Review: Puberty Blues - Kathy Lette & Gabrielle Carey

Release Date: Originally in 1979 but republished for the TV tie in on August 15th 2012
Published By: Random House Australia
Pages: 144
Goodreads: Add it to your reading list

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: “By day, we were at school learning logarithms, but by night—in the back of cars, under the bowling alley, on Cronulla Beach, or, if you were lucky, in a bed while someone’s parents were out—you paid off your friendship ring.”

For Deb and Sue, life is about surfies, panel vans, straight-leg Levis, nicking off from school, getting wasted and fitting in.

But why should guys have all the fun?

Puberty Blues is raw, humorous and honest: a compelling account of teenagers navigating the chaos of life. It is one of the great coming-of-age stories in Australia, and it remains as relevant now as when it was first written over three decades ago.


I was a big fan of the Puberty Blues TV show that was shown on Channel 10 last year. I absolutely loved this story, set in the 70’s of Debbie and Sue and all the trouble they got up to. Ultimately it’s a coming of age story, and even though it was written in 1979, it’s still every bit as relevant today as it was back then.

For Debbie and Sue, they’re two 13 year olds who are just trying to get in with the popular kids, who are surfies. They hang out at the beach, the girls watch their boyfriends surf all day. And by night, they are experimenting. With cigarettes, with drugs and alcohol, and with sex. This certainly isn’t a fluffy story about all the perks of being a teenager. It’s gritty, it has a strong element of truth to it, and it highlights the danger of what can happen when you fall in with the wrong crowd.

For me, the only thing preventing me from giving it 5 stars is simply some of the dialogue. Whilst I truly enjoyed this as an Aussie myself, I couldn’t help but wonder how (or even if) it would translate to a wider audience, especially internationally. Let me for a moment, become a translator and I will demonstrate *ahem*:

Rooly = Really
Slackass molls = Skanks
Perf = Perfect
K’niver = Can I have a….
Unrool = Unreal (ie awesome)
Go around wif = To be someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend
Titted off = To make out with someone

Point made? Yep. And look, after watching the TV show version of this, I really liked the clever way they incorporated a lot of this into the show, and perhaps after watching it, I even found it easier to read this type of dialogue because I could visualise it all playing out in my mind. But conscious of a bigger crowd as I said. People might get it - they might not.

Disclaimer = Aussies actually don’t talk like this. Maybe in the 70’s. But not now. Just FYI in case you thought we were an even stranger bunch. :P

What is a pretty short book (you can read this in one sitting), it ends up getting quite heavy with themes of sex, abortion and drugs (including heroin use). I am no prude, but again, an FYI to those thinking of reading this.

A really enjoyable Aussie classic. I have been wanting to read this for many years, and I am glad I finally took the time to do it. I’d highly recommend this to Aussies, but not sure about internationally (you tell me… if you live outside Australia and you’ve read this, did you like it?).

TV Show Trailer:

What do you think?

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