Friday, May 15, 2015

Answer For April (1963)

Answer For April
Jan Nickerson, il (cover) Lucille Wallace
1963, Funk & Wagnalls Company, Inc.

Although the others had gone back into the house, April Anderson watched the car until it was out of sight. She knew that Margo would insist that Jeff remove the Just Married sign and the paper streamers before they left the country road and started along the thruway. Her older sister had a large share of the Anderson dignity; Jeff, being an advertising man, wouldn’t mind. If the other drivers honked at him, he would give them a big grin, but Margo would be embarrassed. April thought that she would be too, in a similar situation.

Sixteen-year-old April has just watched her older sister Margo leave the family home for the last time.  Their mother is dead, their father is an aggressively helpless man, and housekeeper Mrs. Berry isn’t enough to keep the home lights burning. April quickly learns that Margo’s been doing a lot in the past few years, and that it all falls on her now. Younger sisters Amy (14) and Pam (12) are basically hers now.  Their 19yo brother Thayer Jr. is in Germany, serving in the military, and doesn’t make an appearance.

Tall. Blonde. Suave. Hollister.  April’s been semi-flirting with boy-next-door Spencer, but is immediately intrigued to find a strange blonde boy on her front doorstep.  He’s Hollister Jones, come to get tutoring in French from her impatient father (which is never quite explained, given Thayer Armstrong’s obvious dislike of teaching and apparent financial comfort), and triggers a girl-war between April and her long-time best friend Norma. 

The war is conducted largely by Norma, who reveals such depths of malice which are all met with familiarity by April, so that you wonder why our heroine was ever friends with her.  Then again, April’s response to Norma’s jealousy is to shrug; she’s oddly cold-blooded.

April’s real agonies are reserved for her family.  Which is inevitable, given that her father suffers from Fragile Father Syndrome (attacks many fictional papas whose wives have been conveniently removed from this life by a tension-heightening author; generally, FFS daddies are socially conscious, artistic, journalistic or otherwise unimpeachably Better Than Thou. Daughters usually in thrall to them, sons often avoid them.) Thayer, even regarded through April’s fond eyes, is an asshole.  An artist who loathes the commercial work he does to pay the bills, he has a long history of vicious arguments with son-in-law Jeff, an ad man, and reacts to modern music (apparently jazz) as if someone had struck him very hard with a club.  Which becomes more tempting, the longer he goes on.  His crowning moment is when it’s suggested everyone take their own plate to the sink after dinner.

Father looked distressed.

The poor man. He spends his days in his backyard studio with his Dachshund, Snodgrass, slaving over a hot palette, and here these evil women want him to walk his own dirty dish to the kitchen sink.

Modern music enters the plot through family friend and independent career woman “Aunt” Irene, who invites April for a visit to Boston and introduces her to various young friends.  One, a brilliant but moody musician named Tom, becomes infatuated with April.  You start to see Norma’s point.

“Every boy who comes along. First Hollister, then Neil Burgess, and Tom Barlow, and, of course, always good old Spencer. Why should you have them all?”

Sadly, this is about the extent of the clothing porn. 

Saturday evening had come. Temporarily renouncing all her responsibilities, April became a carefree teen-ager preparing for a date. What a wonderful feeling! As she stepped into her black suede pumps, she felt absolutely grown up.

A readable but not particularly lively book. 

Random points
Amazing names – Thayer and Hollister and Spencer and Snodgrass and Margo. 
Virtually no physical description – clothes, house, etc. Nada.  You fill in all the blanks.

That Cover
The two younger Anderson girls throw a Halloween party, true, but the cover is baffling.  The party covers a chapter and isn’t that big a plot, and the book itself goes from the start of autumn through mid-winter. 

Other books
Date With  A Career (1958)
Destination: Success! (1959)
New Boy in Town (1960)
When The Heart is Ready (1961)
Circle of Love (1962)
Bright Promise (1965) historical
Double Rainbow (1966)
Peter Pembroke, Apprentice

A review of  Nickerson's book New Girl In Town at Forever Young Adult blog