Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I laugh and laugh and laugh," says Jordan Crane, "then I feel bad about reading somebody's diary."
Ha! Let me be the first to confess that my own diaries aged 15-16 would make excruciating reading if they still existed. I remember enough of them to know that. This, however, based on a very real teenager's diary found mislaid in a petrol station bathroom (it's such a great story one could suspect Esther of making it up!), is on another level entirely.
Tammy Pierce is the juvenile and delinquent waste product of the late nineteen-eighties: cringe-makingly hideous, hopelessly unlovable and pitifully unaware of either. "I only shaved up to my knees," she declares in a dress that's split right up to her crotch. "Maybe I should have shaved my WHOLE leg! What do ya think?" I think so. Instead of "after school" it's always "after detention" and her aspirations rise no further than to live in the J.C Penney furniture show rooms in her favourite place in the whole wide world: Collin Creek Shopping Mall where she tries on horrendously inappropriate clothing while her best friend Kim gaily shoplifts. Boys are a constant source of diary petitions:
"Please let Tim Starry miss me tonight when he's eating supper, watching TV, doing guy stuff, or whatever he does? Let him realize he NEEDS my LOVE.
"Actually, the way I want us to come together is like this: Give him time to think. I'll write the letter I said I would, and just let him find the LOVE.
"Thanks for helping out. I knew I could count on you.
Illustrated with as much crafted clumsiness as it's written, each portrait is addictively grotesque, as is the girly scrawl full of crossings out, love hearts, and 'special effect' lettering. Her best friend's beauty ritual takes hours, but however monstrous the overdone result, at least Kim pulls off the Boots make-up-counter look. Tammy's fat-faced, gap-toothed, bouffant poodle 'Crystal Tips' crisis is unsalvageable, and extra credit goes to Esther for the sea-green glitter glued to this flamingo-pink hardcover over Tammy's eyes and around her mousse-matted hair like a bad bathroom version of a Byzantine Madonna's halo. With however much help from the real deal behind the abandoned diary, Esther also consistently nails the sentiments and syntax of young teenagers trying to dabble in the world of adulthood before scurrying back to the mental territory of the teddy-bear bedroom:
"Tuesday, Nov 1st 1988
"Kim and I went to her house for "lunch". We thought her mom had left for work, so we just started talking out loud about smoking.
"Kim started to CALL Erick to go buy more cigarettes. But then we heard a sound and realized Kim's mom was still there! Turned out, she was crapping out the toilet and probably didn't hear anything. SHHHHHHH DON'T TELL."
All of which from me comes with as much recognition as repudiation, so do be warned that after some time immersed in this you may come away somewhat embarrassed. I think if I bought this for my sister she'd go into total meltdown. I leave you with Tammy's report for Home Economics after the girls had been forced to carry a brick around all week as if it was a baby.
"I learned that having a baby is real entertaining! If you are married and looking for a good time, a baby could provide HOURS of fun. This baby cost me about the same as going to a movie at the discount theatre. I pretty much left it in mom's car all week..."
She got a grade 'C'.