The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4

No one knows what pain we intellectuals feel, especially if we're at the same time not very clever.

Townsend, Sue (1982). New York: Avon Books. ISBN: 0-380-73044-8

A young teen living in Ashby-de-la Zouch in Leicester, England, Adrian records the obsessions and difficulties of his teenage life in his secret diary. He is a hypochondriac, worries incessantly over his complexion as not only a social crisis but also a medical emergency, and records his ongoing love for his posh classmate Pandora and her “treacle hair”, his battles with the school bully, Barry Kent, to whom he has to pay protection money, and his efforts on behalf of his “Good Samaritan” school service project, the aged, unwholesome, but still vital old communist Bert Baxter. Adrian is in a constant, admittedly often justified frenzy of self-righteous disapproval concerning the behavior of the underemployed, feckless, lower middle class adults who surround him as they struggle to survive in the 1980’s Britain of Margaret Thatcher. Plus he has to spend a lot of time up in his room measuring his thing and looking at his precious copies of “Big and Bouncy”.

Reader’s Annotation
Adrian Mole, England’s most beloved suburban adolescent till the kid with the glasses and the scar came around, writes in his secret diary of his love for Pandora, his worries about his spots and the size of his thing, and the failures of the adult world, such as the way Malcolm Muggeridge never answers his letters, even though they are both intellectuals.

The early Adrian Mole Diaries are hilarious. Adrian’s swoops from pomposity to paralyzed self-consciousness are British humor at its best. The half-child’s partially-aware view of adult foibles as his mother has an affair with the neighbor, his father grows more ineffectual and pathetic, and hypocrites like Pandora’s wealthy father betray Britain’spromise to working class veterans like Bert Baxter are black comedy with a sharp social awareness. The addition in the American edition of the letters to and from Hamish Mancini as a glossary to British idioms is horrible—Townsend’s ear for the peculiarities of British usage doesn’t give her any familiarity with American forms

About the author
Sue Townsend married very young, was abandoned by her husband and suppoting several young children alone when she first created Adrian Mole. The books became the greatest best sellers in England in the 80’s and 90’s, and she became a wealthy woman.


Curriculum Ties
English—use excerpts

Booktalking Ideas
Things Adrian is oblivious about
Do you like Pandora?
British Social System

Reading Level/Interest Age
8th grade and up

Challenge Issues
Thing measuring, “Big and Bouncy”-reading, sexual humor.

Be knowledgeable about the book and prepared to discuss it calmly. Provide complaint form per board policy; provide copies of SLJ, New York Times, and critical analyses; gather student responses

Why Included?
Used for author study; always wanted to read

Selection Tools
Author’s bibliography

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