Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One Of The Crowd
Rosamund du Jardin, il. (cover) Jacqueline Tomes
1961, J.B. Lippincott

And she's so nice, Judy - not a bit snobbish or high-hat, as some of the kids think. You can't imagine how easy she is to talk with, how interested in what you're saying. And do you know what she told me? She said she'd noticed me a lot this year and thought I'd become ever so much sharper and more on-the-ball.

Lonely and clearly a bit low on ego, Midge Heydon is delighted to be befriended by popular, smooth Sandra Towers. Over the course of sophmore year, she discovers the complicated truth behind being popular and about different people in her life.

Sandra's attention flatters Midge, who is also thrilled that friendship with Sandra means being part of the right crowd and invited to the right parties with the right boys. Even though she quickly identifies flaws with the system, she's quickly addicted to the social cachet. Her sensible family and a German exchange student who appreciates her old-fashioned values help her go cold turkey eventually. Though not until after some really prestiguous parties, including the one where she's pressured by a totally drunk date to go further than she wants (though by all indications, it's not that far), and flips out.

If you don't let me go," she told Pete through clenched teeth, "you'll be sorry." Then, as he continued to hold her, she drew back one foot and gave him a sharp kick on the shin with her pointed-toed slipper.

You go, Midge. Though her feisty bout of she-wolf is diminished by the inevitable telling her parents all about it at length for one of those horrible Brady Bunch confessions that leads to a parental conclusion that basically means "you're so right baby but you were a little wrong before and it's all a part of growing up and I'm proud of you for maturing so nicely."

Sandra's never truly captured as a character, never really explained. The author seems to feel she's a truly modern teenager, one whose neglectful parents have created a monster of indifference and cold wariness toward everyone. Where Midge is eager and hard-working and just so golly fifties, wanting to do well at her studies and excel and achieve and bllllllleeeehhhhh, Sandra, when she can be bothered to discuss college at all, dismisses it as a social affair she'd hate to miss. This, far more than Sandra's more direct nastiness toward Midge and others, makes Midge worry.

She was a strange girl. Sometimes, despite their close association, Midge felt she didn't know her at all. Whether this was due to the fact that Sandra kept the core of herself secret and shut away, or simply that many of the other girl's attitudes and reactions were so inexplicably different from her own, Midge wasn't quite sure.

A conversation Midge has with her sister is revealing. Tobey has just denied disliking Sandra, and Midge reacts to the lack of what she says, and says, in frustration and defense of her friend:

Ever so many people think as Sandra does, that you have to make money in order to be successful. People like us, who look at it differently - well, we're in the minority.

Not in fiction. Midge and all her fellow smug daughters of professors, potters, writers, ministers, teachers and shepherds are in the very moral majority in children's books. Few and far between are Sandras as heroines. Or even as characters, apart from stock villains.

About the author

Rosamund du Jardin

Other Books by Rosamund du Jardin
Practically Seventeen
Class Ring
Boy Trouble
The Real Thing
Wait For Marcy
Marcy Catches Up
A Man For Marcy
Senior Prom
Double Date
Double Feature
Showboat Summer
Double Wedding
Wedding In The Family
One Of The Crowd


Fan website
The Malt Shop - du Jardin page
Image Cascade Books (publishers)

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