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Discussion Module

Girl, 15, Charming But Insane
by
Sue Limb

Publishing Information: Delacorte Press: New York, 2004
ISBN: 0385732147
Pages
: 214 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Summary:
Jess Jordan is going through the difficult teenage years: big butt, no boobs; a goddess look-alike best friend; a crush on the gorgeous Ben Jones; a death-obsessed Granny; divorced parents and a feature role in a video tape.   Her overactive imagination tends to take over her life and sarcasm drips from her tongue every time she speaks.   It is a challenge being 15.

Book Talk:
Virgo: A very fat man will sit next to you on the bus, and he won't have had a bath since Christmas.

Every day begins with a horrorscope text message, but none can equal what really happens in Jess Jordan's life. There is the minestrone soup bra insert incident, the bathroom video footage, a house flood, a death-obsessed grandmother ... every day brings another horror. If you like the British comedy of Louise Rennison, you'll love Girl, 15, Charming but Insane.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

England - Fiction
Dating
Friendship
Humor
School
Technology

Awards & Reviews:
BookList, September 15, 2004, p. 234
School Library Journal, Sepember 2004, p. 211

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done or has happened to you?
    1. Extension: write a story of the event using Jess's voice
  2. Why does Jess think Flora has a charmed life? Whose life would you rather have?
    1. Extension: write your own lonely hearts ad.
  3. How does Jess use sarcasm?
    1. Extension: turn excerpts from the story into a Reader's Theater Performance
  4. This book has present-day cultural references; how do these draw the reader into the story but also have a long-term negative affect on the book's popularity?
    1. Extension: Using the literature circle model, have students do a genre study of chick lit titles through the years to see how titles for teenage girls have developed.
    2. Extension: write a British slang dictionary
  5. How does text messaging impact Jess's relationship with her dad?
    1. Extension: write your own horrorscope using events from the book or your own life.
  6. How are the teachers in Jess's school characterized? Mrs. Forsyth? Miss. Dingle? Mr. Fothergill? Are these original characters or stereotypes?
  7. Why was Fred so upset when Jess missed his mom's party?
  8. How does Jess come up with a name for Flora's band?
    1. Extension: if you had a rock band what would you name it?
  9. What is feminism?   Why does Jess consider her mom one?
  10. How does lying get Jess in trouble?
    1. Extension: Jess goes on lots of memory trips (daydreams).   Write some of yours.
Why was the band rehearsal such a disaster?   How does Jess use the truth to come up with a solution?

Related Websites:
Official Site for the book - www.charmingButInsane.com

Read-a-Likes:
Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, 1970
The Cat Ate my Gymsuit
by Paula Danziger, 1984
Catherine, Called Birdy
by Karen Cushman, 1994
The Earth, my Butt and Other Really Round Things
by Carolyn Mackler, 2003 (2005 RITBA Nominee)
The Georgia Nicholson
books
by Louise Rennison, 2001-
Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture
by Sue Limb, 2005
 
Love, and Other Four Letter Words by Carolyn Mackler, 2000
The Princess Diaries
series by Meg Cabot,
2000-
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, 2001
Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty, 2003
Squashed by Joan Bauer, 1992
Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler, 2004
What My Mother Doesn't Know
by Sonja Sones, 2001 (2004 RITBA Nominee)  

Other Books by the Author:
Come Back, Grandma, 1993
Girl (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture, 2005

About the Author:
Sue Limb is the author of Girl 15, Charming but Insane. This is her first book for Bloomsbury.

Sue Limb has given talks to many local groups, W.I. meetings, literary societies and festivals, schools and colleges on subjects including the serious business of comedy, dialogue, history and nostalgia in period fiction, pastiche and parody, writing for children, adapting novels for TV and radio, etc.

Her work is perhaps best known and was most regularly seen every Saturday from 1990-2001 in The Guardian as Dulcie Domum. A radio version was read by Marty Cruikshank for BBC Radio 4 and is available as a BBC Radio cassette.

Sue says: "Born three weeks late. The midwife said, “This one’s been here before.” Grew up (til age of eight) at Bletchley and then moved to Cheltenham, because my dad was a top secret radio operator — almost a spy, though not quite (tragic, really). My mother was a primary school teacher, Welsh and musical. (“Oh! I don’t sound Welsh, do I?” she would cry, musically) My brother Roger was five years older than me, always allowed to do things forbidden to me. I probably developed an interest in comedy because it was a good girl’s way of being naughty.

In 1965 I went to Cambridge and discovered new ways of being naughty. In 1970 I married a briliant young historian Roy Porter and realised I was not cut out for academe. I messed around a bit and tried teaching, but was invalided out after some heavy shelling in Lower Sixth drama. Eventually I started writing, moved to London, separated from Roy (who went on to have another four wives, God bless him) and eventually I married a Dutch composer, Jan Vriend. We returned to Gloucestershire so that my parents could look after us in their old age. Jan and I were not suited to matrimony but we are still the best of friends. Our daughter Betsy (to who Girl, 15… is dedicated) is just about to go to Cambridge where she will be reading Magazines, Music’n’Make Up. (Only kidding — English)

Since 1991 I have been living almost full-time with an organic farmer in an Area of Outstanding Piles of Beaurocracy. I have developed a rather perverted delight in poultry. I prefer farm animals which are smaller than me.

I have developed the typically middle-aged passions of gardening and cricket, even though I swore, when young, I would never stoop so low."

Sue's new book, Girl (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture, is published by Bloomsbury in April 2005.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair