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Girl, Going on 17: Pants on Fire    by Sue Limb order for
Girl, Going on 17
by Sue Limb
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

School term begins in a few days - after a perfect summer's end - with a wallapalooza pain in the heart for Jess Jordan. Boyfriend Fred suggests that they not be seen as an item when school starts - 'we could avoid being seen together, except in disguise ... pretend we're deadly enemies.' Fred's reasoning: 'I've got my reputation to think of ... My identity, you know? ... I shall lose whatever street cred I ever had and be despised as a doting nerd.' Jess is devastated! She thinks he's ashamed of her - 'God forbid that you should be thought a doting nerd ... Are you dumping me?'

Jess considers that instead of being handed 'lemons to make lemonade', she gets 'mud ... to make mud-ade'. Miss Thorn has taken the place of her favorite teacher, Mr. Fothergill, who's recovering from an auto accident in Portugal. Miss Thorn proves to be a thorn-in-Jess's-side, after handing her a first-day warning for being late to class. The next infraction requires Jess to visit Mr. Powell's office (the man of 'incandescent rage'), and events quickly compound in the first few days of semester. Jess gets detention, otherwise known as 'lack of leisure' (lol), having to report to Mr. Powell each morning, do her homework in his office, with a substantial cut in time for lunch, and her mobile is taken from her until day's end.

In Jess's eyes, Miss Frost is 'a strict dragon', especially after the announcement that the annual comedy show (at which Jess and Fred are the cat's pajamas for their comedy routines) will no longer be held. It will be replaced by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Oh, bother! Mysteriously Fred doesn't show up for the first day of school, while once-upon-a-time heart throb 'football Ben' is being very nice to Jess. One day, Jess goes out into the school field for solitude, and sits on the turf which she realizes too late has turned to mud. Ben comes to the rescue with a pair of clean gym shorts. But Jess is laughed at as she enters Miss Frost's classroom, so runs home to change her clothes (leaving school grounds without permission is a violation). When Mr. Powell calls and asks why she's not at school, Jess adds on more trouble when she lies.

At home Granny still watches her favorite TV shows, especially Prime Suspect of which she says, 'I love it ... the police are even more repulsive than the criminals.' Mum tutors English to the younger Mr. Nishizawa, with a romance developing. Jess admits that when she's in a corner, she says the first thing that comes out of her mouth, but lovable Granny often covers for her granddaughter. Support and comfort is returned to friend Flora Barclay, who gets thrown out of Miss Thorn's play, because she was late for rehearsal (due to consoling Jess in the loos.) Watch out Miss Thorn, revenge is coming your way!

This third installment of Sue Limb's series on teen life lacks the lustre and pizazz of the first two books, and feels a little stale after Girl 15, Charming but Insane, and Girl, Nearly 16: Absolute Torture. Though a continuation of the same plot, this one plods along slowly, with little (and repetitive) substance. Girl, Going On 17: Pants On Fire is still worth reading, however, as Limb delivers the comedy, the agony, and the alternating emotions of her young heroine. And I enjoy the author's witty Thou Shalt ... chapter titles, such as, 'Read Not In The Bath Lest Ye Drop The Book And Ruin It', and 'Watch Not MTV More Than An Hour A Day Lest Thy Brain Turn To Cheese'.

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