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Notes from the Teenage Underground

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  537 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Seventeen-year-old Gem loves movies, her feminist mom, and Dodgy, her coworker in a video store (at least she thinks she loves Dodgy). When a school trip inspires Gem to make an underground film, her best friends Lo and Mira are quick to join the project, taking on the roles of producer and star. The film is intended to cement the girls' friendship as well as their superio ...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens (first published June 1st 2006)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, aus-nz, 2016
Just as I am about to completely give up on YA, here surfaces another fabulous Australian import to save the day.

Toxic friendship, hippy mom, film-making, mayhem. Great stuff.

Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell is one of my favourite reads of 2012 so far. As soon as I read the blurb I knew this was going to be a book that I enjoyed.

Gem Gordon is a fantastic main character, she's a good friend to Mira and Lo (even though they don't treat her as well as they should), she has a great relationship with her mum, Bev. She's into reading and movies and is smart and a little bit awkward.

The story takes place in Melbourne, the girls are in year eleven and Gem
Feb 27, 2012 rated it liked it
This was sooooo disappointing. I couldn't get into it at all. I wanted it to be a gem but I was so bored reading it.

The only thing that got it three stars was the last 50 or so pages. I admired the writing at a few parts. I loved her relationship with her father and the "you're not special enough for me" part.

Overall, I personally didn't like it that much.
Apr 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
‘Me, Lo and Mira were like the good things that come in threes: wishes, kings, backup singers.’

What an opening. The first line of this book’s blurb was enough to have me flying through the pages at lightning speed. From the outset I was optimistic about Notes from the Teenage Underground. The premise is great, the narrator instantly likeable, and I can never resist a novel that focuses on teenagers who don’t quite fit in with their peers.

I’m pleased to say that the book doesn’t disappoint. The e
Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies)
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
YAY for this book. It was this book, Notes From the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell that first inspired me to begin my Awesome Women series of posts. But I've been so nervous about writing this review that it's taken me months to put into words how much I adored this book.

Our main character is Gem, short for Germaine Greer the feminist writer that Gem's hippy mom named her after. Together with her besties, Mira and Lo, they've formed this circle of non-conformity. And to cement it, they've
Jan 25, 2009 added it
Recommends it for: _see in review_
Recommended to Emily by: Goodreads friends
I think this book had many meanings which i though were brilliant although I don't think they are all obvious meanings I think it has different meanings for all. I loved this book and i don't really know why so I am having trouble writing this Review and giving it a rating to be completly honest.

But I do believe most people will like it especially if you fit into one of the following catergories:
-You like to be different and stand out.
-You don't care what people think or try not not to care what
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
This has lots of overlaps with Beige, both have no show, former drug addicted fathers. But Gem is totally different from Beige. Her two best friends and her have paired up against the "barcodes," but Lo and Mira seem to be leaving her out. Gem comes up with the idea to make an Andy Warholish film over the summer, but Lo starts exercizing weird control over it and Mira takes her boyfriend. Gem is left coming to terms with the end of their friendship, making the film she wants to make and getting ...more
Elissa Hoole
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read Howell's second book first, but this was still a great follow-up! An original story, awesome pop culture references from art and film and feminism--exactly the type of book I would have loved as a teen! On top of that, the dialogue is interesting, the characters quirky and yet layered, and the themes in the book are carefully and thoughtfully drawn. I especially like the exploration of the "three girl movie" structure, and Gem's reflections on the power struggles found in a triangle. I ca ...more
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Simone writes for the clever and savvy young adult, a refreshing alternative to pumped out bubble fiction.
The characters each have a unique wit which enables the author to reference some cool and edgy litterary and film classics. Rich and colorful and sometimes shady, like delicously aromatic plum pudding made by grandma.
Cath Crowley
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
very, very, very, very good.
Gem Gordon is 17. She and her best friends, Lo & Mira, aren't the popular girls at school. They're not the nerdy ones either. What they are is dare-to-be-different. Each year, they have a theme they'd stick to and they'd dressed up to the nines and acted it all out. Last year was all Wicca and this year, it's going to be 'Underground'.

As Gem loves films, she wants to make Underground film ("the opposite of Hollywood") and as she explores all kinds of films and inspirational women, she also begi
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it
This book hasn't aged particularly well!- lots of ableism, fatphobia, slut-shaming and transphobia. So proceed with caution if necessary! However, as a product of it's time, it's a really good read. Gem is a wonderful narrator, and it really captures growing up as a teen girl, the difficulties of friendships and relationships in the modern world. I particularly liked that it was quite meta at times, a novel within the three girls genre that examined the three girls genre as a whole. Ultimately f ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Simmone Howell is SO underrated. Whenever I read one of her books, it feels like finding $20 in my pocket, unexpected and wonderful.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
you inspired me to write again and I’m thankful.
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
In the end this was just boring teenage crap with a couple of art references... disappointing.
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Jocelyn Pearce for

NOTES FROM THE TEENAGE UNDERGROUND is a fantastic debut novel! It starts out with three best friends, Gem, Lo, and Mira, trying to come up with ideas for their summer project. The summer before was their Satan Summer; they dabbled in all things occult. The summer project has a theme, goals, and guides. This year, they want to do something spectacular; it could be their last summer project--who knows what the future will bring?

Lo is usually the one
Cara Marie
I might've liked this one better if it wasn't just the main character, Gem, who was the likable one in the three-way friendship. Lo was too being different for the sake of being different, the most subversive, but not for any real reason. Mira was kind of a ditz. It was hard to tell what Gem really had in common with either of them, which I suppose is half the point. If M or F? focused on the strength of a friendship, Notes from the Teenage Underground showed the breakdown. Gem's strongest rel ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fast-paced story set to the backdrop of hippy-feminist mothers, disturbed girlfriends, Andy Warhol, and a whole lot of teenage angst. When we first meet Germaine (Gem) Gordon she laments her fears that she will never live up to her namesake, the mighty Greer, and that she will be forever overshadowed by her two best girlfriends Lo and Mira. The tumultuous triumvirate of girls take great pride in the outsider status that they have cultivated for themselves, relishing every cry of ‘freak’ that c ...more
Meg Dunley

I enjoyed this novel of Simone Howell’s. It is the classic struggle of a teenage girl who is in a friendship group of three struggling to find her own sense of identity. Seventeen year old girl, Germaine (Gem or Gem-Gem as she is known by her friends) Gordon struggles to find people who like her and relate to her. She loves movies, her hippy-feminist mother, her friends, Lo and Mira, and her co-worker, Dodgy, (at least she thinks she does) from the video store. The main character Gem is tight wi
Dec 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novelist-reviews
Set in Melbourne, Australia, this new novels spins on the axis of an oft-told story about a friendship between a small group of girls falling apart. But the edges — and edginess — of the story kick back any cliché. Gem, Mira, and Lo set themselves apart from others by their dress, their interests, but mostly their commitment to the Ug project. Ug is short for underground, and their holiday project is to create an underground film, similar to Warhol's sixties cinema experiments. While hipsters in ...more
Apr 14, 2012 rated it liked it
This book, after awhile, felt kind of personal- so much so, that when I advised my friend to read she turned it down after the first couple of pages- which left a slight sting.
I don't know what spurred me on in reading this book, possibly sheer perseverance in putting up with the miss matched chapters and the unusual mentality of the teenage mind.
For me, this book did it and didn't do it (hence the three stars) I very much sat on the fence with this one, some aspects were easy to relate to and
Carolyn Gilpin
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Amazing depiction of toxic friendships here - I really felt for Gem, dealing with two friends she's known forever, but who also make her nervous and she can feel herself slipping out of the triangle. I found the pop-art culture references interesting - I recall a writing teacher telling me years ago that today's teens wouldn't know who Marilyn Monroe is or know her movies, but here's a YA book full of Andy Warhol references! I guess it doesn't matter what subject you use (within reason!) - if yo ...more
Mar 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book...I thought the characters developed well and I empathised with Gem from the start...teenage agnst who can forget it! I also liked the fact that the boy she fancys, Roger/Dodgy, is not the stud muffin of the school but someone she has something in common with...very refreshing and realistic.

One last point was the fact that although it was clearly set in Oz the author hasn't made a big point of highlighting the cultural differences rather I feel the book works to emphas
Denika Ottley
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book didn't really pull my interest, the beginning was dragged on and had a lot of explaining, so I'm guessing this book is more on the descriptive side. The book wasn't horrible, because the drama in the middle was really interesting and kept me wanting to know what will happen between Gem and Roger (Dodgy), but at the same time, it wasn't really my taste in topic and because of that I found myself skimming through the chapters for the interesting parts or the dialog. I happened to have fi ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Seventeen-year-old Gem loves movies, her feminist mom, and Dodgy, her coworker in a video store (at least she thinks she loves Dodgy). When a school trip inspires Gem to make an underground film, her best friends Lo and Mira are quick to join the project, taking on the roles of producer and star. The film is intended to cement the girls 19 friendship as well as their superiority over their sucker high school peers. But when the fragile balance of their friendship begins to falter, and intentions ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Notes from the Teenage Underground centres on seventeen-year-old Gem's attempts to deal with difficult friendships at her school, while also coming to terms with her own quirky style. Peppered with references to movies, books and art, the story is both funny and clever, as well as honest in its depiction of toxic friendship cliques. It captures well the changing and evolving relationships of teens with their own peers, as well as with family. For me, the antics of the adult figures as they try t ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first read this when I was 15, had no idea who I was and definitely didn’t fit in. I just thought this book was SO cool. I love the references to movies, books, art and pop culture. I related (and still do) to Gem’s struggle when it comes to what she wants to do with her life. This book made me want to read more, watch more movies, go out and explore more, create more, meet more people, and live the life I want. I’ve always been drawn in by the whole “underground” culture and I’ve always been ...more

INTRO ;; Notes from the Teenage Underground is a wonderfully unique Aussie YA novel that I struggled to connect with at first but eventually found myself flying through to the end.

SUMMARY ;; Gem Gordon wants to make an impact in her final years of high school and with her two best friends - Lo and Mira, she decides to put together an underground film over the holidays.

CLOSER ;; I loved how much this reminded me of the crazy antics from my film-making days. I would love to see many o
CC the Great is Not Okay
It read more like a middle grade book but I liked it. It reminded me of when I was in sixth grade and had an actual group of friends. Not that we smoked or did crazy shit or made out with boys.

If you liked this book you might also like:

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
Robyn Drummond
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Amazing. And Gem is someone I can really relate to. Being the girl on the outer edge of the triangle is never fun and can be soul destroying. But after everything, she found herself and didn't need their support. I was just hoping for her to find her romantic partner because lets face it. Dodger? Did not deserve her. But alas. This is not a love story, it is a coming of age and finding yourself story. Which is awesome.
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writer of YA novels Notes from the Teenage Underground, Everything Beautiful, Girl Defective and Take Three Girls (w/Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood). Currently living by the sea, taking long walks, and writing book five.

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