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Literature / Puberty Blues

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Puberty Blues is a 1979 novel by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette. It was adapted into film in 1981 by Bruce Beresford and was made into a TV series in 2012.

The novel and film focus on the two main characters, teenagers Debbie Vickers and Sue Knight, as they try and get in with the 'cool crowd', the Green Hills gang. Leader of the pack is Cheryl Hayes, who makes Debbie and Sue jump through a few hoops before she accepts them. Her and the rest of the Girl Posse hang around Cronulla beach waiting for their boyfriends to emerge from the water and bring them food when asked.

Oh, and be available for sex.

The television series expands more to focus on the adults. The Vickers trying to reconnect as a couple, the Knights considering leaving the area for good and the Henneseys falling apart due to an affair.

The series ran for two seasons.

This work provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Gary's father Ferris who makes Gary destroy his own surfboard.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: In season 2, Judy accidentally stabs a student with a pencil, but bribes him into silence with a large jar of lollies. His father later finds out and shows up to yell at Judy. Martin suppresses his amusement in the moment, but later laughs with Judy in bed and tells her he is amazed that this is the first time she has given into the urge to stab a student.
  • Age Lift: Debbie and Sue are 13 in the novel, the film and the series understandably make them sixteen.
  • Alpha Bitch: Cheryl.
  • Auto Erotica: The back of a panel van is the usual location for teen sex.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the series,Debbie and Sue leave school, their families, and their boyfriends Gary and Woody, respectively, to travel together. After burying Bruce at sea, Gary realises that his gang of mates are going nowhere with drugs, crime and meaningless sex, and he also farewells his parents to hitchhike away to an uncertain future. Meanwhile, Yvonne has learned to stand up *somewhat* to her abusive husband, Ferris, but it's clear that he is still unfaithful, he has ended her affair with Graham (who actually cared for her) and she is still living a lonely life as a suburban housewife with not much of a life of her own.
  • Boredom Montage: Sue gets one when Debbie is sent to boarding school. Cue shots of her hanging around in her underwear, almost literally climbing the walls, and seeing how many grapes she can cram into her mouth at once.
  • Break Up Demand: It's very common among the Green hills gang for couples to just walk up and say to the other partner. " You're dropped." Sometimes these are even delivered by third parties.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Debbie and Sue write on their legs to cheat in a test, and don't think they'll get caught as Cheryl does it all the time. They get caught.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Happens to Martin.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The receipt from the abortion clinic.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: David has his moments. Not least when he is caught for having graffitied his neighbour's garage by painting his name in absolutely giant blue letters.
    David: How did you know it was me?
  • Cool Car: Plenty of examples, including Ford Kingswood and Ford Valiant models.
  • Corporal Punishment: At school and at home. We even see Judy Vickers run up the stairs during a dinner party and whack with a wooden spoon David for putting a frog in the soup tureen.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pam Knight.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ferris at the end of season one.
  • Drunk Driver: Played for Laughs with Sue's Dad Roger and later more seriously with Darren Peters when he is killed.
    • Happens again with Roger in the second season. He's pulled over by the cops...who give him a ride home!
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Sue does this when she is dumped from the Green Hills gang.
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Cheryl actually goes through with it, but she's not a good girl.
  • Housewife: Yvonne Hennesey is one of these and Pam Knight leaves work to become one.
  • Happily Married: Roger and Pam, who are still in love and obviously attracted to each other. Debbie incredulously remarks to Sue on how strange she perceives it to be that "Your parents take baths together".
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sue and Debbie.
  • Hollywood Midlife Crisis: Ferris has one of these. He has the car and younger mistress before even the series starts.
  • Kick the Dog: A strange one for Yvonne in the series. She was largely a sympathetic character, but in the final episode makes racist remarks about a Japanese man and deliberately trips him up.
  • Killed Off for Real: Bruce and Annie.
  • Idealized Sex: Averted. The sex scenes are very realistic, between the adults there's the romance but with the teens it's awkward, sweaty and for the girls, painful.
  • Lipstick Mark: Gary finds this on a cigarette and knows why his Dad is coming home late.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Patrick, Yvonne's new flame, walks into the kitchen to talk to Gary man to man. Gary finds this very awkward and tells him to out it away. This being television we only see it from the back.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Averted in the series.. The directors didn't want any nostalgic montages. The only time you hear a popular song is when characters are listening to it in the scene through a stereo or radio.
  • The Mistress: Celia.
  • Of Course I Smoke: Happens when the Alpha Bitch Cheryl offers the two protagonists a cigarette as a thank you for not turning her in for cheating and, wanting to be in with the cool girls, they accept.
  • Off to Boarding School: This isn't seen as a punishment for Debbie, but her mother uses it for her to get her away from Sue's influence.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: In the book - Debbie and Sue move beyond the Green Hills gang and go surfing and their parents are going very well. But they're the only ones. Cheryl has been kicked out of the gang and is spiraling out of control, and Gary's parents split and he turns to drugs. The series offers some more nuance for the main cast. Debbie, Sue and Gary get the Bittersweet Ending (see above), while Cheryl has more of a straightforward happy ending, moving in and being accepted by the Vickers family, having turned her life around and doing well at school with the hope of getting into university to study teaching.. Played straight with Bruce, who dies of a heroin overdose.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Sue's parents Pam and Roger Knight. They're not even annoyed when Sue comes home drunk. Pam even tells Judy that she doesn't like punishing Sue as it builds up resentment. She also gives Sue a copy of "The Joy of Sex" and encourages her to explore her sexuality with Woody.
  • Papa Wolf: Roger threatens to smash Danny if he's not a 'gentleman' to his daughter. In season 2, he very nearly does clobber Woody, after he walked in on him having a "69" with Sue, but he is able to accept and tolerate Woody when he realises that Woody is actually a nice, decent boy who is treating Sue well.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Constantly through the series the teenagers are smoking, drinking, doing drugs and having sex and the parents are none the wiser. And it's only Debbie's and Sue's parents who have some idea of what's going on.
  • Porn Stache: Ferris Hennesey.
  • Potty Emergency: Roger really needs to go in a meeting and tries to pee in a vase while a commercial is being shown on the television. It's audible the second they turn the television off.
  • Really Gets Around: Cheryl Hayes and the rest of the Green Hills gang
  • The '70s: The novel was a novel about the seventies that came out in the seventies. The series is a glorious tribute to that era, complete with the music, clothes, hairstyles, and cars. Not to mention that the final episode includes a Key Party.
  • Shout-Out: Many to Seventies pop culture. Characters go to see films including Star Wars, and the Australian indie film Storm Boy, while Debbie and Sue have posters in their bedrooms featuring artists including David Bowie.
  • Stepford Smiler: Yvonne Hennesey is one of these.
  • Skinny Dipping: Sue's parents do this while drunk.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Debbie does this to her mother.
  • Strip Poker: Sue comes home one night to find her parents playing this with their friends.
  • Surfer Dude: Well, it is set in The Shire...
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: in the final episode, a drunk Judy Vickers delivers a spectacular one to Mr Candy, calling him out as "disgusting" and a "child molester" for having impregnated his teenage student. She's completely accurate in every point.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Cheryl in the first episode of Season 2. Later, Vicky falls pregnant to her science teacher, and they are married.
  • Wild Teen Party: Firstly at Cheryl's place when her mother comes home to find drunk stoned teens, then at Debbie's house when David lets Cheryl and her friends in. Of course, her parents come home.
  • You Are Grounded!: Debbie is grounded (or gated as its called) on and off through the series for various reasons.