Monday, September 28, 2020

Letters of a Lovestruck Teenager


Claire Robertson brings us Letters of a Love Struck Teenager. The protagonist is a little young for this defined reader yet the text is more sophisticated than the Hopkins one mentioned earlier. The story is told through a series of letters. 

Protagonist Gilly Freeborn is obsessed with her flat chest. She compares herself with others (160-61). She has other body image problems. She decides that her nostrils are too big (153).  

 Gilly is sexually aware to some extent. When dreamboat Johnathan O’Neil arrives at her school she gets “‘stirrings’ all over the place- in my arms, my legs, in my chest, in the gym, in the cloakroom and here in bed” (6). She is sexually naive and only learns the facts of life form a friend who draws a diagram on the back of a recipe for her. Gilly is horrified: “I must say that I was absolutely horrified.It seemed incredible that respectable humans being who had never harmed anyone were forced to submit themselves to this humiliating degradation just because they wanted to have children” (24). She cannot fathom why people would have sex if they weren’t interested in having children but gradually realises that the strange “spasms” (26) she was having were something to do with this. When on holiday she accidentally comes across a porn channel in the hotel she cannot see why there would be any pleasure in “doing it” (188-89)   

Gilly defines herself as a feminist and wants to be taken seriously.  However,she is rejected by Radical Feminists because she is not yet eighteen (20-21). She is forced to form her own feminist organisation LSHYWAC - Langley Street High Young Women’s Action Committee more radical. But not until a party is out of the way (21). They decide to write to the paper - the Trowton Evening Echo (128). Their letter is published. Though claiming themselves to be feminist, Gilly and her friends are obsessed with clothes and spend much of their time talking about them (28).

There is sibling rivalry too. Gilly’s older sister Rosalee skulks like a shadow in the background.Gilly fears criticism from her and occasionally borrows her clothes. Roslaee is stood up by boyfriend Greg and offers to let Gilly wear some of her clothes (96). Yet this is only a ruse to get her to go to Tricks in search of the “traitorous Greg” (97).   

There are family woes - Auntie Paula has to come to stay as she has been thrown out of the flat that she shares with her boyfriend - even though she owns the flat. Mother is not happy about this (58-61). 

However, Auntie Paula becomes an ally and a mentor but leaves again, as mentors generally do. Her parents’ marriage becomes more and more fragile.   

We have details about school - failed cookery projects and boring English  and history classes. Gilly dislikes the class swot(44-48).

She gets a Saturday job at a hairdresser. This is far form glamorous (111-12).

Gilly see through the gloss of the agony aunt’s strategy. She accuses her of providing form answers and not being realistic (118-121).                 

She starts to take risks and goes to a party her parents would have not allowed her to attend - all covered by a lie (144-48).

Towards the end of the novel she wins a special prize for her essay on Emily Bronte (182). Then she is reconciled with her friend Annie, with whom she has had a falling out (185).


The novel ends on a very upbeat note: she has boobs at last, Jonathan, who happens to be Aunt Paula’s new husband Fred’s nephew, dances with her at he aunt’s wedding, it looks as if her father and mother are going to be reconciled and she and her sister become more friendly.  

This is a slightly difficult novel to place; it was published in 1990, just before the vast expansion of young adult novels. The protagonist is just fourteen - and only for part of the novel at that. This puts it right at the beginning of the young adult period. It can be construed as young adult as the protagonist is concerned with her growing sexual awareness though there is some reluctance there.

As ever, though much of this is upbeat and light-hearted, there are significant shadows.   

The book is 218 pages long in blocked text.  The font is Plantin  13 point.       

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