The Teenage Textbook & The Teenage Workbook by Adrian Tan

The Teenage Textbook and its follow up, The Teenage Workbook has been around for years. The Teenage Textbook was first published in 1988 which means its been in print for 30 whole years. It’s one of the most iconic piece of Singaporean literature that I know of and it wasn’t until the recent BuySingLit campaign that discovered this.

The Teenage Textbook was such a gem. The whole book was funny, engaging and extremely relatable. It was typically Singaporean and I could easily imagine myself being in the same school and proximity of the main characters of the book. The summary doesn’t tell you much, so essentially, I went into this pretty blind and I was pleasantly surprised at how fast paced and easy it is to read.

While reading this, I thought about my own teenage hood and how my life as a Singaporean teenage was like and I saw myself in Mui Ee. It hit home, the story of first loves, the idea of love and finding love. For Teenage Textbook, I feel that the reliability is what keeps this a fan favourite for years and its what won my heart in the first place.

Now, the teenage textbook itself is embedded into the story. Characters from the book refer to this textbook for guidance on how to deal with certain matters and it shows us excerpts of the textbook. And this is where it goes downhill: I don’t particularly enjoy the “textbook” content at all. Its a hit or miss; I don’t find it particularly funny or good but perhaps that was the point of it. The author seems to acknowledge the fact that the textbook is somewhat useful, by acknowledging that the textbook has only sold very little quantities and that the cover of it was not engaging, but rather frightfully plain. So perhaps that was the point? Don’t quote me on that.


The Teenage Workbook is the sequel to The Teenage Textbook, except now instead of just a textbook, the workbook comes free with the textbook for the characters to fill up the details and assess their situation based on their answer.

I don’t think TTW was necessary. I truly believe that TTT was good enough as a standalone. TTW does touch more on Sissy’s character but the new characters that was introduced like Nikki and the three guys who are interested in Sissy are not prominently featured in the book and neither are they very interesting at all. They don’t contribute to the main story arcs or Sissy’s character arc either. I don’t see the point. Worst was Nikki’s character who only showed up one or twice, before being completely forgotten about until the wee back pages of the book.

So is the addition of these new characters necessary? No. Is the sequel necessary? No. When we last met the heroes of TT, everyone had a positive ending or assumed to have had a positive ending. Another story told a couple of weeks after the happenings in TTT was just pointless. Nothing much changed — and again, this could have been the point? To subtly show how time could go by and nothing could still happen to a person. Nothing interesting.

But I don’t know. Don’t quote me.

TTT is a solid book that can be easily digested, even if you’re not Singaporean. TTW? Well, it’s not a must have for me, but it would be a nice addition to the shelves if you enjoyed TTT.


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