Jess Jordan, aged 15, is a teenager so typical, sometimes you want to shake her. She is wrapped up in all of the insecurities that are common with kids her age. She feels overshadowed by her gorgeous (and buxom) best friend Flora, unworthy of her crush on the muscular but somewhat vacuous Ben Jones, and betrayed by her own body. Only awkward Fred Parsons, her male best mate whom she’s known since preschool, understands her frustrations.
Invited to a party which she knows Flora will excel at, Jess decides that she needs to augment her boobs, whom she talks to often and has named Bonnie and Clyde. Knowing that there are bras out there bulked up with fluid implants, she decides to make her own, using ziploc bags and a can of minestrone soup. This works well in giving her cleavage, until an uncooth jock nicknamed Whizzer gropes her on the dance floor, bursts one of the bags and ends up squirting himself in the face with soup.
Jess retreats to the bathroom, strips down to her waist and washes herself off. Getting dressed, she beats a hasty retreat home, planning the best way to leave town forever, since obviously her life at school is over. She is however, blessed with a reprieve, after worrying that her prayers to God haven’t gotten through his answer service: turns out when she goes to school the next day, that everybody thinks she performed the ultimate diss on Whizzer by puking on him for his unwanted advances. Her joy is short lived, however, when she learns that the host of the party’s brother installed a hidden camera in the bathroom and there’s going to be another party the next week to view the contents of the tape. She needs another miracle, and the only guardian angel she seems to have… is Fred.
Such is Jordon’s life, running through one misadventure after another. At home, walks on eggshels with her divorced, activist librarian mother, and corresponds with her flaky but well-meaning artist father via text message. Her home life is further disrupted when her mother has to bring home Jess’ grandmother, who has become too old to manage stairs. It’s a loving relationship of people who just don’t understand each other.
This is the story of Sue Limb’s Girl, 15, Charming But Insane, the start of a trilogy which sees Jess Jordon age to almost seventeen, and mature (the books that follow are Girl, (almost) 16, Absolute Torture and Girl, 16, Pants on Fire). Jess’s anxieties as a teenager in London, England, may be typical, but her take on her experiences is what makes the book such a fun read.
Sue Limb is a writer, a broadcaster and a comedian, and she imbues Jess’ story with a wry take on her life that’s both touching, true and laugh-out-loud funny. Jess’ misadventures, her angst, her assumption that each (increasingly dire) predicament is the End of the World as She Knows It (tm), is perfectly in the voice of a teenager, and perfectly charming. Jess Jordan has aspirations of being a stand-up comedian and doing a double act with Fred. One cannot help but wonder how much of this story is autobiographical.
Will Jess Jordan live down life’s sundry humiliations? Will Ben Jones reciprocate her love, or is he worthy of it? Will her mother ever come to understand her, or vice versa? And what about Fred? Does Jess truly appreciate how much of a friend he is? You cannot help but sympathize with Jess as she struggles with life, unaware that she has the character within her to come out on top.
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