I have said it before: I just can’t pass up a vintage girls’ series with a gimmick…
…but before we get to all of that, what do you think? Is that Courteney Cox on the cover? She appeared on a few paperback Teen Romances at the beginning of her career (around the time she was awkwardly dancing with Bruce Springsteen); those penetrating blue eyes are pretty convincing.
Background: Heart To Heart is a 7-book series from 1985-6, each featuring unrelated teen girl-heroines and stories. The gimmick is that the first half of the book deals with the main character at age 14, and the second half then skips ahead three years and we see how the main character is making out with her life at age 17. Each book is by a different author, so the quality of writing varies wildly from book to book; for this first volume in the series, Carol Ellis (who seems to otherwise specialize in YA horror) does her best to punch up a plot that is downright boring.
The Plot: Every year since she was a baby, 14 year old Jamie Watson has spent the summer at Sunrise Lake in the Colorado Rockies with her family and their old friends the Mitchells. Jamie and the Mitchells’ oldest son, Todd, have spent every summer trying to solve the mystery of an old prospector’s ghost that, according to legend, haunts an old cabin in the woods.
Jamie and Todd spend the summer as they always do, fishing, hiking, and avoiding their annoying younger brothers, until Jamie develops a crush on Jim, the lifeguard who works at the lake. Jim is in college and obviously much too old for Jamie, but she works up a whole romance inside her head for the two of them, based on a few words of encouragement regarding her plans to try and set a record for swimming across the lake. On her first attempt to do so, the straps on her sexy new purple swimsuit break, and it is Todd that comes to her rescue.
Later, Jamie and Todd sneak out of their parents’ cabins in the middle of the night and steal a boat to go ghost-hunting; when it is noticed they are gone their parents sounds the alarm and it is SO EMBARRASSING when they have to explain themselves to the camp’s security staff, including Jim. As punishment for making everyone get up in the middle of the night, Jamie is given only one more chance to make the swim across the lake. She does. Jim gives her a congratulatory hug and she is planning their life together… until she finds out he has an age-appropriate girlfriend already.
Additionally, no ghosts are caught or mysteries solved.
Conclusion of Book One
What will happen to Jamie as she gets older? How will she have changed by the time she’s seventeen? In what ways will she still be the same? To find out, turn the page to begin Jamie’s seventeenth year.
Jamie returns to Sunrise Lake after a three-year absence: after starting high school she has had to work summers to save for college. This will probably be her last vacation with the family.
Todd is also back after an absence from the family vacations, but he is moody and withdrawn. Jamie finds out that he broke up with his first girlfriend at the beginning of the summer, but she grows weary of trying to include him and starts hanging out with her new lake-friends.
Jamie meets the new lifeguard, Steven, who looks exactly like the old lifeguard. The difference is that the new lifeguard likes her. Like, like-likes her!
Jamie and her brother have a fishing contest. Everyone goes to a touristy ghost town. Jamie wears a practical new swim suit with reinforced straps. I’m really not sure what the point of any of this is.
Jamie abruptly decides that she doesn’t want to date Steven after all, because, of course she is in love with Todd, who has stopped moping. Steven takes it pretty well. At the end of the summer Jamie says good-bye to the Mitchells and wonders what will happen to her and Todd. Her mother reassures her that:
“In ten years you could get married. Or you could keep in touch and fall in love with other people.”
Which, yes, are two possible outcomes.
And, just in case you can’t figure out why there aren’t any more pages:
Conclusion of Book Two.
My main complaint is that in the first part, every other sentence is about how Jamie is changing and how she is so moody. In case you can’t tell that she is a teenager it is underlined in crayon.
The characterization of Todd comes off a little better, as the author tries to make more than a generic bland hunk by making him afraid of bears and fishing.
And most disappointingly for the amount of build-up it is given, the ghost-related mystery is never solved. Bummer.
Sign It Was Written In 1985 Department: Jamie is constantly dousing herself in lemon-scented Shower Splash. Guys love girls who smell like Pledge!
Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have a Title! Department: “It was always the same, from summer to summer.”
Poetic! Department: “Jim/ Through the years/ Our love will never/ Dim.”