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Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manning

Adorkable by Sarrah Manning Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manning

Having got myself into the odd twitter battle over annoying coinages such as intrepreneur and staycation, I have to say that a book with the title'Adorkable'didnt quite endear itself to me right away. Indeed, I spent a good bit of time warily circling it lest it throw a series of other horrendous neologisms my way.

And, well, it certainly did, but the fact that said neologisms were hidden between myriad slang terms such as totes, whatevs and ridic, while ameliorating their shudder-inducing influence a bit, didnt exactly help in dialling back that wariness. Having just come from Shirley Marrs delightful Preloved, where I wallowed quite delightedly in all sorts of 80s and 90s references and embraced my mid-twenty-something-ness, lets just say that within a few pages of Adorkable I was feeling, like, totes ancient.

For an oldie like me, Adorkable'is sort of like watching a Japanese game show with Finnish commentary: youve got no idea whats what but, still, youre oddly drawn to it.

Adorkable'is a tale of two kiddies for whom its the best of times and the worst of times: theres mega-angsty Jeane Smith, who has more twitter followers than Ashton Kutcher, regularly spouts catchphrases and commentary that are more appropriate in the Guardian opinion pages than from a young teen, is a pro at circular knitting, and who laughs in the face of a diabetic coma by subsisting solely on Haribo lollies. I swear she was in most of my first year uni classes, by the way. And then theres Michael Lee, whod be your typical all-American overachiever except for the fact that hes British and half-Chinese, which makes him both not very American and an underachiever in his parents eyes. (Huge props for having an Asian love interest, though.) Jeanes rather vocal about being the poster girl of Im-so-like-different-from-you! while Michaels desperately trying to find the centremost point of the middle of the road.

The two couldnt be more different: indeed, each represents everything the other has spent their life railing against, and is mildly appalled by. If their wardrobes mated, their offspring would be something akin to Oscar the Grouch with a GAP logo; if their iTunes playlists did the same, Id imagine it would end up being something sounding as ear-gougingly awful as Bartok. However, aesthetic, philosophical and social differences aside, each is suffering that oh-so-familiar identity crisis known as growing up, and theres plenty of the bad and awkward to go along with the good.

The bad and the awkward comprise the first hundred or so pages of the book, and our hero and heroine largely interact through angsty glances, squabbles over mainstream hoodies vs orange tights imported from Sweden, and discussions of the uprising of the teenage proletariat (ie, Jeane).

But then, thanks to some cheating partners and the'uniting force of Twitter, where love blossoms over @ replies, Jeane and Michael totally get it on. And on. And on. (And then off). Just so long as no one else is aware whats going on, its all good, right? After all, Jeanes a sexually empowered lass whos quite happy to rub crotches (NB: if you think thats crude, youre probably going to tsk tsk a bit at this book) with a chap and then go about her business of taking over the world via social media. And Michael, well, he doesnt really do emotions, but, hey, sex!'But, of course, in our modern day 1984'(which admittedly is a little more Truman Showian than Orwellian), its tough to keep these sorts of shenanigans a secret

Even as a ye olde timer, I wanted to love Adorkable. There are elements of it that are very, very clever, and its so brash and bold with regards to sex and relationships that its hard not to give it some r.e.s.p.e.c.t, or whatever it is that the kids these days do. (Hand claps? A West Side sign? An animated .gif?) Manning gets how shufflingly awful teenage relationships can be, and how theyre as much about revulsion and confusion and the desire to be in a relationship, damnit!, as they are about any sort of attraction. Her depiction of sex and the intimacy that may or may not accompany it is refreshing: there are no sparkly vampire lads or crashing waves on the beach here, just stickiness, flabby butts and an awareness of how difficult it is to pull off a pair of skinny jeans without standing on the cuffs of said trousers. Theres a frankness here thats sorely needed in teen fiction, or at least the stuff Ive been reading, and its nice to see an author let sex just be a thing'rather than something that transforms an individual, or that results in guilt and self-loathing. (Ten bucks says that this book will be banned in US school libraries.)

But Adorkable'is a book thats largely driven by its two main characters, and though the reader knows that theyll eventually grow into beautiful butterflies and redeem themselves, its, frankly, a bit tiresome waiting for them to emerge from their chrysalises of wank and self-obsession. Jeane vociferously positions herself as an authority on every. subject. in. the. world., and while its good to see a heroine happy to carve her own niche in the stone tablet of history, her outspokenly judgemental and derisive nature against the norms makes her difficult to identify with, especially in the first half of the book. (Not to mention that her analyses sound awfully like shes been skim-reading her Twitter feed for sound bites.) To be honest, I had to force myself through those initial scenes involving Jeane spouting off and gurning her way through life.'Michael, on the other hand, is portrayed as an image-conscious spunk muffin; other than his good looks, hes inoffensive and reactive to the point of blandness. And though we gradually get an insight into whats behind the kevlar-like shell of Jeanes attitude problem (Ha! She has parents like mine!), Michael remains a little uninspired.

Moreover, although the book really hits its stride when Michael and Jeane hook up in an impassioned merger of featherwool and Ralph Lauren polos, things begin to peter out towards the end after the all-essential revelatory scene that marks the beginning of the narrative end (sorry, avoiding spoilers here), and I couldnt help but feel that the book, rather than ending on a high note, kind of slumped across the finish line, a bit like a hipster on a fixed-speed bike climbing a hill.

Adorkable'is a strange beast. Its quite an adult read, almost as though its written for prehistoric people like me looking back at that reviled period of life thats known as adolescence: its written through a lens of gritty self-awareness and reflection, and I wonder whether itll resonate more with adults than its intended teen audience. Still, the writing is effortlessly witty and incisive, the themes of identity, sexuality and social normativity are cleverly explored, and the character of Jeane, despite her ongoing pain-in-the-arsedness, is deep and unusual enough to make this one eminently worth the read.

Rating: star Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manningstar Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manningstar Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manninghalfstar Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manningblankstar Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manning (very good)

With thanks to Hachette Australia for the review copy

Support Read in a Single Sitting by purchasing Adorkable'from

Amazon | Book Depository USA | Book Depository UK | The Nile | Booktopia

Other books by Sarra Manning:

You Dont Have to Say you Love me by Sarrah Manning Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra ManningNine Uses for an Ex Boyfriend by Sarrah Manning Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra ManningNobodys Girl by Sarrah Manning Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra ManningGuitar Girl by Sarrah Manning Book Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manning


  1. Hmmsounds like an intersting book. I think I might like it though. I do actually like the term adorkable as I use it a lot to describe the guys I like. :)


  2. Stephanie /

    Ive never actually heard the term used before this book! I really *am* old :)

  3. Nellie /

    I think I should check this out I would love to get a copy of my own.

  4. Id just like to add that Chrysalises Of Wank will be my new band name.

  5. I too felt that picking up a book titled Adorkable would make me rant a bit, just from touching it. While I appreciate what sounds like frank discussions of the non-romantic aspects of sex (and not taking that bet, by the way), angsty teenage characters developed through twitter feeds does not sound like a book Id get through without stabbing it with a knife. Though, I admit to saying totes like all the time. So, we all have our little quirks.

  6. Stephanie /

    The titles definitely off-putting, but after my little rant, I did end up learning that apparently adorkable is now part of the teen lexicon. This one was hit and miss for me: I really liked the frankness and honesty of it, but Im just too old and grumpy for the rest of it. :)

    Oh, you totes say totes, do you? Dare you try it in the court room :)

  7. Yah. There are a lot of things I would like to say in a court room, that I cant. LOL

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