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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4: 09/20/06

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4

Every so often, I'll mention a book that I haven't read or I will start reading a book and my husband will do a double-take. Then he'll exclaim, "What, you haven't read that book before?" The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole is one of those books. He read it the year it came out as he was living in England at the time and it's a British book. Until 2004, I hadn't even heard of the book (which despite my reading 300 books a year is still fairly typical of me). Another BookCrosser kindly sent me a copy of the book so I could cross it off my list of "books Ian has read and can't believe I haven't read."

Ian says he had two different reactions to the book depending on how old he was at the time. He first read the book when he was ten. At this first reading he sympathized completely with Adrian and was just as surprised by the mother's affair as Adrian was. When he read the book again at thirteen (and three-quarters?) he couldn't believe how naive and arrogant Adrian was.

Having read this book for the first time as a parent of two children, I'm not so concerned with how much Adrian knew or didn't know about his mother's behavior. Instead, I am outraged at how irresponsible his parents are. Over the course of the book Adrian has to fend for himself when his parents are fighting, drunk or out having affairs. He has to live in a home where more money is spent on a dog than on basic staples like food and clothing or bills like electricity and telephone. I've read reviews that see humor in these circumstances because Adrian is more mature than his parents but I found the plot more grim than funny.

I didn't completely hate the book. There were three elements I did like: Adrian's friendship with Bert (the 80-something pensioner), his relationship with Pandora, and his reading list over the course of the book, especially when his reviews of the books are completely off-base due to his misunderstanding of them.

Here's my BookCrossing Review:

Poor Adrian Mole. He has lousy parents. Why do these fictional diaries of teens so often deal with divorce? While the book was an interesting glimpse at life 23 years ago, I much prefer the more recent Georgia Nicholson "confessions."

The reason I prefer the Georgia Nicholson diaries (written by Louise Rennison) is that they are clearly parodies of the fictional diary genre. Georgia stresses over non-issues with the angst that I remember feeling about most everything as a teen. While so many things may seem like a crisis for her she is actually part of a functioning and stable family. She is well loved, well cared for and although her parents do separate from time to time, the separation if due to lengthy business trips, not infidelity.

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