“When I’m with you Clay, my world is alright.”
I used to mistakenly think that romance novels must be the easiest thing in the world to write – I now think a bad romance could be the easiest thing in the world to write but a good one – that takes finesse. The trouble being is that every other genre is based more on getting things right things like – facts and figures – for mystery , thrills and chase scenes – for thrillers / horrors , and or exotic locations – for adventures. But romance stands on the worst element or thing of them all – it’s the one little thing that must keep our hero and heroine apart for most of the plot – it could be jealousy , a misunderstanding , or situations causing incompatibility – either one or more tidbits will suffice – but they just don’t have to be accurate they have to be believable. And unfortunately some writers miss the mark – turning a romance into something so lightweight so , ambling that it becomes something of an overblown vignette. No real plot just a happy stroll. Caprice’s Too Young to Know – falls into this category. Though it’s premise is boldly declared over the title – A senior girl and a sophomore guy …can love survive? It loses it’s oomph within the story when it’s starts undermining the obstacles and dismantling it’s core theme. Let me explain – here’s the Plot –
Cindy Howard is a likable senior , even a likable character – right from the get-go we get her romantic woe – she’s tired of being known as “Sooty” to the boys in auto mechanic shop and longs to have a boyfriend and not just the occasional casual date. Voila – genie-quick her wish is granted as a new boy has arrived and wants to join the track team. She turns to fluffy pudding inside when she meets hunky Clay ( who’s got a smile that would ‘warm an orthodontist’s heart.’ ) However she soon learns through the grapevine – or rather her kewpie-doll cute bff Betsy that bad-girl Laura thinks Cindy is going to ‘ pal him to death’ leaving her to cut a clear flirting swath. That’s it Cindy thinks with Laura in the running – I’m out-classed. But Betsy says it best – Inexperienced – yes – outclassed – never. Cindy gets her moments to shine with Clay when he asks her to sit with him at lunch – but Cindy can’t seem to break from her chummy ways ( which I happen to love! ) When he unwraps his lunch and slides his cookies forward – Cindy, so absorbed in their conversation, absently takes one and starts eating it – before realizing , [“Oh, I’m eating your cookies.”] He merely laughs – he meant for her to take some. And then after practice when he offers to take her to the local hangout and buy her an o.j. she says “sounds good. Beat you getting dressed.” Under the shower, she wallows – why couldn’t she say something zingy like Betsy would’ve like – [“sure as soon as I run this bod through the wash.”] I don’t know if that’s zingy or dingy. Maybe coming from Betsy …and that’s the point she can’t borrow Betsy’s or Laura’s moves she has to learn to be herself.
Incidentally Clay beat her out of the shower.
Within the first chapter, Cindy discovers that Clay is a sophomore – her younger brother Jake tells her offhandedly , he’s in my English class which causes a chunk of ice to form in her stomach – In her school Senior girls didn’t date sophomore boys. This is told to us on pg 15 but by pg 25 – on their way to Keyes Cave for their o.j. we learn that Clay is going on 17, he was held back a year because his parents traveled a lot – while Cindy will be 18 in December – some dilemma – they’re hardly a year apart! He’s not the juicy 15 yr year promised on the cover , he’s a sneak! A fraud. And he acts a darn sight more mature than the other 18 yr old seniors that are part of Cindy’s crowd. So far – we’re 25 pgs in and the author has defused most of her story’s fireworks – it’s hard to get too philosophical or emotional over a guy that’s one year younger and doesn’t look or act it. And he drives too! Where do we go from here – ah how about to whether or not Cindy will be able to handle being called ‘cradle robber’ as the back blurb says. So far , nobody’s really onto Clay as being younger in fact Laura this supremely obnoxious , rich and beautiful ( aren’t they all ) villain of the group is trying to get her hooks into him despite already having a boyfriend Paul. When Laura tries to lure Clay into helping her with a drafting project – Cindy wants to play dirty by asking Clay ( in front of Laura ) how are your SOPHOMORE classes going – to scare her off. But by the next page she doesn’t have to – Laura tells Cindy I’ve asked Clay to sit at our table even though it’s sort of reserved for seniors.
She’s after him even knowing he’s a sophomore – hence the book is quickly slip-sliding into another tale of who is he going to choose – plain tomboy Cindy , or slick-witch Laura. But since he’s bringing extra cookies for Cindy the reader never quite believes Laura stands a chance – especially when he’s asking her out by pg 33. Cindy doesn’t accept right away – Scariano tries to yank us back to the initial issue – can Cindy put up with the heckling by dating a younger man – but what heckling? And who exactly is heckling her. Her brothers? Considering she mothers her younger brother Jake , who behaves like he’s 12 , while her older brother , dubbed the professor , behaves like a stuffy old man who cares what either of these two clowns think?! Especially when Jake learning that Cindy will be dating Clay makes this asinine statement –[“ But Cindy , won’t you feel funny going out with a guy my age? It’s like dating ….me.”] This is a guy who complains at every meal that he’s overlooked at basketball because he’s short. His brilliance reappears when he decides to heighten himself by hanging by his arms. And she’s wondered about what gorilla-arms has got to say?! These plots never work too well simply because they’ve built the characters up into having nice friends – they type that wouldn’t heckle but try to back peddle and suggest they would. It just doesn’t fly. But the writer tries to slip the issue in with other ways – like the first date when Clay , slightly embarrassed takes her first to meet his parents because they wanted to , and Cindy worries that they think of her as the ‘older woman.’ Well, any mother might’ve chased off a hussy like Laura but Cindy is cute and chummy. Definitely not a threat.
The big moment comes when the Cindy is heckled – but by who – I’ll give you three guesses – but I’m sure you’ll get it in one. Laura. Why? ‘cause she’s green with jealousy – after all – Laura hates Karen who won her spot on the cheerleading squad, and Betsy had beat her out for queen of the Senior Ball , and now looks like Cindy has nabbed the boy she wanted. They’re all waiting at the same movie theater and Laura says – [ “No offence Cindy,.. But are you so hard up you have to go out with a sophomore?”] Though steam fills Cindy and she longs to lash out – manages to zing back –[“Not hard up , Laura. Just lucky.”] Clay comes up beside her and says I hope you meant what you said. And Cindy realizes she does. It’s pg 55 and we’re not even to the half-way mark yet everything seems to be going smoothly! Cindy is getting tired of Laura ( thank God ) and the two rather than join the others at Keyes cave head the beach for a sweet scene – in which Cindy remarks that even though everyone uses the same equipment to kiss , how different it can be. She learns Laura is off telling tales again that Cindy was dying to get Clay alone – making Cindy sound like a sex maniac. The worst part however is that Laura whose running the Senior fashion show in a week connived Clay into being one of the models and her escort. When she runs into him later she tries to stay cool even though her feelings were ‘door slamming, foot stomping angry.’ but it turns out Clay hadn’t wanted to but learning Cindy was going to be in the show agreed. Cindy feels better.
Oh if you’re wondering about Cindy being in the fashion show – this book has some wonderful twists of character – there’s a boy who shares his antics as a babysitter and Cindy though a bit of a jock earns her scratch by hemming skirts and doing mild sewing for her friends. Laura is in her glory organizing her the fashion show – [“One other thing ,Clay ….You’ll escort me off the stage. So make your walk down the ramp and then come stand by me while I make the closing remarks. Then we walk off together.” “Kind of like riding off into the sunset, Laura?” Betsy asked ] I like Betsy’s style. She gets hers though when during the fashion show Laura reading off what Betsy’s wearing a white dotted Swiss number adds – [ “The nice thing about this fabric is it doesn’t show fingerprints.”] As villains go Laura takes the cake.
Here’s her bevy of bigotry – She calls black girl Karen Dusty for no apparent reason accept to grin and say the name does suit her. Wink, wink. When Cindy supports Karen winning a spot on the cheerleading squad over Laura – Laura sneers [“You ought to stick to your own kind Cindy Howard instead of being so almighty unbiased.”] Cindy had supported Karen not because she was black but better. At one point Laura even trips Karen and says [“no offense but you look like a big inkblot on the floor.” ]and later tells Cindy – [ “No offence Cindy but you ought to zero in on Gone With the Wind – it’s the slaves who sew and iron.”] When it’s thought that Paul ( Laura’s boytoy ) has broke into Karen’s locker and torn her skirt – Laura laughs [“..what would Paul want with a skirt? He’s not one of those.” ] ( italics – theirs. ) Oh , the wild un-pc-ness of it. Even Cindy describes Laura as a scalper ( boy scalper ) wanting to ad another one to her jeweled belt. And brother Jake declares I’m not a ree-tard. ( Though in all fairness his father says we don’t talk like that. ) Does Laura do anything to push these ‘friends’ to the breaking point? Well at the end of the fashion show , Karen is made to walk up and hand Laura a bouquet of flowers – eek I can see it all happening. [ “Here, girl, put these in some water.” ] is Laura’s response. ( Karen gives a mocking yes , ma’am accompanied by a bow. )
But does anyone ditch this pest , this selfish prejudice twit? Not really, though Clay is mad , madder than Cindy who seems to say this is how Laura is – ( she’s always felt sorry for her because of her parents divorce. ) In a way it’s even sort of a metaphor for what’s going on – Laura’s prejudice is supposed to parallel the supposed prejudice of the age difference between Clay and Cindy – he even brings it up – the rights of the Constitution!, gulping before asking Cindy to go steady. His offer comes with the prerequisite gift – a gold necklace with a charm of a running boy on it. Of course she agrees! What else has she got – besides her bff Betsy , and Mike the babysitter ( who is incidentally Betsy’s main-squeeze.) Paul is a creep who does Laura’s bidding like Frankenstein’s assistant. And then there’s Frankenstein herself. So what does Laura do when she hears the good news – offer her sincerest congratulations? As if! She laughs insisting it’s like a movie scenario – older woman luring innocent lad – [“..It’s just too much. Our little Ms. Mechanic playing the part of femme fatale.”] [ Cindy wanted to reach across the table and belt her a good one.] Please , be my guest! But Cindy can only hold her cool and restate her approval of Clay – even Clay shows more maturity than the senior table deserves by holding his tongue.
Obstacles come from every angle to attack their new standing as an official couple suddenly a girl warns her to throw a big race because she’s racing against Clay , Cindy is furious she’d never do such a thing but now wonders… is that what going steady means? When Clay says [ Relax you’ll do fine ] she blurts – [Fine enough to beat you.] Cool as a cucumber he replies Anything’s possible. Relief floods through her. They do make a sweet couple! But I have to question their judgment in going to Laura’s party – why keep tolerating this creep?
Naturally at the party Laura keeps trying to dance with Clay who accepts a few but sticks close to Cindy – and then when Laura’s mom circulates asks the kids about their choices in colleges Clay must admit he’s not ready for college , he’s a sophomore. Paul whose been drinking kids that Cindy’s robbing the cradle. But Mike cracks back – [ I hate to think your rotten remarks are because of senility. ] Senior cut day comes and Paul drunk shoves Laura in the pool – yah! She tries to dump him but he dumps her. As the Senior Ball is fast approaching everyone is excited about their plans – the dance an after all-night beach party and a catered breakfast. Everything is shaping up – even Clay has got college classes in the fall for an engineering course which means Cindy will be able to see him every day. But so much good news has to come with a snag – Clay learns his parents won’t let him go to the all-night party that’s a Senior privilege not a sophomore one. Technically if they hadn’t moved him around so much he’d be a junior but still. He can take her to the dance but he has to be home by one. Cindy hits her own snag , she’s not allow to drive around at night and now won’t be able to go to the party alone. What’s a girl to do?
Normally they’d get a ride with a friend. But in a book things get complicated. Laura suggests , in an effort to make us believe she wants Paul back that Cindy can go to the ball with Paul who can than take her to the after-ball party , Laura will take Clay to the Ball and while Cindy and Clay dance , Paul will have to ask her to dance. Cindy doesn’t like it – but Clay insists feeling guilty that she has to miss her Senior party because of him. Laura however shows her true colors when at the lunch table tells Clay ( and everyone ) [ ….”You’ll go out of your mind. ( when you see my dress ). It just has two thin straps to hold up the front and no back!” ] Betsy mock-gasps [ “No back! Won’t people say ‘I see London I see France , I see someone’s underpants!”] I love how she saps the sting out of Laura’s outrageous flirting! Cindy is almost too nice – after all this when they get to the dance she can’t help but admire Laura’s Hawaiian print dress and say with no envy , “Oh , look at Laura. She’s like an island princess.” Clay and Cindy manage to have a few dances without anyone wrecking them but as the dance wraps up – Paul is drunk and so her plan to get to the beach party is foiled anyway as she’s forced to make a run for it – the lecherous creep is slobbering all over her , while she’s trying to get the keys away from him. Heading back to the school she hears her name called, it’s Clay sitting on the bleachers! They make up and Cindy finally learns – love shouldn’t be about race , color or creed – or age. And that she loves Clay no matter what. He is pleased – but admits he’s technically Cinderfella and must rush home or he’ll be… turned into a pumpkin – no just grounded. He does find a loophole in his parents rules, however. By waking up early – they can race over to the beach party in time for a little fun and the breakfast.
A sweet wrap up to a nice Caprice romance – I might’ve given the imprecision that it wasn’t any good , au contraire! – though it was not quite what we were sold – ( as you can see ) and a little scatty on the plot department, the characters made it a fun little read. I genuinely liked it. ***
Other Oodles –
* here’s a tongue twister – at Keyes Cave Cindy and Clay joined the usual bunch in the back area.
* Fave lines – Dressing for school the next morning was a bigger decision than choosing one’s life work ….& That Laura puts her foot in her mouth like it was flavored! And Betsy’s response to Clay being jailbait – Oh bummer , Cindy. He’s a dream. And his lashes.
* Some corn – His words sounded like chimes in the cathedral of her heart.
* Typo – I love typos in books they always give me a giggle – this sentence appears to be missing something – here’s the build up -[ His hand touched hers; then he lifted his hand and there were two cookies, wrapped in Saran Wrap. – “Oatmeal. Give us energy for practice this afternoon.”] Me Tarzan , Me run, offer cookie to pretty girl. Grunt grunt. Actually with the cookies involved he sounds more like Cookie Monster.
* Scariano loves the jock imagery – Cindy’s heart sprints , she kicks a stick like a hockey puck and also high fa-lutting imagery – her stomach fluttered with sick butterflies , the bright sunlight of reason , her feeling were door-slamming foot-stomping angry , happiness spreading like whipped butter through her. Don’t you just love these nuggets?! Sweet Dreams always plays it safe.
* When Cindy gets crabby about her date with Paul and her mother says her sea-foam dress makes her look like a ‘nymph from the sea.’ Cindy cracks [“If Paul’s name was Charlie , than I could be the mermaid on the tuna can.” ]
* There’s a bit of a mixed message that comes through when the side story of shorty brother Jake never overcomes the ‘prejudice’ on his basketball team , instead he gets a job at a bowling alley and becomes a bowler which is something to ‘better suit his height.’
Not a lot of 80’s stuff going on it this one – so I picked out these sporty aerobics outfits to go along with the sporty cover , from a book entitled Shape up and Feel Great – the models are cute – and am I crazy for loving the curly mullet? It always had a peppy look about it especially with a sweatband – The outfits are cute too – It seemed like they had like a thousand exercise outfits back then in a thousand different styles and colors. Wish I could of captured a few more only some of the poses in the exercise book aren’t very flattering.
Ignore the pose – Instead , look at this pattern meltdown – Stripes , braids , checkerboard , solids!