A few weeks back I was a few drinks in and thought it would be an excellent idea to order the entire 10-book Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series. I read them initially as they came out, what with being a ridiculously over the top teen girl in the early aughts, and loved every second that I spent with Georgia and the Ace Gang. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging kicked off the series back in 2000, and the series came to an end in 2009. I had the first few books in hardback until several moves ago, and any others in the series were either loaned out of left behind. Louise Rennison passed away suddenly in 2016, and I had been meaning to giver Georgia and the gang another go-round ever since. As we all know, 2020 has been a disaster. I thought that revisiting this series would be a nice warm bath (a bath full of glitter, disco, false noses, and wild but lovable cats) after days spent working and fretting.
The Big Question: Do They Hold Up?
The Big Answer: Mostly!
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging (2000)
The first entry in the series introduces us to the 14-year-old version of Bridget Jones, Georgia Nicholson. She’s silly, over-the-top, the class clown, and so very vain- and I mean none of these statements in jest or in criticism. Teenagers are ridiculous, and why wouldn’t they be? They have very little control over the world around them, so why wouldn’t they be desperate to control the things that are mostly in their power, like how they dress and what kind of mascara they like best. I haven’t been a teen in a while, but I still work with them. Fads change but they do not! Georgia lives with her working-class family: mom has a full-time job, dad is desperately searching for work in an inhospitable climate, and her toddler sister Libby is a madwoman. They all share their small quarters with Angus, a mostly-feral Scottish wild cat that followed them home from a vacation and never left. Georgia and her pack of best friends (the Ace Gang) all go to the same girl’s school where they torment their teachers and hide from nasty older girls. They spend their nights on the phone, making face masks, dancing to the radio, and going over the strategics of finding and “trapping” boys. It’s all pretty cute; I remember feeling like a part of the gang when I read as a teen, and now it does have a hazy nostalgic warmth. I also remember being taller than the boys I dated and having to slump one shoulder down while walking hand-in-hand, something that Georgia frequently deals with.
There is a ridiculous amount of gay panic. The PE teacher is made out to be a predator because the girls assume she is a lesbian. There is a ton of fat-shaming; it is mostly towards adults who are frequently cruel to the girls, but it is also directed towards girls in the class that they find “nauseating” and “pathetic”. The girls are wildly jealous of each other, and there is a good deal of internal misogyny; they actively spy on each other, spread rumors, and-most egregiously- peek through a “competitors” window while she is getting ready at home, seeing her in her underwear (and less). They stalk her, share her secrets, and violate her privacy because she is the girlfriend of Georgia’s crush. Oooof. I know a lot of entertainment was like this 20 years ago, but it feels truly icky today- especially reading it as an adult. Mental health is a frequent joke, and when it fits of “despair” Georgia worries “am I schizophrenic and a lesbian?”. She frequently threatens suicide when given non-preferred answers by her parents. There is also a lot of off-color commenting about race and ethnicity; with Georgia referring to her “sudden Jewishness” and the gang talking with over-the-top “Chinese” accents. Yikes.
It’s OK, I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers
I had to hide this book under my mattress, as it was originally titled On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God and I COULD NOT have my parents seeing me with anything with S-E-X on it. How embarrassing! We spend more time with Georgia’s family on this go-round; her father has gone to New Zealand to look for work and her mother is going a bit off-the-rails at home with Georgia, Angus, and Libby the mad toddler. While her parents did seem very embarrassing when I read as a teen, now I feel badly for both of them. Georgia is pretty nasty to her parents, and they are just trying to get by. Cue guilty nostalgia! Sorry, parents! Good news: it seems that, even back in 2000, someone was around to give notes and there is FAR LESS cringey stuff. The threats of suicide are gone (now it’s just threats of withering away and dying), the racist bits have disappeared, and-while far from perfect, the gay panic has been toned down a teeeeeeeeny bit.
The Sex God himself is a total drag, an older “cool” guy in a band who haunts most of the series, but this entry introduces us to Dave the Laugh, who is, as you guessed- quite a laugh. DTL was/is an all-time literary crush.
Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas
What is a Nunga-Nunga, you may ask? Why, it’s exactly what you think it is. I’ll let Georgia explain:
Basoomas. Girls brestie business. Ellen’s brother calls them nunga-nungas because he says that if you get a hold of a girl’s breast and pull it out and let it go- it goes nunga-nunga-nunga. As I have said many times with great wisdomosity, there is something really wrong with boys.
Georgia and company were (and still are) so very relateable when it came to “ohhh my god why is my body doing these things?!”. They practice ways to smile without drawing attention to their noses, have misadventures with their eyebrows (my eyebrows are still recovering from being a teen in the early 2000s), go crazy with self-tanner, worry about breast size, and compare themselves constantly to others. It feels validating to see other teens thinking those things, but at the same time this series is still rife with internalized misogyny. If another girl is not in their Ace Gang, then the girls are judgmental, cruel, and hateful. It can be very Mean Girls, but nobody thinks that they are the mean one.
Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants
You know, sometimes when you are feeling really down you just need to dance-it-out in the nude, I guess! Georgia is trying to get a handle on relationships; she struggles with being the odd-man-out, she tries desperately to keep her family from scaring away any potential suitors, and when asked by a friend of her older boyfriend what she wants to do when she gets older, she panics and says “backup dancing”. Oh Georgia! She’s so awkward and nervous, and seeing her freak out around people that she is crushing on feels so real. The really bad Chinese accent reared its ugly head again, but it was nothing like the tasteless pile-on of the first book. The fat-shaming is still running wild, as is the tearing-down of rival girls. The gay panic has gotten worse, and the PE teacher is now used as a threat against visiting field hockey teams. YIKES! I have six more books to go, so there is still a chance for that to stop but I don’t have a lot of faith, considering that gay panic is still running rampant and that there are very vocal people out in the world that are convinced that gay people are predators and working hard to groom and/or “convert” kids. Fucking awful. What makes me feel particularly icky is that, even as a queer person, none of this registered with me when I first read and loved this series. Internalized hatred was just part of our daily lives.
I was wrong earlier when I said that teens don’t change- teens of this generation are leading the charge towards tolerant, supportive, and inclusive communities. Someone get a modern teen to re-edit this series, stat!