Now I remember why I was constantly reading this book as a kid. I think it might be Judy Blume’s best. I’m not sure I can really explain why, but it might have something to do with how relatable Stephanie Hirsch is. Her complete ordinariness is soooo refreshing.
But let’s begin with this crazy cover art! What the hell is going on with Steph’s and Rachel’s hair? They both have CRAZY high-on-the-head ponytails, but Rachel’s hair is seriously curly. And Steph looks like she has really fine hair….like when you see a little 2 year old girl with wispy hair pulled back in to a pony tail. And Alison’s shirt that says friends (this is an actual scene from the book) is one that they all have….courtesy of Rachel. Even when I was 13 in 1990, I thought that was lame. And this was in the day of necklaces that said Be Fri and St Ends…..
Stephanie Hirsch is 13 years old and lives in Palfrey’s Pond, CT. She is getting ready to start 7th grade, her first year in Junior High. Her BFF is Rachel Robinson, who is a genius/perfectionist while Stephanie is an ordinary girl. The day before school, Steph meets Alison, a new resident of Palfrey’s Pond. Alison is teeny tiny so Steph is surprised to learn that she is also going in to 7th grade. Steph befriends Alison, who tells Steph that her dog can talk. Steph tells that to Rachel, who thinks Steph is just gullible. The three girls become friends pretty fast.
There is a guy (9th grader) who rides their bus named Jeremy. He’s HAWT, and the girls name him Jeremy Dragon , because of a chartreuse dragon jacket he wears.
Guess what? Alison’s mom is a famous TV star. She is shooting a new TV series in NY and that’s why Alison moved from California. Steph is all ga-ga over this fact at first, but eventually gets used to Alison’s mom.
Rachel is a little bit of a bitch in this book. She puts down Steph and Alison quite a lot. She calls them babyish. Steph learns that Rachel was moved to the ninth grade accelerated class, but waited until late in the school year to tell her. That upsets Steph, who feels like Rachel is keeping secrets (though it’s obvious to us readers that Rachel is uncomfortable with her giftedness.) Yeah, i used the word giftedness. I have no idea if it’s truly a word.
Steph’s dad has been in California for a few months on business. She really misses him, but gets to talk to him frequently. She has a brother who she is pretty close to, Bruce. At Thanksgiving, their dad comes home and it’s the first time Steph and her brother have seen him since early August. Thanksgiving is boring. But….she is talking to her dad who says “I’ve know you’ve guessed by now…” and Steph is all “Guessed what?” Dad answers, “About mom and me, our separation.” WHAT THE FUCK??? Seriously, her parents decided to get separated months ago, her dad moves to the entire other side of the country, they tell their kids the dad is only going for a few months for business, then are fucking surprised that their kids didn’t guess they were really getting separated. Talk about forcing your kids to lose their trust in you! What were they thinking???? Steph is, naturally, heartbroken. She refuses to go into the city for the weekend with her dad, although Bruce does go. Her mom says that it was mutual, but does say that their dad was “bored with his life.” It just keeps getting worse. Doesn’t the mom know that a 13 year old will hear “bored with his life,” as “doesn’t like his kids”?
Anyway….Steph seriously does not handle this separation well at all. She doesn’t tell Alison or Rachel and continues with the lie of her dad being on business. But the main thing is that she starts to eat. A lot. All the time. She gains enough weight in one month that when she and Bruce visit her dad in Cali over Christmas, her dad comments on it. (Another notch in the shitty parenting category by the way….telling a 13 year old girl that she’s getting fat.) Then her dad introduces Steph and Bruce to his “friend” Iris. The Iris continues to stay with them all day every day, leaving Steph and Bruce no alone time with their dad. And there is yet another notch in the shitty parenting category…..). Steph does lay in to Iris one day, and instead of taking that as a big fucking hint, her dad gets mad that Steph wasn’t more respectful to his friend. Guh.
Back at home, things aren’t much better. Steph continues to eat herself nuts. Rachel seems to be drifting further from Steph and Alison. Steph is constantly worried about whether her mom is going to have a fling. But there is a school dance to look forward to! It’s a groundhog day dance. Because….you know….schools generally do a big Groundhog Day celebration.
There’s a new kid in class, Max Wilson, who Rachel is very interested in. Alison likes Eric Macaulay (The Class Asshole) and Steph kind of likes a boy named Peter Klaff. (Class Asshole Story time: On Max’s first day of class, they have a substitute in homeroom. So Max introduces himself, then Eric Macaulay introduces all of the other kids to Max, giving them little nicknames. Steph’s nickname is El Chunko. Upon hearing this, Steph says about Eric, “And this, in case you’re wondering, in the Class Asshole!”) Go Steph! But upon hearing that story, Steph’s mom does put her on a diet. Way to stick up for your kid there.
The three girls go shopping for the groundhog day dance. They get in to a big fight. They meet up with Amber Ackbourne while shopping, who mentions wanted to impress Max Wilson at the dance. Steph tells Amber that Rachel likes Max and that infuriates Rachel. She gets super-angry with Steph, and Steph doesn’t really understand what she’s done wrong. The Rachel lets her know that she knows Steph has been keeping her parent’s separation a secret, and why was Steph annoyed about Rachel not telling them about being in accelerated math earlier that year? Steph accuses Rachel of being too much of a perfectionist. Alison starts to cry and Rachel lays in on her AND Steph for being so babyish. Steph and Alison go one way and Rachel goes another.
Dance time comes. Steph and Alison still aren’t talking to Rachel. Rachel does dance with Max. Steph spends time with Peter Klaff, who gives her her first kiss. Alison gets kissed by Eric Macaulay. Steph also got her first period at the dance. So…yay.
Spring time comes, and Steph and Alison still aren’t talking to Rachel. Alison comes running over with the news that her mom is pregnant. She wants to run away. It’s a big deal becaues Alison is adopted, and is afraid her parents will love their new “real” baby more than they love her. Her parents come take her home, I guess reassuring her that they love her. Steph’s dad calls and tells her that he is moving back east, but not in to their house. He’ll probably live in the city. He and Iris broke up. Steph passes Rachel walking home one day and they talk and sort of make up.
- Stephanie and her brother visit her dad for Christmas, but at one point in the book she mentions having a passover seder. So shouldn’t she have been visiting her dad over Hannukah? Maybe they are super-duper reform?
- Both Steph and Rachel call Alison Chinese when she is really Vietnamese. That is one of my major pet peeves…people thinking that any Asian person is Chinese. But, I’m kind of guilty of it too. I live in a neighborhood that is largely Korean, so most Asians I meet I just assume are Korean. We got new neighbors last year and I assumed they were Korean. Then the wife brought me food last year for the Chinese New Year, and I stupidly was like “Oh…your Chinese!.” Duh. Their last names are Wang and Ma…so I would have known if I had been introduced earlier. (Happy Chinese New Year by the way! Hopefully my neighbors will be over with more food!)
- I feel like Judy Blume makes the parents in her books deeply flawed. Not so bad that they are abusive…but just very very flawed parents. In this book you’ve got her parents lying about their separation. Deenie’s mom pushes Deenie in to modeling. Davey’s mom (Tiger Eyes) has a breakdown and then starts dating less than six months after her husband get’s killed. Margaret’s parents don’t respect her trying to find religion. Well, I guess Katherine’s parents from Forever….were pretty good.
- So here are the girls outfits for the dance. We got pretty BSC-like clothing descriptions here! Rachel: White jeans and a white pleated top shaped like a lampshade (very Stacey-like). Steph: dark green shirt and skirt made of sweatshirt material. The skirt swirled around and the shirt had a lacey collar. There were little animals printed up and down the sleves (very Mary Anne-ish!). Alison: a gauzy shirt and skirt combo….not much to go on there…it could be either Claudia-ish, Dawn-ish or another MaryAnne-ish one.
- I like blogging, I just managed to not see any of the second half of the Ravens/Steelers game.
- Next up will be the companion to this book: Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson.