Once upon a time, I read a Y.A. book about a girl who falls in love with a boy and it turns out the boy is a ghost. And he has some ridiculous name – I think it was Tuesday. So I picked up this book in the used book store, and was certain that this was that book. Because look at the cover:
Does this not look like a cover of a book about a girl who loves a ghost????
Anyway, it turns out this wasn’t that book. This is a book about a girl who who wears long-crotch, highwater, mom jeans and falls in love with a dude who is very much alive despite looking ghostly on the cover.
This book is by Norma Fox Mazer, who wrote Silver, which is one of my favorite YA books of all time. It is also very reminiscent of Norma Klein in that it’s about older teens falling in love. But the two protagonists of this book lack the precocity of Klein’s protagonists, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Speaking of Norma Klein, this book is dedicated to her!
Nina Bloom is a Sophomore in college. She’s in her first year at a 4-year college after spending her first at Community College. She’s from a tiny town in the adirondacks, and is from a blue-collar working class family, of which she’s the first to attend college. She’s anxious to break out of her mousy shell, and ends up sharing an apartment with Sonia and Lynell, two music students.
But not for long. Because early in the year, Nina meets Mitch while he’s painting a house in her neighborhood. Mitch is from an upper-class academic family, though he dropped out of college to do what he thinks is more ‘real’ work with his hands. They fall quickly in love, and by November Nina has agreed to move in with him.
Because that’s a good decision.
Being with Mitch does pull Nina out of her shell a lot, and by moving in with him, she actually becomes very close friends with her former roommates. Things are great in the beginning, but after a while, they are fighting more and picking at each other over stupid things.
Then it becomes not so stupid anymore when Mitch gets laid off and falls into a funk and turns mean and nasty toward Nina. And Nina, who works as a typist for a professor she has a crush on, never knows what to say to him. One day while working for the professor, he kisses her. Nina doesn’t know what to do.
She also begins to suspect that Mitch and Lynell are sleeping together. She never says anything to him, but she can’t get the thought out of her head. She kind of thinks that maybe she’s projecting her guilt since the hot prof kissed her.
Things come to a head when Nina comes home one day to discover her cat got out of the apartment. Mitch says that Lynell had come over and when he opened the door, the cat got out. The cat had been a point of contention between Nina (who loved the cat) and Mitch, who hated it. They go on a neighborhood search and discover that the poor kitty dead, obviously having been hit by a car.
Nina tries, but she can’t stop blaming Mitch for killing her cat. And she can’t get the thought of Mitch and Lynell being together out of her head. The next day, she goes to work for the hot prof, and sleeps with him.
She’s overcome with guilt about it, and a few days later has an awful horrible confrontation with the professor, who is uber creepy. She tries to make everything happy with Mitch again, acting like nothing ever happened, but it feels false. So she tells him that she slept with the hot prof, and he admitted that he’s been sleeping with Lynell.
They agree, against her better judgment, that it was tit-for-tat, they won’t blame each other and they’ll try to carry on. It doesn’t work out (of course) and after her final exams, Nina breaks up with Mitch. She leaves for home for the summer, never having told her religious parents that she ever even lived with a boyfriend all year long.
- I don’t think I read this back then. I actually wonder what I would have thought about it. I was pretty broken up when Michael & Kathryn didn’t last in Forever…. but as an adult I could see that obviously they should break up. And that sort of obviousness is in this book too. Nina and Mitch had a good ride, but they didn’t really belong together.
- Mitch could be a dick. He was all right at times, especially in the beginning, but he could be a major dick. At the end, right before Nina breaks up with him, he says that he thinks Nina cheating on him was worse then him cheating on Nina because “…a man’s feelings aren’t like a woman’s.”
- This book was published in 1983. I was six in 1983, so maybe things changed. But honestly, when I was in college, it was very rare for boyfriends and girlfriends to live together. I spent plenty of time at my boyfriend’s (now husband) apartment and he at mine in college. But the idea of us actually living together before graduation never crossed our minds. But in this book a lot of students do it.
- Despite being in an eventually-bad relationship and banging a professor, this book does a really good job of presenting Nina as a good character. There is a lot of growth in her. She comes out of her shell, and learns to stand up for herself.
- Reminder: pets are rarely introduced in YA/Juvenile fiction unless they’re going to die. I forgot about that momentarily and allowed myself to be surprised by Emmett the cat’s untimely death.
- There are a few nice sibling scenes. Nina comes from a large family, but has only one sister, Nancy. Nina and Nancy are a year apart in age and are as different as can be. Nancy left high school to work in a local factory, and is currently openly sleeping with four different dudes. As different as they are, they both make attempts to get closer. Nancy is one of the only people Nina feels like she can talk to when things are going way south with Mitch. I actually wish there had been more Nancy in the book.
- There was juuuust a touch of classism in the book. Mitch was romanticizing blue-collar life, but Nina knew better. Her mom worked herself to the bone after her dad had a heart attack and had to stop working when Nina was fourteen. In fact, Nina talks a lot about that year and how afraid she was that her dad would die and how much stress it put on her and the whole family, but Mitch never really seemed to grasp it.
- This drives me crazy. They never actually use the word sex in the book. Sex is always called “making love.” Did anyone, even in 1983, really call it making love? I feel like this is the case even in Norma Klein books.
- So…..can anyone remember a book where a girl fell in love with a ghost named Tuesday?