It’s never been done before!
So pity the poor teen who picked this one up for its sitcom-wacky cover and instead found themselves with a rather grim meditation on a failed teenage romance.
It makes more sense if the reader is acquainted with Miklowitz’s other work, the kind of YA titles that were so popular in the 1970s that dealt with such topical issues as rape, cults, teen pregnancy and drugs, and frequently without a happy (or moralistic) ending.
The Plot: High school seniors Lori and Garrick are in LOVE and have been dating for-ever, and with graduation looming (and the inevitable changes that will bring) they impulsively announce their engagement.
Lori’s parents are not pleased. Mind you, they love Garrick, he’s an all-round great guy, but Bitter Divorced Mom (is there any other kind?) warns against marrying while still a teenager; meanwhile, Swingin’ Divorced Dad is slightly more progressive in his disapproval:
“This is the twentieth century! Women go into professions, learn to stand on their own feet before they settle down. What is it? Sex? You can’t keep away from each other? Is that it? Okay. So there’s the pill; there’s other things. Don’t get married just for that!”
The couple manages to avoid dying from embarrassment, but Lori finds herself thinking more critically about her parents and their choices.
The couple’s plans coincide with the Marriage Unit of their Consumer Economics class, taught by Dr. Womer (the book is dedicated to the real-life Dr. L. Arthur Womer, Marina High School, Huntington Beach, CA), who is about to start his annual experiment of having a computer match up boys and girls and have them select careers and manage a budget as if they were married.
Lori and Garrick plead their case, and convince Womer that if the computer doesn’t match them, he will overrule it and allow them to complete the project together.
There is some mild comic relief with the computer matches for “compatibility”: Lori’s Outspoken Feminist BFF gets matched with the class lothario, who immediately puts a Learjet into their budget; a bewildered Danish exchange student gets paired up with the Lila Fowler-like class princess. There are also 17 girls to the 13 boys in the class, so there are a few redundant women, and Womer assigns their fates with his typically dry wit:
“Mary, the computer has studied your questionnaire and come up with the following: you are a single parent with one baby and a husband in a mental institution. I wonder why? No extra income.”
“Sonia? What about your husband? Oh yeah- he’s in jail. No income coming from that guy. And you have twins.”
According to the computer Cheryl was a divorcee. Her husband had run off with a millionaire’s daughter and left her and the baby penniless.
While Lori’s parents quickly change their tune about the marriage (perhaps in part because Lori’s mother admits that if her parents hadn’t objected to strongly to her own teenage wedding, cooler heads might have prevailed), Lori finds doubts starting creep in as she progresses on the school project and she and Garrick look at their job prospects and try to budget for an apartment and living expenses.
It’s not that Garrick isn’t a great guy; he is, actually- not only tall, dark and handsome, but he takes his part-time job at a service station seriously and is loyal and attentive to Lori. He’s just not… academically inclined. He has no plans to go to college, and while the couple discusses the possibility of his going to work for his father selling insurance, Lori knows that he really wants to train as an auto mechanic. Meanwhile she daydreams about going to law school and becoming a public defender. While they decide that they will remain in Huntington Beach and Lori will work part time and attend the local Junior College, Lori begins questioning those plans when she receives an acceptance letter from Berkeley.
Garrick initially agrees to try and find a position at an auto shop in Berkeley, but as the wedding date approaches in a flurry of parties and plans, Lori suspects that he’s not really trying very hard. Less than two weeks away from the wedding, and on the eve of her bridal shower, Lori realizes that she’s got something more than pre-wedding jitters: she’s only going along with the plans because the invitations have been printed, presents received, the catering ordered and the deposit paid on the crappy apartment they will live in.
She has a heart-to-heart with her mother, who is very understanding (and maybe slightly relieved) about the whole thing, and tells Lori that she and her father will make the necessary calls to cancel the plans. Lori need only worry about breaking the news to Garrick.
Lori makes plans to meet him for a picnic-style breakfast before work, and tries to explain things to him as gently as possible, framing it as just delaying the wedding until after college, but Garrick sees the writing on the wall: with the distance they’re both sure to meet new people while Lori is at Berkeley. Garrick is devastated, and although Lori knows it’s the right choice, knowing doesn’t make it any easier.
Sign It Was Written In 1983:
“I’m going into computing. Just got back from the career center, and man, is that the field to go into today! You know what you can make, just to start, with only four years of college?”