Monday, 14 February 2011

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

Tallulah Casey - the cousin of the famous Georgia Nicolson - is off to Performing Arts College for the summer. Dother Hall is set in Wuthering Heights country, and, at first, Tallulah - call her Lullah - wonders where Boots is in the village and is dismayed at the lack of Sky at the house where she stays. As she gets to know the other girls from the course, Tallulah settles into summer school and concentrates on what she calls her 'summer of love' - she's never been snogged so far, and wants to work on it. This is the hilarious tale of Tallulah's first summer at Dother Hall, by the author of the Georgia Nicolson books.

I'll say upfront: I was sceptical about Withering Tights. I've not read anything by Louise Rennison before. Emblazoned on this very pink cover was the words "Winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize" - as if any children's author could possibly be as funny as Mr Dahl! And then the first chapter was a bumpy ride. I saw myself becoming tired of the "humour" early on and finding the whole novel tiresome in general.

BUT.... Withering Tights TOTALLY won me over! By the end, I was absolutely head over heels for Tallulah and her friends, and I giggled out loud on a number of occasions. Make no mistake, Louise Rennison is an incredibly funny author. Her writing is entertaining and easy to read, with puns and slapstick and rather wise commentary on the nature of being a girl who has never yet been kissed.

Tallulah is a wonderful character - quirky and funny, making asides about her friends and the various people who populate the village of Heckmondwhite. I love the fact that she is concerned about her breasts ("corkers") not growing as fast as the other girls, and that her legs are way too long. The first time she is kissed she compares it to a tiny bat barging around in her month. Honestly, I *adore* her - she is so cute and lovely!

The rest of the characters in the book are just as memorable - from Cain, who swaggers around the village like a modern day Heathcliff, to Ruby, who turns out to be Tallulah's fun-sized friend.

There are two parts of Withering Tights that I love particularly. The first is that we have here a cheerful novel about growing up that doesn't involve sex or girls dressing older than their age. Tallulah is interested in boys, sure, but she's just as concerned about her fledgeling career as an artiste. She experiences her first kiss in this book. I've read a lot of YA and been concerned at the turn it has taken in terms of young girls being all to willing to go further than perhaps they should. Withering Tights has a beautiful innocence about it.

The second is that this novel takes a large helping of Wuthering Heights as its inspiration. Alright, it isn't tortured and dark and grim, but the Brontes and their novels are discussed, as is Shakespeare. These girls do not sneer at learning - they are eager to learn - and this is a message that I'm keen to see in more novels for younger readers.

Altogether, I was delighted by her refreshing and warm Withering Tights is. What I'm even more delighted by is the fact that other people suggest this might not be Louise Rennison's best work! That means I have some great reading ahead of me - the rest of her books are already on my wishlist! If you're after a giggle, definitely pick this up!

I leave you with a quote from Tallulah about what Heathcliff is all about:

The 'hero' of Wuthering Heights. Although no one knows why. He's mean, moody and possibly a bit on the pongy side. Cathy loves him though. She shows this by viciously rejecting him and marrying someone else for a laugh. Still, that is true love on the moors for you.

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