This column doesn’t seem to believe that children are the future like Whitney Houston so this week’s review is for children and our inner children. Knocked out by my nunga-nungas provides the reader with a peek into the life of a 15 year old English girl and many laughs in the process. Nunga-nungas, before you look it up, is the main character’s term for breasts. And no, they aren’t half as gigantic as they sound…though you wouldn’t convince Georgia, our heroine, if you tried.
When I read this book, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was, “Bridget Jones’ Diary for teens” and there is something that conjures Miss Jones if one has read that book. This girl is what some people call boy-crazy: a fair (some would say unfair) amount of her time and that of her friends’ is spent thinking about lads. A portion of the book covers her trip to Scotland, a period spent nursing her obsession. Any woman who is honest will testify to the time she and/or her friends spent on thoughts of boys and men. This was, for me, one of the most charming aspects of this book: it speaks the truth of the young and hearkens to a bygone time for the adult.
I have to say at this point that this is no grammar primer. Georgia makes up words at every turn; the origin of nunga-nungas, for example, is quite the tale. What it doesn’t have in spelling (I take it very few of us read diaries for that element) it more than makes up for in being a frolicking ride in the mind of a teenager. The most concise way to put it is thus: a rollercoaster ride. Georgia is hilarious, smart, keen on being popular and a slacker. This is a teen character people will love as between her and her friends a wonderful spectrum of qualities is displayed.
Georgia isn’t all fun and games, though. Her father, when the book opens, is out of work after a trip to New Zealand. While they are not poor, she does not receive a large allowance from her parents. I find that very many young people in the part of the world from which I write have a conflated image of life in the West. The notion that money grows off trees and all of one’s time is spent in shopping malls is pervasive. Georgia does go to malls with her friends but I can assure you she is no Hanna Montana. In her, Rennison has created a character that is beautifully real. This book takes a nuanced look at boy-girl relationships (some themes feel adult for their cross-generational significance) as well as friendship and family. A young person reading this book will empathise with a lot of the issues Georgia encounters and the adults among us will nod their heads in recognition.
The things of youth are so often those that mould us and shape us. As Georgia tries to figure out what to study at university (back-up dancing at last check), to work through her prejudices and to navigate her hopes and fears, the reader will be treated to a guided trip into the heart and mind of a teenage girl. Part of a series, this book makes for a highly entertaining light read.
Book: Knocked out by my nunga-nungas
Author: Louise Rennison
Year published: 2001