mustard sandwich and brown lipstick

I find it amusing that there are small details about books that stick with me. Especially with this one. I hadn’t thought about this book in a while but as soon as I started reading it all started coming back to me.

This book bothered me when I read it back in the day, but I really had no idea why. It has the requisite amount of boys and kissing, but it never left me feeling right. Rereading it, I can figure out why: Laurie, the main character, is really troubled. And it’s subtle. She has no identity of her own, and always acts just like other people want her to. And I don’t think she even did is consciously. It’s the influence of her best friend Soap, who has problems of her own.

Soap constantly gets in trouble at school, and does it to get attention from her parents, which is my Freaudian interpretation. Also, she feels like an outcast, she kind of outcasts herself. laurie, her friend since childhood always goes along with it. Laurie has no other friends than Soap, because Soap tends to isolate the two of them from everyone else. Finally, Soap gets expelled and has to enroll in Miss Pringle’s school for girls, and convinces Laurie to convince her parents to enroll her there too, which she DOES! Talk about a pushover.

Laurie meets Hilary, who is super rich and sophisticated, and takes an interest in Laurie although Laurie is not so sure she likes Hilary, but is desperate to have friends other than sope. MEMORIABLE TIDBIT #1: She is at a sleepover at Hilary’s, and Hilary thinks her pajamas are babyish, so she makes her wear one of her sexy nightgowns. The fuck? Also, she suggests she let Laurie cut her hair, which Laurie of course goes along with.

Laurie hangs out with Hilary, her boyfriend Boots, and his various douchey friends. Hilary has a makeup party at her house. MEMORABLE TIDBIT #2: She puts makeup on Laurie, which includes borwn lipstick. Laurie also puts some on her cheeks (?) borrows one of Hilary’s bras and stuffs it with tissues. When some guy sticks his tongue down her throat, she goes upstairs to the bathroom and vomits. Which is, sadly, my reaction to courtship rituals.

MEMORABLE TIDBIT #3: Laurie goes on a double date to the movies with Hilary and the douchebags, and the guy stick his tongue in Laurie’s ear. That totally freaked me out when I first read this.

Meanwhile, Soap’s father is having an affair with one of their teachers, and they cut school to spy on them. They spy on them in the park. MEMORABLE TIDBIT #4: Soap’s father brings his mistress lunch, but it’s a mustard sandwich because he didn’t have anything else to bring.

Meanwhile Laurie’s new friends are mad that she is hanging out with Soap, but Laurie ends up choosing to hang out with Soap in the end, realizing Soap is her only true friend. Is that really a happy ending? Soap still has her troubles and once again she and Laurie are social outcasts. However, Soap does recognize that her parents’ marriage trouble was affecting her, and laurie does realize that Hilary wasn’t as good a friend as she thought she was. I don’t even think Laurie has grown much. Just go with me on this, but it reminds me of  Superbad, where the impressionable Evan is codependent on Seth and feels like he missed out on other friendships because of Seth. Yes, I do believe that Superbad was, in parts, actually endearing. And pretty fucking funny.

I wish there was some sort of sequel, so I could know if Laurie was able to grow some ovaries.

I just….no.

Seriously, I don’t even want to give this garbage the dignity of a full post. Janet Quin-Harkin, shame on you. Are you even a real person? Ugh. Okay. A boy-crazy personality-less girl makes a bet with her best friend that they have to date at least ten boys during the summer. Then they get into a fight about something I don’t care to remember. The main character continues on her dating spree but finds love with some guy that stalks her, and of course he’s a model. Friend gets madder that she didn’t complete the bet. Friends make up. Oh, and there’s a series of wacky scenes where spoiled, boring main chracter tries to find a summer job but messes them up and gets fired. Finally, hundreds of MFA grads slit their wrists because this crap gets published and their stuff did’t.

If this were behind my attic wall, I’d run away from the house. Screaming.

Are you kidding me with this? There’s scary and creepy, and then there’s this, which gave me nightmares. I don’t do well with talking dolls. I purposely never watched the Chucky movies, I avoided Teddy Ruxpin as a child, and the “Talking Tina” episode of the Twilight Zone is one of the scariest. Maggie is a sickly orphan and sent to live with unknown relatives. Very Secret Garden, right? She’s sent to live at a boarding school owned by two sisters, except no one is at the school anymore. So creepy red flag number one.

Maggie starts hearing voices that no one else can hear, and she and everyone else thinks she is crazy. As Hermione Granger would say, “Hearing voices is never a good sign.” Til one day she finds a hidden attic where there are dolls that are walking and talking. Instead of running away, arms flailing, she starts to hang out with the dolls, who are an older couple with a dog. See cover. They have fun time adventures, which include a picnic with wood pieces serving as bread and butter. Through the love of the dolls, she learns to love and opens up to others more.Turns out the dolls are haunted and animated by the ghosts of a dead couple that used to live in the house. Or something.

Then one day her aunts find the room and as soon as they are seen, the dolls fall down dead and don’t move. For days. So not only do you have walking and talking dolls, but now you have dead corpse dolls. Eventually the dolls come back to life and all is well and everyone lives happily ever after. Yikes.

There are only a few things that really scared me as a child. They were:

  • this book
  • Large Marge showing Pee Wee what the people who fell off the top of the Empire State building in a truck looked like as they were pulled out of the wreckage
  • the corpse of the dead kid in Stand By Me
  • Genesis’ “Land of Confusion” video
  • Talking Heads “Blind” video )you can’t find it online- thank god

Epic Win: Mary Downing Hahn

It’s hard for me not to bring the snark but can we have a moment for the fantastic Mary Downing Hahn? A lady so great she needs three names. Thanks to Pamela who gave me this book to read. Mar really knows how to write about children’s angst without just making it about boys and makeup. Jessica meets Daphne, who is the class weirdo but doesn’t seem to care. When working on a book project together, Jessica learns that Daphne lives out on an old farm with her senile Grandmother who barely feeds them and Daphne is basically taking care of her grandmother and her little sister, and almost starving to death. She doesn’t want anyone to know because they may take them away. Jessica struggles with not telling anyone, and also struggles with associating with Daphne who the kids at school make fun of. In the end Jessica tells her mother and the girls are put in an orphanage but then are finally adopted by a distant cousin. Daphne forgives Jessica but has to move away to an orphanage (are they even called that anymore?). Daphne is mad at first that Jessica told, but finally forgives her in the end, and distant relatives adopt them.

And seriously? I read this one night and bawled my eyes out.

MDH, as I like to call her, also wrote the Jellyfish Season, which I adored. it seems that she writes about girls who feel awkward, and not just in a I’m-going-through-puberty way, but girls who really can’t relate and try to reach out to their families and maybe don’t always succeed. Jessica is feeling especially crappy at school because her childhood best friend has suddenly become popular so Jessica tags along with the popular kids and although they are not very welcoming to her but she sticks it out anyway to be with her friend. Jessica, Jessica, I’ve been there. And in my early twenties, not just as a kid.

In my internet searches, I came to the realization that MDH also penned the horror classic.  Wait Till Helen Comes (not to be confused with the porno of the same title. I KILL myself.). and OH MY GOD I read the shit out of this one.

Some things I remember so vividly. The main character has parent that just remarried and they move into what used to be an old church. There was even a floorplan of the church included. My real estate fetish was in affect even back then, so I was into it. She also had a bratty stepsister who she hated but was super favored by the parents. The bratty stepsister became friends with Helen, the ghost of a little girl who drowned in the lake. Helen wanted brat girl to drown herself, Jenny Wilder style, in the lake so she’s have another ghost friend to play with. Main character saves her and all is well. And man, this shit was scary. And not in a Dawn’s secret passage scary, but pretty creepy.

However, I am not sure what is scarier, the ghost or the little girl’s mullet.

Mary Downing Hahn, I salute you.

I wish I knew you. We’d meet at a local coffee shop and you’d show up in your cozy cardigan, and we’d write short stories and share them with each other. And then I’d tell you about my struggling relationship with my mother and you’d say “there, there dear” and give me some tea.

Oh the shame…

I seemed to have pushed this from my realm of consciousness until the other day when I was organizing my books and deciding which ones to sell. I saw this and had to post it here, because it is my secret shame that I not only read it, but own all three in the trilogy! I read this as a teen, as in my late teens, but my god, what the fuck. I mean, I am all up for a good erotic novel, but this one made me want to run screaming to a convent. I thought maybe it was because I wasn’t sexually mature enough to understand. I did reread it in college and yup, still didn’t do it for me. Even summarizing it may be NSFW, so I’ll put it under a cut.

Read More

Ooooohhhhhhhhhh! [warm squishies]

All this talk about dance books on the Center Stage post made me think of the Jill Krementz books for children, ” A Very Young [fill in the blank] “. My favorite hands down was a Very Young Dancer.

This was a photographic journey of a girl who took classes at the School of American Ballet and got the lead in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Either it was fixed, or it was awful lucky that she got the part because it started before the auditions. Secondly, it was created in the seventies so yea, awesome. I read the shit out this one and a few years back snuck into the children’s section of my library and hid in the stacks and read it again. I loved looking at the pictures of all the costumes and performances and jealous of the attention Stephanie got and the fact she lived in New York City. Also, I was irked by her Frankenstein forehead.

My second favorite was A Very Young Skater, starring a girl with a distracting overbite.

She got to wear pretty skate costumes and competed in competitions. This one talked a lot about the technical details of skating, which I remember loving.

There was also A Very Young Rider, which I avoided because of my intense phobia of horses, and A Very Young Circus Flyer, which I avoided because it was about a boy and therefore lacking any pretty costumes, and I recently discovered that there was also A Very Young Actress, which was about a girl who got to play Annie in Annie II in Connecticut regional theater. I am pretty sure I probably read A Very Young Gymnast, but can’t remember the details. Anyone?

Veronica: misunderstood?

Veronica is a show-off because she’s obviously insecure and she thinks that showing off will win her friends. I kind of feel bad for her because she’s clearly a smart, creative kid. She constantly tries to befriend the popular girl, the bitching blond laughing at her. The weird girl in school, Hilary, tries to befriend Veronica but Veronica’s not having that because Hilary is small, wears her hair in a bun, wears lacy ankle socks, and carries a floral shopping back as a book bag. Oh, the horror! She realizes that Hilary reads the same books as she does, and she has a pretty cool family, so she gives in and is friends with her.

She hangs out at the library a lot (see? she is awesome!) and a book she wants has been out for a while, so she tracks down who has it and sends her hate mail. So, Veronica’s a little quirky, she doesn’t know correct social skills. However, the girl finds her and they end up being friends too. The moral? Just be yourself! Awwwwww.

I remember more in the series, where Veronica removes the side of her apartment to put in a baby grand piano. And the another one where she goes to California to visit her father and new stepmother. I’m off to track them down…

The Worst YA Boyfriends, Pt. 2

Check out Part 1. I feel that these top five are pretty obvious.

5.Kurt from Sunset Island. Waaaahhhhhh, he’s working class, it’s sooo haaard being on this Island with all these rich tourists,when I had to work for a living, waaaaahhh, they don’t appreciate it, so I’m going to date one of the richest on the island and then throw it in her face all the time. And pressure her to get married. And seriously? The fights with Emma rival the Liz/Todd fights. Who would play him? Jason Priestly and his denim shirts:

4. Bruce Patman, Sweet Valley High. Well, his yuppy Republican charm sometimes gets through to me, but there’s no way we can forgive him for trying to take advantage of Liz while she was in her coma-induced slut phase. That, and the way he wears sweaters tied around his shoulders. Who would play him?


A young John Barrowman.

3.Mars from Pen Pals. Shanon’s pen pal was the goofy one. Firstly, he called himself mars, so there’s that, and he just tried way to hard to be goofy. He invented a pen holder, which was a handle to attach to a pen. I hate him. Who would play him?

Dustin Diamond.

2. Jed from the Caitlin series. Well, attempted sexual assualt is kind of an automatic guarantee to get on this list. But okay, we get it. You’re from Montana, You’re rugged and likem ranching. And you never really have anything interesting to say. Who would play him?

Anotnia Sabato, Jr. in underwear.

1. Todd “Wizzer” Wilkins from Sweet Valley High. Do I even have to justify it? The salty sweet kisses, the bad lovey dovey talk, the fighting, the cheating, the punching. And the fact he dates Liz. Who would play him?

C.Thomas Howell!

Alternative option: a giant douche.

Open -ended survey: Who did I miss on this list?

Worst YA Boys, Pt. 1

To refresh your memory, the “best” YA boy toys are here and here. But of course, doing the worst ones are way more fun.

10. John Pfeiffer, Sweet Valley High: He went from being your friendly Oracle news reporter to a mad rapist. All because he was scorned by his ex-girlfriend. And we all know you don’t fuck with Lila Fowler. Who would play him?

Zabka, obviously.

9. Lenny from the Linda books, as in, My Heart Belongs to That Boy. Break up and made-up almost as much as Liz and Todd, However, his bad boy image didn’t make up for all his whining and neediness. Who would play him?

Jared Leto, the Jordan Catalano years.

8. Chad from Fall Into Darkness. Yea, so he kind of likes to murder girls that scorn him. Which, is like a lot of Christopher Pike male characters, but he was the one that was mostly all evil. Whop would play him?

Jonathan Brandis, duh.

7. Presley Travis from Sunset Island. We get, you’re Southern. And flirty. And named after Elvis, because you were born to rock. Also, he feeds Sam’s ego, which is annoying. And then he cheats on her with Emma. And he’s no Billy Sampson. I also will never forgive him for wearing bike shorts and a neon green tank top. Who would play him?

The Nelson twins would share the roll.*

6. Logan Bruno, The Baby-sitters Club. More Southern annoyingness! Maybe it’s how is accent is spelled phonetically, not that he is actually Southern. I could never really understand out what the big deal was about him. And then he tried to control Mary Anne’s life. And seriously, would a 13 year old boy really want to belong to a baby-sitting club? Who would play him”

Zefron! Don’t hate!**

Top 5 coming soon…..

*I have to share that in seventh grade I was BEYOND obsessed with the Nelson twins. It was almost clinical. I listened to the After the Rain cassette about a thousand times. I had a huge poster of them that I would stare at before I went to bed. [hides in shame]. Between them and Sebastian Bach and all the other hair metal guys in mnakeup, I was really into men that looked like women. Hmmm. Not sure what that means.

**This also made me think that Troy and Gabriella are kind of like Elizabeth and Todd. She’s the brainy studious one, he’s the tool on the basketball team. Quarrels and misunderstandings are almost central to their relationship. Does that make Sharpay Jessica? If you have no idea who these people are, you’re obviously a mature adult who doesn’t watch made for cable Disney Channel movies.

Massie Block needs an old-fashioned spanking

I tried, y’all.

It was painful. Mostly because I wasn’t sure if Lisi was being satirical or or actually realistic. The clique girls, mainly Massie, were such little witches I wanted to slap them all. And where are the parents and don’t they know that Massie is a little wench? The gals are also wearing Missoni and Jimmy Choo sandals and they don’t even have boobs yet.

Claire is the middle-class girl that is staying in Massie’s guest house and the meaner the girls are to her, the more Claire wanted to be accepted by them. And when I am saying mean, I’m talking pouring food on her and ignoring her when she is in the room mean. Which, is kind of true to life, but Claire totally forsakes her indivudalistic spunky new friend anytime she thinks there is a chance she can gain Massie’s approval. Ugh.

I also feel like we are in a throwback to the 80s with a resurgence of obsession with the rich and consumerism. [We've talked about this before.] I mean, it’s always been there, but I think back to the yuppie period. (For social commentary, read American Psycho).

Good lord, there’s like 10 more books of these. Pass.