Notes from the Teenage Underground

Simmone Howell, Author . Bloomsbury $16.95 (335p) ISBN 978-1-58234-835-3

Heathers meets I Shot Andy Warhol in this gritty ode to underground cool by award-winning screenwriter and debut Australian novelist Howell. The story's contagious blend of video store lingo, catty alpha girl politics and a twinge of real heart is both knowingly pretentious and fun. When 17-year-old Gem and her anti-establishment pals, Lo and Mira, form a group called Ug (short for Underground) in order to flaunt and elevate their fringe social standing, there's no doubt that each of their lives is about to change. "To be really Ug means you don't give a fig about the status quo. You can be ugly, or a virgin, or a lesbian, but whatever you are you revel in it." Ug's goal? To shock their cookie-cutter classmates by making a subversive film and airing it at a "Happening," à la Warhol's Factory. When the supposedly united trio's plan backfires (as Mira messes around with Gem's dodgy crush and Lo turns haughty and controlling), Gem decides to create and air a solo project about life as she sees it. Despite the friends' harried break-up, Gem realizes, "It's better to think that we're all different but we're also all people and people have to live together." With references to Valerie Solanas, Edie Sedgwick, Dostoevsky and Germaine Greer, teen misfits and film geeks will devour this renegade read with pleasure. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2007
Release date: 04/01/2007
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