Two series to which "Socks Are Not Enough" has been repeatedly compared are "Adrian Mole" and "The Inbetweeners".
Early teenage readers, at whom this book is primarily aimed, should not really be watching "The Inbetweeners", though of course many of them probably have! Their parents need not be worried about them picking up Mark Lowery's debut novel, however, as the tone is far less adult. I was surprised to see the word "gobsh*te" in the uncorrected review copy, but perhaps that will have been edited out of the final text. All other references to dating, infatuation and nudity are kept family-friendly, despite the prominent role played by the protagonist's militantly naturist mum.
In common with the "Adrian Mole" books, "Socks Are Not Enough" takes the form of journal entries by a schoolboy, 14-year-old Michael Swarbrick. These are interspersed with transcripts of his sessions with an eccentric psychologist called Chas.
The character of Michael ticks several boxes in terms of reader identification. He describes himself as having skinny arms, which gets the skinny kids' sympathy. He has a pot belly, which gets the big-boned onboard. He uses an inhaler. He doesn't wear glasses, but I suppose that might have come across as clichéd and too much like Adrian Mole. Michael demonstrates obsessive-compulsive characteristics, including the endearing habit of arranging his text into numbered lists and peppering the narrative with footnotes. He fancies - sorry, *admires* - Lucy King, star athlete of the local swimming club.
As with "The Inbetweeners" and earlier comedies about teenage relationships such as "Gregory's Girl", the gawky lead character is offset by a cast of even sadder, pervier friends and family, such as his best and only mate Paul, who likes to spy on girls in changing rooms, and Michael's older brother Ste, an underhanded womaniser.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the practice of social nudity, so at first readers may feel that Michael is over-reacting to the discovery of his parents' - well, his mother's really, his dad doesn't get much say in the matter - lifestyle choice and ought to just lighten up. However, the fact that his mother doesn't even listen to her son's objections, seem to understand him or even want to understand him wins you over to his side. Initially the school nurse, Miss O'Malley, appears not to understand him either, while Chas seems more interested in perpetuating his own image as a "cool dude". However, dramatic blurted revelations from Miss O'Malley to Michael and from Michael to Chas, as well as the unfolding catalogue of disaster that is Michael's journal make for page-turning reading.
References to Chas being like a 1980s throwback seem odd coming from a boy who was supposedly born during the late '90s, and are perhaps more indicative of the age of the author than his creation. That, though, is my only real criticism of this entertaining book.
As an adult reader, it both amused me and revived in me a teenage sense of "it's so unfair!" I'm sure teen readers will love it too.