Summer Break By Victoria M. Althoff

This summer would be it!

Summer Break

Summer break! Time to get LAZY! Watching MTV 9 hours a day-lazy! (How many times will they play the video for Madonna’s “Material Girl”? Exactly 27 times!)

Oh, wait. Not so lazy that you use literally the least-descriptive title possible for your book. And maybe you want it to have a plot and some characterization, not just a list of names. And… maybe not just pick a random stock-photo for the cover? Just a suggestion.

Seriously, you think you can charge $2.25 for this? Clearly, this is a 99-cent special. At the most.

The Plot: 13 year old Samantha “Sam” Garrett has a crush on her college-aged next-door neighbor, Cliff,  and constantly fantasizes about how this will be the year he asks her out, probably while he’s washing his red Camaro.

She’s keeping her crush a secret from her boy-crazy friends Carrie and Joanne, which doesn’t make any sense since they are boy-crazy and regard Sam as a babyish tomboy because she is not boy-crazy. It seems like Sam would take the opportunity for them to all be boy-crazy together.

Carrie is also constantly complaining about her cousin Jeff, who is staying with them for the summer because he never stops yammering about how great his home state of Texas is, and also he doesn’t talk at all:

“When he did, all he did was complain that this wasn’t Texas. He didn’t like the city, he didn’t like the cold. He didn’t like the people, he didn’t like our accents.”

Oh, that Jeff. Always either talking or not talking.

Despite what the cover would lead you to believe (“Cover Photo by The Photographic Illustrators”), softball, not soccer, is the sport that Sam is looking forward to playing this summer, but her plans are immediately sidelined when she hits a pothole in the street while riding her bike and falls and breaks her arm.

Luckily, Cliff sees the accident and drives her to the hospital in his Camaro and calls her parents, which doesn’t even make any sense since the author has already stated that he is Sam’s next-door neighbor??? Maybe he should just walk 8 feet next door and tell some responsible adults that their daughter just cracked up on her bike?

Sam’s mother, father and step-father arrive at the hospital and there seems to be a lot of tension between them that is never explained or mentioned again:

“I know he’s her father, Louise, but did you have to call him before you called me?”

Sam spends the night in the hospital, but when she arrives home the next afternoon, her parents and classmates have thrown a huge Welcome Home party for her with platters of cookies and balloons and grilled hot dogs and coleslaw and… jeez, I kind of want to go break my arm right this minute if I can have a party like that!

Carrie has been forced to bring her cousin, Texas Jeff, to introduce around:

“Some of the guys and most of the girls have tried to get him to talk- especially the flirty ones. But all he does is mumble.”

He looked up from the cookie he was eating. Then he looked away again quickly. Sam noticed his eyes were so dark she couldn’t see his pupils.

Guys! I think Texas Jeff is a SHARK!

Sam is especially disappointed to learn that Cliff will be the coach of the girls’ summer softball team, and Carrie and Joanne will have non-stop opportunities for flirting with him at batting practice.

However, Cliff sees Sam hanging around and has a suggestion:

“Look, I’ve got an idea. You’re old enough to be a playground helper. There wouldn’t be any pay, but you could help- maybe take over the story hour for the little kids. The playground director will be here tomorrow and I know she could really use someone.”

Well, that’s an offer to good to pass up. Maybe Sam could also be an unpaid office intern and get some typing done with her one good arm, too, Cliff.

Sam finds out that Cliff wasn’t really authorized to hire unpaid playground interns, but the 20something Playground Director, Jane, is willing to let Sam read at story hour for the 1,000 children who show up and are all given names, but no personalities or relevance to the plot.

Pretty soon Sam ropes Texas Jeff into helping at story hour, despite the fact that Carrie and Joanne are all like “Ewww, Texas Jeff, let’s ditch him and go to the mall to buy some high-waisted jeans!”

Sam is also coping with her father’s new girlfriend, who seems perfectly nice, even when Sam petulantly spills a glass of water all over her genuine silk dress. Also it is constantly mentioned that she has “a deep, husky voice”.

Luckily for Sam, that deep husky voice is full of comforting words when Sam finds out that Cliff and Jane are dating, because, duh, it would be completely inappropriate for Cliff to date a 13 year old.

Sam also starts thinking that she might have FEELINGS for Texas Jeff, especially when he tells her that his parents are back early from Europe and are taking him back to Texas:

“But I just got to know you!” Sam wailed, her eyes filling with tears. “And I’m getting my cast off Monday. You won’t even get to see me whole!”

It’s not like you have anything more interesting than an arm under that cast, Sam! If you had a tentacle or a corkscrew or something that might be worth sticking around Ohio for. But an arm? He can see that back in Texas.

However, Texas Jeff appeals to his parents’ sense of instilling responsibility by making it sound like he is also an unpaid playground intern, and he is allowed to stay.

Carrie still doesn’t get it:

“Don’t worry, Sam. He’s here. I still can’t figure out why you care, but there’s no understanding some people’s tastes.”

Oh, Carrie! You’re kind of a bitch.

Sign It Was Written In 1987 Department: “Joanne was already rolling up the leg of her designer jeans to keep it from getting it caught in the bike chain.”

Also Carrie’s mom drives a yellow Chevette.

Safety First! Department: “If anybody’s lantern catches fire,” Jane added, “throw it into the pond immediately.”



This entry was posted in Vintage YA Fiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Summer Break By Victoria M. Althoff

  1. Pingback: Mirrors Never Lie By Isaacsen-Bright | Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

  2. Amy says:

    LOL, love this! I had this book as a kid and made fun of it even then. Call me a sentimental old food, I guess.

  3. Anonymous says:


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