Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Popular Crowd (1961)

Anne Emery
1961, The Westminster Press

It's sophmore year and Sue Morgan has one goal: become one of the popular crowd at her high school. A successful summer away has given her confidence, and the local stature of her older brother Gary, a football star at college, has given her a start. She nabs her school's football star, Pete Carroll, and every popular door opens from there. And so what if she no longer has time for old friends or studying? Being popular takes work, and so does keeping Pete happy. Over a long school year, Sue discovers just how much work it takes to stay in the popular crowd.

Pete finds it inconvenient to go steady with Sue when he'd like to date everything that shows interest, and leverages that into constant demands for more necking and more sexual activity.

In his enthusiasm he kissed her long and passionately, prepared to go on from where she had stopped him before. It was a constant battle, Sue thought irritably, pushing him off and finally hitting him hard enough to make him listen.

She quickly becomes sick of fending him off, though the author makes it clear she does enjoy some of the sex play.

Sue felt the excitement building up. Even without liking him too much, she could be easily aroused, and she half dreaded, half anticipated the approaching love-making.

Sadly timeless is Sue's weary, cold-blooded realization halfway through the year that she can live with that, with sexual activity she doesn't enjoy much with a boy she doesn't love. Her unease at his ethical shallowness goes much deeper. His personality can be summed up by his comment:

Say, I like your brother, Sue. He's a real contact.

Pete is an operator. It's interesting that in a book written in what is now considered a sexually repressive time, Emery gives his calculating opportunism as much moral weight as his pressuring Sue for sex.

Sue's siblings are her greatest asset; older brother Gary's popularity is her key into the crowd, while her more thoughtful brother Sandy gives her a different perspective on popularity and Pete, and her little sister Marilyn's progress into the same crowd gives Sue a vague sense of not wanting her baby sister in the same things she's gotten into. Her parents are hopeless; a cipher dad and a mother who accepts everyone at face value.

Sue's progress from adoring the football hero to coldly assessing her complete lack of affection for him - and her dying interest in any boy - is chilling.

Author Bio
Anne Eleanor McGuigan was the eldest of five children with a father who was a professor. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1928, spent a year traveling with her family, and then began teaching. She married John Emery in 1933, and had five children. The Illinois town of Evanston appears to be the model for Sherwood; she lived in Evanston most of her life.

Other Books (with my previous reviews linked)

The Burnabys
Senior Year - about Sally
Going Steady - about Sally
High Note, Low Note
Campus Melody
Sorority Girl

Dinny Gordon Series:
Dinny Gordon, Freshman
Dinny Gordon, Sophomore
Dinny Gordon, Junior
Dinny Gordon, Senior

Jane Ellison 4-H
County Fair
Hickory Hill
Sweet Sixteen

Pat Marlowe
First Love True Love
First Orchid for Pat
First Love Farewell

Sue Morgan
The Popular Crowd
The Losing Game

Other Books
Scarlet Royal
Vagabond Summer
That Archer Girl
Married on Wednesday
A Dream to Touch
Bright Horizons
Mountain Laurel
Jennie Lee, Patriot
American Friend: Herbert Hoover
Mystery of the Opal Ring
Danger in a Smiling Mask
Carey's Fortune
The Sky Is Falling
Free Not to Love

Spy books
A Spy in Old Philadelphia
A Spy in Old Detroit
A Spy in Old New Orleans
A Spy in Old West Point

Image Cascade - the Sue Morgan books