This is one of those books that is so much more crazy than the cover would indicate. In this case, when I paid 20 cents for it in an upstate New York thrift store, I did not realize how literally I supposed to take the cover. Make no mistake, this is a book about crying. The teenage girl-heroines, their boyfriends, their moms and dads all are in constant danger of floating away on a sea of tears.
Published by Tiger Beat, this is the first volume (!!!) of three short stories that targets an audience of girls who apparently don’t have enough to cry about in their own lives. I really have to rein in the urge to just quote line after line of the jaw-droppingly overwrought descriptions. But enough set up, let’s go to the stories:
A Promise Is Forever
Tiger Beat doesn’t pull any punches with the first story in this collection. 13 year old Clara Barrington is shy and delicate:
She was just barely four feet eight inches tall and just two weeks ago had tipped the scales at eighty-two pounds. Clara’s dad, Roger Barrington, fondly referred to his daughter as “my pale and fragile willow-flower”.
After a childhood bout with rheumatic fever, Clara is Beth March, Little Nell and every D.W. Griffith heroine ever, all rolled into one. She spends her time weeping and pining for the fact that she will never be able to indulge in “all the pleasures and joys of running, skipping, and expressing oneself in emotional outbursts that girls grow up on.”
Although her parents try to protect her from anything that might be overly-exciting, Clara has purchased a paperback romance novel at the local dime store, and sits on the beach reading it over and over again. One day she spots a teenage couple on the beach and she works herself up into such a fit of weeping that she has a heart attack. Luckily, a mysterious boy is nearby “strumming a guitar, so softly you couldn’t hear it for the pounding of the waves, and his soft voice was singing beautiful words… It was a love song- a sad song about love never found, never discovered.”
The boy’s name is Steve Martin (!) and he rescues the overcome Clara and carries her back to her parents’ house and she has to go to the hospital for three days and then spend a month in bed. The doctors warn her parents that any more excitement would probably kill her.
Eventually, Clara recovers to the point where she can resume sitting alone quietly, and she and Steve Martin are reunited. Together, they pass many hours sitting together quietly and Clara is relieved that he doesn’t ask her to do anything like go to dances or parties or horseback riding. Clara’s parents heartily endorse Steve, as for once Clara is cheerful, but not dangerously cheerful: she walks with “a new bounce of life- almost like a prisoner’s footsteps as he neared freedom.”
But! Steve Martin has a secret! One day while he and Clara are walking on the beach he steps on a broken bottle and is forced to reveal that he is a hemophiliac! (Aside: it seems like Hemophilia 101 would be “wear shoes on filthy 1970s beaches”!) Clara rushes him back to his house so he can get an injection so he won’t die, which he almost does. Steve Martin’s mother explains to Clara that they moved to California after Steve Martin almost died when he smashed a motorcycle into a tree to impress a girl in Nebraska.
After Steve Martin recovers, he and Clara continue to go on dates that involve sitting quietly and not horseback riding. Both sets of parents look on glowingly:
“To see the joy in Steven’s face, where before there was only a haunting expression of fear, hatred, and pity, is all we’ve ever prayed for. Perhaps Clara is an answer to our prayers. They’re young, yes, but just because they are children in our eyes- does that give us any right to deny them the happiness they’ve found?”
Oh, permissive parenting! This can come to no good end.
Clara and Steve Martin sneak out of their houses and meet on the beach before dawn on Christmas morning to exchange gifts. While Steve Martin is complementary toward his gift of a macramé guitar strap, Clara is super-excited about the locket Steve Martin has given her:
“Steven, Steven, I’m free! I’m free! Nothing can stop me now, nothing!” All her life she had dreamed of this moment, this moment when nothing on earth could keep her down.
And then she has a heart attack and dies. The end!
Which Tiger Beat Teen Idol I am Picturing? Leif Garrett, duh:
A Song for Joey
17 year old Joey spends all of her time weeping because she will never be as pretty or popular as her identical twin sister, Julie. Julie is dating the most popular boy in school, who has been given the highly distracting name of Hank Ballard. Um, it kind of seems like Tiger Beat should have somebody on staff to check and make sure they’re not picking the same name as someone who had spent the previous 20 years singing songs about boning.
Anyway, Joey’s only comfort is listening to records by teen idol Christopher Todd (who empathetically does not sing songs about boning):
In the privacy of her bedroom, Joey was the prettiest girl in her small home town, and all the boys were dying to just talk to her and take her out. But she very politely turned them all away, and turned gracefully to the boy who had filled her dreams for three years- Christopher Todd!”
Joey keeps a picture of Christopher under pillow:
Sometimes her heart ached so much for the real Christopher to step out of the photo that she thought her heart would break into a million pieces when she opened her eyes and found the picture of her idol was still just a picture. And her dream of happiness was still just a dream. Is that all she would have in store for her- happy dreams of Christopher and his love- only to awake from her joyous dreams into a reality of sadness?
Well, one day she gets home from school and her family has some terrible news! Christopher Todd has collapsed onstage during a concert in New York! He was rushed to the hospital, and they have to wait for the 6 o’clock news for a complete report. They learn that Christopher is suffering from “complete physical exhaustion” and even Walter Cronkite is SO WORRIED: “For all of you who love Christopher Todd- say a prayer for him tonight. He’s a fine young man and a great talent!”
All the other girls in school move on to new teen idols, and only Joey remains faithful to her imaginary boyfriend. And then one day she is out for an early morning walk, pondering her Christopher Todd-less existence, when she just kind of runs into him at the park. Apparently is recovering from his COMPLETE PHSYICAL EXHAUSTION with his Aunt and Uncle who happen to live in the same town as Joey’s family. Christopher thinks Joey is the most beautiful girl he’s ever met! He loves going on wholesome dates to the library: “It will give me a chance to stare at you!” Creepy!
Christopher writes a song dedicated to Joey and takes her to the school Christmas Ball. He can’t believe that she doesn’t have a million dates already!
But when Christopher recovers from his COMPLETE PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION his record label expects him to go back on tour. After a few weeks, he stops writing to Joey, and she’s left to consider the fact that he’s probably up to his neck in groupies.
Then he shows up at the graduation dance to perform the song he wrote for her and explain that he was just testing himself to see if he really loved her. And: “Her future with Christopher looked as bright and happy as the love songs he sang.” The end!
Which Tiger Beat Teen Idol I am Picturing? Any given Cowsill:
A Rainy Day of Happiness
After her parents’ divorce, Peggy and her mother move from San Francisco to Denver. Peggy is bereft over leaving her boyfriend, Pete, and the wallpaper in her old bedroom which reminds her of her boyfriend, Pete:
The day they had to say good-bye, Peggy felt as if a huge, invisible fist was choking the breath from her throat.
When Peggy and her mother arrive in Denver, the teenaged next-door neighbor, Ronnie, comes over to help them unpack. And he looks just like Pete! Peggy is torn between her feelings for Ronnie and her loyalty toward Pete.
She makes friends with a girl named Molly who has a “secret crush” on Ronnie, who only thinks of her as a friend. But soon the three are inseparable, and Peggy is scheming to play matchmaker. She accepts a date with Ronnie to the Christmas dance, then pretends to be sick and suggests that Ronnie takes Molly instead, because “Molly was a good listener and a concerned friend.”
Peggy’s plan works, despite the fact that:
Ronnie nicknamed Molly, “Our funny clown with the fire-red hair!”
OMG, Ronnie, do you want to get punched in the mouth?!?
Peggy keeps having nightmares about not being able to tell Pete and Ronnie apart. Also she’s mad because her mother got a promotion and “Peggy feared that her mom would start becoming a business-robot like her dad.”
Uhhhh… what else? Pete is supposed to visit Peggy over Christmas break. School closes early due to a snow storm and Peggy goes skiing with Ronnie and Molly, and then Pete shows up early to surprise Peggy and catches her kissing Ronnie. Which I guess Molly is ok with? I don’t know? Pete is decidedly not and goes storming back off to San Francisco.
Peggy’s mother has to go away on business, so Peggy gets shipped back to her father for Easter Vacation. She realizes that “although it seemed to Peggy that her parents no longer loved each other since the divorce, she never heard them say that love no longer lived in their hearts.”
So, I guess she’s just not WISHING HARD ENOUGH.
Peggy gets back together with Pete. Her parents decide to get un-divorced. The end.
Which Tiger Beat Teen Idols I am Picturing? The Williams Twins: