Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313
Sue Townsend's The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, is a work of classic children's fiction written in diary format. Its narrator and protagonist is a teenage boy, Adrian Mole, who is living in England in the early 1980s.
The book is a comedic coming-of-age story, in a way, but it lacks any kind of direct narrative, being instead a series of episodes in Adrian's life narrated by Adrian himself through his own eyes. Various political events are half-described in the background of the story—for example, when the United Kingdom declares war on the Falkland Islands, Adrian narrates how his father leaps out of bed in horror at the news, only to realize that the islands are not off the coast of Scotland, at which point he goes back to bed. Adrian also observes the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana with some interest, expressing a hope that Charles will not—as his own father did—leave the price tag on the bottoms of his shoes. The child of Labor voters, Adrian is also a critic of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, often repeating his parents' criticisms of her.
Of course, because Adrian is a thirteen-year-old boy, there are things more important to him than politics. Chief among these is his crush on, and then relationship with, his classmate Pandora and his desire to become a published author. The book also tracks Adrian's observations of his parents' troubled marriage and his fear that it will head toward divorce.
At the end of the story, Adrian has grown up a little: he has experienced first love, and rejection; he has measured the growth of his genitals against a ruler from his stationery kit and judged himself against other boys. Ultimately, however, the end of the story is only the end of one volume of Adrian's diary—Townsend would go on to write several more.