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.