Beatrice Sparks’s book about a teen girl who gets into an inappropriate relationship with her teacher is her horrible usual writing style, but I must admit it did somewhat pick up and get better towards the end. And the back matter did have some good resources for teens who might be in creepy relationships like Jennie’s. Everything else sucked as badly as usual.
At least in some of her other books, Sparks’s authorship isn’t so obvious right from the very start. This book was only marginally better than the horrific Annie’s Baby, and that’s only because it finally starting getting relatively interesting and dramatic towards the end (in spite of a too-perfect conclusion). Until the last 20 pages or so, it was pretty difficult to slog through.
It has the exact same writing style as all of her other books:
A protagonist who thinks, writes, talks, acts absolutely nothing like a modern American teen, with the maturity level of a five-year-old
Characters who are clichés and stereotypes from some over the top morality play or after school special
Ridiculous, childish language
Obnoxious moral preachiness
Apologizing for cursing, thinking negative or unappreciative thoughts, or criticising one’s parents in one’s own journal
And of course, Sparks’s specialty, frequently WRITING IN ALL CAPS, OFTEN FOR SEVERAL LINES IN A ROW, excessive italics, and excessive exclamation points!!!!! It’s so difficult to read something like that. Not only is it annoying and childish, but it also really distracts from the story.
Jennie’s parents have a weird relationship; one moment they’re fighting a lot, the next they’re trying to reconcile and work things out, and then her dad finally leaves. Her mom turns to pills to deal with the pain, and Jennie clings to her two best friends, Bridget and Marcie. Marcie started out as a snob she and Bridget hated, till the oh-so-unrealistic scene when Marcie asks to eat lunch with them and immediately admits she only acts snobby and like she doesn’t want or need friends because she’s afraid no one would want her as a friend otherwise.
Jennie is upset that Bridget gets a boyfriend, Brad, and starts hanging out with him instead of her. Brad eventually dumps Bridget, and the three girls, in a typically unbelievable and ridiculous storyline, start doing weed (wearing only underwear and shower caps, for fear they might smell of drugs) until they’re caught by Marcie’s father the general. Sparks really managed to pack a lot of her pet crusades into this book—drugs, religion, teen relationships, broken homes, alcoholism, the works! She even snuck in a ridiculous anti-feminist comment, when Jennie comments on a teacher who wants to go by Ms. instead of Miss, and how all of the kids “wonder if she’s a…you know.” Since when do modern American teens consider it suspicious or wrong for a woman to go by Ms.? This isn’t the Fifties!
Jennie feels close to her new sub in math, Mr. Johnstone, really quickly, and sees nothing creepy or inappropriate by how he singles her out for increasing amounts of attention. She almost immediately is declaring he’s perfect and that they have something special together (another Sparks trope). It’s never said exactly how old he is, but I’d assume he’s at least 10 years older than Jennie.
Jennie lets him get weirder and weirder, even to the point where he’s taking pedophilic pictures of her looking like a little girl and asking her to marry him on her 15th birthday. She only comes back to her senses when she discovers, by accident, what’s really been going on.
Seriously, I really don’t think any real teen girl would be that dumb, not even one from a dysfunctional family. Of course, everything starts to get back to normal when Jennie finally confides in her dear sweet Mommy, whom she’s so glad is her precious Mom (yet another stock line!), and they both start praying and going to church.
Sparks really let a clue of her authorship slip when she had Jennie say she feels like she’s been kicked out of the celestial circle, a term she’s heard but doesn’t know the meaning of. What are the odds she would’ve actually heard that term anywhere unless she’s supposed to be Mormon? I only recognize all this Mormon language in Sparks’s books because I’ve studied world religions!
Jennie is by far one of Sparks’s most annoying, childish, ridiculous, and loathsome creations. I really wanted to slap her for being so stupid, overly emotional, and juvenile. Sparks had no clue how modern teens really write, talk, act, and think. She also didn’t realize you can impart important lessons like don’t do drugs, be wary of excessive, increasingly intimate attention from a teacher, don’t have unprotected sex, etc., without lying to and preaching at young people to try to scare them straight.
The only things she was really good at were creating victims and preaching.