Friday, July 7, 2017

I Met A Boy I Used To Know (1967)

I Met A Boy I Used To Know
Lenora Mattingly Weber
1967, Thomas Y. Crowell Company

Katie Rose Belford met the boy with the restless black eyes, the cockey toss of head, and the appealing flash of smile, on the first day of the mid-year semester.

This is Gilmartin “Gil” Ames, new boy in Katie Rose’s Colorado town.  Katie Rose, laboring under a dual name and a weakness for victimized boys, falls hard.  The fact that Gil speaks longingly of a beloved horse he had to leave behind in his old home in California makes it official – Katie Rose is infatuated.

Couldn’t the students and teachers realize his showing off was just a cover for his inner insecurity and unhappiness?

Gil is as shallow as a mud puddle, but Katie Rose is in love.  She’s far too enraptured to credit any of the negative features everyone else in town mentions to her about him – the whining, the laziness, the exaggeration.

Of course our heroine must realize Gil for what he is – but the book has a two-piece method for that.  Katie Rose discovers Gil in an ugly, cruel crime – dognapping pets and holding them for ransom – and is the unwitting vehicle of his downfall.  For which she is castigated as a rat and suffers mightily because she doesn’t fall out of love at all.  Despite despising him, she feels locked into her weakness for his stories, his many, many stories of neglectful mothers and cruel fathers.  Katie Rose, despising herself for her inability to shrug him off, seizes the chance to accompany a neighbor on a long car trip to California, to visit her uncle, only to discover that Gil, using an assumed name, is also ride-sharing with the neighbor to get out of town. 

A prolonged, torturously hot and slow trip ensues, which rips off the very last of Gil’s mantle of sad appeal.    

Tedious Good Boys Make Girl Craziness Understandable
Katie Rose, like so many misled heroines, has a pelican in the form of a dreary, dull, relentlessly goody-goody Husband Material boy.  In her case, dreamy Miguel.  Oh, dreamy, boring Miguel, who is temporarily out of the picture by virtue of visiting his dad in Hawaii.  Katie Rose, having finally fled Romantically-Misunderstood-turned-Whiny-Jerk Gilmartin, doesn’t do anything as crazy as take a moment’s breath, but immediately turns to Miguel, who’s due back in a month.  Oh, reliable Miguel!

For she knew suddenly that a girl wasn’t supposed to feel maternal and protective – even apologetic – for the boy she dates. 

While true, this like so many old teen novels seems to feel the only alternative is for a girl to feel apologetic to the boy she dates.  Because you know old Miguel is getting an armful of “Oh,  I’m a silly thing! Let me confess!” the minute he plods back into town.

Clothing porn
KR (I can only write that out so many times) opens the book pining over another girl’s ‘it’ look:

The flecked tweed skirt and soft pull-over of solid color to match. Right now that “Heather and Knit” outfit was the most at Adams High.

She notes but disregards the very first warning sign of Gil’s unstable, unreliable nature – his insanely cowboyesque and overly sharp clothing choices.

His attire differed noticeably from that worn by other boys at Adams. Instead of a T shirt, he wore a tailored Western one of maroon wool broadcloth with white piping edging the yoke and wide cuffs.  It fitted tight over his shoulders and ribs, and his creamy white pants were snugged even closer over slim hips. The heels on his black half-boots added an inch to his height; and he was already taller than average.

Inverted universe
The Belford clan boasts the usual single-parent household of teen novels, but with the twist that the father is dead and their mother is alive.  Even better, she’s a singer/pianist at a nightclub/Italian restaurant.

Zany 1960s nostalgia
Negroes pop up, always in a positive and completely forgettable way.  Thanks, Negro Home Ec teacher!  Hey, Negro fellow pupil who Katie Rose is super cool about!  Bye, now!

Irish-American relatives who faith and beggorah incessantly.  I take umbrage at this fluffery – half my family had accents like leprechauns after 40 years in the US, and they managed not to lilt like a drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day. 

The lovingly and perhaps overly impressed manner in which the Foods of Italy are described in a scene at an Italian restaurant.  Called Guido’s. 

About the author
Born in Missouri, but spent most of her life in Colorado.   She rode horses, played sports and wrote from a young age.  Her Beany Malone series was her most popular.  She married Albert Herman Weber in 1916, at age 21, and had 6 children. 

Books in the Belford series
Don’t Call Me Katie Rose (1664)
The Winds of March (1965)
A New and Different Summer (1966)
I Met  A Boy I Used to Know (1967)
Angel In Heavy Shoes (1968)
How Long Is Always? (1970)
Hello, My love, Goodbye (1971)
Sometimes A Stranger (1972)