--My real-time thoughts while reading Christy Miller Volume 1--
Could this be the smirking face of my new best friend? Only one way to find out.
--The book opens, literally, with this teenage girl named Christy crying because she doesn’t like her appearance. You can’t begin a book with a character crying. You just can’t. How are we supposed to care about the fact that she’s crying when we know absolutely nothing about her? And come to find out she’s all upset over the fact that she’s skinny. Okay, would you rather be fat? The only thing this scene did for me was establish that I was about to spend 400-something pages with a whiny, image-obsessed teenage girl. Unfortunately, it is a trend that continues. Throughout the book, she has eleven major breakdowns (yes, I counted). I didn’t even bother counting the minor ones but trust me, it’s even more. There comes a time when enough is enough.
--So anyway, this book could learn a thing or two about first impressions. When this ordeal finally ends, we start to learn more about the story and the setting. Christy, a “Wisconsin farm girl,” is spending the summer with her filthy rich aunt and uncle in Newport Beach, California.
--The aunt is basically a shallow moron who does nothing but shop. Her philosophy is “You can’t be too rich or too thin.” She gives Christy half a grapefruit so she’ll stay slim? What is this, the Dursley’s starving Harry Potter?
--They try too hard to make Christy seem like a fish out of water. She “stares blankly” when a waiter at a fancy restaurant asks if she’d like pepper on her salad. Like, just say yes or no. It’s not that shocking.
--I really like Uncle Bob. He’s a patient, realistic guy who doesn’t understand his selfish wife’s crap but goes along with it anyway. He’s the best thing about this torturously long book.
--They try too hard to make Christy seem like a fish out of water. She “stares blankly” when offered pepper on her salad at a fancy restaurant. Like, just say yes or no. It’s not that shocking.
--Another bafflement is the inclusion of the sentence, “Nobody says awesome anymore.” ?????? I’m sorry, what?? This book was published in 1988. It’s 2017 and I hear that word every day of my life. Did awesome make some comeback I am unaware of?
--Now Christy runs into a Florida surfer guy who’s staying with his dad in Cali for the summer. If I read one more book where the “perfect guy” has blond hair, blue eyes, a tan, and a strong jaw I’m going to scream.
--On that note, why do guys always have a strong jaw? What does that even mean? Is this really what people want in men?
--Oh, and his name is Todd. The name of every 1980s boyfriend ever.
--Todd has a friend named Doug, who acts more like an interesting, believable person. I like him. Does Christy? No, she’s now stalker-level obsessed with Todd, who comes across to me as somehow simultaneously too perfect and too mysterious.
--I also like Todd’s friend Tracy. She’s nice and has her life together and Christy acts like a total jerk to her. You know, because how dare Todd, who has known Christy for three days, speak to another girl?
--So now Christy, her aunt, and uncle take a vacation in San Francisco. I felt like I was tricked or fell into a trance. I was genuinely enjoying this part. But then, Christy has to throw out the line, “I left my heart in Newport Beach.” Um, no. You’ve known the guy a week. Just no.
--They spend a whole bunch of pages shopping in San Francisco. I’m starting to think Aunt Marti is manic-depressive but has been manic for the entirety of the book, hence the uncontrollable shopping.
--But seriously, how are the aunt and uncle so rich? I’ve never seen either one of them go to work.
--Now they’re back home and Christy’s stalker-level Todd obsession does nothing but strengthen. Just as I was starting to have fun. Now there’s one drama after the other and Christy honestly acts like a brat. I started to need a break from this book but I soldiered on. I had this scathing review to write. Christy’s being mean to Tracy just because Tracy is a “threat” around Todd, even though Tracy clearly just wants to be friends with both of them. Also, Todd takes Christy to Disneyland for the first time in her life, and all she can think about is how she wishes Todd would kiss her. Then she has a hissy fit when she finds out her aunt gave Todd the money to take Christy to Disneyland. Todd is a kid! How is he supposed to afford two tickets to Disneyland?
--Then there’s the bit where Christy, after her exhaustingly dramatic week, rants to her uncle and she thinks he’s answering her supportively, but actually he’s cheering for wrestling on TV, which is hilarious.
--And THEN after all this Todd-mania I thought would never end, we have a very different drama between Christy and selfish Aunt Marti. These scenes add a new energy to the story. They’re the only times I feel anything positive towards Christy and find myself rooting for her.
--Can this author please stop mentioning that tears are salty, we already know that, once is enough
--So anyway, summer ends. Todd goes back to Florida, Christy goes back to Wisconsin, and before I can even learn what her life in Wisconsin is like, her parents are selling the farm for financial reasons and moving to, of all places, California. Christy is head over heels excited about this. I guess she had no attachment to her animals.
--So now we’re right back in California, where we were five pages ago. Christy’s all fluttered, “Will my summer friends still want to hang out?” Child, you saw your “summer friends” a week ago. You were probably away from them longer when you went on vacation to San Francisco.
--Christy’s family stays a few days with Uncle Bob and Aunt Marti in Newport Beach, but Christy finds out it’s not to last. Her dad got a job in….*sinister music*….Escondido, a place near San Diego an hour and a half away from her beach friends. *Sinister music crescendos.* Christy has a little freak-out. Please someone just sock her. Or sock me and put me out of my misery.
--Christy actually lives it up for a little while and makes a bunch of new friends, at a ridiculously fast rate, at her new school in Escondido. Then the rich aunt and uncle call to invite Christy and her little brother, David, to vacation with them in Palm Springs. Christy weasels David out of it before he even has a chance to hear the offer, and gets her aunt and uncle to take her and her new friends instead. Poor little brother.
--So after Christy has more friendship drama, meets some guy named Rick, and treats her brother with less respect than the average earthworm, it’s time to leave for Palm Springs. I liked this part. When Christy is removed from all the boys and drama, the book becomes more enjoyable. And then the Palm Springs trip turns into this huge part about choosing friends wisely, which I actually kind of got into, so good job book, I guess.
--Now we’re back home and Christy has heart eyes for Rick, but at the same time is torn between him and Todd, who has not even contacted her for months. I don’t care a thing about either one of them. Team Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob deserves the best and is married to the worst.
--And now it’s already Christmas, and Christy’s family travels to Newport Beach on Christmas Eve to spend the night with the aunt and uncle. Christy receives joyous Christmas news: Todd, because his Floridian mom got remarried and moved to New York, has moved to Newport Beach to live permanently with his dad. Christy spends the entire holiday festivities thinking of Todd and longing to see him. When her parents go back home for work, Christy and her brother stay behind for a week. Christy reunites with Todd and then acts all bratty and selfish because Todd hangs out with her little brother, who otherwise doesn't get the time of day. This whole week is packed with so much boyfriend and friend drama, it’s not even fun to read. I can’t handle this teenage angst. Of course, it all puts Christy in a snakeish mood and she snaps her little brother’s head off when he wants to hang out with her.
--So after all this agony I don’t even feel like talking about, that goes on and on and ON, Christy is depressed on New Year’s Eve until Todd shows up to their fancy party in a tux. Christy’s heart is all aflutter. They make up from this explosive disagreement I never understood. The friends all get together and they make up. Yay. Happily ever after. Until book 2 I guess.
Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment:
So...I got this book--the first of four books about Christy Miller high school years-- specifically for the purpose of reviewing it. Did I like it? The answer is not so simple. For one thing, I see its value. I think Christy would be relatable to a lot of girls. It's not overly deep or stimulating, but there are far stupider things a teenage girl could be reading. I once opened a YA book at random to a scene where a screaming teenage girl was dangling over a piranha. If those are the only options, give me Christy Miller any day. In those ways, I appreciate this book so much more now than I would have when I was actually of the target audience, 13 or 14. Also, I genuinely enjoyed the parts of the story that took place in San Francisco and Palm Springs. I really did.
On the other hand--and maybe this is just because I'm old and cynical--there were part of the story I had a hard time taking seriously. I could have done without all the mirror-looking and the makeup. We don't need a play-by-play every time someone puts on makeup. Please. And due to the fact that this story is populated by 14, 15, and 16-year-olds, their problems and their romances seemed so flighty and fake. Also, I don't like how Christy had to have a guy. It would have been a better message if she realized she didn't have to have a guy to be happy, but that didn't happen. She also could act really whiny and spoiled. I wasn't buying that this girl grew up on a farm. There's no way that wouldn't alter her personality or give her a good work ethic or something, at least a little bit.
So do I want to know what happens in remaining three High School installments? Well, in a way I do. I kind of just want someone to tell me what happens. Of course, judging by the names of the following series, I've kind of figured that out. Christy and Todd: The College Years. Christy and Todd: The Married Years. And the series currently in progress, thirty years after the publication of the original high school Christy--Christy and Todd: The Baby Years. In the coming decades, I guess we can anticipate Christy and Todd: The Nursing Home Years. But don't expect me to dive in that far. I can honestly understand how once you get on this Christy train, there's no getting off.