Honest and lively YA book reviews
Channel Four recently made a series based on this book. It's brilliant. The acting is not fantastic, but the story is endearing, funny and very relatable. It took a couple of episodes to grow on me and but I love all the characters, love the setting, love the production. I watched it every Tuesday morning after a night shift and it cheered me right up. Having fallen in love with the series, I thought I would give the book a go ...
I did not fall in love with the book. It's a true to life diary of a year in the life of Rae Earl: an overweight, desperate for love 17 year old, overcoming mental illness and trying her best to fit in and feel better about herself. Because of the fact that it's true to life and a diary it's desperately boring and repetitive in places. There's a lack of depth regarding Rae's friends (if it was your diary, would you spend pages on character development? No.) and family ( her brother and nephew are mentioned very briefly twice and then never again.) so it's hard to understand and connect with them.
Rae herself if very sweet and misunderstood. She's funny and loud and confident externally, but is drowning in self doubt and hate internally. This is well portrayed with evenings in the pub described and then picked apart minute by minute in Rae's diary. It goes to show that the image of themselves people project to their friends and acquaintances isn't always an accurate reflection of who they really are. It can be easy to take people at face value, but it's important to remember that there's a whole lot going on inside a persons mind that is hidden from the rest of the world.
Rae is obsessed with sex! At the beginning of the diary she's basically willing to get off with anyone who is male and has a pulse! I think this has more to do with her desperation to fit in and be a "normal" teenager than to do with being super horny. It appears to her that all the girls she knows are pretty, cute and slim, have boyfriends and have long since lost their virginity. It seems like Rae is doing to others exactly what she hates others doing to her: judging on appearances alone. She assumes that because the other girls are attractive and have relationships that their lives are perfect and everything comes easy to them. She doesn't appreciate that they possibly have a whole set of problems of their own.
Rae develops her obsession to encompass one guy - the unfortunately named Haddock (the nicknames given to Rae's friends bothered me ... It gets really grating to have to read the names Battered Sausage and Dobber for 295 pages, trying not to cringe ... ) and she goes on and on about him. And on and on and on. There are endless diary entries about how much she loves him, how hot and deep and sensitive he is. How she'll never have him because she's fat and he already has a girlfriend. How everything he does is mind-blowingly wonderful. I guess this is typical teenage lust: overpowering and all consuming. However, for the sake of creating an interesting read, I think it would have been better to shave some of these entries down and extend the duration of the diary instead. I feel like it stopped too soon. I wanted to know if this infatuation actually went anywhere, if Rae got into Exeter university and if she did find the drive to lose weight and become who she wanted to be. I am very fond of her as a character and it would have been nice to find out how things worked out for her in the end.
I did enjoy My Mad Fat Teenage diary but the slow pace and the repetition means I enjoyed the TV series more ...