YA author and school librarian Lucy Ivison (‘Lobsters’, ‘Never Evers’) writes a letter to her hero, the late, great Louise Rennison (pictured below), the author of thirteen books across two series, including the fabulously funny ‘Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal-Snogging’.
I am alone in my school library when I find out you are gone. I immediately walk over to your shelf. I could find it blindfolded, I go there so often. But of course, it is empty. I stare at the gaping hole for a bit. I have twenty-nine copies of your books in my library, but none of them are here. Of course they’re not. They are in rucksacks, waiting to be read on the bus; being pored over on kitchen tables; or stuffed under pillows, ready to be devoured long after lights out.
They have been read again and again and again. They are battered and loved and laughed over. Hard. Because they are so bloody funny.
I had never read a book that quite got what it was like to be a girl until I read Angus, Thongs. That got how amazingly brilliant it is to laugh with your mates as you sing all the way down the road. To hysterically giggle at everything and nothing until tears pour down your cheeks. You understood that the greatest love affairs of your teenage years are with your friends, not your crushes, and that those bonds are the ones that last.
But you got the other stuff too. The out-and-out horror that adolescence brings with it. The embarrassment, the crippling self-doubt, the jealousies and the confusion. Your books are every single shade of what it is to be a girl. They are perfect. And they say to everyone reading them: you are perfect, too. That it’s okay to wonder what lesbians do, to not know how much hair you are supposed to have and where, and the ins and outs of a kiss. They are the perfect antedote to an airbrushed age. The girls in them are real and raw and hilariously brilliant.
Last week was Book Week and every single author that came into my school mentioned you. A Year 8 girl rushed in to my library when Robin Stevens happened to be there. “Have you got the next one?” she asked, waving Withering Tights in her hands. Robin looked at me and I knew she felt the same loss I do. Holly Bourne spoke movingly to Year 10 about how you had influenced her. She urged them to read your books, but looking across the seats I knew most of them already had.
I met you once at a signing years ago. You were funny and mad and talked mainly about cheese strings. If I had seen you more recently I hope I would have been brave enough to go over to you. I hope I would have had the courage to say that you are my absolute hero. That when I write you sit on my shoulder. You are everything I want to be as a writer: authentic and funny and effortless. I wish I could have told you that, though I know I’ll never be as good as you, it’s an honour just to try.
You inspired a generation of writers. And your books are so much more than just funny. The message they send to young girls in a world that often tells them they are lacking is that they are not. That the person they are is actually kind of brilliant. That life isn’t like a Hollywood movie, sometimes it’s hilariously, cringingly better.
I can’t even begin to imagine how we can pay tribute to what you have done for us, but maybe the empty shelf is tribute enough for now.
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