Friday, November 2, 2012


This is Book Ten. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: Well here it is, the next chapter in the saga of Jacky Faber. While reading VIVA JACQUELINA, I decided to pay special attention to try to figure out exactly what pisses me off about the Bloody Jack series, and perhaps more importantly, why the hell I keep reading these books in spite of being pissed off. Alas, here are my findings:

First of all: a summary. (I cannot say “plot” summary because that is precisely what these books lack). Anyway, basically Jacky ends up in Spain as a spy for England as the fight against Napoleon drags on. Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, has been crowned King of Spain and naturally, the locals are pissed. In the meantime, Jacky runs with the bulls, models for Goya (of course), and gets caught up in the Inquisition. She also hangs out with some gypsies.

Things that irk me:

-L.A. Meyer always has Jacky refer to her various body parts in the third person; ie. “the Faber bottom,” “the Faber neck,” “the Faber eyebrows,” etc. I should have kept track of them. I know I counted at least 5 different phrases like this. It is stupid and annoying and it gets old.

-THE STORY NEVER GOES ANYWHERE! STILL! There are like 15 different pointless little novellas in each book, and this one is no different. So many things happen that are never addressed again. When reading, the entire time I am asking myself in the back of my mind if this is the part of the story that is actually going to have a point this time. It never does. Characters come and go and no one is connected to anyone. I realize this is also why I find it difficult to pick up and read the book again after taking a break—I have to refresh my memory as to what is going on in the story, which is difficult to do when there is no story of which to speak.

-Once again, the predictable “plot” point from every book: All human beings with a Y chromosome go bat-shit crazy over Jacky and cannot control their manly urges. I don’t know what annoys me more about this—that I doubt that Jacky is that hot, or that virtually every male character in Meyer’s books is either a horny pig, a dumbass, or both.

-L.A. Meyer never ceases to amaze me with what he can get away with writing in these books. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I enjoy them. However, I will keep this in the “Don’t-Like” category for one reason: Not only is VIVA JACQUELINA, like, the fourth book of the series to mention Jacky’s “maidenhair,” but the Faber Maidenhair actually plays a fairly significant role in one of the storylines! Ew! Mr. Meyer, I do not care to know about Jacky’s maidenhair! WTF?!

Here is why I think I still read these books in spite of all the bullshit: 

-Like I stated before, the books contain these non-YA themes that I enjoy, but then I hypocritically complain about. (But no, the maidenhair-- I have never enjoyed that).

-I just really like all of the historical references. I also realize that this is the reason there is no plot—Meyer arbitrarily places Jacky in various non-related situations just so that she can meet famous people such as Goya and King Joseph Bonaparte. The history major in me rejoices at this. I really do learn from these books and some things even stir my interest and I go look online to learn more. POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: Let’s just say that Goya’s real life distinction of being the first artist to depict pubic hair in a Western portrait is not a coincidence. You’ve been warned.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: Amadeo, a Spanish kid and fellow student of Goya.
My favorite new character: Ugh, do I have to choose? What if I hate/am indifferent toward them all? Alas, I will have to go with Cesar. In typical L. A. Meyer fashion, Cesar is a young adolescent who beside himself with his hormonally-charged pining for Jacky Faber. He passes out when he gets a glimpse of our heroine in the buff.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Jordan Bradt: Yeah, yeah – you know how we are with Judy Blume books.  This one, by far, is my least favorite.  The others I could read again, if only to poke fun at them.  I could barely stomach this particular novel.  It wasn’t disgusting, if that’s what you’re thinking.  I was nauseated.  Instead, I was overcome by a sudden case of ADD during chapter one.  It lasted through the entire 296 pages.  I had to literally force myself to keep reading.  My mind wandered to hundreds of different things, some as mundane as my leg itching.  Every few chapters, I had to walk around just to help concentrate.  Why did I even need to concentrate, though?  NOTHING HAPPENED.  The book was a waste of time; too much time, since it took me a few hours.  I could have read it faster if I could focus better.  I understand people now when they tell me they hate reading.  If this was assigned to me at an early age, I would hate reading too.   

So, the book is called JUST AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER.  I had hoped for some potential.  The reviews on the back cover raved about it, and if nothing else, I looked forward to WTF moments and dated references.  The book was written in 1987, the year before I was born.  The most dated thing was that the main character, Stephanie, had a poster of young Richard Gere on her ceiling (maybe so she could masturbate before bed.  Yes, that was hinted at). 

There are three main characters.  I will call them Girl A, B, and C because they are EXACTLY ALIKE.  Judy Blume, once again, missed great opportunities to embellish her characters:  Girl A has to deal with her parents’ separation, Girl B is embarrassed by her high intelligence, Girl C is adopted.  Great areas for development, right?  Well, too bad.  They are glossed over, leaving the characters empty and alike.  Within the first chapter, I hated them.  In the entire book, I couldn’t find a single character I didn’t loathe.  Yes, loathe.  The emotion was that strong.

I’m not too sure what the book is about, because there are all these little areas, but Judy Blume brushes right past them.  Events either happen within a few sentences or we are told about them happening in the past.  As soon as we start to get involved in something, everything changes, and we have to get involved in something else, only to have that ripped away too.  Talk about frustrating.  Those girls are friends, then they aren’t, and go through some stuff, the end.  Honestly, I skimmed from page 255 onward because I couldn’t take the drivel anymore.  I DIDN’T CARE.  I just wanted them to hide within the beaten up pages of the used paperback and stay there so I wouldn’t have to suffer through them any longer.

I must say a few things about WTF moments.  Sadly, this book didn’t have any.  If it had, I might have been partly entertained.  The closest it came to WTF was discussing sex, but even then, it wasn’t WTF enough.  Like, having a seventh grader say if a guy has hairy legs, it means he’s sexually experienced, really doesn’t have any “wow” factor to it.  Sex was discussed way too much for a book geared at eight to twelve year olds.  Eight year olds should still be dressing American Girl dolls, not wondering which of their friends have had sex.  I’m not in denial – I know sex does happen to children sometimes.  It is one thing to deter and give facts to children about sexual intercourse.  It is another thing to just keep discussing sex so that it sounds exciting and taboo.  A great example of the latter is this book. 

I guess I’m done with this review.  It pains me to recap even that much.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Jordan Bradt: Ah, Judy Blume.  SUMMER SISTERS, another book purchased in the used bookroom of the public library.  They have such treasures…and such crap; however, yes, we were excited to find this.  It’s not a treasure by any means.  It is crap.  I expected the usual Judy Blume trash from it, but since it is an adult book, I also expected a little something more.  Yeah, no.  As a note, I felt depressed by the time I finished reading it. 

Flat characters.  They all blended together.  The moms, the dads, the random characters, the boys, the girls.  They don’t even stand out by their gender roles.  If you described them by any other characteristics other than gender, they are THE EXACT SAME PEOPLE.  I even had trouble keeping the two main characters straight in my mind.  Plus, every character was shallow.  They ruined other people’s lives.  They messed up their own.  All around, it is a depressing read.  The characters didn’t even learn or develop.  They stayed two-dimensional throughout the entire 300+ pages.  The story even jumps between perspectives (constantly, in every chapter), but we still don’t get to know them any better.

No plot.  The point of the story is…friendship?  Maybe?  Victoria (Vix) and Caitlin are friends.  Sort of.  They aren’t healthy for each other.  During the summers, Victoria went to Martha’s Vineyard with Caitlin.  Caitlin’s dad lived there.  They slowly grew up (the first summer occurred in 1977 when they were 12-years-old). 

Horrible mother.  Victoria’s mother is another classic mother who doesn’t understands, expects the daughter to take care of the household, yells a lot, and is extremely selfish.  Caitlin’s mother is the classic only-cares-about-herself figure.  Maybe I can’t connect because I have a wonderful mother, but each time I read about these dreadful Judy Blume mothers, I get further turned off from the story.  I look forward to finally finding a Judy Blume book with an awesome mother-figure.  Will it happen?  Probably not, but maybe.  This certainly wasn’t that book. 

Creepy brother.  Caitlin has an old brother.  They call him Sharkey.  He makes a motor-like hum when he eats.  Nobody cares about him.  He’s such a messed up person.  Despite that, he has no redeeming characteristics so you don’t even feel sorry for him.  Oh yeah, and he wants to have sex with Caitlin and Victoria. 

Parents have sex.  Ew.  Just, ew.  

Random WTF moments.  Caitlin’s dad, known as Lamb, takes them to a nude beach, where Lamb’s sort-of girlfriend Trisha strips down and shows off her waffle-like nipples.  The girls decide to babysit for a movie star and he comes onto Caitlin; he even drives them to a secluded beach at night to warn them about guys.  Abby gets Victoria a scholarship to a private school, where she gets a urinary tract infection; Caitlin was ignoring her, but suddenly she’s nice again.  Lamb’s sister with the forgettable name wants to have sex with Caitlin’s crush, but decides to use her magic pole instead; yes, her “magic pole,” as if she’s 10.  They know when you’ve had sex because of pubic hairs under the blankets; WHAT?!  At the end, Caitlin disappears so they assume she’s dead; how is that even an ending?

Jewish character.  Lamb married a woman named Abby.  She is Jewish.  They needlessly mention that a lot, especially Lamb’s grandmother.  Out of everyone, she was my favorite, but I didn’t like her all that much.

Physical handicap.  Victoria has a brother with muscular dystrophy.  He was sort of cool, but we never got to see him much or learn about muscular dystrophy.  Then he died.  Suddenly.  Victoria went home to her family, was sad, and returned, all very rushed.  At the end, she names her son after him, but it isn’t an “aw” moment, just a haphazard mention.  The reader has to put the two names together and go, “Ohhh, in memory of the brother.” 

Weird grandmother.  Lamb grew up with his grandmother.  She’s rich.  She reads dirty books that the girls find.  She has like no role, other than to be controlling, but even then, she isn’t that controlling.  She’s just old.  I learned nothing from her and the richness felt very random.  Until she appeared, I thought that Lamb was poor.  I wasn’t like, “Oh, cool, he’s rich, I’m excited and happy for him.”  I was just, “WTF, new idea suddenly tossed in without editing the beginning?”

Awkward friendships.  Caitlin helps Victoria explore her sexuality.  Yes, as twelve-year-olds.  They orgasm together.  They call it the Power.  They count pubic hairs.  They bathe together. 

Growing up.  Victoria worries she will catch the Big Boob disease from Trisha.  Victoria gets her period and they walk a really long ways to buy pads to put in her pants (first of all, if you got your period and walked all that way, your pants would be soaked through.  Second, you put them in your undies, not your pants), then they hitchhike with some cute guys they sort-of know and Victoria worries they will see the bulge in her shorts.  (So, were they pants or shorts?)  I must have had an odd childhood.  I never worried about my breasts getting too big and I didn’t dwell on getting my period.  Wow, I was so weird.

The Countess.  Victoria’s mom works for a Countess.  In America.  Really?  The Countess visits Lamb and Lamb remembers when she sexually molested him when he was five-ish.  The Countess is randomly thrown in a few chapters later; another time when I think Judy thought up something to add and never edited the beginning to make it fit. 

Potential, thought-provoking themes.  Victoria loves Caitlin because she’s rich; she could have learned that money isn’t everything, but instead, she keeps loving Caitlin.  Caitlin loves Victoria because she’s like a toy; Victoria could have become her own person, but instead, she continued to be Caitlin’s toy.  Even at the end, she couldn’t stop thinking about Caitlin. 

Random sex.  Victoria and Caitlin.  Lamb and Trisha, Lamb and Abby (both eluded to, not described).  Victoria and Bru.  Caitlin and Von.  What might have been Caitlin, Victoria, Von, and Bru.  Caitlin and her ski instructor.  Caitlin and an older woman.  Caitlin and Bru.  Victoria and Gus.  Other people I don’t remember. 

Divorced parents.  I honestly thought Victoria’s parents were divorced at first.  Either I didn’t follow the story well enough, or it wasn’t clear.  Caitlin’s parents are, in fact, divorced.  Caitlin went with her mom. Her brother went with their dad. 

I read reviews on GoodReads.  People either loved this book because they could connect so well (I must be really weird.  I never wanted to have that kind of “friendship” with any of my female friends and my life never involved these crazy moments) or they hated it for many of the reasons I just pointed out.  My favorite was when someone said her writing style sounds as if she’s telling it to a child.  It does!  She talks down to her readers.  No, Judy.  You don’t want to tell little kids about two girls questioning if they are lesbians.  It scares me because a lot of this is probably reminiscent of Judy’s own life. 

One reviewer said he/she felt guilty for reading it.  I feel like I wasted time.  So, read or pass on it, but be prepared.  It’s just a longer version of Judy’s other work, but with supposedly older characters who all act as if they are in elementary school. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Stephanie Bradt: Oh Judy Blume, you’ve done it again. I read STARRING SALLY J. FREEDMAN AS HERSELF directly after reading L.A. Meyer’s VIVA JACQUELINA and it was an interesting juxtaposition. I noticed that I had the same feeling after reading each of them: An empty, what-was-the-point-of-that feeling. Also like the BLOODY JACK series, there were times that I appreciated the humor of SALLY FREEDMAN. As with Meyer's books, Blume’s books are campy and pointless, but can be entertaining nevertheless.

I write this without having read my Dutch cousin’s thoughts on the matter. I will list the things that struck me about this book and then compare notes. Because I find things like that entertaining...

-I love how they were constantly talking about the “starving kids in Europe.” Apparently, post-World War II Europe is today’s Africa. It was just so funny and weird to see that phrase, and it occurred throughout the book.

-Sally is a drama queen, but designating a random guy to be Hitler in hiding and daydreaming gruesome and creepy situations? Really? And suggesting to play “Concentration Camp” in spite of (or because of) the fact that she is Jewish and more than one family member has JUST died in a concentration camp, WTF?

-Let me get this straight: Sally’s brother, Douglas, gets chased by a “strange man” (a pedophile? We will never know), which causes him to fall in water, break his elbow, and contract a kidney disease (nephritis, I think) that causes the entire family to move to Florida so that he can get better.

-Sally hopes Douglas doesn’t die because his funeral wouldn’t be “as fun” as the other funerals she has attended.

-Oh! This is Judy Blume! Token puberty discussion! Today's topic: bras and breast growth!

-The most random-ass shit happens in all of Judy Blume’s books that have nothing to do with the rest of the story and are never followed up on. (L.A. Meyer, anyone)? Examples from this book include: a discussion about pulpy vs. no-pulp orange juice; Sally gets attacked by a man o’ war; the alcoholic mother of Sally’s friend, Barbara; and Omar the cat gets hit by a car and dies.

-Last but not least: Again, you are telling me that Douglas was chased by some strange man who likes to chase children, but the only point of the strange man being in the story is for his indirect role in giving Douglas kidney problems? At least I learned that one of the dangers of being chased by a possible serial rapist is coming down with nephritis.

Jordan BradtI found STARRING SALLY J. FREEDMAN AS HERSELF by Judy Blume at the local public library in the used book room.  What first caught my attention was the scrawl left on the front cover by the previous reader: “STHIT.”  Should that have been “shit”?  Ah, another Judy Blume book.  I don’t blame the previous reader for having that sentiment. 

Once again, I expected more than what I got.  The book is supposedly autobiographical, so I was interested in learning about Judy Blume.  The cover from this 1980 copy also intrigued me.  Sally poses in summer wear in front of a vanity mirror – the same vanity my grandma has in her attic.  Since the book takes place in the 1940’s, I inserted my grandmother as Sally, even though my grandmother would have been in her twenties rather than a young teenager.  After a few pages, I could no longer bear to imagine my grandmother in such drivel. 

The story lacked character development.  In fact, I never got to know, or care for, any of the characters, not even Sally.  By Chapter 2, Sally annoyed me.  A lot.  The story also lacked a strong central plot (other than Sally’s life and her day-to-day experiences).  Judy Blume offered many great moments, but then didn’t follow through.  In order to fully put my thoughts and feelings about the book in order, I decided to go chapter by chapter. 

Prologue: Sally and her family are on vacation…in a rooming house with other people.  Whatever.  Maybe I’m the only one who has never stayed in one of those places. Anyway, World War II ends.  A tall man swings Sally all around.  They all celebrate.  Sally complains that she’s sick and her mom ignores her, repeatedly, until Sally vomits onto the New Jersey beach.  What kind of mom doesn’t listen when her little girl tells her she feels really sick?

Chapter 1: Sally’s older brother, Douglas, is injured.  The family makes it sound really cryptic.  The entire chapter plays it up into this whole big thing, so when his recovery is rushed through, it feel like a huge let down. 

Chapter 2: Sally likes to “play” Holocaust with her friends, in a sort of pretend game where she deals with her feelings over losing family members in Concentration Camps.  These feelings could have been built up and explored, helping Sally to mature and come to terms with reality throughout the novel, but instead they were never fully developed, leaving a creepy sense to her “pretend” game. 

Chapter 3: Sally says goodbye to her old life in New Jersey.  Her mom, grandmother, and Douglas are moving to Florida.  The warm weather will supposedly help her brother to find his full health again (although his illness is never described in great, or any, detail).  There is also a hidden undertone that you don’t fully realize until later on that Sally’s parents have been having issues, hence the separation.  As an adult, I picked up on the “clues” later on; not sure if a child would understand.  It might make him or her confused throughout the novel. 

Chapter 4: Time for another great subplot!  While on the train to Florida, Sally meets an African American family.  She is later horrified to find out they had to move the further south they traveled because they couldn’t be with “Whites.”  This opened many doors for Sally to come to terms with her own beliefs and realize how wrong segregation is.  Instead, it happens and the story moves on. 

Chapter 5: Sally goes to school.  She has lice.  She can’t go to school.  Sally is sad.  Um…what did I just read?  The mom told her the school nurse was lying, rather than creating a teachable moment.
Chapter 6: More school, lots of rules.  At this point, I started to lose interest in the story. 

Chapter 7: Creepy Candy Man renewed my interest!  Sally and her new friend (who I found bitchy throughout the whole novel, but she was supposed to seem awesome) stumble upon Creepy Candy Man.  He is an older man who offers them candy.  Her friend accepts, but Sally remembers her mom’s warnings and runs away.  While this could be another awesome moment in the story, it instead turns into a time when Sally is stupid.  The man apparently lives in her apartment building and is just being nice.  NO.  He should be a creeper and actually teach the reader a lesson! 

Chapter 8: Letters between Sally and Dad.  They didn’t help me to understand the story any better, so eventually I began skimming them. 

Chapters 9-11: Inane life in Florida.  Stuff happened to Sally.  Nothing really stood out to me as memorable. 

Chapter 12: Dad visited.  Sally kissed her dad.  A lot.  Like, in a creepy way.  Oh, yeah, and just more Florida stuff. 

Chapters 13-25: More stuff I don’t care about.  Her mother and grandmother are too focused on their own lives.  Douglas is just there.  Sally annoys me so much I want to skip everything about her, which is 99% of each page.  I would have liked to see what life was like back in the 40’s and use the novel as a historical item of learning, but instead, I discovered that kids then act just like kids now.  Not a bad thing, but it didn’t help my enjoyment. 

Cgapter 26: OMG, the final pages almost redeemed the entire book!  I was so excited, I was practically bouncing on my bed as I read.  Douglas explains what really happened to him when he got hurt in Chapter 1.  Finally, some closure.  He explains that it was the creepy man in the woods.  Yes, tell me more!  Did he attack?  Was Douglas raped?  Will we discover some juicy details and learn to avoid dark woods?  Um, no.  Sally and Douglas laugh.  I turned the page…to nothing.  The End. 

I don’t care if it sounds immature.  I stuck my tongue out at the book.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cowboys Versus Aliens

Jordan Bradt: One fine day, I met a movie entitled COWBOYS VERSUS ALIENS.  My dad bought the Blu-Ray disk for my mother because one of her favorite television sitcoms is THE BIG VALLEY.  Well, this movie is nothing at all like that show. For a wondrous compare and contrast list, please read on.

Character Development: TBV allows you to follow the Barkley family through their trials and tribulations.  In CVA, you sort of follow a group of men and one alien woman as they embark across the desert-area.  My favorite TBV character is Heath; in CVA, I hated them all equally.  Yes, I didn’t care enough about any one character to hate him or her more than the others.

Awesome Male Protagonist: TBV has Heath, the illegitimate Barkley son; he can do anything, and he’s sexy. He takes off his shirt a lot. Woohoo!  CVA has Jake; he can also do anything. Heath and Jake can both take out a man in a single swipe of their fist. Jake also took off his shirt a lot.  He’s buff, but I didn’t find him sexy or hot. 

Supporting Female Role: TBV has Audra, the young Barkley daughter.  She’s gentle and beautiful, sometimes flighty, but her golden heart always shines through. CVA has Ella, an alien disguised as a woman.  She stares. A lot.  She sacrificed herself at the end, so I guess she also has a golden heart.

Native Americans: Both the movie and the television show have Native American characters, who are sort of the bad guys, but also pull through when their help is needed. 

Mexicans: Again, both shows have them, sometimes as positive characters, sometimes as bad.

Outlaws: Both have lots of outlaws! TBV keep them as the bad guys.  The Barkleys come shining through to vanquish evil and save the day.  In CVA, the outlaws become the good guys and help terminate the aliens. 

Overall, while I adore science-fiction, I prefer TBV over CVA.  There’s something thrilling about a family struggling to survive through everyday trials in the 1800’s, as opposed to aliens trying to steal 1800’s American gold while operating on human victim.


Jordan Bradt:


I had the pleasure of watching the movie LOL, starring Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus.  I knew it was going to be awesome when it started in slow motion, and Miley’s voiceover announced that was because she and her friends are so cool.  That was further proven through the whole movie as they suffer no character development, just stay at the same level of supreme coolness.  Her name in the movie, Lola a.k.a. Lolz (can anyone say Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen Lola?), is just too mind-blowing to keep thinking about it, so I’m going to refer to her as Miley.
LOL is just…wonderful. It doesn’t even need a plot. Literally. There was no plot, but that was okay, because of all the awesomeness. There’s, like, this girl at Miley’s high school who is called the Post-It.  I mean, how could any nickname ever get any better than that?  Miley gets to go to Paris for a school trip via her French class.  She has his boyfriend, Chad, but he cheated, so she dumped him, but now he thinks she’s a whore.  There’s this other guy, Kyle.  They were both so incredibly hot that I had trouble telling who was who while watching the movie.  Then there’s this third guy who had this one really deep scene with Miley in her bedroom. Random Guy seemed interesting; I would’ve liked to see at least one more scene involving him.  The product placement was phenomenal.  The Pandora jewelry box – what teenage girls doesn’t want that?  The box of Trojan condoms – what teenage boy doesn’t bring the whole box to a party?

Oh, and Miley’s family is just incredible.  Her mom, younger sister, and her all bathe together, and discuss things while naked in the tub such as porn stars and Brazilian waxes.  Her grandmother gets drunk and lets Miley host a wild party.  Miley’s mom, Demi Moore, finds Miley’s journal, where whole new plot-lines are introduced, such as smoking pot and “loving” her female friends, but are never elaborated.  The best part of all is when Miley and Demi have sex (with different men in different countries) and the move keeps flashing back and forth between them. Who doesn’t want to see that?

Speaking of who doesn’t want to see things…who really wants to see this movie? Seriously?

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Stephanie Bradt: Here is yet another review of a book by the author I love to hate, Judy Blume. Introducing the 1974 gem, BLUBBER:

The gist: While chubby fifth grader, Linda, is giving an oral presentation on whales, her classmate, Wendy, passes a note. The note points out the fact that Linda is talking about whales and blubber while Linda herself has blubber like a whale. The fateful note is passed around, and so begins our story. The note makes its way to our protagonist, Jill Brenner (wow, these Judy Blume main characters ALL have German and/or Jewish surnames), who laughs at the note because Wendy is watching her and she wants to look cool. Throughout the rest of the story, Jill participates with Wendy and her cronies as they viciously bully Linda.

First of all, what struck me was the sheer evilness of those who bully Linda (which turns out to be probably over 75% of the school). The kids call Linda “Blubber,” they lift her skirt to make fun of her underwear, force her to strip, force her to kiss their fat male classmate, and even lock her in a closet. These kids are in fifth grade. Also, the teachers do not care. At one point, all of the students are publically weighed on a scale one by one. The teacher tells Blubber in front of everybody that Blubber needs to lose weight. Blubber says that she is just big-boned and that she is trying to lose weight and she is on a diet, to which the teacher responds, “Good.” Wow. Anyway, the students relentlessly make fun of Blubber throughout the story until the bizarre day they all randomly decide to make fun of Jill instead and Wendy suddenly becomes BFFs with Blubber. Jill is sad and Linda decides to be mean to Blubber again. The end.

I started off almost liking this book. It seemed like a believable commentary on bullying and how one harmless note can gradually escalate into serious bullying. At several points in the story, I really thought that Judy Blume would surprise me and write a meaningful book. Alas, my hopes were dashed when Blume wastes at least three golden opportunities for character development:

(1) Jill and Blubber end up at the same table together at (what a surprise, Judy Blume) a bar mitzvah, where Jill continues to antagonize Blubber even though none of their other classmates are there.

(2) Jill is best friends with a Chinese-American named Tracy Wu. Jill’s “friends” start calling Tracy a “chink” and Jill gets angry and yells at them. However, she herself does not ever even consider that that is what she was doing to Blubber.

(3) Even at the end, when the tables have turned on Jill, she never once considers how her plight is the same as Blubber’s.

Once again, Judy Blume could have had an important and powerful story. However, she holds back because she remembers that she is a shitty writer and the only goal of her books is to needlessly get themselves banned. In this “children’s” book, the characters say “damn” and “ass” and the teacher is described as being a “bitch.” Besides these token ban-worthy moments, there are also the usual useless subplots of the crazy older family member, the annoying younger sibling, and the signature Jewish character. At the very least, this book has taught me that a flenser is someone who strips whale blubber. Jill decides to be one for Halloween.

The only character I hated more than Ringleader Wendy was Jill. There is absolutely no character development with Jill or anyone else for that matter. By the end of the book, no one apologizes to Blubber, Wendy is still a bratty sociopath, and Jill remains the same weak-willed shithead she was at the beginning of the story.