Is Richie really a creep- or is he someone Joy can love?
So, this seems as a good a time as any to talk about how this blog got its start: in the summer of 2011, I acquired a large lot of Wildfire romances, and posted the cover of Superflirt on Facebook, because… well, obviously. That turned into a featured cover-of-the-day, highlighting the best and weirdest Wildfire, First Love and Sweet Dreams had to offer, which eventually turned in to a weekly review, which a year later turned into this blog.
In conclusion, it may take a while, but apparently I do eventually get around to fulfilling all reader requests. Sometimes it just takes, like, seven years.
The Plot: …Is extremely slight. High school seniors Joy Wilder and Richie Brennan have been like oil and water since their first meeting, when Joy and her family moved from Seattle to picturesque Piper’s Point.
Incidents include his insisting upon addressing Joy as “J.W.”, besting her in a debate (on passing the ERA, Richie arguing ‘con’, of course), and the ultimate humiliation, afterwards kissing her in front of the entire class. Which is actually a pretty creepy thing to do, but it was 1984:
I realized that maybe that is just the way certain boys are. I’ve noticed that a lot of the time the ones who tease you the most are the ones who would like to ask you out but are afraid. Then, after they’ve teasing you awhile, they’re afraid that if they ever tried acting serious, you’d laugh.
Not that Joy has any popularity problems- she’s captain of the cheerleading team and has a steady boyfriend in the form of Buddy Hanes, a human Ken doll who’s just as handsome and twice as boring as his plastic counterpart.
As far as secret problems go, Joy is given a dead Dad, and her mother is about to remarry a 7-foot-tall lumberjack named Paul, who is (SCANDAL!) nine years her junior. That’s only 11 years older than Joy! However, Paul is literally the nicest person on earth, and cheerfully puts up with Joy and her younger brother’s constant Paul Bunyan jokes.
After an incident at the local pizza parlor, in which Buddy refuses to dance with Joy in favor of stuffing his face and Richie rather aggressively drags her onto the dance floor, Joy is humiliated when the results of the Senior Poll are announced, and she learns that she and Richie have been voted “Most Likely to Be Stranded on A Desert Island”!
Even worse, the obnoxious school photographer has the bright idea of photographing them for the yearbook on an actual island, which is how they get stranded on an actual island when the photographer realizes he’d forgotten his film and a sudden storm comes up when he returns to the mainland.
While Joy and Richie learn a little bit about each other (Joy shares her resentment about Paul’s age, Richie admits that his parents fight all the time and are probably getting divorced), Joy is most surprised to learn that Richie is dating Marcia Freeman:
I never would have picked Marcia Freeman as Richie’s type- not in a million years. For one thing, she’s very serious. She’s on the honor roll and is very big on causes. She’s pretty but wears these big glasses and T-Shirts with slogans on them like “No Nukes” and “When God Created The World She Did A Pretty Good Job”.
Still, eventually they have a fight and Joy goes stomping off into the rain, where she slips and sprains her ankle and Richie carries her back to safety, and they kiss, which confuses them. But by that point the Coast Guard is there to rescue them. At the hospital they decide to stay away from each other until Joy has a chance to break up with Buddy (WHAT ABOUT MARCIA NO-NUKES????) and Paul invites Richie to the wedding, which Joy thinks is meddlesome.
When she gets back to school, Joy follows through on the Buddy break-up. Buddy is a little dense about it:
“I always though we had fun together.”
“We did- some of the time. But, well, I guess what I mean to say is that it’s not enough if you don’t love the person. Do you know what I mean?”
He stared at me for a long moment, his brown eyes thoughtful. “Yeah, now that you mention it, I guess I do.”
Joy calls Richie to let him know she and Buddy are donezo, but has to leave a message with his brother. But he never calls back! And things are super-awkward between them at school. Was their island rendezvous all in her imagination?
On prom night Joy stays home, alone, watching The African Queen and crying the whole time because Humphrey Bogart reminds her so much of Richie (Did you leave out the part where Richie is a drunken riverboat captain? -ED.)
Joy finally comes to peace with her mother’s decision to marry Paul, and they have a beautiful wedding day. Richie is a no-show, until the very end, when Joy learns that he never got the message that she had called and was also wondering if she was having second thought about datings him. So, all’s well that ends well, right?
“Do you think we’ll be able to get long now that we’re not fighting anymore?”
I smiled, “Shut up and kiss me, creep, and let’s give it a try.”
So, can we all agree that the message of “if a boy is mean to you, he just likes you” is stupid, retrograde, etc.?
Good, because I want to focus on the point where the book reaches MAXIMUM 1980s, when Joy shares a random memory:
I once went to this wedding where the bandleader at the reception made all of the kids come up to the dance floor, and then he divided us up into two groups- the Coke team and the Pepsi team. If you were on the Coke team, you had to dance with someone on the Pepsi team. I was really embarrassed the whole time because this ten-year-old kid on the other team kept picking me. I was fourteen then, and he only came up to my shoulder. Cute, huh?
OMG YOU GUYS! THEY WERE TRAINING CHILD SOLDIERS FOR THE COLA WARS!
Also, this cover is the newest contender for “pictured teens look least like how they are described in the book”:
My hair is the color of nutmeg- a cross between brown and browner. It’s short and naturally curly, which people with straight hair sometimes envy- but only because they don’t know what it’s like to have it frizz up in damp weather. My eyes are greenish-gray and sort of tipped up at the corners. I think my mouth is too big- in more ways than one- but maybe it’s my imagination since no one has ever said anything about it.
Obviously, Bantam decided to go with time-traveling Thora Birch as the cover model.
Richie is described as looking like Rick Springfield, but with a white-guy afro and great, now I can’t stop laughing.
Sign It Was Written In 1984:
While there are references to Rick Springfield, An Officer and a Gentleman, Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon and the aforementioned soda-based product placement, this was my favorite:
Leona had her busy blonde hair lathered into a mound of shampoo suds. She molded it into an extravagant style, then strutted around the shower pretending to be one of the Coneheads from “Saturday Night Live”.