Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Teenage Worrier

Go To
A sample cover.
Popular series of UK young adult books, written by Ros Asquith and published between 1992 and 2000. Most of them took the form of a "dictionary" of teenage life, interspersed with observations from the 15-year-old heroine, Scarlett "Letty" Chubb. The final two volumes were Letty's diaries as she attempted to pass her school leaving exams, find love and begin a career as a film director.

The series consisted of:

  • I Was a Teenage Worrier
  • The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Lurve
  • The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Life
  • The Teenage Worrier's Pocket Guide to Mind and Body
  • The Teenage Worrier's Pocket Guide to Family
  • The Teenage Worrier's Pocket Guide to Romance
  • The Teenage Worrier's Pocket Guide to Success
  • The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files
  • The Panick Diary

Tropes found in the books:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Brian Bolt is brought up many times as an example of this.
  • The Ace: Letty's brother Ashley is handsome, charming, won a scholarship to Oxford University and is engaged to a very rich girl.
  • Adults Are Useless: This applies to pretty much every adult in the series except Granny Chubb.
  • An Aesop: All the books contain a moral of some form
  • All Girls Like Ponies: It is mentioned many times that Letty loves horses and secretly dreams of owning one.
  • Advertisement:
  • Alliterative Name: Brian Bolt, Basil Barrington, Candice Carthage, Chlamydia Clutterbuck
  • Alpha Bitch: Ruth, Van and Elsie in the later books
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Zelda, a girl in Letty's class at school, appears to have some kind of autism or neurological disorder (severe enough that she has a carer), although it's not stated what her condition is.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Benjy is usually this for Letty, although she admits she's weak for how cute he is.
  • Babysitter from Hell: When Letty wants to go out to a party to see Adam, she leaves Benjy with two neighboring kids, even though Benjy's clearly terrified of them. She returns to find that they have got him drunk and sat him in front of a violent horror film.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Out of Letty and her two best friends, she is the Brawn (not physically imposing, but more than prepared to stand up for herself and others), Hazel is the Beauty, and Aggy the Brains.
  • Advertisement:
  • Berserk Button: Letty's distaste for the colour beige
  • Bittersweet Ending: Letty has a new love interest (Jack Spriggs, whom she thought was dating her friend,) has decided not to worry about her exams and things have resolved themselves for her best friends Aggy and Hazel. However, she decides she can't follow her dream of becoming a film director because she included dishonest Basil in the final cut of her film contest entry about war, at the expense of real-life refugee Josef. She also can't forgive Basil for lying to her and robbing Aggy's house
  • Book Dumb: Letty, who is very articulate, has a lot of general knowledge and is sensitive to political issues; but she cannot spell well and her results at school are atrocious.
  • Brother Chuck: Letty's friend Spiggy (Sarah Spiggott) is a major character in The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Lurve but does not reappear after this, despite the mention that their friendship was repaired.
  • Bumbling Dad: Letty's father often causes problems for the family (such as almost burning the house down) either because of his drinking or general incompetence.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: in The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Zelda in The Teenage Worrier's Panick Diary. Letty may count towards this trope because of her propensity for daydreaming.
  • Comic-Book Time: The books were published over eight years but the characters never aged. However, birthdays and holidays were not mentioned (except for The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files, set at Christmas.)
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: Many of these. The most notable ended with Letty caked in foundation, dyeing her hair orange, and blotchy skin due to her perfume allergy.
  • Culture Clash: When Letty tells her Chinese pen pal about her crush Basil, the pen pal's reply combined with her poor English suggests that Letty's mother should date Basil as well (probably intended to say something more like that Letty's mother should approve of her boyfriend.) Letty ponders moving away rather than having to exchange any more letters.
  • Darker and Edgier: The last two books, while not exactly "dark", dealt with more serious subject matter such as Letty discovering that Granny Chubb's first child was killed during WWII, her brother being rushed to hospital with appendicitis, supporting her classmate through a teenage pregnancy, mistakenly thinking that she herself has been date-raped and is pregnant (neither is true), learning about war, befriending a refugee boy whose family were all killed, Aggy's family being burgled, Hazel running away from home because of exam pressure and bullying over her sexuality, and finally discovering that her boyfriend Basil is a criminal who robbed Aggy's family and lied to Letty.
  • Date Rape: In The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files, Letty misses her period and thinks she's pregnant. After realizing that she passed out after drinking at a party, and woke up with Junior (a guy she's recently met) beside her, she comes to think that they had sex. While Letty never identifies this as date rape, it's clear to the reader that she would have been too drunk to consent, although the trope is averted - it turns out nothing happened and Junior was just there trying to wake her up.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Letty does not get together with either of her three major love interests: Daniel Hope because she lost interest in him, Adam Stone who accused her of having another boyfriend or Basil Barrington who turns out to be a petty criminal on the run.
  • Distracted from Death: Referenced in The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Mind and Body where Letty says that teenagers have a habit of blaming themselves for the death of someone close to them, citing an example of staying by an ill friend's bedside in hospital and vowing never to leave her, but then she dies while you are in the toilet.
  • Double Entendre: Letty attends a film-making course called "New Directions", which gets confused with Nude Erections, another course being run in the same building for people to photograph nude male models.
  • Emo Teen: Letty was prone to this kind of temperament.
  • Empty Fridge, Empty Life: The fridge in Letty's house is always empty (because her parents don't bother to buy groceries).
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: It's mentioned that Letty's family do not get along with their neighbours, partly because the neighbours' young son steals biscuits from their house. Letty points out that she and Benjy do the same thing.
  • Expy: Several characters in Asquith's later works are essentially Expies of Letty and Aggy. Cordelia, the protagonist of the Girl Writer series, is basically just a younger Letty; while Asquith's Fab Four series has characters very similar to Letty (Flash, who loves horses but gets distracted by boys easily) and Aggy (Owl, a shy, intelligent, bespectacled black girl; and "E-Claire", who struggles with her weight.)
  • The Ghost: Hazel's girlfriend Mandy, regularly mentioned but never seen.
  • Hands-Off Parenting / Parental Neglect: The neglectful behaviour of Letty's parents is played for laughs as they are rarely at home, refuse to cook or buy groceries, smoke and get drunk in the house, and largely ignore her in favor of Benjy. In one book when there is no food in the house, they are more worried about Benjy or the CATS starving than their daughter starving.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Letty was going to use this in her war documentary over a montage of child soldiers, but she stated that she couldn't choose between "Humpty Dumpty" or "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
  • I Want My Jet Pack: The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Life stated that Letty had bought a five-year diary to mark the August 1999 total solar eclipse, but she was still the same age (and presumably still awaiting the eclipse) when the last book was published in late 2000. The book was later reprinted and updated with the date of a solar eclipse in the next century, with Letty stating that she hoped to see it even though she would be over a hundred years old at the time.
  • Important Haircut: Letty had one at the end of the first book, but by the follow-up she was drawn with shoulder length hair again (and it was mentioned that her fringe had regrown long enough for her to hide behind as usual)
  • Kids Are Cruel: Hazel is bullied at school because of her sexuality, and it's mentioned that her classmates put slugs in her gym shoes. Later, the bullying gets so severe (both from the posh girls at her school, and the impoverished girls from the local council estate who bully her at the bus stop) that it contributes to her running away from home.
  • Lipstick-and-Load Montage: Letty gets one in Panick Diary as she prepares for a date with Basil. It goes about as well as you'd expect, leading her to yet another Cosmetic Catastrophe.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Hazel, who comes out as a lesbian in the first book, fits this trope.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Letty has done more than a few unwise things for the sake of boys she was interested in.
  • Meaningful Name: Letty's school headmaster Mr Portillo (named after Michael Portillo, then a prominent Conservative MP in the UK) and annoying classmate Chlamydia Clutterbuck, among others.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Letty often suffers from this. Between the successful Ashley and adorable Benjy, she's often overlooked.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Life has a subplot where Letty's family thinks their mother has walked out on them - see Unfortunate Item Swap for details.
    • In The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files, Letty mistakenly believes her father has run away with a cross-dressing man named David. It turns out her father was just visiting David who was helping him research for a novel about a cross-dresser.
    • When Adam is due to return to the UK, Letty (who doesn't have email access at home) visits Hazel's house to send him an e-mail from Hazel's dad's account. Candice Carthage intercepts the message, and writes a reply warning Letty to stay away from Adam. When Hazel's mother sees this, she assumes Candice to be "some floozy of (Hazel's) father's" and argues with him. Hazel isn't happy with Letty.
    • In The Teenage Worrier's Christmas Survival Guide, Letty asks to borrow a dress of her mother's to wear to a Christmas party, but the dress turns out not to belong to her mother, leading to an argument between her parents over whose it is (though it is suggested her dad isn't really cheating.)
  • Mistaken for Evidence: In Panick Diary, after discovering that Basil burgled Aggy's house, Letty remembers the travel bag he left at her house. When she opens it, it contains rifles and a bag of white powder. At this point she passes out because she has flu. A week later, when she gets better, she finally contacts the police and is told that the "guns" and "drugs" in the bag were actually golf clubs and soap powder.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Letty's dream is to be a film director, but she frequently mentions that she is also the published author of the Teenage Worrier series.
  • My Hair Came Out Green: In Panick Diary, Letty tries to dye her hair "a lovely conker colour" (chestnut brown) before a date. It comes out bright orange, leaving her frantically trying to wash it out before her date.
  • Noodle Incident: Letty sometimes refers to an awkward incident between her and Brian that involved "a bag of flour and a bicycle tyre", but refuses to go into details.
  • One-Book Author: Letty's father, who, we are told, is the author of a brilliant and touching novel called "Moving On" for which he won several prizes before his daughter was born; but at least fifteen years on, he's never got around to finishing the follow-up. In one of the books, "Moving On" got a re-release, and The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files has a plot in which Letty gets the wrong impression from some research he's doing for his new novel. The Teenage Worrier series ended without us ever discovering if he would have been successful.
  • The Parent Produced Project: Letty blames Benjy's poor performance at school on her parents doing all his school projects for him.
  • Parental Bonus: Done several times, such as Letty having a classmate named Chlamydia Clutterbuck and visiting a restaurant called "Foo King's"
  • The Runaway: Hazel runs away from home in Panick Diary.
  • Running Gag: Benjy's fear of floors, Letty's fear of the word "death," Aggy's large family, Brian Bolt confusing the words "plutonic" and "platonic"
  • Sadist Teacher: Letty has had a few of these.
  • Shout-Out: Letty acquires a Chinese pen pal in the final book because the author had begun receiving a lot of fan mail from Chinese readers.
  • Society Marches On: Between the 1990s (when the books were originally published) and the 2000s (when they were reprinted); the reprints were updated accordingly. For instance, in one book Letty states that her school wouldn't allow her to play football because she was a girl, and she had to play netball instead (formerly common practice in many British schools.) Since this has changed in most schools, later editions of the book simply state that she was discouraged from playing football.
  • Sorry Occifer: Mention is made of the time Letty's father was pulled over for drunk driving and told the officer "I admit I've been driving but I'm perfectly fit to drink."
  • Stalker with a Crush: Brian repeatedly pursues Letty despite her obvious lack of interest in him although we later find out it didn't stop him having a romance, and fathering twins, with another girl.
  • Sudden Name Change: Hazel is named as Hazel Williams in I Was a Teenage Worrier but becomes Hazel Appleby in the later books. The private school she attends is initially St Mary's Academy and then retconned to St Cheynganggs.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: It's mentioned that Letty had a crush on a teacher. He asked her to meet him in the staff room after school, and she got the wrong idea and brought condoms, but he was only there to arrange for her to see the (female) guidance counsellor.
  • Teen Genius: Aggy is one of these.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Letty's classmate Priscilla Crump has one over the last two books.
  • Theme Naming: Letty (short for Scarlett) and her brother Ashley were both named after characters from Gone With the Wind. In one book she claims they teamed up to stop their parents naming the youngest brother "Rhett".
  • Theme Twin Naming: In The Teenage Worrier's Panick Diary, Letty's classmate names her newborn twins Barin and Rabina. Turns out to be significant because the names are (more or less) anagrams of "Brian" - Brian Bolt turns out to be the father.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: For Letty, fudge; which should be vanilla and "soft, with only a hint of crunch around the outer layers."
  • Unfortunate Item Swap
    • In one book, Letty relates the story of a friend who bought a push-up bra for herself and a scarf for her grandmother, but then realised she'd accidentally posted the bra instead of the scarf.
    • In The Teenage Worrier's Guide to Life, Letty's mother leaves the wrong note when going away on a trip, causing the family to mistakenly think she's walked out on them for her ex-boyfriend (she was actually visiting someone to discuss a business deal and being picked up by that person's husband, who had the same name as the ex.)
    • The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files has Letty accidentally switch briefcases on the train with someone else, leading to humiliation when she opens the case to show off her film project and finds a collection of sexy underwear instead.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: In The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files, Letty attends a film-making class and develops a crush on the instructor, Alfonso. The following week she returns and discovers that "his" name is Alfonsa and she is a woman - during the first class, her voice sounded deep and she was wrapped up in scarves because of a cold.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Letty suffers panic attacks when she attempts to say or write the word "death", so she uses "banana" in its place. It's mentioned that this has caused problems with essays about the life cycle of beansprouts.
  • Uptown Girl: Letty's mother was this for her father. At least three of Letty's own love interests (Daniel Hope, Adam Stone and Basil) are Uptown Guys.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: David, whom Letty meets after accidentally switching briefcases with him on the train.
  • Wild Teen Party: Letty went to one in The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files. It ends with her passing out after drinking, mistakenly thinking that she may have got pregnant during the party, and getting into huge trouble for leaving Benjy with the neighbours.
  • Zany Scheme: Letty comes up with at least one of these in every book.
  • Zeerust Canon: Some of the books in the series gave Letty's parents' ages as both being in their late 40s to early 50s. In The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files, it's a plot point that Letty's father was born during WWII - plausible, given that the book was printed in 1999. The earlier books were later reprinted and updated (including references to more modern pop culture and technology, setting them in the mid to late 2000s, by which time her father could not have been born during WWII if he is in his 50s) - but The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files, although not reprinted, still took place later in the series timeline.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: