Blue Monday: Absolute Beginners
Absolute Beginners is the second book in the Blue Monday series (after The Kids Are Alright), and the kids are going in costume to a 1930s-style mystery party. After some spilled wine, Bleu winds up caught naked on videotape, and the rest of the story explores her conflicting emotions. It’s hard enough being a teenager without feeling literally exposed to your entire high school. Her reactions nicely round out her character, showing her to be more than just a foul-mouthed adventurer.
Bleu’s still crushing on her substitute teacher, and his knowledge of her predicament only makes things worse. Even when other teachers are jumping to conclusions, though, assuming that Bleu’s weirdness means she’s easy, he finds her underlying innocence charming. The girls wind up challenging the boys to a soccer match to get their own back, and things get even more complicated when people start asking each other for dates.
The situation elaborates on the characters’ morality, putting important limits on them, which helps keep them believable as teens. They talk a lot about sex, and they’re fascinated by nudity, but as the author points out, this kind of behavior is inversely proportional to actual experience. I was also impressed that Chynna Clugston drew the lead character naked without titillation; instead, she succeeded in expressing the character’s embarrassment and creating empathy in the audience.
The kids are dealing with the fallout of growing up as boy/girl friendships become complicated by crushes and girl/girl friendships become troubled by unspoken jealousy. Making the situation more confusing is the fact that even with all these unspoken undercurrents, these kids still like each other as friends. The interactions and reactions are very real and very touching; being a teenager is hard, especially when they start thinking about whether friends might become more than just friends.
On top of all that, it’s darned funny!