Mother knows best? ( snort ) This Mama knows zilch!
Opening this book up , I start off the first few pages thinking oh great, here we go, another book in which the writer – leads us down the romantic pathway to seeing the ‘truly’ great guy – you know the set up – girl meets boy , no sparks fly because he’s the ‘first’ boy , like the first anything rolling down the conveyor belt- don’t snatch the first one! Maybe there’s something better down the line – he’s a little drab – loyal , while the shady hunk shows up later – she’s got to choose -some choice – most of the time the set up is less than subtle as the dreamboat shows more than just a little tarnish from his glitter as the boy next door has blue eyes that suddenly seem just a little bluer. Argh!
Don’t get me wrong I’ve read dozens of stories with this set up and enjoyed them but sometimes I wished the choosing had been a little more difficult or maybe why choose? They’re teenagers after all! This doesn’t quite happen in this book the heroine already knows none of the shady guys have any glitter- and instead the tension has been skewered, to fit only one fuzzy angle : When will our heroine tell her romantic meddler to butt out? Though I have to give Debra Spector credit – she could be the only Sweet Dreams writer ever, who allowed a controlling gorgon of a mother to nearly foil her own daughter’s romance – rather than a vixen bad girl or a bratty BFF , it’s still not enough to keep even a lightweight like Sweet Dreams afloat.
The book starts with the usual red herrings and not because the heroine gets a job at Captain Tony’s Restaurant which is in itself a red herring – because , despite it’s fishnet trimming and homage to fish , not to mention it being stationed in a sea faring town in New Jersey – doesn’t serve any ( fish that is ) , instead the restaurant has plenty of bacon and eggs , hamburgers and even danish but not one fish!
The second red herring is that the book leads us to believe that the restaurant is essential to our story – it’s described as being so old it might be in danger of being torn down a fact which disgusts early character Jennifer ( our heroine Tracy’s new BFF ) who thinks it’s a cultural landmark – paired with this and the fact that the bullying owner doesn’t seem to be running things very well and our heroine’s first boy David , is the cook , I immediately though eureka! : Kids hustle to rescue failing business with savory local fish dishes, whipped up by David, squeezing out bullying owner, who is replaced with someone nice but savvy. Wrong!
This is the plot – Tracy a reasonably sturdy girl who wants to broaden her horizons this summer seeks a job at the urging of her mother , who has plans of her own for Tracy. She becomes a waitress at a divey restaurant called Captain Tony’s where she meets kind , handsome cook- in- training David and hopes to become more than just friends. But before this can get sorted out Tracy’s pushy mother begins foisting unwanted blind dates on Tracy in an effort to make her more sophisticated. After all the militant mother knows best way. That’s it , that’s the plot.
It’s pretty sparse and there’s the usual flubs – like who the hell is Dina? She is introduced in Chapter three but for five pages I assumed she was Tracy’s sister until an offhanded remark reveals she’s Tracy’s mother’s friend – I missed it the first time and had to reread the chapter to discover it. The worst offenders though, rest on whether or not the reader can buy into the premise – Like take for instance Tracy’s busybody , flaky mom Nancy who comes across like a bratty teenager arranging her daughter’s social life like an inept best friend – because she believes nobody in this hick town – a seaside burg of New Jersey is up to the social standards of New York ( in the 80’s? Please!) However if that were even to be remotely believable why on earth would her socially pretentious mother allow her to get a job at a run down restaurant dubbed Captain Tony’s where the place is so declasse it doesn’t even serve local fish dishes but resorts to burgers and fries? Shouldn’t Tracy have been ( with Mama’s pull ) placed in some posh boutique? Salt water taffy shop? Or country club restaurant where she could hobnob with rich out of towners?
Here’s another – Although I like the originality of a meddling mom – Spector has a hard time pulling it off mainly because Tracy doesn’t seem to be unassertive. She knows her mind – she doesn’t want her mother setting up her dates , she’s bold enough to start a job alone , she makes friends easily and doesn’t freak out when she drops a tray of food , she can be friendly to boys without getting flustered – in fact she has all the makings of a girl who should be able to stand up for herself ,so, where’s the dilemma? That is the main problem of this book – we could see the problem glaring at us – Nancy Fox – and the answer – tell her to butt out. But for 152 pages Tracy doesn’t and the reader can’t really see why. The plot doesn’t even branch out to have Tracy perhaps curious and excited about possibly , broadening her horizons , that maybe her mom’s set ups will be hotties – nope , in fact Tracy is dead set against her mother’s manipulations until the final showdown which totally stifles the tension.
Plus the character of the mother is as far fetched as Tracy – she starts off as a flighty kook who enjoys daffy guests on her radio show , a busy schedule and is so modern she knows when she’s shoveling motherly platitudes. So where does her illogical behavior stem from and why can’t it be stopped? How does a woman who is supposed to be holding a job where her intelligence is key come up with such idiotic ideas – one of which is that if you’ve met the parent you’ve met the teenager – I use the word teenager here because no matter how many great parents out there produce great people – how great were they in their teenage years? Plus that’s a self sabotaging idea to the plot at hand – if a parent’s teenager is a replica of the parent doesn’t that logically mean that Tracy herself is a replica of her mother and therefore doesn’t need her mothers help?!
And despite the fact that her mother can see Tracy prefers her ‘townie’ she stubbornly refuses, even for curiosity sake, to be introduced to the boy and bulldozes on with controlling plan. ( the succession of duds starts with a boring yuppie who drives too fast and culminates in a heavy metal dud who goes too fast ) The selfishness of the mother reaches staggering heights when on pg 115 her tone is both manipulative and threatening. And while we wait for Tracy to use her back bone – ( plot ploys aside we know she’s got one ), she does the ultimate forehead slapper of keeping the forced dates a secret ( what every girl in fiction does ) rather than crabbing to David about her loony mother ( what every girl in reality would do. ) So that when he does find out , he can legitimately blow up at her and have us worry for maybe a millisecond that he’s gone for good. Not a chance. The finale appears to be distasteful for even the writer – who sets it up so as to distract from the meanness involved to ensure a cloudless happy ending. Tracy wants to sneak David in as an out-of-towner and trick her mom into giving her blessing, fearing this comes across too spiteful despite the mother’s hassling, loopholes are added : Nancy having given her word – not to set Tracy up on any more blind dates , is given an out that this ‘date’ won’t be her idea – it’ll be friend Dina’s ( now the reader never knows whether her mother would really break her word – but we can only guess – Tracy is just too kind ) , that David though introduced as Chip ( doesn’t that almost seem like a jab at the dumb-bunny yuppie names of the 80’s ) isn’t really lying because Chip was a childhood nickname. And later on that Tracy feels really creepy about what she’s done and confesses to her mother who never felt creepy about what she did , but appears humble and subdued and really zonks out this zinger ending by saying she knew Chip was David all along.
A clunky end to a rocky story – I wished for better things of Tracy Fox ( teehee – don’t you just love that name – Tracy Fox as in Tracy Pollen Fox ) who starts the book hurrying off to her first job with high hopes of a summer romance before tripping – perhaps symbolically over her mother’s foot in her path – which could be because it’s coincidently right after Tracy met that blasted townie , David.
I was unsure how to link in some 80’s stuff – and had this how cool! moment when noticing a perhaps unconscious , jibe at their competition in the title – First Love – not as in Silhouette but Sweet Dreams. Silhouette should’ve thrown down the gauntlet with a book entitled Sweet Dreams. Competition on! I thought of looking for other jibes ,but that would’ve been too hard and thought maybe I’ll just gaze at the cover and find inspiration ….
Too bad the story couldn’t live up to the dreamy model on the cover, whose wacky orange blouse with sailor flap and 80’s poet bow tie conjures a heroine who is fashionably brave , dramatic , a girl who knows what she wants. So I hunted up some pics of other blouses from 1983 when the string tie and odd collars were tops! Enjoy!
Inspiration for Napolean Dynamite or chameleons – watch how her purse can hide from pick-pockets.
No ribbon tie here – it’s strictly ruffles but I like the kook factor – it’s got a kind of Out of Africa ,Edwardian renaissance vibe.
Those are supposed to be strawberries on the vest ,but with tops at both ends they’re coming across more like Christmas crackers!
The model :I’m not crazy about this blouse what’s with the doily trim? Photographer: quit philosophizing and just smile.