Retro Reads, Young Adult

Retro Reads Thursday: I am 15… I mean, 16 going on 17

A few years ago I was perusing the discount aisles of Barnes & Noble and came across this book called “Better than Beauty.” It was bright blue and had an image of this trendy-chic girl on it. The concept of “Better than Beauty” was basically beauty tips and how to be beautiful… one of those “how to be a lady” books that no one really uses.

Except this girl! (You can’t see it but I’m pointing to myself)

I quickly bought it and hurried home, anxious to see how I could make myself into a better woman only to quickly discover that this book was SERIOUSLY outdated… like outdated for girls of the 70s.

So what does this have to do with today’s Retro Read? One book that I remember reading many, many times was Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary.

I think my mom may have bought this for me and on the cover (I remember this so well) were two teenagers who looked straight out of the 80s. Needless to day, I realized after reading some of the book this story definitely didn’t take place in the 80s. Nope. Took place in the 50s. And for my 90s self reading this book, it clearly was outdated.

But does that mean it wasn’t the best book ever? Nope! Although times change first love does not. This is a classic book of girl meets boy and the awkward, sweet romance that develops.

It’s funny thinking about how simple this book is, how easy all their problems are – not getting asked to the big dance, going on a first date, minor break-ups and getting back together. After all the drama we read about in today’s YA novels it’s a little refreshing to think of how simple love can be, how sweet it is to fall in love for the first time.

Ah, young love!

Jane Purdy meets Stan (gah, can these names BE any more 50s?) while babysitting (he’s delivering horse meat for the family dogs, ugh 50s) and is surprised when he asks her out on a date. What if she says the wrong thing? What if she doesn’t know how to act? If only she were witty and blonde and sophisticated like Marcy Stokes! As their roller coaster relationship develops, Jane worries that Stan doesn’t like her. When he begins to pull away, Jane is worried that it’s over between them. But when it turns out to be just appendicitis and he was embarrassed, Jane finally realizes that he does care about her. And if that isn’t enough to convince her, Stan’s gift of his ID bracelet (ugh, 50s) seals the deal and hooray! They’re going steady.

So yeah… it’s kind of a cheesy sounding book… and I’m sure if I read it now I’d think “WTF is this? Where are dying mothers? How come Jane doesn’t karate chop down Marcy? Why hasn’t the government taken over? When does the zombiepocalypse happen?” Clearly I’ve read too much modern-day YA lit.

As a teen, I really did enjoy this book and read it a lot. There were also pictures, so you’ve gotta love that. And although it was outdated when I read it, I have a feeling that if I ever have a daughter and she loves to read like I do, I will definitely be passing this book along to her. You know, unless the government has taken over and destroyed all books or zombies have attacked the world and we’re too afraid to even leave our houses.


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