Two By Two Romance #11: A Kiss For Good Luck By Carol Ellis

Tess tells you how she feels about her new romance. And when you flip the book over you find out in Charlie’s own words what a boy thinks about it all. 

a kiss 1 akiss2

I have said it before: I can’t resist a YA romance series with a gimmick. Two By Two Romances features two (two! two!) books in one. The first is narrated by the heroine, then you flip over the book and read the dude’s point of view of the events.  This one comes to us from author Carol Ellis, who also wrote for the similarly gimmicky Heart To Heart series.

The Plot: Unfortunately for the reader, each version is equally boring.

The cover strongly hints that you’re supposed to read the Girl Side first, so that’s where I started, and I imagine most readers did as well, because, ugh, look at Charlie’s big dumb head.

Tess Reilly has been prodigious distance runner since the 6th grade. Now a sophomore in high school, she is part of the community track team in Eaton, Oklahoma, competing alongside college students. Tess’s life revolves around training, leaving little time for friends, a social life or dating. While her father encourages her pursuit of a spot on the US Olympic team, her mother wishes that she’d take time for a more normal teenage life.

Early one morning she meets Charlie Montgomery, a hunky senior, at the track during her morning warm-ups. Intrigued, she asks around and finds out that Charlie has a reputation for being the class clown and is also a member of the boys’ gymnastics team, which is beginning their inaugural season.

Tess and Charlie start dating, but it is hard because of their rigorous training schedules, out-of-town meets, and just plain exhaustion from sports. Conflict arises when Tess realizes that she takes running much more seriously than Charlie takes gymnastics, and he is inadvertently a bad influence, urging her to skip practices in order to spend time with him:

“Why don’t you be daring and cut out early just this once?”

“I’d love to,” I whispered back. “But you know I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

After a spat about whether Tess loves running or just winning, they semi-break up, then get back together after Charlie starts taking gymnastics seriously, leading the team to a victory against their school’s toughest rival team.

Now all turned around on the subject, Charlie and Tess reunite, just in time for Charlie to graduate and accept a spot at a prestigious training camp in Colorado. Tess doesn’t know what will become of their relationship, but she supports him all the way because SPORTS.

The writing on the “Tess” side is especially weird and disjointed, and sometimes a scene transition involving weeks happens in the middle of a sentence. The “Charlie” side has smoother narrative, although it reads more like a summary than a story. It doesn’t do much to hold the reader’s interest because (duh) you already know what is going to happen.

The most interesting part of the “Charlie” side is that you get a little insight into his attitude, including his super laid-back parents, who (in contrast to Tess’s) can barely be bothered to notice that Charlie is even on a gymnastics team.

I hate to feel like I’m picking on an author but, like her entry in the Heart To Heart series, Ellis doesn’t really tell a compelling story, even within the modest expectations one has for a YA paperback romance. The best thing this one has going for it is the setting, a nice change of pace from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or generic Anytown USA (I sort of feel like Oklahoma doesn’t get much attention outside of S.E. Hinton); it also has good descriptions of the physical exhaustion both Tess and Charlie feel while trying to balance their athletic careers, school and social lives.

Sign It Was Written In 1984 Department:

I might have even made the ’84 Olympic team, but I was too young. I was really disappointed, but my coach told me I’d be old enough in ’88, and if I just kept at it I’d make it.

Stylin’ Department:

He had on a sweatshirt cut off at the elbows and a pair of track shorts over his sweatpants, so I forgot the way I looked.

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12 Responses to Two By Two Romance #11: A Kiss For Good Luck By Carol Ellis

  1. This is on the groundbreaking side for girls in sports– my high school didn’t have girls’ cross country until 1982. Ah, the headband. Wonder why feathered hair hasn’t made a comeback…

    • mondomolly says:

      I love all of the timely topics early 80s YA romances try to work in!

      Also sometimes I consider if I should get a retro feathered hairstyle. Probably not, right? 😉

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Susan says:

    Ahhh yes, 80s hair! I can always tell when I’m channel-surfing if a particular show or movie was filmed then :).

    I’m 56 so wasn’t reading YA books at this point. However it is a flip from books of earlier generations, in which it would be more likely for the boy to be devoted to his team while the girl waited around by the phone. If there was an achievement gap, it tended to be the college-bound girl distracted by the blue-collar or bad-boy boyfriend.

    And S.E. Hinton! I didn’t remember that being set in Oklahoma. “The Outsiders” gets more attention but I enjoyed “That Was Then, This Is Now” even better. I read it in junior high a few years after it was published. I was amazed when one of my daughters brought home “The Outsiders” for a high school English class a couple years ago. She was surprised that I knew about it and remembered it so well!

    My husband and I have always been interested in baby name trends, and when an article came out a few days ago with the latest, I said that I thought “Tess” is due for a comeback 🙂 . (It was my grandmother’s name, short for Theresa. It pops up in books once in a while but rarely in real life.)

  3. This does sound super boring! I recently picked up a couple Carol Ellis Point thriller/horror books from a thrift store, written in the early 90s. Hoping her storytelling skillz got better in the 90s somehow…

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  7. mondomolly says:

    Reblogged this on Lost Classics of Teen Lit: 1939-1989 and commented:

    This week, from the archive! Two more future Olympians!

    I have also made more updates to the Name That Book! page, including some more titles both lost and found!  

  8. Ahahaha, Olympic teens in 1984.

    I just read a mid-80s Two by Two of my own: Only a Dream Away, featuring a girl who likes horses and romance novels, and a boy who likes…well, something or other, I guess. I did notice that the two narratives were built to complement each other; one would gloss over a scene that the other would describe in detail. And it was fun to see how they would misinterpret each other. (Boy, angrily trying to shut up obnoxious yappy dog, melts heart of Girl who sees him lovingly murmuring to scared pet, etc). On the whole, though, it’s pretty difficult to a) produce a convincing romance story in maybe 100 pages, and b) then re-tell the weak story to produce an average-length teen romance novel.

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