“Oh my God,” gushes Maya to her BFF Anna, “seventh grade is going to be so amazing…like, the best year of our lives.” Less than 16 hours later she’s tearfully denouncing her first big middle-school crush as an “aardvark-dick” and adding with an inhuman spite that reduces him, too, to tears: “That’s probably why your dad died.”
So it goes in Pen15, a brutally hilarious chronicle of the triumphs and tragedies of 13-year-old life at the turn of the 21st century: First beer. First kiss. First parentally interrupted session of self-abuse.
That is, nothing you haven’t seen before, with a huge exception: It’s all from a girl’s point of view. Anna and Maya learn to swear, make out, huff computer-cleaning spray and survive (barely) bad haircuts from an ineffably female perspective. There’s simply no male equivalent to spending a Friday night applying industrial-strength eyeshadow, then squealing approval (“So much sluttier!”) at the results. Television critic Glenn Garvin takes a look.