by Louise Rennison
272 pages, HarperTeen
Review by Maria Bustillos
I was already pretty horrified to learn that a film was being made of the YA classic, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, a dear favorite of mine. They always mess these things up. And then I learned an even more terrible fact: the book's title has been changed for the film, to: Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.
Oh, Louise Rennison. I do hope that Nickelodeon has paid you a zillion dollars for the privilege of wrecking your book, that brilliantly glittering marvel of the novelist's art. Louise Rennison! I have just seen the trailer of this film (from the director, sadly, of Bend it Like Beckham,) and it has filled me with sorrow, rage and despair.
Alas, Louise Rennison! The original work’s crazy, cheeky grace and hilarity have apparently been traded in for the most conventional, textureless, eighth-rate, simperingly “inoffensive” situation comedy. The book has been dumbed down, that much is clear even from the trailer, with all the risk and the chic and the chaos just watered down into a blob of pabulum. Let it be known that those of us who love your books are not just offended, but wounded to the core and tearing our hair out in unending misery. Oh god, and what can I say about the poor Buzzcocks! Ack, a bubblegum cover of “Have you ever fallen in love with someone.” Fail, fail, such ultramegafail is here revealed.
The heroine of this book, Georgia Nicolson, is not a cute girl. She is a force of nature, chaotic, mercurial and unhinged, a comic invention on a par with the Lucy of I Love Lucy. What a blast of fresh air these novels were to me, with their utterly frank depiction of a lazy, selfish, sex-obsessed teenager who calls her school “Stalag 14” and mopes and whines all over the place all day long. Like a real fourteen-year-old girl!! They are not adorable!! They are about the least adorable thing around. Or rather, if they are adorable, it’s entirely in spite of themselves; they’re hilarious, too, despite themselves, outrageous and terrible like the real Georgia Nicolson, and please, not because they are “cute.”
So here is the scene in which the apparently offensive part of the original title appears in the book. Georgia and her bff Jas are stalking Wet Lindsay to see if she is in fact really, really dating Robbie, the Sex God. Robbie, it turns out, is indeed meeting the horrible Wet Lindsay outside the Odeon.
I held my breath and Jas’s hand. She whispered, “Get off, you lezzer.” Then ... Lindsay put her face forward and Robbie kissed her.
Walking home, eating more chips, I said, “What sort of kiss do you think it was? Was there actual lip contact? Or was it lip to cheek, or lip to corner of mouth?”
“I think it was lip to corner of mouth, but maybe it was lip to cheek?”
“It wasn’t full-frontal snogging though, was it?”
“I think she went for full-frontal and he converted it into lip to corner of mouth.”
This miniature excerpt is enough to indicate clearly that perfection has been messed with.
Therefore, I consider it my duty to inform a public that may not be aware of the real worth of the novel from which this inferior movie was made (if the trailer is to be believed*): Pay no mind to the fact that the most awful-looking teen rom-com has been made with a vaguely similar title. Readers! Run out and buy a copy of the real thing, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging,, the first true contender to The Adrian Mole Diaries for the crown of Most Hilarious Teen Novel Ever.
* to say nothing of the scathing testimony of my 17-year-old daughter, Carmen, also a longtime Rennison fan, who has already managed to see the entire film online, and who is absolutely to be believed, in this instance; though admittedly not quite so much when it comes to certain other issues, e.g. what time she is in fact getting home, in stark contrast to the alleged or agreed-on time she is getting home. In any case, C. saved her particular fury at the movie for the diminution of the role of Dave the Laugh—with whom all right-thinking readers of Rennison are hopelessly in love—and for the entire and inexplicable absence of Sven.