Monday, 18 February 2013

My Mad Fat Diary

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary
Rae Earl
London, Hodder, 2012, 342p

I hadn't realised the new show on E4 was adapted from a novel. But since I haven't been tempted to watch the new show on TV, perhaps I should have guessed I wouldn't be that bothered by the book.

Rae is an overweight seventeen year old, recently released from a mental institution. She is depressed about her weight and appearance, and suffers from anxiety about many wider political problems, including Nelson Mandela's imprisonment and the fall of the Berlin Wall. She feels as though her behaviour can influence the outcome of world events, for example turning off all the switches in her house helps prevent nuclear war.

As the novel progresses, her self-hate increases. Often it fluctuates - she is happy when she spends time with her friends, and sad when she accidentally upsets someone. She has a wonderful group of mates by the end, and a lot of the novel centres around their nights spent in the pub, chatting about music and drinking. 

The book isn't bad per se. It was a little cliched - the same themes about friendship, school, and boys; the same insecurities that recur in most teenage diaries. It was unique in that it is set in 1989, so all the cultural references are very dated, but most were recognisable. And I guess, in terms of the television adaptation, this means the show appeals to the teenagers of today and their parents. 

So yes, the book wasn't bad. Unfortunately, I found it to be too caught up with the obesity theme.  Teenage diaries about skinny girls barely need to mention their weight, but teenage diaries about fat girls are all about it. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to talk about something - this book offers young readers an a-typical role model, a protagonist who isn't size ten - but it also means that other areas of teenage angst are ignored. I am yet to decide if I am for or against such a strong focus on the character's weight.

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