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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself

I Read It!I first picked up a Betsy-Tacy book because Sarah at Library Hospital was raving about them. Last year she held her first Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge and I made it through the first four Betsy-Tacy books (click on the links below to read my thoughts):

Betsy-Tacy
Betsy-Tacy and Tib
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
Betsy Tacy Go Downtown (no review)

I was hoping to finished off the whole series, but didn't get around to it. Therefore, I told myself that I would finish the Betsy books during the second annual Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge and I'm currently on track with that plan!

I started off this month by reading Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself which Harper Collins combined into one "volume", if you will, of a book. (Insert proper disclaimer about how I received this book from Harper Collins but I'm expressing my own opinions of the book, etc., etc.)

I cracked open Heaven to Betsy and found Betsy on her way to high school with her good friend Tacy. In the previous books I have really liked Betsy but I have to say that the teenager version of her grates upon my nerves. I'm just going to go ahead and confess it. It's all boys, boys, boys with Betsy and it becomes wearisome. Tacy, on the other hand, seems much more level headed and enjoys her life without the constant gaming that comes with being a teenage girl who makes you want to do nothing but roll your eyes at her.

Is that to say that I did not like the book!? On the contrary. See, I can't really say that I never experienced some of the same thoughts that Betsy did when I was growing up. I also had a tremendously close friend and my relationship with her reminds me of the friendship that was shared by Betsy and Tacy. And so it is with some calm, reluctant understanding that I still enjoy Betsy. She will grow out of this boy-crazy phase. I'm convinced. Most level-headed girls do and I would say that Betsy is remarkably level headed.

The only thing I honestly didn't like in Heavens to Betsy was that Betsy receives a Ouija board for Christmas and she and her friends make some good use out of it. I don't find the idea of dabbling in the spirit world remotely safe or entertaining and have no tolerance whatsoever for Ouija boards. There were about 2 chapters in the middle of the book that focused on this particular activity and given that the subject matter was dropped in short order, I had no qualms about finishing the book. However, you should know that such a thing exists in these books, regretfully.

At any rate, Betsy makes it through her freshman year in Heaven to Betsy and we find ourselves moving on to her Sophomore year in Betsy in Spite of Herself. If it is possible for Betsy to be more boy crazy in this story, I can't see how. She's very focused on making herself dark and mysterious and attractive to members of the opposite sex. Tacy plays a smaller role in this book than she did even in Heaven to Betsy which I find rather regrettable. However, it is Tacy who affirms to Betsy that she should be true to herself first and foremost. She points out to Betsy that being one's self is what is important and that people genuinely like her for her. Betsy must learn this lesson for herself though and that is the purpose of the book.

The most entertaining aspect of this book, to me, was the jab Maud Hart Lovelace took at Elsie Dinsmore. Disnmore is declared too perfect a character and on this point, I simply must agree. I know there are Elsie Disnmore fans out there but if I had to choose boy crazy Betsy to Elsie's condescension, I have to say I'd take Betsy every single day of the week!

The most intriguing thing about Betsy's high school years, to me, is the fact that they were modeled closely after Lovelace's. Lovelace seems to have "changed the names to protect the innocent" in her stories and researched her own high school diaries when writing of Betsy's high school years. In the back of the new Harper Collins editions, they provide a list of the fictional characters alongside the names of the actual people that Lovelace based her characters on. Essentially I walked away from these first two stories of Betsy in High school feeling like I got to know Lovelace in high school.

Apparently, Lovelace destroyed her diaries after the high school stories were published. She said herself that the diaries were filled with, "boys, boys, boys!" and so I'm guessing we didn't miss much excepting to find out who she had a crush on. I don't really care to know.

I recognize that this review might sound a bit more negative, but I don't meant it to be so. On the whole, I like seeing Betsy grow up, primarily because I enjoyed her past and I have high hopes for her future. Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself is just that awkward in between stage for a girl when she's not really a child, nor is she an adult. You make mistakes, you know, and learn a great deal during those years. So does Betsy.

I look forward to reading more and my thanks goes out again to Sarah for hosting this reading challenge which spurs me onward!

11 comments:

Annette W. said...

It's good to know that I'm not the only one ashamed of my boy crazy days.

I don't think it was a negative review...

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

I really need to read this series.

Here is mine

Barb @ 1SentenceDiary said...

Oy! I already lived through my own tumultuous teenage years, and I'm about to go through it again with my daughter. I'm not sure I can bear to read fiction about it as well, LOL.
Enjoyed your review!

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

What a funny assessment!!!

I remember when I read a Trixie Belden book for the Children's Classics Mystery Challenge, I was surprised at the difference in the way YA books approach "courtship" (if you will) now and then. In the one I read Trixie was trying to seem as if she was interested in that cousin of Honey's, but no one found it odd that she would totally change who she was to "get the guy." HA!

Nancy said...

I wasn't boy crazy as a teen but I sure had some friends who were. I haven't read any of these books and enjoyed your honest opinion, and no, I didn't think it was negative.

Book Club Girl said...

It's so interesting to read different people's reviews. While I guess Betsy is boy crazy, I never really saw it that way reading them when I was younger (which I guess means I was a bit boy crazy...). and rereading them now, with a 15 year old daughter, well, they seem pretty spot on.

I also felt that her confrontation with her faith and deciding to convert was an amazingly mature thing to do at 14 years old. There was a time that the book was removed from at least one library because of her scandalous decision to convert from Baptist to Episcopalian. Today we applaud teens who think that carefully about what the believe and how they want to practice that belief.

I'm glad that despite your qualms you're still reading on!

S. Mehrens said...

I know what you mean, but I think I have had a more accepting opinion because I read these books for the first time when I was in high school. I think I clicked as one teenager to another when reading. Now I have a different perspective, but I still love the charm of the book. Though I've said it - now for the phase I am in life my favorite hands down is Betsy's Wedding. But then... perhaps that's because I'm looking at it from the eyes of a married woman. Maybe in a few years when my daughter is Betsy's age in Betsy-Tacy I'll have another fresh perspective.

Love that you're reading the series. Keep on going! :)

Carrie said...

Book Club Girl & Sarah - I think you are right. My perspective during my present phase of life definitely affects my opinion of Betsy in her current condition. I reckon that if I had read these books as a teen, I would have swooned right along with Betsy. Hindsight makes me annoyed. =)

It's not that I don't like Betsy and I know girls are prone to things like this but I think some girls go a bit overboard in the boy department and Betsy really is one of them. Either that or no one else has ever spelled things out in a way that I would understand them so clearly before -and that's a compliment to Lovelace and her writing, really!

Stumbeline said...

I love your review. It didn't seem negative; it was honest. Thanks for the heads up on the Ouija board.

Lisa notes... said...

Thanks for the very informative review. I have read maybe 2 Betsy books with my girls, but not this one.

Anna said...

I don't even remember the Ouija board scene!

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