Unlovable: It’s Hard Growing Up in the 80’s… Especially if You’re Tammy Pierce.

Unlovable Volume 3 by Esther Pearl Watson

Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Description: The third installment of diaries from Tammy Pierce, a girl who in the 80’s abandoned her books in a trash can behind a gas station. What remains; is the hilarious, lovingly rendered musings and desires of a typical whiny teen back then.

Esther Pearl Watson's Unlovable Volume 3

There’s nostalgia, and then there is this. A hilarious-yet-painful account of what it was like growing up in the 80’s. This is the third in a series of books by Esther Pearl Watson, of the adventures of Tammy Pierce — an Anytown, Midland-USA account of being a teen girl — let’s be real here, a loser —  in one of the most questionable decades in history.

Tammy’s musings in this book are confined to one summer during high school. Unfortunately, it does not turn into her summer of love as she wishes earlier on in the book. Tammy has to deal with her insufferably annoying lame-o little brother Willis while also dealing with the trails and tribulations of friendship, budding romance, summer school, music, and a summer job.  Not to fear, though, she has her jam box with her, and she is ready to dance her way through all of the feelings associated with these events.

In true-to-diary style, Watson kept the narrative loose. Either it is  one page to reference an event, a dual-page spread on on the rare occasion, or sometimes the narrative bleeds on for a couple pages. In spite of the loose confines of the format, this still does follow a chronological order from beginning to the end of the summer.

Any avid pop-culture devotee like myself would extremely appreciate ALL of the never-ending pop culture references through out the book.  They aren’t overkill though, they are refreshing and hilarious, but like myself it is through the lens of pop culture that Tammy can understand and digest this thing we call life. Tammy and her brother Willis are the ones that absorb all of pop culture; seen below.

Tammy's Brother Willis.

Tammy’s brother Willis, a dude I probably would have hung out with if I was around.

Much like the time, Esther Pearl Watson’s visual language is extremely hyperbolic.  I’d like to believe character’s are not as gross as they are detailed, but who really knows? The 80’s were (in this writer’s opinion at least) grime masked by glamour. Watson’s style is intentionally off-putting here in some regards, but even in respect to her BFF Kim, who is discussed as hot, she still is a “trashy hot” at best. This is a wonderful way to overcome preconceived notions of beauty, especially during a time in your life where your own personal taste is developing. To reiterate, Esther Pearl Watson does a great job at cementing in the fact that beauty is subjective.

Tammy’s adventures as I previously stated, are normally that of the third wheel to her totally slutty BFF Kim and her boyfriend Erick‘s.  Tammy is not-so-secretly crushing on Erick, and let’s just say mondo drama ensues.  Erick is kinda flirty with her, but he’s super secretive about it.  And OMG! How could I forget about Herb Ukert?! He’s like a laid back, kinda cute guy, but he’s a little weird so Tammy’s unsure of how she feels about him; even though he’s WAAY into her (and she’s completely oblivious).

In addition to the record of her diary, Tammy writes a lot about how she tells her dog, Bummer, every thought she has, and how it’s so lame that he’s not a friend that she can really hang out with. Anyway, this series is a great time capsule with the hilarious awkwardness that you’ll find in seminal National Lampoon’s Vacation. This is obviously an 80’s story, I mean, for god sake the book opens with a splash page of KROKUS! 

Anyway, I’d completely recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of awkward teenagers, the eighties, or pop culture devotees in general.

Jordan Young

Jordan Y. is a beer-drinking, game-playing, fantasy-loving, unabashed nerd, who has his mantra tattooed on his arm in Latin. "Live with Passion." . Using that guiding principal, he has the ambition to do anything and everything. That includes recently proposing to his now fiancee on the Iron Throne. One distant fall ago he started a journey to pair beer with every Zelda dungeon out there. This is documented on drink-to-the-past.tumblr.com

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