her mates turn up and they start their ‘FAME! I’m gonna liiiiive foreeeeeever, I’m gonna fill my tiiiiights’ summer course things are bound to perk up. Especially when the boys arrive. (When DO the boys arrive?) Six weeks of parent-free freedom. BOY freedom. Freedom of expression… cos it’s the THEATRE dahling, the theatre!
Louise Rennison is a household name when it comes to writing funny, commercial YA chick-lit. She has a bestselling series and even a movie adaptation under her belt, so some of you may be surprised to hear that this is the first book of hers I've read. Georgia Nicholson must have skipped me when she decided to sweep the nation with her raucous diary entries and outrageous humour.
Tallulah Casey fits the mould of female teen fiction narrator exactly. She's insecure about her body image, her social life and her boy troubles. Her voice is distinct but it didn't grow on me like I so wished it would. She and her friends have a penchant for melodrama but they never really touch on the important things in life. Tallulah's the kind of girl who wants to go off into the corner with a boy she barely knows but still corrects people when they say she's fourteen (she's fourteen and a half, dahling) - she's unfortunately believable but she's just too easily led to be admired.
The setting is also solidly stereotyped, as you'd expect: there are farmers, bad accents and, in general, things that make Tallulah go 'Eww'. Aside from the fact that she's now in closer proximity to nature than ever before, she has to contend with a growing number of potential suitors - such a long list, in fact, that I began to wonder if they outnumbered the rest of the village population put together. There's Charlie, Phil, Alex, and some seriously questionable members of a rock band, to name just a few.
I actually really enjoyed Tallulah's interactions with the boys - it was so awkward and remniscent of a time when you're so eager to be in a relationship, you forget what being in a relationship entails! Tallulah was so innocent and eager, it was hard not to like her as she stumbled over herself to get to the next hottest boy before her friends.
As far as writing style and plot go, there's nothing totally unique about Withering Tights. Tallulah's thoughts often wander, but she's kind at heart and wouldn't hurt a fly, even when another character does something that she should seriously be mad about. I wasn't thrilled with the narrative style but the obvious comparisons to Wuthering Heights really made me smile.
There are more moments of sheer naivete than outright laughter in this book, but I get the feeling that die-hard Rennison fans will eat it up. It's nothing we haven't seen before in terms of plot and I found myself wishing Rennison could be braver with her storytelling instead of relying on casual wit and teenage insecurity to get by, but if you're looking for something fun and light, this is a great choice.