Will Julie’s crazy jealousy destroy the love she waited so long to find?
I may have been too quick to judge the photographic covers of Bantam’s Sweet Dreams YA romances as being “bland”. While they don’t have the wacky appeal of Scholastic’s Wildfire covers, Sweet Dreams does feature the very finest in 1980s hairstyles.
Seriously, is that a wig? I have never seen a real-life head of hair that looks that good.
The Plot: My hair-envy is appropriate, since this is supposed to be a story all about destructive jealousy.
Suburban Chicago high school junior Julie Eaton has been nursing a crush on Popular Boy Dan Buckley since the beginning of her freshman year. Unfortunately for Julie, Dan has been going steady with glamorous Pam Kershaw for as long as anybody can remember.
Pam was the kind of girl who walks into a room and suddenly makes you realize you’ve worn the wrong dress or that your hair isn’t as clean or nicely cut as you thought.
Nonsense, Julie! You obviously have magnificent hair.
After Pam’s family suddenly moves to Pennsylvania for her father’s job, Julie’s dreams come true when Dan asks her out, although she worries that she can never live up to his sophisticated ex.
And for a minute or so, it actually seems like this book isn’t going to be so much about how Julie’s “crazy jealousy” is going to destroy her relationship as it is about how arbitrary social rules set up teenage girls to lose, no matter what they do. Julie reveals herself to be not so much “crazy jealous” as she is deeply insecure as one of the social nobodies at her high school who has suddenly been “chosen” by one of the golden boys.
As is often the fatal flaw with these books, it is never really explained why Popular Dan is so great. While Julie (in addition to her hair) is given an endearingly silly sense of humor and some interesting hobbies (she’s a champion diver and member of the school’s water ballet team) (hey, you can only give so many details in 140 pages!), Dan is generically tall, good looking and boring.
Dan also doesn’t go out of his way to reassure Julie that he’s over Pam. While Julie is quietly desperate to wear Dan’s class ring and be his “steady”, he insists that they keep the relationship “casual”. However, when Julie seems to agree with this plan and mildly flirts with some classmates at a Christmas party, Dan freaks out about it:
“Look, Dan, remember when you said I had to trust you? Well, that goes both ways, doesn’t it? I’m not about to run off with someone else, certainly not Chip Richter. But- well, it’s like you said. It’s not as if we were going steady, is it?”
Because she’s a girl and is tacitly forbidden to, you know, come out and say what she is thinking (“I was always afraid that once he really got to know me he wouldn’t like me”), Julie instead wields her limited power to make him jealous and hand over his class ring:
If I could convince him that every other guy in the junior class was after me, why shouldn’t that time come sooner and not later?
Julie’s insecurity reaches new heights when she learns that Pam and her family are moving back to town in the new year, and she is convinced that it is only a matter of time before Dan dumps her to get back together with his ex. Julie resolves to try and delay the inevitable as long as she can:
If he was going to break up with me, I told myself, the most I could hope for was to hold onto him as long as possible.
Julie! Dan is not that great!
Of course, Dan does break up with her because she has turned into a basket case waiting for him to break up with her. Just in time for the school’s big Spring Swing Mixer, no less!
And Julie again finds she can’t win when it comes to those arbitrary social rules: while the male population of Rockway High was happy to flirt with her when she dating Dan, she can’t get a date to the dance to save her life:
I was beginning to wonder if I had turned into some kind of social leper.
After an encounter with Pam in which she discovers that even the school’s Beautiful People are still human, Julie decides to suck it up and volunteer for the refreshments committee at the dance, earning the gratitude of her Home Ec teacher.
At the dance she is surprised to see Pam arrive with Chip:
Dan and Pam really had broken up before her father’s transfer! He must have known all along that she’d been seeing Chip since her return.
Jeez, Dan- that seems like something you might have at least MENTIONED.
Dan arrives stag and he and Julie reunite, because it is completely excusable for boys to cause needless drama and practically give their girlfriend a nervous breakdown. What a catch.
Sign It Was Written In 1981 Department: “She sighed too loudly for it to be real, and from the careful way she ran her fingers through her short, dark hair, I was willing to bet that she was copying something she had seen Ali MacGraw do in a movie or something.”
Good Name For A Restaurant Department: Hodie’s, home of the Hodie Burger.