Ten-Boy Summer By Janet Quin-Harkin

If Jill wins the contest, she’ll lose Craig forever…

Ten Boy Summer

The number of different authors means that Bantam’s Sweet Dreams romances vary in quality; in this case the author keeps the focus on the wildly divergent personalities of the heroines and their wacky schemes, so it falls firmly into the “not as asinine as you would expect” category.

The Plot:  Narrated by shy and sensible Jill Gardner, she opens by explaining that after an anti-climactic Junior Prom, she and her impulsive BFF Toni have decided to dump their boring steady boyfriends. Toni suggests they spend the summer before their senior year engaged in a little gentlewomanly wager, to see who can get dates with ten new boys first. Jill is skeptical, but has a long history of going along with Toni’s crazy ideas, even when they cause her more headaches than they are worth.

“If one of us dates ten boys during the summer, then the other has to buy her anything she wants.”

“Within reason,” I said. I had a sudden vision of Toni in a Trans Am sports car wearing a mink coat and flashing the world’s largest diamond.

“Ok. Within reason.”

“But what if we both date ten boys?”

“Then we both have a fantastic summer!” she yelled.

But the first order of business is finding a summer job. While Jill’s (much) older sister suggests she could become a counselor at the church camp her nieces and nephews attend, that sounds too boring even for boring ol’ Jill.

Jill first seeks employment as a temp at Dainty Fingers Secretarial Services, but finds that she is considered too young and inexperienced by the agency. She does, however, meet Russ, a premed student who is also a secretarial reject- he whisks her off on his motorcycle for a burger and surprise, surprise- Jill is one up on Toni already. Russ turns out to be kind of a dud (he talks non-stop about Little League glory days), but it gives Jill a boost in confidence.

Meanwhile, Toni has decided that she wants a glamorous summer job on the stage, and takes Jill along to audition for a professional summer company of A Chorus Line. The audition is a disaster, of course, but the experience is redeemed by the fact that Toni scores a date with the cute prop boy.

Next Jill is immediately hired as a short-order cook at a disreputable diner. That lasts two days, until she is fired for yelling at an impatient customer… who happens to be a total hunk! He turns out to be very understanding about the whole thing, but Jill neglects to get his name or number. She arrives home, dejected and exhausted, where she receives a mysterious message that Toni has become a maid.

Jill is initially envious, but after one day Toni admits that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:

“Do you know how many miles I walked today- up and down stairs, along corridors, in and out of kitchens? Hundreds of miles. Maybe even thousands.”

“I have to wear white overalls. They’re three sizes too big for me and I look like an attendant at a mental institution.”

Toni lasts about a week, and then she is fired for back-talking to her employer’s turd of a teenaged son.

Next Toni fast-talks them both into jobs as carhops, despite the fact that Jill can’t skate. That lasts until they practically start a riot as they both race to ask out an old grade school friend and get ahead in the contest. Leaving a mountain of destruction in their wake, they are fired and the two friends quarrel:

“Now will you call off this stupid bet? It’s making us act like real jerks. We never would have acted so ridiculously over a boy before- especially a boy neither of us really cares about!”

“You want to know what I think? I think you’re just the most hopelessly boring person I’ve ever met! And I’m tired of trying to give you a little personality and adventure. From now on you’re on your own!”

Jill is depressed by the fight with her friend, but too stubborn to make the first move to make up. She does, however, finally concede to her boring sister’s boring suggestion to take the boring job at boring church camp.

It pays off when the Mystery Hunk from the diner turns out to be the older brother of one of her campers. Craig turns out to be a for-reals male model, and he and Jill hit it off, and they’re soon sharing their love of classical music and a semi-hilarious date at a fancy restaurant (they eat for free because Craig had appeared in an advertisement). She even meets his family when she pays a call on his sister, who is suffering from chicken pox.

The only issue is that Craig comes with some baggage: his last girlfriend didn’t want to get serious, and was constantly dating other dudes behind his back, so he has vowed to only “go steady”. WHAT WILL HE THINK OF THE BET?????

Jill doesn’t even know if the bet is still on, because she hasn’t made up with Toni. She runs into her friend, now working at a carwash. Jill is on the verge of admitting how much she misses her, but when Jill tells her about Craig, Toni taunts her for chickening out. Jill decides that a deal is a deal and she’s going to find seven more “dates” to even things up, which will somehow also patch things up with her friend.

She sees the opportunity to rack up three dates at once, when she runs into three of Toni’s older brothers, who invite her to come along to the county fair. Jill just knows that Toni would find that “hilarious”!

But maybe it’s the heat (or too many rides on the tilt-a-whirl), but partway through evening Jill starts to feel terrible. Worse, she unexpectedly runs into Craig and instead of just saying she’s out with her friend’s brothers, mumbles a weak excuse about the parade of men she’s out with. Worse than that, she runs into Toni, who does not find it hilarious, but Jill is feeling too sick to care, suddenly fainting dead away at her friend’s feet.

When she comes to the next morning, she learns that she didn’t actually have the chicken pox as a child, but she has them now and is having an unexpectedly severe reaction. However, Toni was so worried that she stayed at Jill’s bedside all night. The two friends make up, and Toni admits that she’s been dating the teenage gardener from her maid job the whole summer anyway. They declare the ten-boy summer a draw.

But what about Craig? He thinks that Jill is some kind of crazy swinger! Will he ever speak to her again? Yes: Toni took it upon herself to explain everything to him. They decide to date exclusively, but since Craig will be college-bound in the fall, Jill is practical about the whole thing:

“I really think I’m in love with you, Craig. But it probably wouldn’t be fair to either of us to make any promises right now, would it? All we can do is wait and see if our love is going to last.”

SENSIBLE!

Sign It Was Written In 1982 Department:

“My dad’s just bought a minicomputer for the house. It’s fantastic. You can play chess with it and make colored designs. It’s even programmed for Space Invaders.”

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2 Responses to Ten-Boy Summer By Janet Quin-Harkin

  1. I loved Trixie Belden as a child and then graduated to these Sweet Dreams books in the early 80s. Your summaries and signs that they were written when they were are great!

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