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Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture

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Just when things were going so well.

Jess had the perfect summer planned: She and Fred, lounging in the park, gazing into one another’s eyes and engaging in witty repartee. It was going to be so romantic. And then her maddening mum stepped in: She suddenly announced a two-week “road trip” to Cornwall to visit Jess’s dad, something Jess might have enjoyed, actually, were it not for the monstrously bad timing. Not only will this force Jess and Fred apart for two whole weeks, it ...

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New York, NY 2006 Trade paperback New. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 216 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: Children/juvenile.

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Just when things were going so well.

Jess had the perfect summer planned: She and Fred, lounging in the park, gazing into one another’s eyes and engaging in witty repartee. It was going to be so romantic. And then her maddening mum stepped in: She suddenly announced a two-week “road trip” to Cornwall to visit Jess’s dad, something Jess might have enjoyed, actually, were it not for the monstrously bad timing. Not only will this force Jess and Fred apart for two whole weeks, it will also leave the darling and handsome Fred in the clutches of Jess’s blindingly beautiful best friend, Flora—who, you might recall, expressed an interest in Fred not too long ago. As if all this weren’t enough, Jess’s mum seems to expect her to weep at the grave of every departed literary hero in Britain’s long history. It’s absolute torture. And little does Jess know, a huge surprise awaits her when she visits her dad at his home for the first time in years.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Girl, Going on 17, Pants on Fire by Sue Limb hones in on Jess Jordan, introduced as the Girl, 15, Charming but Insane (which PW said was "sure to leave readers in stitches"). The day before school starts, Fred proposes that he and Jess only be seen together at school "in disguise," and things just go downhill from there. The previous title, Girl, Nearly 16 Absolute Torture, is now in paperback. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-A thoroughly welcome, laugh-out-loud addition to British chick lit told in Jess's comedienne-to-be voice. At the end of Girl, 15, Charming but Insane (Delacorte, 2004), the teen realized that she was crazy about her clever pal, Fred, and that he shared her affection. As they're about to settle into a perfect summer, Jess's mom announces a two-week vacation visiting historical and literary landmarks-just what a teen relishes most-that will end with a trip to the beach where her artist dad lives. Along the way, her grandmother plans to scatter her grandfather's ashes in the sea near their honeymoon village. Although Jess longs to visit her dad, she despairs at the timing, especially since Fred has bought tickets to a music fest. As in its predecessor, this story relies on Jess's misconceptions, emotional dips and heights, and on characters and situations that are both sweet and wacky. In a fit of spontaneity, she boards a bus to her father's a day early and learns that he broke up with her mother because he's gay. She meets his partner, a boutique-owner and boatsman, who offers to take Granny out to sea for a private ash-scattering ceremony. Although readers will savor this novel on its own, reading Girl, 15 first makes it even funnier.-Tina Zubak, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Jess, star of Girl 15, Charming But Insane (2004), has her summer holiday all planned out. The center of her plans is Fred, a boy she succeeded in wooing, but is unsure she can hang onto. When her mother announces a rambling trip down to Cornwall to visit Jess's father, vivid images of Fred being ripped away during her two-week absence abound. Crammed into a tiny car are Jess, her mother, Granny and the ashes of Jess's grandfather. No one can imagine that on the other side of two weeks of educational side trips and an aborted attempt at scattering the ashes are a mysterious houseguest, an unexpected arrival and a secret that has been kept for too long. With real adventures that are every bit as complicated as her fantasy life, the smart and endearingly neurotic Jess always rises to the occasion. A wild ride of a story that is populated by colorful characters and grounded in the true angst of first love. (Fiction. 10 -14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385732178
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 7/25/2006
  • Series: Girl, 15 Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Sue Limb’s children’s books include Big and Little, China Lee, Me Jane, Big Trouble, and Mr Loopy and Mrs Snoopy. Come Back Grandma is published by Random House U.K. and was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize. She lives in England.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture

By Sue Limb

Random House

Sue Limb
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385732171

Chapter One

Disaster! Jess tried to hide her horror. Her mum frowned. "What's wrong, sweetheart? It's what you've always wanted. A trip to see your Dad! I rang him about it last night and he can't wait to see you! And there'll be sun, sea, art and icecream! Plus lots of interesting places on the way down there. It's the holiday of a lifetime. For goodness' sake, Jess! What's the matter?"

Jess could not possibly, ever, tell. She would rather run through the supermarket stark naked and farting than reveal her secret to Mum. This sudden fabulous surprise holiday was going to ruin her life, big time. Jess's heart sank and sank and sank until it was right down on the carpet like a very ill pet.

But she must try and sound delighted. "Nothing's wrong! I've just got a bit of a headache. But hey, Mum! Thanks! It'll be fantastic! When do we leave?" She tried desperately to force a bit of enthusiasm into her voice, but it was hopeless -- like trying to cram her bum into size 10 jeans.

"We'll set off the day after tomorrow," said her mum, with the excited smile of a practised torturer. "Early. There won't be so much traffic then, and we can just potter gently down into the countryside. Oh, I can't wait! It's going to be marvellous!"

Mum's eyes glazed over and she stared out of the window with a look of faraway rapture, as if the angel of the Lord had just appeared over Tesco's. "Ruined abbeys!" she drooled. "Rare wild flowers! Bronze Age Burial Mounds!"

Jess sometimes thought her mum was slightly off her head. Maybe if her parents had stayed together it would have kept Mum sane. But then again, maybe not. Her dad was kind of crazy, too.

"Start packing!" said Mum. "You've only got twenty four hours!" And she rushed off upstairs, possibly to pack "Fabulous Fossils and Fascinating Cracks in the Ground" or "Sexy Sea Urchins of the South West."

Twenty-four hours! Jess had to think fast. She had just one day to put an end to this obscene talk of a holiday. Could she become dangerously ill in twenty-four hours? Could she discreetly vandalise the car so it would never, ever, start again? Could she, acting with utmost care of course, slightly burn the house down?

She had to see Fred. Dear Fred! He would know what to do. Perhaps they could elope. She had to text him now! Jess raced up to her bedroom but -- how cruel fate was - her mobile phone had disappeared. The floor of her room was covered with a kind of lasagne of clothes, CDs, books, and empty chocolate wrappers. Jess flung the debris around for a moment and then decided to cut her losses and just go round to Fred's house without texting him.

She just had to check her make-up, first. Jess headed for the kitchen where there was a small mirror above the sink, so you could stare into your own tortured eyes as you washed the dishes. Oh my God, her eyebrows were rubbish. They would have been rubbish even on an orang-utan.

"Have you seen my teeth?" came a sudden spooky voice behind her. But it wasn't a spectral presence. It was only Granny. Actually what she said was "Have you feen my teeth?" because when she lost her teeth she couldn't pronounce her "s"s. She called Jess "Jeff". This was slightly irritating. Jess wasn't completely opposed to the idea of a sex change, but if she did unexpectedly become a male person, she wanted to be called Brad, not Jeff.

"Have you looked under your pillow?" asked Jess. They went into Granny's room and found the teeth immediately.

"My goodness, you are brilliant at finding things, dear," said Granny. "You should work in airport security when you leave school."

Jess laughed. Granny's teeth were always either in a glass of water on the bedside table, or under the pillow.

Granny picked up her teeth and for a moment used them in a kind of ventriloquist act.

"Hello, Jeff!" she said in a squeaky voice she always used for the teeth. "What'f for fupper?" Granny made the teeth chomp together in a hungry kind of way.

This little cabaret had amused Jess quite a lot when she was younger, but now, quite frankly, it was beginning to lose its allure. Jess was desperate to escape and fly to the arms of Fabulous Fred. She laughed politely and backed off down the hallway towards the front door.

"Let's go and watch the news," said Granny, ramming her teeth back into her mouth with panache. "There's been an explosion in Poland, it's terrible. Hundreds feared dead." Granny was quite ghoulish in her addiction to catastrophe.

"I've got to go out, Granny," said Jess, looking at her watch in an important way. "I've got to say goodbye to my friends before I go on holiday."

"Ah! Our lovely trip! I'm so looking forward to it, dear, aren't you? We're going to end up in Cornwall, of course, and that's where Grandpa and I spent our honeymoon, you know."

Jess had heard this story approximately 99,999 times. Please don't say anything more about it, Granny, thought Jess desperately, or I might just have to bundle you away affectionately but briskly into the cupboard under the stairs.

"And," Granny went on excitedly, "I'm taking Grandpa's ashes so I can throw them into the sea!" Jess smiled through gritted teeth and reached behind her to open the front door.

"Lovely, Granny! Fabulous idea! Ashes, sea -- go for it! Kind of like, The Afterlife is a Scuba-Diving Holiday!" Granny laughed. "Now you must excuse me, Granny -- I really must go! Flora's waiting for me in the park!"

"Oh all right dear -- I'll keep you posted on the Polish explosion when you get back!" promised Granny. She trotted eagerly into the sitting room, heading for the TV.

Jess ran out of the house and sped down the road. It had been a lie about Flora waiting for her in the park. An excuse to get away. The person she really had to see was Fred. Please God, she prayed as she hurtled off towards the sacred house where the divine Fred Parsons lived. Save me, please, from this terrible holiday! Sprain my ankle! Sprain both my ankles! And please let Fred be in!

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture by Sue Limb Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

1. On page 54, Limb writes: "It would be so, so cool if Mum knew about Fred and approved and everything. It was just that Mum had often been kind of hard on men, and Jess hadn’t quite managed to pluck up her courage and mention the subject." What do you think about Jess’s decision to keep her romance with Fred from her mother? Do you think her mum is actually anti-men enough to disapprove of Jess and Fred’s relationship?

2. Much confusion arises from Fred’s vaguely worded text messages. Look at two of the messages he sends Jess during her vacation: he describes his coworkers as "ALL GIRLS. KIND OF LOW-CALORIE SUGABABES" (page 49) and sends the message "DISASTER. MANAGED TO DROPABIG DISH OF CREMECARAMELALL DOWN CHARLOTTE’S CLEAVAGE" (page 58). Do you think Fred is trying to incite Jess’s jealousy, or is the brevity of the text messaging format making things sound more scandalous than they really are?

3. During her vacation, Jess strongly suspects that her best friend, Flora, may be conspiring to spend time alone with Fred. Do you think Jess’s suspicion of her best friend is warranted? Do you think it says something about the state of their friendship, or does it have more to do with Jess’s personality?

4. On page 94, Jess asks her mother, "If you could date a writer, any writer, who would it be?"What would your answer to this question be, and why?

5. On page 100, after recalling an instance when she felt jealous of a woman who’d gotten Grandpa’s attention, Granny tells Jess, "Always remember, dear, the beach can be a dangerous place. What with everyone taking their clothes off and throwing caution to the winds." Do you agree with this assessment? Are some locations or situations more likely than others to make you feel jealous?

6. On page 118, Jess’s mom begins to confide in her daughter about what went wrong between her and Jess’s dad. She starts to cry, commenting that she believes Jess’s dad stopped feeling attracted to her, and Jess responds with a joke. On page 120, Limb writes of Jess’s mom’s reaction: "For a moment she looked a bit cross that her tragic moment had been railroaded into comedy."What do you think of this response? Are there some situations in which joking is inappropriate? Do you think Jess’s constant joking is a character flaw, or a desirable talent?

7. Jess’s family engages in a good deal of deception in this book: Jess’s mom avoids telling her about her father’s homosexuality, Jess hides her relationship with Fred from both parents, and Jess’s father tries to pass Phil off as a visiting friend. Do you think all these lies imply an inability to deal with the truth? Do you think Jess and her parents will be more open with each other in the future? If so, why?

8. When Jess is told of her father’s homosexuality, her reaction is "It’s brilliant! It’s so cool! Wait till I tell all my friends! They’ll be so jealous!"(page 162). Do you think this is a believable reaction for a modern teenager? Do you think it’s the reaction Jess’s parents were expecting?

9. On page 181, when Jess’s mum shows up at her dad’s house, Jess ponders, "Now, at the very moment when Jess had finally got together with Dad, and understood what he was all about, and was having the wildest, the most wonderful time, now her mum had to turn up. Hammering on the door like the vice squad or something. Ruining everything." But just a few moments later, on page 183, Limb writes, "Suddenly Jess felt a wave of tenderness for her mum. . . . She looked small and sad and real. And tired."What do you think Jess has realized about her mother that accounts for this change in the way she sees her mum? Which image do you think is more accurate?

10. On page 212, Jess confronts Fred about his flirtation with the bikinied blonde and soon makes things awkward between them. She chooses to make a joke out of the whole interaction, and Fred cheerfully plays along. What do you make of this method of conflict resolution? What are some other ways Jess might have handled the situation? Do you think the issue is resolved, or will Jess’s jealousy come up again?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for

    Welcome back to more crazy adventures of Jess Jordan. <BR/><BR/>School is out and Jess has nothing more planned than to spend her time with her newly turned boyfriend, Fred. But it doesn't take long before disaster strikes. Of all times, Jess's mom has decided to take a vacation. They're to take a road trip so that Jess can visit her father in St. Ives. They'll stop at all sorts of historical and literary sites along the way. She surprises Jess with the news hours before Fred surprises her with tickets to the Riverdene concert. Typical of Jess's life. <BR/><BR/>Leaving Fred behind, Jess, her mom, and her dear grandmother (along with her grandfather's ashes) head off on the trip. With intermittent phone and text connections with Fred, Jess's mind starts coming up with far-fetched ideas of his indiscretions. Jess's best friend, Flora, has canceled her vacation when Flora's mom winds up with a broken leg. Earlier in the year Flora was keen on Fred. So leaving the two back home without a chaperone could spell a breakup for Jess. <BR/><BR/>The trip wouldn't be nearly so bad if it weren't for the timing of it. Jess tells her story with anguish and comedy, leaving the reader in hysterics and wanting to learn more. The reader can tell what is about to happen, but the anticipation of Jess's twisted reality is what makes the story so much fun. <BR/><BR/>Eventually, they get to St. Ives, where Jess finds out the truth about her parents' divorce and what Fred has really been up to while she's been gone. <BR/><BR/>This installment of Jess Jordan's life picks up where GIRL, 15: CHARMING BUT INSANE left off. And after reading this, I'm already eager to get my hands on GIRL, GOING ON 17: PANTS ON FIRE. I can't imagine what other situations Jess can manage to get into.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2006

    Good for teenage girls coping with family problems

    This is a great story for teens to read. The main character is just like an average teenager that is having normal teenage problems, such as going through her mom and dad's divorce, finding out her dad is gay, and having problems with her boyfriend. I recomend this book to any teen that likes to read!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    a music-obsessed book freak

    ever get annoyed when people say 'oh sequels are never as good as the first?' well, it's mostly true, i'll admit, but in this case, no way. this book has just as much hilarious situations and a main character no one can get tired of. you must read this book if you've read the first book. it's like the first book never ended.

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    Posted December 16, 2008

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    Posted November 24, 2009

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