Planet Janet by Dyan Sheldon
|Planet Janet by Dyan Sheldon|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: An excellent, imaginative and lively account of 16 year old Janet's hectic, confusing and sometimes quite hilarious run through life.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: April 2007|
|Publisher: Walker Books Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
Janet is a gal on a mission. Having suffered through 16 years of dubious parenting from 'the mad cow' and 'Sigmund' (her assertive mum and psychiatrist dad), and endured years of torture from brother Justin (aka 'the biggest argument, ever, for abortion') she is entering a new phase in her life. From now on, she will ignore the shallowness of her family, become intense and serious, spend a lot of time nurturing her soul, and dress mainly in black. Not quite to the extent of Adrian Mole's Pandora ( "I am wearing black because I am in mourning for the world") but still, a definite venture to the dark side. How marvellous. Along with her best gal pal Disha, she sets out to try to untangle the many relationships in her life and documents her struggles in this, her personal diary.
The Chinese film was well wicked... like a cross between Jane Austen and Peter Pan because there were two great love stories in it and the people could fly.
What I love about Janet is that she is so perfectly human, and so perfectly imperfect. She is down to Earth, has a keen eye for the world and tells things exactly as they are to her. Every few pages something goes wrong, be it her falling for a boy who is more interested in her brother than in her, her brief, flawed encounter with vegetarianism, the breaking down of her family unit or her numerous, unexpected, run-ins with the police. Sometimes it seems that everyone but her can see it coming, and sometimes it seems these things happen just utterly out of the blue, but either way, the inevitable catastrophes and the way she picks herself up and moves on were the highlights of this book for me and kept me engaged and interested throughout. Add in a colourful cast of characters, from lesbian aunts with an affection for body hair, to the slightly deranged single mother for whose kids she babysits, to crazy neighbours and a bible bashing grandmother and you have a stellar book.
Disha says that common sense is like the Canary Islands. There aren't any canaries left on the Canary Islands and there's nothing common about common sense. Sometimes D can be v. profound
I laughed out loud at so many points in this book as Janet narrates with dry humour, wit and a refreshing tone of voice. And anyone who can convince you that watching the film Clueless counts as an 'intellectual night in' scores major brownie points in my book. I loved how the book took a responsible but non-preachy approach to more serious topics that dominate teenage life - unrequited love, unprotected sex, divorce, homosexuality - and how these topics were covered in the same way as any other within the book, with mistakes being made, or less than ideal actions, and the consequences and outcomes discussed without being forced down the clichéd route. (This is not the sort of book where a girl will (a) be all responsible and use contraception when she should and only get nekkid with someone she is madly in love with, but equally it's not the sort of book where a girl will (b) sleep with a boy to make him like her, get knocked up, keep the baby, marry the boy and end up living happily ever after while learning Valuable Lessons about life along the way. This is the sort of book where things don't turn out perfectly, but do get dealt with and addressed as they would do in the real world, and then people learn from what has happened and life moves on).
Mentioned to Flynn at lunch that I'm reading The Outsider . He was impressed. He said he admires Camus's clarity of intellect, philosophical optimism and hopeful love of life. This doesn't sound much like the book I'm reading, but I said I did too. I reckon the optimism and hope must come after page three"
There are sooooo many teenage-girl-diary style books out there, an alarming number of which I have read, but few stand out in my mind as being quite as wildly entertaining as this one - it's like a younger Bridget Jones, brilliant because it is so frank and inherently funny. In fact, the only teen one that's at all comparable in my mind is the wonderfully named Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging and I'm sure fans of that series will also enjoy Janet's tales. For girly-girls of this age I would also recommend Think Pink, but for those who like a more reality-based read with fewer sparkles but great humour, descriptions and escapades, it has to be Planet Janet all the way. I finished it wanting to keep going and read more, eager to find out what happens next and I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel.
Dyan Sheldon, though not a name I was familiar with, has written a ton of books for the teen market including Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, a story best known for the film it inspired staring Lindsay Lohan. I think this book would appeal to anyone who enjoys teen movies and books in this vein, from Mean Girls to the Princess Diaries. It's not a hard book to plough through, and the diary format means it's in very manageable chunks, but it's the story as a whole that should really inspire even the most reluctant readers to keep at it.
Our thanks to the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.
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