Tonics for teenage neuroses

5th December 1997 at 00:00
Despondent of Dyfed, despair not. Joanna Porter tries out some remedies

To worry or not to worry: that is the question which preoccupies Letty Chubb, Ros Asquith's fictional alter ego as she veers precariously between "dume and glume" and all kinds of ecstasy. Asquith's latest Letty book, The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Life (Corgi Pounds 4.99), offers the most entertaining tonic for those seasonal neuroses.

Chubb fans will find that sad dad is still despondent while Letty herself remains a buoyant survivor of all those apparent romantic rebuffs. "El Chubb" will encourage worriers young and old to think more (and less) seriously about "yuman life and the nachur of the yuniverse", while they put their sexual hang-ups and social insecurities sensibly in their place.

She's also rather good on what she and her peers actually mean by "attitude" and at explaining what that quintessentially Seventies word, "trendy", really, really meant back in the days of cheesecloth and sashes. Irresistible stuff for kool gurlz - and even cool girls - who hadn't noticed that being trendy just wasn't, well, trendy anymore.

The more faint-hearted might feel safer with Kathryn Lamb's "survival guides for teenagers", Help! My Family is Driving Me Crazy!, and its sequel Help! My Social Life Is a Mess! (Piccadilly Pounds 5.99 each). Here, the emphasis is still on doing your own thing (Letty might well muse "how quaint") while staying within the boundaries of social acceptability and even respectability. Play your music as loudly as you can bear but make sure you're wearing headphones first; congratulations on checking for cheap-rate concessions when making long phone calls, but is 2am a good idea?

Best of all, don't forget that a worried parent is a problem parent in your valiant attempt to get a life; after all, the old folks might appreciate lives of their own too. Parents as well as teenagers may feel they have an ally in Lamb and she offers a plethora of personal and social education role-play situations.

Sherry Ashworth's uncompromising Fat (Scholastic Pounds 3.99) addresses the anxieties about body image and food that proliferate at this time of year through girls' reflections on female fat, plus their reports of the views of their mothers, fathers and brothers. The information about eating disorders and the diet industry is certainly all valid stuff but since when, I wonder, has fat been an overwhelmingly female preoccupation? True, Billy Bunter gets an en passant reference and a group of boys are asked about their own potential weight problems, but only after a lengthy discussion about whether they would fancy a generously proportioned girl.

Meanwhile, Boys Behaving Badly, Jeremy Daldry's self-confessedly "100 per cent bloke-approved handbook" (Piccadilly Pounds 5.99), may help boyz (as Letty would say) who don't like talking about anything much, especially not the wild hormone-explosion party called adolescence.

On one level this offers a positive orgy of young males at their most revolting, with not inappropriate stress placed on cheese-and-onion burps, girlie mags, willies, farts, masturbation and general noxious smelliness. But it covers the literal first shave (and what it feels like), those innumerable close shaves (and how to avoid them) and much else that may nudge teen males in the direction of honest self-appraisal and their female counterparts towards a demystification of the baffling otherness of the XY species.

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