Synopsis: Stephanie Hirsch’s life is getting a little complicated. Her family moved to a new neighborhood after her dad went to California for business. Luckily, she moved near her BFF, perfectionist Rachel Robinson. She also meets a new friend Alison Monceau, who is charming and has a dog who speaks French. (Steph is a little gullible…) Alison was also adopted by a famous actress. The girls are entering junior high (seventh grade). Rachel’s pretty upset because she’s not in any of Steph’s classes, but for the most part they’re adjusting pretty well.
A lot of the girls’ conversations revolve around one 9th grade hottie, “Jeremy Dragon” (dubbed so because he wears a chartreuse dragon jacket). The girls moon over him, and it turns out Jeremy moved into Stephanie’s old house and he sleeps in her old room. (Yep, girls are swooning now!) They go over to his house on Halloween dressed as the Weird Sisters from Macbeth. It turns out he has a vague idea of who the girls are, and he knows Rachel’s name. A couple days later, Stephanie is sent between math teachers (essentially, to pass a note), and Rachel is in Jeremy Dragon’s math class… 9th grade enriched math class. Rachel didn’t want to make a big deal about the math class switch, which was awkward for her to tell her friends about. Steph makes her promise to be more open with her. (I mean, SHE’S IN THE SAME CLASS WITH THE CUTE BOY WE LIKE! WHY WERE THEY NOT TOLD SUCH A BIG DEAL?!) Sorry. I was flashing back to middle school excitement.
Flash forward to Thanksgiving. Dad comes home from California. He has a talk with Steph which goes, “I know you’ve guessed by now… about Mom and me, being separated.” Um, bombshell! She responds, “Am I supposed to be a mind-reader?” Which, is a good point, you can’t assume something like that, and um, she believed her friend’s dog could speak French. But she does not take the news well, obviously. Steph is an emotional eater, folks, and she gains quite a bit of weight after this news hit. She and her brother Bruce are going to California for Christmas vacation. Dad has his “friend” Iris over, who he’s obviously involved with… no warning for the kids, no heart-to-hearts, etc. The kids, especially Stephanie, don’t take it well.
Stephanie’s in major denial and doesn’t tell Rachel or Alison. While the trio shop for the winter dance, they run into their arch nemesis Amber Ackbourne. Amber’s talking about this kid Max, who Rachel had previously been chatting it up with. Stephanie embarrasses Rachel by informing Amber she has a fat chance of getting with Max since he likes Rachel. Rachel makes them leave the store to avoid confrontation, and at the next store Rachel and Stephanie get into a huge fight. Rachel called Steph out for not being honest with her friends about the separation. They quit speaking for a while. On the bright side, the dance is pretty successful. It’s Stephanie’s birthday, she gets kissed by Peter Klaff, and gets her period. Alison got kissed as well. (Rachel got to dance with Max, but no word on if a kiss was involved.)
Alison’s mom is pregnant, and Alison freaks out about being replaced. The flu is going around, and Alison gets the flu. Stinks for Steph, since now she doesn’t have a friend to sit with on the bus. One day, when Rachel’s the only other one getting off at the neighborhood, Stephanie follows her home and they do this routine where they walk each other home. During their walk, they have a heart-to-heart about what happened. Rachel was worried that Stephanie didn’t want to be best friends anymore now that Alison was in the picture. Stephanie says they’ll always be friends, and they get into semantics about how there can’t be more than one “best friend”, but in the end it works out. They apologize and are friends again.
What can I say about Judy Blume that hasn’t already been said? I think she portrays “young adults” very well.
- As noted in other blogs, Judy Blume has horrible parents in her novels!
Rule one: don’t assume your kid saw a divorce coming. They never do, unless you’re open. Rule two: don’t spring the first bimbo you meet on your kids without their knowledge and expecting them to become buddies. In fact, they will be rude, and it’s not fair to the kid or the new fling. (Honestly, I think I mostly refer to the dad here. The mom should have clued them in, but since dad broke two big rules, he loses in my book.)
- I momentarily forgot: Rule 3, if your kid “inexplicably” gains a ton of weight and she’s over for a visit, going, “Hey there, you gained some weight!” is not a good opener. Also offering for new gal pal to take her to the gym, big no. So, Dad REALLY loses in this book.
- Sorry, another moment I thought was funny on the dad’s part: he’s moving back east, without Iris, and he tells Stephanie not to feel guilty about Iris because the break-up wasn’t Steph’s fault. Hate to break it to ya, daddy-o, but there wouldn’t be any guilt on her part, period. She acted like a typical 13 year old who got shocked by her dad having a fling. If you have flings, don’t involve the kids!
- Most memorable scene: Eric, a kid in Stephanie’s homeroom, introduces everyone in the class to the new kid Max and Eric gives them nicknames. He calls Stephanie “El Chunko” and Stephanie stands up and says, “And this, in case you were wondering, is the Class A$$hole.” You really can’t blame her. The substitute whose supervision this happened under said she’d pretend she didn’t hear that and she better not hear it again. I think that’s fair, or if she did get in trouble, Eric would have been in trouble for provoking her. Just saying.
- Stephanie has a picture of a 17 year old Richard Gere on her ceiling. She calls him Benjamin Moore (she liked the paint brand’s name). I didn’t make the connection that it was Richard Gere until my re-reading; I guess I liked the name Benjamin Moore too. Or, had no clue who Gere was.
- Periods are the biggest deal in Judy Blume world. I think it’s funny in general how girls are in such a hurry to get it, and once they do it’s the bane of their existence. Part of that reason they’re so excited is Ms. Judy Blume. (Not a central theme in this book, but it’s mentioned a few times.)
- Most characters named Amber are despised. I never met a character named Amber in my youth that was in any way likable. In fact, I may like a handful of Ambers that I know. I like my name. I wish it didn’t have such a bad rep!
The class part:
Grades: advanced 4-6 (maybe 7). The back of the book says RL 4.9 (not all books have these magical guidelines! But if you see that, parents, and aren’t sure what it means, it means grade level. month, so they’ve been in 4th grade for 9 months.) I think the only objectionable thing may be the memorable scene mentioned above.
Grade: A Blume rarely misses, and this is a pretty good book. The companion book Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson should be my next read.