Thursday, March 6, 2008

Guard the retarded, or Sometimes Love Just Isn't Enough

Oh my god, you guys. The used bookstore must have known I was coming, because stuffed in between a million other mass-market paperbacks was something amazing, a Lurlene book so old:

  1. I'd never even heard of it
  2. she'd yet to develop a disease fetish
  3. it's not available online to purchase except used
  4. the cover art/synopsis aren't anywhere on the web
  5. the retail price printed on the book is $1.75
HOLY CRAP WHAT A FIND! Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to Sometimes Love Just Isn't Enough (published 1984). What's this treasure about? Not disease, you guys, not disease!:

Funny, Andrea thought. It's funny how quietly everybody talks when life-changing decisions are being made.

Andrea is thirteen and scared. She feels her family is falling apart. She can't even admit to herself that her parents are divorcing. They say that they love her, but she needs more than just words in her life.

Andrea's life does become better when she begins to understand some things
[as do all of ours, yeah?]. . . especially when she finds someone special who begins to understand her.
You guys, I wanted you to see this so badly that I took a picture for you:

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS! Check out Andrea's mullet! Check out her white skirt! Check out the matching shirt and socks! Also, seriously, this is the most misleading cover; I thought I was getting myself into a Sweet Dreams scenario, but this book is totes NOT a teen romance. That said, check out the dude's white jeans! Holy hell, they're amazing. Every single thing about this picture is amazing.

Okay, so some background info on how I write these recaps: as I read the books, I dog-ear any page I want to quote from/write about. Generally I do that about five to ten times for the whole book, generally closer to five. For this book, I did it twenty times. TWENTY. At a certain point I thought it might be easier just to retype the whole friggin' novel for you guys, but I managed to narrow it down.

So we meet Andrea Manetti, who is thirteen and about to start junior high! AW YEAH. At first I thought Andrea was a pervert, given that this is how the book opens:

They were at it again. Andrea Manetti sighed deeply. She got up from her sitting position on her bed and stood quietly beside her bedroom door, listening.
Actually, Andrea is listening to her parents fighting. Oh, well then! What are they fighting about? WELL WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The arguments were always about the same things... lack of money, her mother's desire to go to work, her father's insistence that she stay at home like a "normal" woman and take care of her family.
OH MY GOD I HATE MR. MANETTI ALREADY. Also, whyyyy the scare quotes around "normal"? I can just picture snotty-ass misogynistic Mr. Manetti making air quotes as he yells that. Also it's made clear that money is tight for the Manettis, so WHAT THE FUCK.

Andrea's dad storms out, and Andrea tries to distract herself:

Andrea picked up her newest copy of Teen, her favorite magazine, and began leafing through the pages. How she loved her magazines!
I was hoping Andrea's mom was awesome, given that I want to support her in her desire to be anything but "normal", but as soon as she yells upstairs for Andrea, that dream goes up in a puff of smoke and mirrors:

Suddenly she heard her mother's angry voice yell from the foot of the stairs. "For heaven's sake, Andi! Can't you hear the stupid phone? You know it's for you. No one ever calls me!"
Geez, I wonder why.

The phone call's from Terri, Andrea's BFF. She wants Andrea to spend the night, since school starts in TWO WEEKS OH NOES. Andrea goes to ask her beotch mom, who snarks that Andrea and Terri are just like Siamese twins (ouch, conjoined, anyone?), but does relent, as long as Andrea gets her brother for dinner.

Okay, so I thought "Siamese twins" was pretty bad as far as terms we used to think were okay and now know better. But I'd just glimpsed the tip of the iceberg, folks; I had no idea how it was all gonna go down:

"Andi... Andi..." he cooed to her. Timmy was such a beautiful child. She still found it hard to believe that her brother was mentally retarded. [RETARDED YOU GUYS.] He was six years old, but had the mental age of a three-year-old. According to his doctors he'd never be mentally older than twelve or thirteen.

Andrea could still remember when Timmy had been two years old. The doctors had told her parents about Timmy. At two, he still wasn't walking or talking. When her parents had him checked, the diagnosis had been, "Birth defect... retarded since birth."

It had been very hard on her parents, especially her father. His only son was hopelessly retarded. [HOPELESSLY RETARDED!]
Andrea hasn't told anyone about Timmy except a few friends, including Terri:
It didn't seem right that the whole world should know. ... What a life, she thought inwardly. [As opposed to...?] I have a retarded brother and arguing, bickering parents.

So she heads over to Terri's house, where they experiment with hair and makeup.

"Let's try some clothes on to fit my image," Andrea suggested. The two girls rummaged through Terri's closet and eventually settled on a purple off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, a tight pair of jeans and lavender leg warmers. Suede half-boots completed the outfit. [I'd make fun of this except that this outfit is perfectly passable now. Hello, I live one town over from Silverlake.]

"You look kind of neat," Terri said. [Ooh, hold back with the compliments, Terri.]

Andrea liked what she saw in the mirror, too. "It's not too bad," she said.
Lurlene has really nailed the way normal kids talk! Check out this from Terri's sister:
"Ah, Ma..." eighteen-year-old Julia complained. "Classes start next week at the junior college. I need out figure out my curriculum."
Andrea likes to give herself pep talks not unlike those that Melinda gave herself in her journal:

"Just wait!" she told herself fiercely. "Just wait and see!"
"Fiercely"? Sounds like someone's been watching too much Project Runway:

Back at chez Manetti, the 'rents are fighting again. Oh, them! There is this weird paragraph that ends this section:

"Thanks a lot!" her father said angrily to his wife as Andrea and Timmy left the room. Then her mom said something. [What?] The last thing Andrea remembered was her parents yelling and fighting with each other again.
AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?? Did she pass out? Did she catch some of that amnesia? What??

Andrea starts junior high, and keeps getting hassled by this tough dude named TONY COLUMBO. Oooh tough! He does stuff like pin her up against the lockers, trip her, grab her arm, totally manhandles her. I fucking hate Tony Columbo! I know Andrea's a whiner with a mullet who is ashamed of her brother's disability, but dudes throwing that kind of force at ladies just isn't cool.

So Andrea is really into singing and musicals and all of that, which is cool because if I had any talent I would be too! I think maybe Lurlene should have talked to some people who'd actually gone through choir and a school musical, though, before writing about them. You know how Andrea gets to be a soprano in her choir class? She just walks in and sits in the section labeled "soprano". Oh, okay! I guess all that time my teacher spent checking our ranges was just a waaaaste.

So of course Tony Columbo is in Andrea's choir class. She wishes he was nicer because he's good-looking. Oh, man, don't make these kids end up together. I hate abusive jerks, no matter what their excuses are. BECAUSE YOU JUST KNOW COLUMBO HAS AN EXCUSE.

The parents are, of course, still fighting:

"You're not going to get a job!" said Mr. Manetti to his wife.

"Why not? There's never any money for extras! We're already so far in debt that we'll never get out," yelled Andrea's mother.

"That's my problem! No wife of Jim Manetti's is going to work!" her dad said tensely. [Oh you fucking asshole! And how is it only YOUR problem, when the finances affect the WHOLE FAMILY.]


"You have plenty to do around this house," her dad continued loudly, "if you'd just get off your high horse and do it. I come home... the place is always a mess. And you want to go to work!"
"Oh, yeah," Mrs. Manetti shot back. "This is real challenging work -- cleaning house and washing dishes. We almost starve because you're such a big shot and don't want your wife to work and help out." [You tell 'em, Mrs. Manetti!]

"The kids need a full-time mother!" Andrea's dad yelled.

"Why?" she asked hotly. "Andi's in junior high. She's old enough to let herself in after school and to even start supper for me. Timmy's in that special school which costs an arm and a leg, I might add! The school also has day care. I can pick him up on my way home from work."

"You're not working!" he shouted.

"I AM WORKING!" she shouted back. She paused and added, "I already have a job."
That's right! Andrea's mom is working as a bank teller, and she loves it, and she's proud of herself! Okay then! Of course Andrea's dad storms out.

Well, of course, GUESS WHO'S GETTING A DIVORCE? That's right, we all saw it coming, just like cancer in a normal Lurlene book. Andrea's dad moves out, and she hardly sees him at all. Even on Christmas he only stops by for a short time, though it's long enough to be a total dick:

"Get off my back! [he says to Andrea's mom] "You're the one with the fancy job...."
NO OFFENSE BUT WTF DOES HE THINK A BANK TELLER IS? Yes it's a fine job but "FANCY"? The fuck? I really hate this asshole. I hope Andrea goes off to college and double majors in singing and women's studies and writes really angry music about her misogynist father.

In better news, the school is putting on a production of Grease. Grease is the word! Andrea is of course trying out to be Sandy. She auditions with "Hopelessly Devoted to You" which, YOU GUYS, was NOT in the original stage show, just in the movie, and wasn't added until that 1990s revival. Now, okay, I had to confirm this information on Wikipedia, but I'm still kind of ashamed I spotted this mistake so quickly. Since when am I some sort of Grease aficionado?

Also Lurlene refers to the chorus or ensemble as the play's "extras". OH MY GOD LURLENE. This stuff is NOT HARD TO CHECK. If you don't have one friend who was in a high school musical, then what the hell kind of life do you live? I myself have more friends who were than weren't.

Guess who's playing Danny in Grease? Well, Columbo, OF COURSE. They get along great, ugh. I hate Columbo! There's this weird scene where he offers to ride home on the city bus with her (Lurlene really has a thing about city buses, doesn't she?) and then says, "Come on, we'll walk down to the pizza parlor." THEN THEY GO TO McDONALD'S. And there is no explanation like "oh, well, this was waaaay closer." NOPE! Does Lurlene think McDonald's is a pizza parlor? She thinks the ensemble members are referred to as extras, so I don't doubt it.

Andrea tries this big effort to make a fancy dinner and get both of her parents in the same room, now that her mom has all this work confidence and new and stylish clothes, but of course her parents are all "NO WAY JOSE". In the craziness of this, Andrea leaves Timmy's door unlatched! YOU GUYS THIS IS NOT GOOD:

Because he was retarded, Timmy wasn't responsible enough to be left unguarded.
I mean, he's only seven, I'm not sure "because he's retarded" is the reason this is a bad idea, Manettis!

So Timmy cannot be found anywhere, and a news team shows up. YOU GUYS THIS IS HOW THEY REPORT ON THIS:

"Little Timmy Manetti, the six-year-old retarded son of divorced parents, Ruth and Jim Manetti, is missing..."
So I guess Fox News sent that one out. If I was a journalism teacher I would tell my students to think of eleventy billion ways better than this to break this story. HINT HINT NONE INVOLVE THE WORDS 'RETARDED' OR 'DIVORCED'.

Whew, Timmy is found the next morning, sleeping in some dude's truck. IT'S ALL GOOD. Knowing what I do about Lurlene's fascinations, I totes expected Timmy might show up dead, so it was a relief.

Grease is about to open, and Andrea's all Bitchy McBitch about her parents being divorced. Columbo's all, yeah, at least they both love you and your dad doesn't beat you up! He's got a point, Andreaaaaa. So her parents show up to see the show, and Andrea realizes she IS lucky! She is so loved! And her parents SHOULDN'T be together, because look how much happier everyone is now!

So, uh, at least while the lesson might have been that working women cause divorce, it was also that perhaps working women have better self-esteem and are happier. Also, sure, Columbo helps her come to that conclusion, but it's not like they ended up makin' out or even dating! I'll take that much, Lurlene, I'll take it!


Halvorsen said...

I am hopelessly retarded for these recaps.

ames said...

Aw, man! I'm blushing.

Anonymous said...

Ames, I just have to say that I lurve this blog. I never read much Lurlene McDaniel (that was more my sister's department; she's posted on here too, btw), but damn I love me some good YA snark.

And HELLS YEAH on Lurlene's lack of research re: school musicals/choir. I don't know anyone who's never at least talked to someone who did this stuff in high school. Also, as someone with an undergrad degree in theatre, I'm highly insulted by the "extras" reference. I'm writing a YA novel right now about four young people in a musical, partly because I was so sick of authors not getting it right.

Anyway, keep up the good snark!

Anonymous said...

"How she loved her magazines!"

"arguing, bickering parents"

Boy, I wish I could write like a professional!

...I'd say more but I'm still too stunned by the cover and the name Columbo.

KayTor said...

Guess mine is not the first head broken,
my eyes are not the first to cry I'm not the first to know,
there's just no seeming smart to you

Hello, I'm special needs who's willing to sit around
and wait for you
But buddy can't you see, there's nothin' else
for me to do I'm hopelessly retarded to you

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, that OPENING QUOTE! I was reading this blog instead of working because the Southwest Airlines Kissgate thing had made me too angry to concentrate. Thanks for cheering me up and reminding me that some people in this world - like you - are awesome.