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Notes from the Teenage Underground by…

Notes from the Teenage Underground (2006)

by Simmone Howell

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1065175,299 (3.45)2
Seventeen-year-old film buff Gem sets out to make an underground movie with her friends Lo and Mira, but discovers much about her own life in the process.



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Notes from the Teenage Underground centres on seventeen-year-old Gem's attempts to deal with difficult friendships at her school, while also coming to terms with her own quirky style. Peppered with references to movies, books and art, the story is both funny and clever, as well as honest in its depiction of toxic friendship cliques. It captures well the changing and evolving relationships of teens with their own peers, as well as with family. For me, the antics of the adult figures as they try to help Gem navigate her way through her last years of school provided some of the most humorous moments. Notes from the Teenage Underground was a really enjoyable read, and Gem such a fascinating, arty character, that I would love to read a sequel about her university days! ( )
  Elizabeth_Foster | Nov 3, 2017 |
I read Howell's second book first, but this was still a great follow-up! An original story, awesome pop culture references from art and film and feminism--exactly the type of book I would have loved as a teen! On top of that, the dialogue is interesting, the characters quirky and yet layered, and the themes in the book are carefully and thoughtfully drawn. I especially like the exploration of the "three girl movie" structure, and Gem's reflections on the power struggles found in a triangle. I can't wait to read Simmone Howell's next book! ( )
  elissajanine | Jun 22, 2010 |
Reviewed by Jocelyn Pearce for TeensReadToo.com

NOTES FROM THE TEENAGE UNDERGROUND is a fantastic debut novel! It starts out with three best friends, Gem, Lo, and Mira, trying to come up with ideas for their summer project. The summer before was their Satan Summer; they dabbled in all things occult. The summer project has a theme, goals, and guides. This year, they want to do something spectacular; it could be their last summer project--who knows what the future will bring?

Lo is usually the one with ideas, but this time, Gem has some ideas of her own. Their theme for the year is Underground, whatever that means. Ug for short. Their guide? This is where Gem is inspired. She sees some of his work--four films of kissing couples playing over and over--at the National Gallery, and she decides, with a bit of help from her artsy mother, Bev, that Andy Warhol should be their guide into the world of the Underground (which at first kept making me think of riding the subway a lot...). She does some research into Andy Warhol, his work, his life, and the people around him, and then comes up with a goal: to make an Underground film.

During the course of this project, Gem realizes a lot of things about her life and her relationships. She feels like her friendship with Lo and Mira is an isosceles triangle; the two of them are close together, and Gem is all alone at one end. She's also being pressured to make some decisions about her future, as all seventeen-year-olds are. Her mother and Sharon, school counselor and Gem's godmother, want her to go to University, but Gem's a lot more interested in film school. Speaking of her love of movies, she's starting to think she could love something else at Video City, where she works--her coworker, Dodgy. On top of all of this, Gem's father, Rolf, has always been out of the picture, just sending the occasional weird haiku from where he lives out in the wilderness--but now it looks as though he could be stepping back into Gem's life, at least for awhile.

This summer is a turning point in Gem's life. When it's all over, Gem will be different. Her life will be different. This much is pretty obvious. But how will things change?

I really, really loved this book. It was a lot of fun to read, and the idea of the summer project was very interesting, something that set this book apart from a ton of others. Almost all young adult literature is about things changing, as that's what's always going on for teenagers, but Simmone Howell's novel had something that makes it stand out in my mind! If it's got Andy Warhol and obscure movies in it, it's got to be different.

Gem is a wonderful character. I really felt, while reading this, as if I knew her. She's very interesting, and what goes on in her mind is fascinating. I couldn't put this book down! I woke up at one in the morning, for some reason anxious to finish this book. That almost never happens to me! As I'm writing this, it's a little bit difficult to explain what about this book is so amazing, but there's something. It really captures the teenage experience. Simmone Howell obviously remembers this time in her life very well! I'm going to have to revise my `Best of 2006' list to add this one! This is a must read! ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
A refreshing novel, going places unexpected, in an interesting and challenging way.

Gem is determined to do something special these school holidays. With her two friends, Mira and Lo, she determines to make a film that will be an expression of who she really is – a statement about art and feminism. The three friends agree to have a summer that is extreme, anti-establishment and avant-garde.

Friendship and family are the main themes of this story. Howell gives an intimate view into the break-up of a friendship, the slow journey over time where motivations are suspect, agendas are revealed, and once-shared goals become different. Gem struggles to understand her place in the group, her place in the world, and her place in her family. Her interest in Warhol’s life, and her understanding of several famous women in history, all impact on her choices and decisions.

An exciting writing style, with cleverly characterised dialogue, make this book a joy to read. ( )
  flaeriefloss | Jan 19, 2008 |
This has lots of overlaps with Beige, both have no show, former drug addicted fathers. But Gem is totally different from Beige. Her two best friends and her have paired up against the "barcodes," but Lo and Mira seem to be leaving her out. Gem comes up with the idea to make an Andy Warholish film over the summer, but Lo starts exercizing weird control over it and Mira takes her boyfriend. Gem is left coming to terms with the end of their friendship, making the film she wants to make and getting to know her father who has dropped in for a visit.
The Australian edition had a much cooler cover. ( )
  cliddie | Jul 29, 2007 |
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