Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: Fifteen

Summary: Jane Purdy is fifteen and a sophomore in high school. No one has ever asked her for a date except George, an unromantic boy who is an inch shorter than she is and talks of nothing but his rock collection. Then she meets Stan: tall, good-looking, resourceful and sixteen years old-all she ever dreamed of. The circumstances are trying. Jane is baby-sitting for Sandra Norton, the toughest assignment in town. Stan appears just in time to prevent Sandra, by a skillful use of pig Latin, from emptying a bottle of ink onto the Nortons' blond living-room carpet. But I'll never see him again, Jane tells herself despairingly the next day. I'm just not the type to interest an older man. And then one evening the telephone rings....

No reader can fail to share Jane's breathless excitement or the shattering ups and downs of her friendship with Stan. Because Jane's problems are their own, girls approaching fifteen will take her to their hearts. So will everyone who has ever been fifteen.

How Jane emerges from the agonizing awkwardness of adolescence is the theme of a book whose humor matches that of Mrs. Cleary's earlier stories and whose warm understanding carries it to a new height. It is hard to think of any other American writer who has so successfully put on paper the sorrows and joys and absurdities of girlhood. -- Dell

I recently read another book for the Shelf Discovery Challenge -- FIFTEEN by Beverly Cleary. This book is a true classic for young girls, and I'm so sad to say that I missed it when I was a pre-teen/teenager. I thought this book was just precious, and I could have really "used" a book like this and a character like Jane when I was becoming interested in boys.

FIFTEEN was originally published in 1956 which makes it old enough for my mom to have read when she was a young girl. Needless to say, there are a great deal of references which today's girls might not understand (or possibly even think are funny); however, I still think that many of the overall messages in this novel are timeless!

I absolutely adored Jane and even related to her quite a bit. And, I actually think that tons of young girls are going to see pieces of themselves in Jane. So many books that I read are about teens who are special for a specific reason. Maybe because they have a very unique talent, or they are outsiders or for some other reason. But Jane was just an ordinary girl -- like most girls. She was attractive but not beautiful. She made good grades, but she wasn't intellectual. She had friends, but she wasn't in the popular group. She was just a normal teenage girl. And I think that was part of her appeal!

I think one of the main reasons that I loved Jane so much was because she was so innocent and at the same time very honest. I remember when I was starting to like guys how absolutely terrified I was to say or do the wrong thing. Jane was constantly second-guessing herself and her actions from what she wore, to what she ordered in restaurants, to what she said to boys. And she was just so anxious to grow up and get a boyfriend. Despite the 50 plus years since this book was written, I'm pretty sure that most girls still experience these feelings! I love that FIFTEEN demonstrates to girls that it's absolutely okay to have these feelings of insecurity (and that's even normal.)

I can't wait to share FIFTEEN with Booking Daughter. She's only ten so she better not be looking for a boyfriend (I don't even want to think about that yet), but I think she will like reading about an older girl. I am very anxious to see if she thinks the book is too dated, and I'm curious to hear what she thinks of Jane. I have a feeling that she will enjoy this book because she is a tween and still young enough to appreciate Jane and her feelings. Having said that, I have to wonder how this book would play with teenagers since they are so much more worldly than the 15 year old Jane!

Note: There are tons of covers for FIFTEEN, but I actually read the version of the book that is pictured above. It's definitely not my favorite cover since I don't think it captures the essence of the book or the character of Jane.

15 comments:

Beth said...

I remember reading this but not really anything about the book. I went on a kick of reading girl coming of age in the 50's books, and now they are all blurred together. But I remember the feel of this one, and I liked it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

As soon as I pulled up this post, I remembered the book. I don't ever remember titles, but those covers bring it all back. I read this book multiple times, and loved it! How did I miss it when I was making my Shelf Discovery list? I related so much with Jane. I was that girl. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

Karen said...

I read this book as a tween and loved it.

thekoolaidmom said...

I didn't know Beverly Cleary wrote teen books, huh. I read all the Ramonas when I was a kid, and loved Cleary's writing in those. I was soo Ramona Quimby... lol

I'll have to pick up some Cleary for Maggie, though not sure if she's quite old enough for this one. We're still lamenting the end of the Junie B.'s, which we hit two years ago, lol.

bermudaonion said...

I wonder how I missed this one since I loved Beverly Cleary as a kid! Maybe I thought I'd outgrown her by the time I was a teen-ager.

(My mom was married and had a baby in 1956, so I don't think she read this one.)

Beth F said...

I know I read this, but I didn't remember much about it. Thanks for this great review. I need to get jumping on this challenge!

Carrie said...

I hadn't heard of this book of Cleary's before but if I HAD seen it when I was younger, I probably would have avoided it. It doesn't sound like the cover art does it much justice! =D

Great review. I was happy to learn about/more about this book!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

This was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I found it in my elementary school library in the '70s and checked it out all the time. What fun memories.

carolsnotebook said...

I don't think I ever read this one.

I doubt my daughter, who is ten too, would care about it. She's no where near wanting to hear about boy troubles, etc.

Laura Fabiani said...

I have read many Beverly Cleary books but not this one. Thanks for reviewing it!

By the way, I have awarded your blog the One Lovely Blog Award! More info here:

http://libraryofcleanreads.blogspot.com/2010/01/one-lovely-blog-award.html

Nancye said...

I remember reading this book many years ago! It was such a good book. Blast from the past, for sure!!

Jenna said...

I love Beverly Cleary... this is a very good read!

Allie said...

I remember this book, but I can't remember if I read it - I think it was one that I wanted to read when I read all the other Beverly Cleary books, but it wasn't age appropriate at the time. I remember it being on the bookshelf at the library though. I'll have to check it out.

Anna said...

I actually owned the book with the cover you posted! I'll have to see if I still have it.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Ralph said...

This is such a great book, brings back such fond memories! I would highly recommend for tweens.