(review originally posted on my LiveJournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/22469.html)
Back in the summer of 2009, I had just finished my first year of university and let me tell me you, I was sick to death of reading "real" literature, "scholarly" literature, sick of reading books for SCHOOL and not for MYSELF. So, almost as soon as school was out, I promised myself to read something completely mindless and FUN. Enter Georgia Nicholson; this series is light and fluffy and absolutely hilarious. Yeah, Georgia is probably one of the most immature heroines I've ever read about, but there was something endearing about her anyway, and her diaries were just what I needed after a year filled with dense reading. When this book hit the shelves back in July, I had originally planned to read it right away, but other reading obligations detracted me from it until I started reading it at work on my breaks. It's a very short book, and it's one where you don't need to remember tiny little details to be able to follow the plot. Overall, it was a decent book, but I don't think it was as good as its predecessor, though those were fairly large shoes to fill. :)
While Withering Tights definitely brings on the funny, it also definitely lacks in characterization. Tallulah, the book being from her point-of-view, is obviously fairly well-defined, but her friends are the acting school she attends for the summer are considerably less so. It took me awhile to get everyone straight, and when I did, it was usually because of one prominent characteristic that character possessed (such as Honey being the one with a lisp, though I didn't remember anything about her ever, or Jo being the short one.) Similarly, none of the teachers ever really stood out for me either; they were all just... weirdos, and as such, I never really got a sense that any of the teachers had distinct personalities (but maybe Rennison was going for that, by making a ridiculous generalization of acting teachers? Who knows.)
Tallulah herself is a fairly likable character. She's a lot like Georgia in many ways: she's funny, zany, slightly preoccupied with boys (though not nearly as much as Georgia) and good-hearted. I related to her a lot more than I ever did with Georgia, who was a little TOO boy-crazy for my tastes, but I put up with it because it brought about all kinds of hilarious and ridiculous scenarios. So, in the end, Georgia ended up being more funny, but Lullah was a lot easier to sympathize with and like.
The plot feels a little non-existent and it kind of just plods along with very little feeling of there being any kind of "end-game"; it's just about Tallulah and the silly scenarios she gets herself in while she's in art-school. There's some side-story about her Tallulah's encounters with boys, but those are a lot more in the background than they ever were with Georgia (where her dealings with boys were usually at the forefront of that series), which in a way was nice; Tallulah's a lot more reasonable than Georgia, and Rennison found ways to extract humour in other situations that worked really well. Rennison writes a lot more earnestly about girls and their interests in boys at the age of 14-15 than most YA novels do, which relate on the "insta-love", and even when it's not instant, they tend to make out love to be an all-encompassing thing; in this book, and in Georgia's books as well, the girls are fickle, and boys are these strange creatures to them that they're constantly trying to figure out. I find that resembles a lot more MY experiences with boys at that age than most other YA novels depict. Also, Tallulah has a bunch of *female* friends who she's really tight with; none of that stupid crap about the lead heroine being friends with mostly boys because she doesn't get girls and girls don't get her and blah blah blah. This book passes the Bechdel test in spades.
Final Verdict: While this novel lacks in characterization and it's plot isn't the most engaging, it's still a funny romp in acting school that had me laughing quite a few times. Tallulah is a very likable main character who is a lot more reasonable (though arguably slightly less funny) than her counter-part Georgia (from Rennison's previous series, but she's also a lot easier to relate with. There is some focus on romance and crushes in this book, but they're dealt with very earnestly and realistically, and there's actually more focus on the friendships in this book than the could-be romances, for which I was quite grateful. I didn't like this book quite as much as I liked the Georgia Nicholson books, but it's still a series I think I'll follow as more books come out.