Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review - Louise Rennison's Withering Tights

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 288Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Tallulah Casey has gotten into an "elite" school for performing arts for the summer in the Yorkshire Dales, Dother Hall. If she's deemed worthy at the end of her time there she'll be able to stay on as a full time student.  She's soon wondering if she made the right decision. This land of the Brontes is one she doesn't know. Plus, she doesn't know anybody. She's staying with a family who are very outdoorsy, have two young boys and have decorated her room with squirrels. She has the slippers to prove they're a little nutty. Then there's the marauding youths of the village, Cain and his brothers, who also happen to be a band. Luckily Tallulah quickly makes friends with Vaisey, a girl who is also going to Dother Hall but is staying at the local pub, The Blind Pig, till her room is ready, and the pub owners daughter, Ruby. Soon she's in a world of eccentric actors in a crumbling pile of a hall, it does tend to have random leaks and fires, while trying to navigate the fog that is puberty. Why do boys act like they do? And why is Cain always around and Ruby's brother never around enough? If she's unable to secure her place in the school she will never be able to answer these question or stay with her new friends.

It seems to me that Louise Rennison just took the majority of traits possessed in her previous iconic character, Georgia Nicholson, and inverted them. Where Georgia was rather short and well endowed, here we have a gangly girl who's flat chested, and also happens to be related to Georgia. Georgia was confident, Tallulah isn't. Also, of course there are older boys, and a band, as per Georgia's tale, an owl versus a cat, and two annoying young boys versus one little sister. I guess I was just expecting something different or more from Louise's newest venture. This seemed more of the same with a new cast of character transposed to Yorkshire. While I love Louise's style, after ten Georgia Nicholson books it got kind of stale, and I don't feel that this was different enough to add something new to the repertoire. Plus, I thought the writing might mature, with perhaps an older character, instead she went younger, with Tallulah being 14. The diary style is also not helping the plot. While it worked for Georgia, it's not working for Tallulah. She's supposed to have this innate sense of humor while acting, embodying everything from an owl to Heathcliff wannabe Cain with perfection. We don't see this, we just hear that "everyone thought I was wonderful." This makes Tallulah a flat character, much like her chest. Show don't tell! Let us discover for ourselves her innate acting ability, don't just tell us what she was told by others.

I don't mean to be all mean and rag on this book. It was a fun quick read by an author who is very good at capturing the loopy, the loony and the off-putting. I just expected more. More plot, more adventure and less retreading of the same ground. I'm hoping that in the next book this series will take off in a way it hasn't yet. There are so many areas ripe for parody with teenagers and the literature of The Brontes. I just hope that Louise doesn't waste them and have Cain be a pale imitation of Heathcliff and then draw the series out for another decade.


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