After re-reading (and not liking at all) The Cat Ate my Gym Suit, I was a little nervous to read another Paula Danziger book. But I shouldn’t have been. While it’s not great literature, Remember Me to Harold Square is a perfectly fine book, for a book written for twelve year olds in 1987.
Kendra Kaye lives in New York City with her parents and brother, Oscar (Nicknamed OK.) She’s fifteen years old and is going in to tenth grade. She’s super bummed because all of her friends are going to be out of the city for the whole summer. And she envisions months on end of hanging out with ten year old OK.
But that doesn’t happen. Because her parents have friends who are going to Europe for the whole summer, and they’re leaving their fifteen year old son, Frank, to stay with the Kayes. Frank lives on a cattle farm in Wisconsin, and Kendra is super nervous about having a boy living in her house for the summer.
To keep the kids from getting bored, Kendra’s parents create a NYC-based scavenger hunt for Kendra, Frank, and OK. They have a huge list of things that have to see and do over the summer. That’s what most of the book is, these three kids going from place to place in New York, and Kendra being really grateful her parents chose to raise her there.
And Kendra has a little crush on Frank. But he has a girlfriend back in Wisconsin, Mary Alice. Part way through the summer, Frank gets a break-up letter (pre-cell phone, pre-email days) from Mary Alice and he is super bummed. Kendra decides to hang up her crush and just be a good friend to Frank.
Frank eventually gets over Mary Alice, then at a Mets game he pulls Kendra aside and kisses her. And it’s sweet and those two really dig each other. But the of course he goes back to Wisconsin at the end of the summer.
- Really. Both of Kendra’s parents work and they’re just fine with their fifteen year old daughter spending so much alone time with a sixteen year old boy.
- This scavenger hunt is HUGE. The kids have to do about three things a day every day in the summer. There are museums, neighborhoods, restaurants, churches, and attractions. The parents had a little account for them to use to go to everything.
- It’s clear that Paula Danziger loves New York and wrote the book as a sort of love letter to the city. This book is responsible for eleven year old me dreaming of leaving my small town and living in a city. (It didn’t quite work. I left the small town for a large suburb. But I’m at least a quick subway ride to a city.)
- While I did like this book more than The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, it had the same problem with terrible dialogue. Really stiff and unbelievable. Also, with both of these books, it’s easy to see the upward trajectory of YA lit in the last twenty or thirty years. Because the writing is very juvenile for a twelve-ish year old today. The prose reads very much like things that my eight year old is reading. Any twelve year old who’s already read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games isn’t going to like this.
- Kendra hates how over-protective her mom is. And she says it’s because her mom was raised by parents who survived the Holocaust. Which that may be, but considering there are a lot of overprotective parents out there, I’m not sure about that link.
- I think the real reason Danziger made Kendra’s grandparents survivors though, is that it made for a more emotional visit to the Jewish Museum.
- Kendra loves puns. Which is terrible, but Frank loves it so I guess that means they’re made for each other. Because no one else would put up with that shit.
- So the reason Frank’s parents didn’t take him to Europe: They’d been having marital problems for a few years. Then Frank’s dad got cancer. With the parents busy with his dad’s treatment and running the farm, they had very little time to spend with Frank. So Frank started acting up, doing poorly in school, and dating an older girl (the aforementioned Mary Alice). Things were tense and they decided to let Frank have some time away from them and get to see a new city.
- Still, it’s totally effed up to go to Europe and not take your sixteen year old.
- I had a lot of other thoughts about this book, but I let about a month go by between reading it and actually writing this post.
- Oh, but check out that amazing 80’s-tastic book cover. Kendra’s clothes and her hair. Nice. Also, my husband looked at the cover and saw the rainbow behind Danziger’s name and wanted to know why there was a pride flag on the book.