Discussion Guide: Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture

1. On page 54, Limb writes: "It would be so, so cool if Mum knew about Fred and approved and everything. It was just that Mum had often been kind of hard on men, and Jess hadn’t quite managed to pluck up her courage and mention the subject." What do you think about Jess’s decision to keep her romance with Fred from her mother? Do you think her mum is actually anti-men enough to disapprove of Jess and Fred’s relationship?

2. Much confusion arises from Fred’s vaguely worded text messages. Look at two of the messages he sends Jess during her vacation: he describes his coworkers as "ALL GIRLS. KIND OF LOW-CALORIE SUGABABES" (page 49) and sends the message "DISASTER. MANAGED TO DROPABIG DISH OF CREMECARAMELALL DOWN CHARLOTTE’S CLEAVAGE" (page 58). Do you think Fred is trying to incite Jess’s jealousy, or is the brevity of the text messaging format making things sound more scandalous than they really are?

3. During her vacation, Jess strongly suspects that her best friend, Flora, may be conspiring to spend time alone with Fred. Do you think Jess’s suspicion of her best friend is warranted? Do you think it says something about the state of their friendship, or does it have more to do with Jess’s personality?

4. On page 94, Jess asks her mother, "If you could date a writer, any writer, who would it be?"What would your answer to this question be, and why?

5. On page 100, after recalling an instance when she felt jealous of a woman who’d gotten Grandpa’s attention, Granny tells Jess, "Always remember, dear, the beach can be a dangerous place. What with everyone taking their clothes off and throwing caution to the winds." Do you agree with this assessment? Are some locations or situations more likely than others to make you feel jealous?

6. On page 118, Jess’s mom begins to confide in her daughter about what went wrong between her and Jess’s dad. She starts to cry, commenting that she believes Jess’s dad stopped feeling attracted to her, and Jess responds with a joke. On page 120, Limb writes of Jess’s mom’s reaction: "For a moment she looked a bit cross that her tragic moment had been railroaded into comedy."What do you think of this response? Are there some situations in which joking is inappropriate? Do you think Jess’s constant joking is a character flaw, or a desirable talent?

7. Jess’s family engages in a good deal of deception in this book: Jess’s mom avoids telling her about her father’s homosexuality, Jess hides her relationship with Fred from both parents, and Jess’s father tries to pass Phil off as a visiting friend. Do you think all these lies imply an inability to deal with the truth? Do you think Jess and her parents will be more open with each other in the future? If so, why?

8. When Jess is told of her father’s homosexuality, her reaction is "It’s brilliant! It’s so cool! Wait till I tell all my friends! They’ll be so jealous!"(page 162). Do you think this is a believable reaction for a modern teenager? Do you think it’s the reaction Jess’s parents were expecting?

9. On page 181, when Jess’s mum shows up at her dad’s house, Jess ponders, "Now, at the very moment when Jess had finally got together with Dad, and understood what he was all about, and was having the wildest, the most wonderful time, now her mum had to turn up. Hammering on the door like the vice squad or something. Ruining everything." But just a few moments later, on page 183, Limb writes, "Suddenly Jess felt a wave of tenderness for her mum. . . . She looked small and sad and real. And tired."What do you think Jess has realized about her mother that accounts for this change in the way she sees her mum? Which image do you think is more accurate?

10. On page 212, Jess confronts Fred about his flirtation with the bikinied blonde and soon makes things awkward between them. She chooses to make a joke out of the whole interaction, and Fred cheerfully plays along. What do you make of this method of conflict resolution? What are some other ways Jess might have handled the situation? Do you think the issue is resolved, or will Jess’s jealousy come up again?