My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary - review
Title: My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary
Author: Rae Earl
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here
Rae is 17 years old in 1989. In 1988, she spent time in a mental illness hospital following a nervous breakdown. Now, she spills her thoughts and emotions into the pages of her diary as she struggles with her weight, her self image, her mum, and her ever evasive quest to find someone to love. Not to mention recording the who's-who of music on the cusp of the 90's.
I think that we should first get this out of the way: Yes, this is the book behind the E4 TV series. No, I haven't seen it. However, I might change that after reading reports of it's brilliance ;)
Right, so, onto the review!
I was excited to read this book. I kept a diary as a teenager and I would NEVER have the guts to publish it(!) so I wondered what would lie in wait within the pages of My Fat Mad Teenage Diary with quiet eagerness. I expected no-holds-barred bitching, epic self indulgence, boys, boys and more boys. To be honest, I only got one of those. Rae is 110% focused on loving someone, and being wanted sexually by that person in return. Specifically sexually, because Rae has many people that love her, but who don't want a physical relationship with her. She perceives this to be because she has "a 38 inch waist".
Weight - as the title suggests - is a huge theme of the diary. Rae eats to support herself emotionally, due to having a mother who can't show her affection (although, admittedly, she has her moments) and a troubled past - which is insinuated but never fully divulged. She also has a malicious "friend" who uses her to find guys, knowing Rae is an attractive personality, but not a "threat" because of her weight. This "friend" also makes jokes at Rae's expense, exploit's Rae's insecurities and thinks nothing of stealing Rae's love interests for herself, just because she can. I found these moments particularly uncomfortable to read. However, we all know it happens and there are people out there who make those conscious decisions. If they had insight into the other side of the coin (this diary, perhaps?) I hope they would stop. Rae is completely aware of the way she is treated and it is heartbreaking to see her rationalising and justifying the actions of her so-called friend to herself.
Despite these hard-to-read moments, the diary offers many happy entries. Rae is a brilliant voice with stark and witty expressions. I genuinely felt happy when a horrible situation rectified itself, and the joy in Rae was evident through her writing. Like any teenage diary, the events can vary from end-of-the-world-awfulness to elated exuberance in the space of a few hours.
To be honest, I feel to pass any real opinion on this book would be out of line. This is the author's actual life, written in her actual diary. I can't be the judge of a 17 year olds writings, when she wrote them thinking they would never be seen! I will however say that although the insight into Rae's life was an interesting rollercoaster ride of emotion, it lacked direction. I felt it would all build up to a momentous final entry, but, it didn't... I think some, er, embellishment of the entries to give a narrative would have perhaps made for a greater read.
My Mad Fat Teenage Diary is a relate-able depiction of teenage years which has moments of brilliance, great humour and heartbreaking honesty. However, I found the lack of plot, due to the nature of the source, ultimately lead to quite a repetitive and eventually unrewarding read.
Emma is a designer living in Bristol, UK. A self-confessed stationery addict, book lover and TV sci-fi geek, she enjoys sketching zombie-eyed women and finding her next source of inspiration in the pages on the bookshelf.