I won't be giving Burgess' book about the sex lives of a group of fairly ordinary middle-class British boys (and their girlfriends) to my 12-year-old to read, although she does read a lot of older teen fiction. It's too raw, extremely explicit. But that's not a criticism, despite some explosive reviews of this book elsewhere, notably by UK children's laureate Anne Fine, who thought it "filth". For kids who are living this stuff, and one assumes that is most teenagers aged around 16 and up, it will appeal as surprisingly relevant, sympathetic and honest. Some of it is revolting, but taken in context, and as an illustration of the pressures boys in particular are under to impress and posture, it's revealing — and the book's conclusions belie the grossness of what's said in specific situations.

Wellington author Bernard Beckett's fourth novel also treads this difficult ground of emerging sexuality, pumping hormones and that knife-edge between pride and humiliation that teens in particular wobble along.

Malcolm and Juliet, about a 16-year-old science nut making a video about teenage sex, is described on the jacket as "a comedy", and the light gentleness of Beckett's tone means this could be read by younger teens, despite its sexual content. Beckett is one of my favourite local children's authors, and he doesn't disappoint here.


The two authors have chosen remarkably similar characters and much the same "issues" — obsession, confusion, exploitation, insecurity, friendship, love and "in love" — all hot topics among teenagers, as always.