‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty By Pat Boone

Teen-age can be a confusin’ time, but it can also be a great adventure.

Twixt 12 and 20

Pat Boone was a teen idol who rose to fame recording sanitized cover versions of Rhythm & Blues songs deemed too scary for mainstream radio. The pros and cons of this practice of musical “whitewashing” are still up for debate: while Boone had the #1 hit version of “Ain’t That a Shame”, it was eventually and irrevocably eclipsed by Fats Domino’s original, with Boone’s becoming little more than a pop music footnote. If they’re feeling charitable, music historians credit Boone’s popularity with bringing R&B to a mainstream audience (not to mention royalty payments to songwriters).

And Boone embraced his white-bread image all the way (his cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” gives the impression of a man who had no idea what the song was about until the moment he stepped up to the mic, and is desperately trying to improvise clean lyrics on the spot), so it’s no surprise that his advice to the teenagers of 1958 focuses on clean living, going to church, concentrating on school and near-constant spankings.

Let me elaborate on that last part: the first chapter alone contains more spankings than the entire first volume of the Fifty Shades of Grey saga.

Boone insists that since his rise to fame in the music industry, he is constantly badgered about his opinions on the current generation of teens:

Did I think our generation was Lost? Beat? Angry? Did I personally think you personally ate the right kind of food? Wore too much lipstick? Paid enough attention to your studies? Wore too many petticoats?

(Spoilers: we never get the answer about the petticoats, so I’m a little worried that the number of petticoats I am currently wearing might make me a tramp or a Communist).

Boone addresses YOU, THE READER in a folksy dialect (“Sho’ nuff”, “Element’ry, Watson”, “f’r goodness sakes!” numerous references to his frontiersman ancestor, “Uncle Dan’l”) in a series of anecdotes so devoid of substance that they practically evaporate off the page.

Some Highlights:


First of all, I love that Mary Brummmmmmittttt is taking this exercise so seriously. I sincerely hope she found the answer to the proper number of petticoats when she looked within her own heart.

As I said above, the entire first chapter, “A Great Adventure”, concerns itself almost entirely with the Boone family’s fixation on spankings:

On the threshold of the teens, with a good deal of experience about the difference ‘twixt right and wrong. In our family this difference was called to our attention by spanking.

If you’ve never had your share of his type of teaching, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Boone recounts being spanked across his mother’s knee, in the bathtub, with a sewing machine belt, and when his father gets home from work. He discusses the various kinds of spankings, including “delayed spankings”, “angry spankings” and “loving spankings”.

He suggests that if you don’t come from “spanking parents”, spanking might be delivered by “a teacher, a policeman, the neighbors, good friends or even your so-called enemies”

He relates that the last spanking he received was when he was 17 years old and engaged to his future wife, Shirley:

When I came to school and said “Guess what happened this morning? I got spanked,” she didn’t believe me. But I did.

He knows that he had greatly disappointed his parents when he eloped at the age of 19:

I wish now I’d had the courage of my convictions; come home and said quite openly what we planned to do. But I didn’t. And Mama didn’t even offer to spank me.

I can’t even turn all of this spanking into a dirty joke, since nothing close to S-E-X ever seems to cross his mind, even when dispensing copious platitudes about dating, with a side of product placement:

I know it isn’t very substantial. That it bears about as much resemblance to mature love as apple blossoms to ripe apples. But that doesn’t make it any less wonderful. Just as blossom time comes once a year, and is brief, so April Love comes but once in a lifetime and its season is very short- and very special.

And it is like any other beautiful thing- when it ceases to be rare, it loses its value and much of its beauty. I really think it’s better to amuse ourselves some other way. For your own future enjoyment I say go bowling, or to a basketball game or watch a good TV program (like the Pat Boone Chevy show!)

Of course, if your Gentleman Caller possesses as delicate a constitution as Mr. Boone seems to have, cooling his ardor is easily done:

Take my first steady. The one that broke up in three weeks. She was a very pretty girl, a wonderful singer, much in demand. But she put too much strain on young love. She let me see her in her curlers. Invited me over when she was suffering from a cold in the head. Next thing you know, even when she was all fixed up I could still see those curlers and that runny nose.

Boone rounds out the book with chapters of vague instruction on following your dreams and developing your talents in a selecting a career. At least if you are a male-type teenager. He is relentless is reminding his girl-readers that homemaking and motherhood is the only career that they need concern themselves with preparing for. If you have outside interests, they should be put in the service of “church groups, amateur theatricals, clubs and youth activities”:

Mother wanted to shop; and father, a statistician, agreed to spend the afternoon with their three small children. On the return of mother, father handed her the following statement:

“Dried tears- 9 times; tied shoes- 10 times; toy balloons purchased- 3 per child; average life of balloon- 12 seconds; cautioned children not to cross street- 20 times; children insisted on crossing street- 30 times; number of Saturdays father will do this again- 0 times.”

Although this does seem to contradict the advice given a few chapters earlier, as Boone discusses how Family Is a Corporation:

I don’t believe a girl will ever truly respect a man who lets her walk all over him. The reason is he isn’t a man.

Naturally, I like this arrangement because I am a normal male and Shirley is a normal female.

Sometimes, girls, if you let your husband boss the project a little, he’ll wind up doing the work quite efficiently. Because, you see, it’s his corporation.

The last time I recalled Pat Boone being in the news was about 20 years ago, when he released an album of covers of Heavy Metal songs, which resulted in his firing from the Trinity Broadcasting Network. So I was prepared to at least give him credit for having a sense of humor about his image.

But apparently, in recent years he’s been shilling for right-wing fringe groups and insisting that Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Islamic socialist. So, teens might want to think twice about following the Pat Boone Method For Growing Up. Especially since he concludes his book of advice to teens by exhorting the fact the adulthood is something to be looked forward to, and then immediately follows it with

My friend Jerry Lewis has a great time being an adult.

Stray Thoughts and Observations:

The book was a bestseller and resulted in a musical spin-off, the lyrics of which urge you to put your faith in Pat Boone’s personal love for you:

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Love Comes To Anne By Lucille S. Warner


This week, something from the archive…

Originally posted on Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989:

The last Wildfire title that appeared in this space, Recipe for Romance was basically a stupid story that was well-written. This one is just a stupid story that is badly written. Whereas that title at least had a gimmick, a main character with a goal and some local color, Love Comes to Anne is set in a generic suburb of an unnamed city (all we know is that it’s not Chicago) and features a main character who does not do much of anything. It is also the first book under the Wildfire imprint, so I assume much of this is because they haven’t really decided what to do with the series or built up their stable of reliable Cooneys, Cavanaghs and Claypool-Miners.  Luckily for you, readers, there is at least enough weird stuff going on in this one to make it worth taking a look at.

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Rhapsody in Orange and Brown: 15 Favorite Classic YA Covers

A few weeks back there was a something of a kerfuffle over Penguin’s 50th Anniversary cover of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was a holder of the minority opinion that the new cover was kind of  great… at least it was memorable!  

What was the last really memorable cover art you saw on a YA title? A glance at Amazon’s bestsellers in the “Teen & Young Adult” category reveals plain graphics, boring stock photos, and movie tie-in reissues.

It wasn’t always this way! Illustrated covers of decades past were constantly compelling, evocative and terrifying. Mostly terrifying.

Some of the best covers (regardless of literary merit) of books reviewed in this space include…


…with additional special mention to artists, designers and photographers behind Fridays, Green Eyes, Holly in Love, Just Dial a Number, and Since That Party.

As far as books that have not been reviewed in this space, I’d like to to bring your attention to 15 of my all-time favorite covers: Continue reading

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Barbara Nichols: Fifth-Grade Teacher By Bernard & Marjorie Palmer

It had seemed to Barbara that she had always wanted to be a teacher…

Barbara Nichols 5th Grade Teacher

Back to school! Time to start the year with a good attitude cautionary tale wacky scheme inspirational message!

The Plot: I have been pleasantly surprised by the Palmers’ “Career Books” for the Moody Bible Institute, in that they present fairly progressive tales of young women pursuing their career dreams, even when their parents or society may not entirely approve. Continue reading

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Mirrors Never Lie By Isaacsen-Bright

Caught in the nightmare of anorexia nervosa, Bonnie could lose more than just weight. She could lose her life.

Mirrors Never Lie

I have not been able to uncover any information on this book’s author, the mononomenclature’d Isaacsen-Bright, so I have no idea if he or she is a professional in the field of social problems (other books published under this name include YA novels dealing with homelessness, Lupus, and giving up a normal life in order to become a professional figure skater) or just a meddler pushing an agenda (I am looking at you, Anonymous!)

Either way, this book ends up with a message that has to be the exact opposite of what the author intended: anorexia will make you popular at school, win you the boy of your dreams and even reunite your divorced parents!


The Plot: Teenaged Bonnie Isherwood is short and fat, which we know because the author tells us that she is exactly 5-feet, 3-inches [Editor’s note: LOL] and weighs 109 pounds [Editor’s note: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL] Is this supposed to be an early indication of Bonnie’s body dysmorphia? No, because her mother is constantly nagging her about her weight and she is taunted by the senior cheerleaders during her try-out for being “pretty hippy” and looking “like a young buffalo”. Continue reading

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Checking In With The Imaginary Summer Book Club: Jaws By Peter Benchley

(Click here for information on the 2014 edition of Molly’s Imaginary Summer Book Club Featuring Classics of Women’s Literature. As all of the four five selected titles have filmed adaptations, we will be looking at the movie versions as we go along. Today, the July alternate/bonus selection, Peter Benchley’s Jaws.)


When I announced Jaws as the bonus selection for this year’s edition of Imaginary Summer Book Club, I hadn’t read it in about 25 years, and I dimly recalled it as being “Peyton Place with a shark” (this being one of those books I read long before I was allowed to see the movie). The sum total of my memory of the book was:  “grass and gazpacho”, “AC/DC”, how unscrupulous restaurateurs make fake scallops, and an extremely awkward sex scene.

While Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie has completely overshadowed its source material, Benchley’s novel was a blockbuster in its own right, spending 44 weeks on the bestseller lists and eventually selling 20 million copies. The fact that it now qualifies as a Lost Classic is testimony to both young Spielberg’s skill as a filmmaker, as well as the frustrating un-likeability of Benchley’s characters (supposedly upon reading the book Spielberg announced that he was rooting for the shark).

While the book opens with the familiar attack on poor, hippy-dippy Chrissie Watkins during some ill-advised late-night skinny dipping, the novel’s focus quickly shifts to Police Chief Martin Brody and the various intricacies of small-time policin’ in the resort town of Amity Island. Continue reading

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Ransom By Lois Duncan

Five students kidnapped, four families torn apart.


Lois Duncan is best known for her YA thrillers that involve a supernatural twist, such as telepathy or psychic intuition or witchcraft. However, her earliest YA works are straightforward suspense and mystery titles most notable for the depiction of the psychological group dynamics of high school students.

The Plot: It may have the simplest plot of Duncan’s suspense titles, but the tension as the story unfolds is absolutely relentless. Continue reading

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