Has Victoria’s summer ended before it’s begun?
Background: Victoria Martin, Francine Pascal’s sophisticated Upper West Side teenager, previously appeared in Hangin’ Out with Cici (in which she traveled back in time to the 1940s to learn a valuable lesson about not becoming a juvenile delinquent from her teenaged mother) and My First Love and Other Disasters (in which she traveled to Fire Island to work as a “mother’s helper” for a swingin’ divorcee and try to steal her crush away from a rival).
The Plot: Six years later Pascal revived the character for a last (and least) book, which sends Victoria and her oft-mentioned, previously unseen, BFF Steffi off to summer camp in Connecticut on a work-study program as “camper-waitresses”.
Now sixteen years old (finally!) Victoria is initially thrilled to convince her parents to allow her to take a job at Camp Mohaph (“Sounds like an Indian tribe, but it’s not- it’s named for the owners, Mo, Harry and Phil”); Steffi is thrilled because she’ll get to spend time with her boyfriend, Robbie, whom she met while working there the previous summer. Even the fact that Victoria’s much-hated younger sister, Nina (aka “El Creepo”), will also be attending can’t bring them down.
However, Steffi neglected to mention a few things about Camp Mohaph, such as the waitresses’ squalid living quarters, and the “volunteer” job they will be assigned in their off-hours. Victoria also didn’t plan on contending with the camp directors, Dr. Davis and Madame Katzoff, who treat the camper-waitresses like inmates and constantly threaten to dock their meager paychecks:
“There will be fifty-cent fines for the following infractions of the rules,” the matron, I mean, Madame Katzoff, continues, and for the first time both she and Dr. Davis smile. “Lateness, backtalk, peanut butter and jelly on the tables or chairs, spilling, dripping, unpressed uniforms, missed curfews, smoking, drinking, sloppy bunks, oversleeping, undersleeping, bikinis on the soccer field…”
Victoria also didn’t bargain on dealing with personality clashes with her fellow camper-waitresses, including the vicious Dena Joyce (appearing with “an accent that’s across between phony American and phony British and sincerely mean”) and her clique of sycophants.
The job itself turns out to be much more difficult than Victoria anticipated as well, and she quickly earns a reputation as a “spiller”. After one day she decides to call home and beg her parents to come and retrieve her.
That plan is derailed when she befriends a homesick 7 year old camper named Henry, and finds herself talked into making a pact that they will tough it out together.
Victoria’s summer is seriously complicated when Robbie arrives with the rest of the lifeguards and he and Victoria fall in love at first sight. Or at least lust at first sight. She tries to avoid him, but they end up making out in a tool shed, where they are caught by Dena Joyce. Oops.
The story is mostly a collection of summer camp tropes. There are pranks. There are demerits. There is a an all-camp Color War that is very complicated and includes planting a flag on top of Mount Mohaph, as well as putting on an original musical play and competing in a dance-off.
Victoria is blackmailed by the vile Dena Joyce into basically becoming her slave, lest she tell Steffi about her interlude with Robbie. But in the end, both Victoria and Robbie are so overwhelmed with guilt that they confess. Steffi is crushed and Victoria spends the last two weeks at Camp Mohaph in complete misery.
Unlike Pascal’s weirdly puritanical Sweet Valley High series (in which “witch” is the worst insult to be hurled at a rival, and any sexy stuff is the merest suggestion), Victoria and her friends aren’t afraid to call an asshole an asshole, and the teenage boys get erections with realistic regularity. The frankness contributed to the crack comic timing of the first two books, but there just isn’t much going on in this one.
The conclusion is especially hasty as Victoria finds that El Creepo is the only person at camp who doesn’t think she’s a horrible boyfriend-stealer, Steffi rebounds with the second-hunkiest lifeguard in the camp, and the two friends tentatively reconcile on the bus home. The book really suffers from a lack of irresponsible Cool Divorced Moms and Wallis Simpson references.
Sign It Was Written In 1985 Department: “John Travolta is almost as good-looking.”
Girl Problems Department: “Now I have to pretend to have my period all next week and pretend not to have it the following week when I really will have it. This whole thing gets worse by the minute.”