Just for girls… but about boys, too!
Collections of YA short stories are great, because at least a few of them are going to turn out to be completely bonkers. Maybe someone will drop dead at a square dance! Or just drop dead, period! Maybe an 11 year old will get drawn into the Army’s germ warfare plot! (And of course, we must mention crazy PTA moms agitating for nudism!)
This paperback collection from TAB (Scholastic) has a copyright date of 1957, but is clearly a reissue- if mademoiselle’s groovy eyeliner didn’t tip you off, the back cover identifies the photo as the winner of the “1967 Scholastic-Kodak Photography Award”.
The stories are all reprints from various publications, including Seventeen, Deb and Co-Ed, and date from the late 1940s through the mid-1950’s, and it shows. Sorry, teens! It may be the Summer Of Love outside, but Scholastic wants you to settle for the first dude that comes along.
“Sweet Mystery” Janie has an unrequited crush on Charles, the hunky new guy at school, who doesn’t know she exists. Her BFF points out that Janie’s life-long next door neighbor, Joe, has become pretty hunky himself this year, but Janie dismisses the thought: she’s grown up with Joe and also her bedroom window looks directly into his bathroom, so she’s been seeing him gargle in his underwear every morning for YEARS, and everyone knows that romance requires MYSTERY.
Coincidentally, Joe and his family are moving across town, and Charles’s family is moving in next door! At such close proximity Charles turns out to be a disappointment (he’s not very bright and his idea of humor is a corny Dracula impersonation that he “uses like punctuation”).
Luckily time and distance have rendered Joe mysterious, so clearly she is in love with him now.
“Something to Offer” High school student Viola Turner is regarded as “queer” by her classmates because she would rather spend her lunch hour shopping for bargains at antique auctions in Greenwich Village than yapping at the soda shop with the popular crowd.
After getting into a heated round of bidding over an inkwell, Vi becomes acquainted with the winning bidder and learns that he’s a world-famous reporter doing a human-interest piece on the antique market in New York City. Vi has the connections to introduce him to the various eccentrics he needs to get his story, and she imagines that a romance is blooming between them… until he shows up at Christie’s with his fiancée.
Vi is brokenhearted until the article appears months later, and she learns that he has described her as glamorous and sophisticated, which boosts her reputation, gets her a date with the editor of the school paper and inspires her to take a course in Interior Decorating at the YWCA.
“Beyond the Far Horizon” Glenn’s girlfriend, Phyllis, throws a fit and breaks up with him when he announces he’s moving to Chicago to take a job so he can make enough money so they can get married. She reconsiders when she realizes that the death of her brother’s pet chipmunk is clearly a METAPHOR.
“Molly, the Private Eyeful” Farcical complications ensue when Molly’s older sister, Mimi, “hires” her to keep an eye on her boyfriend when she returns to college. Definitely the best story in the collection, Molly’s well-intentioned lies about how Mimi is practically engaged to a college football star eventually snowball into her taking down a corrupt political dynasty and restoring order to her sister’s romantic life. Bonus points for a wacky Dad who sees conspiracies everywhere.
“The Apple Tree” Nerdy Dave can’t believe his luck when he starts going steady with popular Gwen- at last, no more lonely weekends with his chemistry set! However, he starts to question his feelings when he meets homely, artistically inclined Laura, who introduces him to all kinds of interesting beatniks and folksingers. Breaking up with Gwen is so devastating that he vows never to “go steady” again.
“The Enchanted Kitchen” Chubby Becky Strong is depressed because her only talent is baking fabulous cakes and her father has very definite ideas about gender roles and women who pursue careers on the stage. She’s drafted by the Home Ec club for their bake sale, which is how she meets Hunky New Guy In Town Oliver, the son of a famous movie star. Oliver stands around eating many slices of her famous mocha cake, and convinces her to audition for the school play, which of course he is directing.
When Becky wins $1000 in a recipe contest and she announces to Oliver that she’s going to spend it on going to Dramatics School, he’s less than supportive and Becky (who’s no dummy) realizes that she’s a terrible actress and Oliver only cast her in the play so he could eat non-stop cakes. She sends him a strongly worded break-up note, and he apologizes for the deception, explaining that he’s looking for a girlfriend who will cater to his mommy issues, which somehow makes everything ok.
“The First Flower” Literally the looming specter of 15-year-old spinsterhood is so awful that you should plan on building your life with the first guy who asks you to dance at the school prom.
“The Locket” Janie (the same one?) is depressed because her boyfriend broke up with her, annoyed by the unwanted attention of a male classmate, and frustrated that she has to share a room with her sister because her newly-widowed grandmother has moved in with the family.
As Christmas approaches, Janie is still moping about her ex, until Grandma shows her a heirloom locket, which contains both a picture of Janie’s grandfather and one of Grandma’s first husband, her childhood sweetheart who died only a year after they married and I’m sorry I have something IN MY EYYYYYYYE…
Janie decides that if Grandma could endure two actual tragically dead husbands, maybe she should give that would-be Romeo a chance after all.
“Bittersweet” Brook is mad that her father doesn’t compliment her on her first formal gown, but then she realizes that it is because he’s sad that she’s growing up.
“The Class Ring” Joe (a different one?) wants to buy his sort-of girlfriend, Lucy, a class ring because she is A Poor, but he doesn’t have fifteen dollars, but then Lucy mentions that she’s looking for a job, and a farmer will coincidentally pay someone fifteen dollars for a day’s plowing, but she can’t take the job because she’s a GIRL, but if Joe knows anyone who would like to make exactly fifteen dollars, this farmer will totally hire a BOY and then pay him EXACTLY FIFTEEN DOLLARS. HINT, HINT.
Joe takes the job and takes Lucy with him to buy the ring, but then they decide to pay for the farmer’s new glasses.
“How Can You Tell?” Louise doesn’t EVEN know if morbidly introverted George likes her or not, because he is SO WEIRD and does things like SHOUT DISTRACTINGLY when she’s trying to make the winning shot for her basketball team.
However, this story is mostly about Louise’s younger brother annoying everyone by trying to learn how to play the bugle, which I guess is a metaphor for Louise and George’s relationship or something.