Friday, April 26, 2013
Kate William, Bantam Books, 1983
Genre: Realistic, Romance, School Story
Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are awaiting the results, along with a number of other the girls, of whether or not they will be admitted to the Pi Beta sorority. They have endured their dares, such as Elizabeth having to call in a pizza for delivery to Mr. Russo's chemistry class—one of the best but toughest teachers –or sending a singing telegram to Chrome Dome the nickname of the principal, or when they dyed the mashed potatoes in the cafeteria purple. However, it is Jessica who is a little bit more excited about belonging to the sorority. Elizabeth wants to be a writer. She's currently a reporter for the school newspaper the Oracle and is the secret writer of the “eyes and ears” column. Her best friend, Enid, has been asked by Ronnie Edwards, the new guy, to the Phi Epsilon dance. Elizabeth herself is hoping that Todd Wilkins will ask her. When Todd asks Elizabeth to meet him after school she is late because of work she had to do in the Oracle office and is disappointed to see him and Jessica drive off together. She is shocked to find out the next day the gossip going around school—that Jessica and Todd are the hot new couple.
While Jessica is interested in Todd she is also quite a bad girl, such as when she accepts a ride from Rich Andover, a 17-year-old dropout. He takes her to a local dive bar where he gets in a fist fight with the patron and the cops show up. Jessica, ashamed of being out with him, doesn't contradict the police officer when he accidentally calls her Elizabeth. When Elizabeth asks who she was on a date with and Jessica won't tell her, Elizabeth assumes that it must've been Todd. Unfortunately for Elizabeth Caroline Pearce, the resident gossip queen, witnesses Jessica getting out of the police car and being called “Elizabeth” so she spreads rumors around school that Elizabeth got arrested. Elizabeth doesn't understand why everyone is talking about her behind her back until Enid tells Elizabeth the rumor.
Todd is depressed at the thought that Elizabeth would get arrested and is doubly disappointed when Jessica tells them that Elizabeth already has a date to the dance. He hangs out with Ronnie and Enid and is shocked at how Ronnie is a total asshole who flatly denies Enid's protesting of Elizabeth's innocence and demands that Enid not hang out with Elizabeth anymore. (Considering how straight-laced Elizabeth is and how Jessica is seen as the bad girl usually it is pretty infuriating to read this and to see that no one—including Elizabeth's best friend—even considers the fact that it could have been Jessica, Elizabeth's twin sister, who was really the one arrested!)
A few days later Jessica tells Elizabeth it will blow over. In fact no one even talks to her about it anymore. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is supremely pissed off. She tells Jessica that she is a walking conversation stopper. Everyone hints at it when she's around. In the Oracle office someone even wrote on the board about how the big shot editor makes the news but it isn't even mentioned in the school paper. Elizabeth is tired of her reputation being dragged through the mud. Elizabeth tries to focus on one of the biggest stories currently happening. Sweet Valley High might lose their football field. George Fowler wants to take the football field and turn it into another factory while the Patman's supposedly want to turn it into an amusement park. Basically the two rivals are using the football field to continue their longstanding family feud. The Patman family made all their money in the canning industry while the Fowlers are of “new” money and made it on silicon chips. The reason why they might win the football field is because the school leased the land through the city and the lease is coming up. It turns out that the rumors are partially true. The Fowlers do indeed want to build a factory while the Patmans want to re-create the Vanderhorn garden as it was in 1916. The football team convinces everyone to stage a sit in which is successful until people start to accost Lila and Bruce. Bruce says that if they want to talk about a disgrace to Sweet Valley Jessica should look at her own family as her dad and his assistant, Marianna West, are clearly fooling around.
To try to make it up to Elizabeth, Jessica tries to come clean to Todd and admit that it was her that was at the bar and got arrested. Todd thinks she's being noble and trying to take the blame for Elizabeth. He kisses her that asks her to the dance. Elizabeth meanwhile is being bugged by Bruce Patman and finally tells him that she has a date to the dance and won't go with him. When Bruce asks who, Winston pipes up and says him. Bruce, being an egotistical jock, can't believe that Elizabeth would rather go to the dance with a nerd. Jessica tells Elizabeth that she told Todd everything and that Todd forgives her (Jessica) and asked her to the dance. However, she fails to tell Elizabeth that Todd thanks Jessica was just trying to cover up for Elizabeth.
Jessica and Elizabeth talk with their older brother, Steven, about rumors that are going around about their father and Marianna. Stupidly, Jessica admits that they know that Steven is seeing Betsy Martin, the town druggie. Steven says that they've got it wrong as he is actually seeing Tricia, her sister. Unfortunately since he was hiding the relationship she realized that he was ashamed of her family and dumped him. When Elizabeth tells Jessica that she is going to the dance with Winston Jessica can believe that she chose that clown over Bruce who she would kill to go with. When the day of the dance arrives Elizabeth makes a stunning entrance into the living room while Winston acts like a dork and causes Jessica to get mad that he spoiled her own entrance. At the dance Jessica is jealous that Todd seems disinterested in her so she points to Bruce and claims that he is just one of the many boys who asked Elizabeth to the dance. Winston easily notices Elizabeth interest in Todd and urges her to talk to him. Meanwhile, Steven is depressed and confronted by his parents after they forced the truth out of Elizabeth and Jessica. They encourage him to go and make up with Tricia. On his way over to her house later Steven sees his father and Marianna driving in the car and he follows them to a house.
After the dance Jessica, in her jealousy towards how Todd was paying attention to Elizabeth, tells Elizabeth that Todd is a player that has nothing but sex on his mind. So with Todd now showing an interest in Elizabeth she wants absolutely nothing to do with him because of what Jessica said. Todd eventually calls her to apologize for his behavior and says that he will forgive Elizabeth if she promises never to see that creep Andover again. He says that everyone “knows” it was Elizabeth. Elizabeth can't believe that Todd is taking a bunch of rumors for truth and says that she never wants to speak to him again.
Elizabeth focuses on the court case to take her mind off of things. It is Marianna who does most of the speaking and ends up getting the lease awarded to the Sweet Valley High Board of Education. When she discovers that Marianna is being invited over to dinner and that her father has a huge announcement to make she immediately decides that it has to be about a divorce. The announcement in fact happens to be that Marianna is now a new partner at her father's firm.
Elizabeth eventually tries to go on other dates as she sees Todd out with other girls. One day after a meeting of the sorority Jessica and Elizabeth discover that their car is being followed. It is a drunk Rick Andover who gets in their stalled car, fixes it, and races away with them. It causes havoc at the Dairi Burger and Todd gets in his car to try to save the girls. They end up in the pub parking lot were Todd and Andover get into a fight. Todd wins and Elizabeth kisses him. Todd takes them home and that is where he reveals that he should've known that Jessica was the one who got arrested and Elizabeth learns that Jessica told him that she was supposedly uber popular and had tons of dates to dance. Elizabeth learns that Todd at the end of the dance was hardly grabby and all he did was give Jessica a kiss on the cheek. Elizabeth is upset at Jessica and has the perfect plan for getting back at her.
Elizabeth and Jessica ride to the rally for the football team with Todd. It is part of her payback plan. While they are getting dressed she accidentally dumps water on Jessica to force her to change clothes. She offers up her own outfit so that Jessica will look like Elizabeth. Once there Elizabeth goes to see Dana, lead singer of the Droids. Pretending to be Jessica she tells Dana that Elizabeth is the writer of the “eyes and ears” column. Dana makes an announcement to the entire crowd and Jessica gets dumped in the pool as per the tradition that if the writer of the column gets ousted they get dumped in the pool.
Later that night Enid shows up at Elizabeth's door. She says that something awful has happened and Ronnie will never talk to her again.
Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research
Sweet Valley is best known as being full of gender and physical stereotypes. When I was younger I read the Sweet Valley Twins spin off but this was actually my first Sweet Valley High. On the very first page we get numerous accounts of how the perfect Jessica Wakefield with her “All-American” good looks thinks she’s disgusting (p. 1-3):
“Oh, Lizzie, do you believe how absolutely horrendous I look today!” Jessica Wakefield groaned as she slipped in front of her sister, Elizabeth, and stared at herself in the bedroom mirror. “I'm so gross! Just look at me. Everything is totally wrong. To begin with, I'm disgustingly fat. . . .” With that, she spun around to show off a stunning figure without an extra ounce visible anywhere.
She moaned again, this time holding out one perfectly shaped bronze leg. “Isn't that the grossest? I swear I must have the skinniest legs and America. And the bumpiest knees. What am I going to do? How can I possibly go to school looking like this today? Today of all days!”
Jessica stared at herself in the full-length mirror and saw a picture of utter heartbreak and despair. But what was actually reflected in the glass was about the most adorable, most dazzling 16-year-old girl imaginable. Yet there was no stopping Jessica Wakefield when she was in this mood.
“Why couldn't I at least have an oval face? It looks like someone stuck a pumpkin on top of my neck. And this hair—a dull yellow mess of split ends. I hate it!”
In a gesture of absolute hopelessness, she ran her hand under her silky blonde hair, lifted it up, and watched as it drifted lightly back to her shoulders.
“Only thing duller are my eyes. Look at that color, Liz.” She put her face under her sister's nose and fluttered long eyelashes over almond-shaped eyes the blue-green of the Caribbean. “They're so blah.”
Both girls had the same shoulder length, sun streaked blond hair, the same sparkling blue-green eyes, the same perfect skin. Even the tiny dimple in Elizabeth’s left cheek was duplicated in her younger sister's—younger by four minutes. Both girls were five feet six on the button and generously blessed with spectacular, all-American good looks. Both wore exactly the same size clothes, but they refused to dress alike, except for the exquisite identical lavalieres they were on gold chains around their necks. The lavalieres had been present from their parents on their sixteenth birthday.
The thing that bugged me the most about this series is how utterly selfish Jessica is. I can’t believe any teens when this series was popular actually liked Jessica. I have always been an Elizabeth girl because I enjoyed school like her (of course there are those readers who complain that Elizabeth, being a nerd, is horribly stuck up). In this one volume alone there are numerous occurrences to how stuck up Jessica is and, quite frankly, how rude she is to others, including her own sister!
Page 4 -
He wanted her sister! Jessica's eyes narrowed dangerously. One of the cutest boys at Sweet Valley High, and he was calling to talk to Elizabeth! Todd Wilkins was currently the basketball team’s hottest star, and Jessica had been admiring him for some time now as she practiced her cheers in the gym alongside him. The idea that he would prefer Elizabeth to her infuriated Jessica, though she was extra careful to conceal this from him.
Page 8 –
At noon the Wakefield twins would find out if they had made Pi Beta Alpha, “the positively best sorority at Sweet Valley High,” according to Jessica. That meant “the snobbiest” in Elizabeth's book.
Page 18-19 –
“How can you be best friends with somebody as blah as Eeny Rollins? I don't want you to go over there. Somebody might think it was me talking to her.” (Jessica)
“Enid is a wonderful person. Why don't you like her?” (Elizabeth)
“Eeny is a nerd. And there's something weird about her.” (Jessica)
Page 34 –
“You wouldn’t think it was funny if you really were gross-looking,” Jessica said, shuddering at the thought of having anything other than an attractive family.
Page 47 –
“No, really, Todd,” Jessica was saying, “don't laugh. It's not funny. Really. I really am one of the most unpopular girls in school. Everyone else has a date for the dance. Really, everyone. Every single girl I know. Everyone but me.”
Page 49 –
Jessica felt a tiny twinge of panic. Why was Todd ignoring her? Had something happened to the Wakefield magic? Impossible! she told herself. She was still the most fantastic girl in school. So why didn't Todd know it? Cheers and angry frustration filled her eyes. She decided she would walk home from school. Whenever she was out walking, she never failed to attract a good deal of attention from passing cars. The more the better, she thought, swinging her hips a little as she set off.
Page 75-76 –
“He [Andover] has everything to do with all the kids in school thinking I have a police record and that I'm out on parole!” Elizabeth shouted, for once making no effort to control her temper.
“Oh, that.” Jessica shrugged, flushing guiltily. “I can clear that little thing up in no time.”
“Do it now!” Elizabeth said.
“Later, Liz! I'm talking about something really important. I found out this afternoon why Steve has been coming home every weekend. No wonder he's been so mysterious and obnoxious to everybody. He should be ashamed of himself! My whole life is going right down the tubes! How could he do this, Lizzie?” she began to cry.
“Stop babbling, Jess! And stop crying! Tell me what Steve has done.”
“Our brother, a member of the Wakefield family, has been spending every weekend,” Jessica got out between sobs, “with Betsy Martin!”
“Jess, are you sure? I can't believe it. Betsy's been doing drugs for years—she sleeps around—”
“And her father gets bombed out of his mind every night,” Jessica said wildly.
Page 117-118 –
“Bruce Patman!” Jessica squealed. “Liz Wakefield, how dare you sit there calmly and tell me Bruce asked you out as if it weren't important! You’re incredible! No—you must be dead! No girl alive would turn Bruce down. He's handsome, Liz. He is sooooo rich. And he drives that awesome Porsche!”
“Are you saying you wish you were going to the dance with Bruce instead of Todd?” Elizabeth challenged.
“Of course not. Why in the world would you think that? Todd is terribly good-looking, and he's so sweet. I just wish he didn't drive that gross excuse for car. Bruce's Porsche is so—so . . . I mean, it's a Porsche.”
“Hi, Jess,” he answered. “You look nice—really very pretty.”
Nice! she screamed silently. Three hours of working on my nails, my hair, my makeup and I look “very pretty”? Whatever happened to gorgeous?
“Thanks, Todd.” Maybe he's not good with words, she thought. But she knew from the other day that he was good with kissing—and there certainly would be more kissing that evening!
Page 126 –
No guy—not even Todd Wilkins—could take Jessica Wakefield to a dance and treat her like a piece of furniture. He wasn't going to get away with it, she vowed.
Page 128-129 –
“Oh, Liz, it was so awful!” Jessica's eyes filled with tears.
“Awful? What are you talking about, Jess?”
“I thought he liked me, Lizzie,” she said between sobs. “I thought he respected me and everything!”
“Jessie, what happened?”
“Oh, Liz, I can't. I can't tell you!” Jessica collapsed, covering her face with her hands. “I'm—I'm too ashamed.”
Elizabeth put her arm around Jessica shoulder. “It's all right, Jess. You can tell me anything, you know that.”
“Maybe I should tell you.” Jessica sniffled. “You really should be warned about him. You might go out with him sometime, and I'd just never forgive myself if I didn't tell you what the real Todd Wilkins is like.”
“What did he do?”
“That rat tried just about everything. The horrible thing was that I could hardly make him stop. I had to beg him and beg him to please stop!”. . .
“He just wouldn't stop. His hands! Oh, God, they were everywhere.”
Page 133 –
Tricia Martin's family was no bargain, and they knew it. Her father was the town drunk, and her sister Betsy had a horrible reputation. The mother had died of leukemia when the kids were little, which really torn the family apart. It was all understandable, but that didn't make it any easier. And now Steven was mixed up with them. The question was, how seriously?
Page 172 -
“Lizzie, honey. I did it because I felt he was wrong for you. That you wouldn't be able to handle him.”
“Jessie, honey. You're really full of it. You did it because you liked him yourself and you were trying to get rid of the competition.”
Page 174 -
“I knew if it got around school that I was in a bar with those terrible people, I'd be finished. It's a rule, an absolute rule, that you can't be on the cheering squad if you have any black marks against your name. I couldn't give that up, Liz. You know how much being co-captain of the cheerleaders means to me.”
There is some talk about how affluent and well off the Wakefield family is:
Page 14 – The twins squealed with delight. Only on rare occasions were they allowed to drive to school in the family's second car, a little red Spider convertible.
Page 15 – As she did very often, Elizabeth thought how lucky she and Jessica were to live in Sweet Valley. Everything about it was terrific—the gently rolling hills, the quaint downtown area, and the fantastic white sand beach only 15 minutes away. She and Jessica were even luckier now, with a new in ground pool their backyard.
Page 33 – “They're so busy I hardly see them. Mom's always rushing off to meet a client. Her design business is really booming. And dad—well, he's always out. He's working on a case with a new lawyer in the firm, somebody by the name of Marianna West. She used to be married to the big heart specialist, Gareth West.”
A few interesting non-Jessica occurrences happen in relation to the importance of looks and reputation. When Bruce attempts to ask Elizabeth out thinking she’s the one who was out with Rick the following conversation occurs (p. 104):
“I never thought you were such a fast number until now. But from what I hear, I decided you're my type. I'd like to take you to the dance.”
“Is that so?” Elizabeth snapped.
“Sure. I can't stand most of these wimpy girls. We can put in appearance of the dance, then head for someplace where we can have some real fun.”
Later when Elizabeth asks Winston if he really wants to go to the dance with her he says, “You want to know the sort of girl people fix me up with? It goes like this: 'Win, have I got a girl for you! Was a personality!' that always means 250 pounds and two-foot-five! I have to put her hamburger on the floor so she can reach it” (p. 125).
The biggest and scariest part of the book was Jessica going off with Rick. Here are key elements from that:
She'd heard a number of stories about Rick and the fast lane life he led. He ran around with an older crowd and always had a lot of money in his pocket, even though it didn't look as if he had a job. He spent most of his time either working on his Camaro or cruising around in it—usually with a gorgeous girl at his side. Jessica squirmed with pleasure at having been selected as Rick's companion for the afternoon (p. 51).
Conversation at page 52-53 –
“I'll pick you up at eight,” Rick told her as they were cruising down Calico Drive, doing 50 in a 35 zone.
He grinned. “Tomorrow, at eight. We've got a date, Heaven.”
“But you never even asked me,” she complained.
“I told you—I'm used to getting, not asking. Are you saying no?” he challenged, as if the thought were unheard of.
“No.” She frowned slightly, biting her lip. “It's just that I'm not sure my parents –“
“Mommy and Daddy wouldn't like the idea of their Little Red Riding Hood going out with the Big Bad Wolf?” he supplied, sneering. “What do you want?”
He was looking at her in a way that made her skin tingle. His heavy-lidded eyes held a hypnotic hint of the excitement to come and she decided to go out with him. Jessica found it irresistible.
Page 58-60 –
For an instant she wondered if she would be able to keep him at bay, but she quickly dismissed the worry. She had yet to come up against the situation she couldn't handle.
Even so, nothing could squelch the nervous fluttering in her stomach as Rick's car spun to stop in a shower of gravel in front of the seedy-looking beachfront roadhouse. A red, blinking neon sign advertised that it was Kelly's. Loud music spilled from the open doorway, punctuated by harsh bursts of laughter.
None of Jessica's friends had ever been inside Kelly's. It had the most notorious reputation of any bar in the whole valley. A mixture of alarm and excitement raced through Jessica's body. Boy, would she have something to talk about tomorrow!
Jessica had never been so acutely aware of both her age and her appearance before. Several of the men stared at her, and one let forth a low wolf whistle. Her face was burning from anger and embarrassment, and her eyes watered from the cigarette smoke that wreathed the cramped room. As they slid into cracked vinyl booth, she leaned over to tell Rick how uncomfortable she felt, but her words were drowned in a sudden burst of twangy country-western music from the jukebox.
. . .
“And I should have known you were the kind of guy who couldn't keep his hands to himself,” she scolded lightly.
Rick's eyes narrowed. “All tease and no tickle, huh? Didn't your mommy tell you not to put anything in the window that you don't sell in the store?” His fingers groped higher, and she noticed he was beginning to slur his words. “Well, I've seen the merchandise, baby, and I'm sold.”
Ruthe S. Wheeler
Goldsmith Publishing Company, 1932
Helen Blair's father, Hugh, is the editor of the Rolfe Herald. Her brother, Tom, writes some news for the paper and operates the Linotype while Helen helps around in the office. The newspaper is an eight-page paper. It features four pages of national news and four pages of local news. At the time of the story opens Helen arrives at the office to find that her father is very ill. She sends him home and promises that she and Tom will finish the paper and demands that he call the doctor. The doctor examines him and tells Helen and Tom that their father will need to go to a southern state to rest for possibly six months at least as he is suffering from lung trouble. Knowing that they don't have the funds for such a trip, Helen and Tom offer up their college savings for the “vacation” and offer to run the paper themselves which is better than hiring someone to come in from outside and do it. Mrs. Blair calls Helen the new editor but she says that Tom is really in charge. He says that they will be democratic. They nominate Mrs. Blair as the publisher; Tom will be the businessman, run the mechanical department, and act as handyman; and Helen will be the editor, lead reporter, and assistant to the handyman. Margaret, daughter of the local doctor and Helen's best friend, volunteers to write for free as she's always wanted to be a writer.
A number of days later a bad storm hits. Tom calls it Helen's first story. In the calm of the storm they see a boat out on the lake. It is their neighbor Jim who delivers mail and papers to the resorts every Sunday morning. He could get in trouble if he's not out before the storm picks up again. Helen takes off to help him when Tom yells and points to the sky where a tornado is forming. Working together they pull Jim from the water and begin to drag him to the nearest storm shelter. They watch from safety as the tornado appears and proceeds to take out a small barn. Luckily it turns away from town and the doctor decides to head out to check on the farmers. Helen and Margaret tagalong as reporters. Their first stop is the demolished Laver farm where they find the father with a broken arm and the family gives Helen an eyewitness account of the storm. As they continue on about 15 miles outside of town they see more destruction but no major injuries. On the way back they’re stopped by a man who says that his house was destroyed and that his son was hurt badly as he was knocked unconscious. Meanwhile, Tom checks out the damage to the resort on the lake which accounts for about $50,000. The total end result is about $100,000 in damage. Tom suggests that Helen sends her story to the Associated Press as it might be a big deal and maybe they could get paid for it. She calls them and is told to write up her account and that she might become their new Rolfe correspondent.
Monday morning Helen writes an article about the storm. She then proceeds to spend time finding more news for the paper. She visits an incoming train to try to get some personals from the visitors. One new man in town is Mr. Charles King who happens to be the state superintendent of schools and is there to make inspections. He offers to see Helen before he leaves and report on the school system. A farmer comes in to get some sales bills printed and Helen offers him a good deal. He tells her to look into the same kind of deal with some of the other farmers in the area as they would be a good source of revenue for advertisements. Jim eventually shows up to tell Helen that the damage to the summer resorts was about $35,000 total but everything is insured and should be fixed in about two weeks. Luckily the storm missed Sandy Point, the older resort. In the afternoon Helen sees Mr. King who proceeds to tell her that her town has the best schools in the state with populations under 1,000 people. He suggests that Helen consider adding a school page to the newspaper. Later that night Helen, Tom, and Margaret all go to school for a sophomore/junior debate. The sophomores win and Margaret is the best debater.
Thursday morning comes and as they head out to finish the issue they discover that their printing press has broken down. Tom gets help from Milt at the local garage as he is fixed it before in the past. On Friday Helen and Margaret go to the sophomore class picnic of 18 students. They gather rocks and partake in treasure hunt. They eventually have dinner and hold a campfire where they tell scary stories. During the stories Helen discovers that Margaret has disappeared. When they learn that it is no joke they set out to search for her and discover that one of the rowboats is missing. They all set out onto the lake and finally find the missing boat half under water and Margaret drenched with a black eye. She admits to disappearing and looking for the boat. When she tried to get back to sure she stumbled and that is all that she remembers.
The school year is coming to an end and the senior class play has run into a bit of a problem—the lead actress is sick and can't speak. Everybody convinces Helen to take over the part. Other exciting things happen along the way. The big exciting news is that the railway has a new train that is gas electric powered. By the first week in June Tom discovers that the newspaper isn't making enough money. He says that they're just going to have to make the paper so good that all the businesses will want to advertise with them and he starts by including the farmers’ page. Tom decides also to cut down the national news from four to two pages. He says that most of the people want to read the comics and the fashion news. Helen finally receives a check from the Associated Press for her tornado story and is shocked to discover it is $10. It is Tom's goal that they hopefully get new subscribers and get to be noticed as an official county paper. However, there is stiff competition to be one of the three official newspapers. Their biggest competition comes from the Auburn Advocate which is run by Mr. Atwell, who their father called the crookedest newspaperman in the state.
The big Fourth of July celebration is just around the corner. Usually two resorts send out flyers to the big papers but Tom put in a smaller bid and got the job. Art, the owner of the smaller resort, is holding a huge carnival and gives the Blair family free passes considering how much money he saved by printing his 20,000 flyers with them. The big exciting news is that Speed Rand is going to be making an appearance. He is a huge aerial celebrity. On their way to Sandy Point for the festivities, Helen gets an urgent telegram from the Associated Press who wants her to try to get an interview with Rand and to try to confirm rumors of his next big stunt—flying around the world without refueling.
Once they reach Sandy Point Speed Rand is attempting a trick in the path of their boat. He flies over their boat and nearly busts the bottom of his plane open. He flies off and crashes and Tom, Helen, and Margaret get their boat to follow after him to make sure he is all right. In exchange for being quiet about the accident Helen get the chance to interview him and asks about the rumor which he confirms is the truth (and sounds a lot like Lindbergh’s big flight). She calls the Associated Press office and they are stunned that she got the story.
After a day full of fun they decide to take Captain Billy's ship, the Queen, back to town. This will be the boat’s last year on the lake. Everything seems to be going fine until speedboat crashes into the bow of the old steamer. The captain gives Tom orders to run full speed to the shore as everyone on the lower decks moves to one side to see the accident, which unfortunately could cause the old boat to sink. Luckily they make it to shore in time and no one gets hurt. Later that night, the Queen catches fire and burns to the ground. Some believe that Captain Billy started it but no one really knows. Helen decides to write about the story for the Associated Press. The next morning Helen receives a copy of her stories and a message about a monthly check coming her way and possible employment after high school.
Time flies by. In August Helen adds the school page to the newspaper. In October they've added an additional 400 new subscribers making their total 1,272 people. Soon Atwell shows up to try and intimidate Helen and Tom by claiming that they are stealing away his subscribers. By the end of November they're up to 1,400 circulation. It is pretty certain that the Herald is going to be named the third official county paper instead of the Advocate. Tom decides to place his subscribers’ records in the bank because he's pretty sure that Atwell would stoop to sabotage. The very next day a fire occurs in the printing office but is luckily stopped before anything too bad happens. The Fire Chief finds evidence of arson and discovers that the office was ransacked—probably for the circulation records. An official audit proves the Herald has 1,411 subscribers and they are indeed named the third official county paper.
The Blairs now have more income so Tom hires a printer at $18 a week and buys a paper folder for $50 so Helen never has to fold 1,411 papers a week again. By the time all of their bills are paid they have a surplus of $900. Helen decides to spend $200 on a railroad tickets to send her mother down to Arizona to spend Christmas with their father.
Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research
There isn’t much of note in this story (it was actually a “career” novel that was pretty well written and entertaining). The characters are described in pretty standard ways: “Tom was tall and slender with a wavy, brown hair and brown eyes that were always alive with interest. Helen came scarcely above his shoulder, but she was five feet two of concentrated energy. She had left her tam at the office and the afternoon sun touched her blonde hair with gold. Her eyes were the same color blue as her mother's and the rosy hue in her cheeks gave hint of her vitality” (p. 22-23) and “Mrs. Blair, at 45, was a handsome woman. Her hair had decided touches of gray but her face still held the peach bloom of youth and she looked more like an older sister than a mother. She had been a teacher in high school at Rolfe when Hugh Blair had come to edit the country paper. The teacher and editor had fallen in love then she'd given up teaching and married him” (p. 25-26).
The biggest element in this story was gender stereotypes. As noted above, Mrs. Blair gave up teaching to marry Hugh and she currently just teaches a Sunday school class for 10- to 12-year-old girls. When her children declare her the new publisher of the paper the following conversation occurs showcasing just how skeptical their mother is of being useful outside the home (p. 37-38):
“As publisher, I'll stay at home and keep out of your way.”
“Mother, we don't want you to do that,” exclaimed Helen. “I want you to come down and help us whenever you have time.”
“But what would I do?” asked her mother.
“Well things. For instance, jot down all the personal items you know about your friends and about all the club meetings. That would be a great help to me. Sometimes at evening maybe you'd even find time to write them up. Tom and I are going to be frightfully busy between going to school and running the Herald.”
“I'll tell the town,” said Tom. “If you'd handle the society news, mother, you can make it a great feature. The Herald has never paid much attention to the social events in town. Guess dad was too busy. I think that women would appreciate having all of their parties written up. I could set up a nice head, 'Society News of Rolfe,' and we would run a column or so every week on one of the inside pages.”
“You're getting me all excited, Tom,” said his mother. “Your father said I never would make a newspaper woman but if you and Helen will have little patience with me, I'd really enjoy writing the social items.”
The other two elements that showcase gender stereotypes include quick references—one which is slightly negative and one which was positive. When Tom and Helen decide to cut some of the national news elements to save money Mr. Walker, their news contact, says, “You're going to be quite metropolitan with a full page of comics and a page devoted to women. I'm glad of that. Too many editors of weeklies fail to realize that the women and not the men are the real readers of their papers. If you write a paper which appeals to women and children you have a winner. Comics for the youngsters and a serial story with a strong love element and fashions and style news for the women” (p. 169). Lastly, when Tom tells Helen to call the Associated Press with her tornado story she tells him to telephone instead as she’d be “scared to death and wouldn’t be able to give them all the facts” (p. 70). Tom replies (go Tom!) that she’s the editor and that it is her story so she ought to do the phoning.
Franklin W. Dixon
Grosset & Dunlap, 1927
Frank and Joe helped Fenton Hardy with a forgery case and now think about a possible career as detectives. Frank is the tall, dark brother with straight brown hair and brown eyes. He is 16 years old. Joe, on the other hand, is fair and has curly hair and blue eyes. Joe is 15 years old. The story starts out with the boys delivering papers to Willowville for their father. Riding their motorcycles up to dangerous Shore Road they nearly get hit by a reckless car. The driver shouts to the boys that they can only make out a hatless head with lots of red hair. After delivering the papers they decide to visit their best friend, Chet Morton. His dad is a real estate dealer and they live in the country. On the way to Chet's they see a wrecked car on the side of the road but no one around. Chet informs the boys that his roadster has been stolen. They wonder if the driver of the wrecked car stole the roadster. They go to the abandoned car to see if they can find any clues but discover that it has no license plates. They quickly realize upon a closer look that the wrecked car is the one that nearly ran them off the road. Knowing that the man couldn’t have gotten far with the roadster they take off after him. They speed off to Bayport with the intent of going to the police and find themselves having to be content with filing a report. They learn of a holdup at the train station and it really sounds like the same thief. Fenton agrees with the boys that it seems to be the same man. However, witnesses to the holdup described the man as being different from the one the Hardy's saw.
A week passes and there is no word of the roadster. Chet decides to be a boy and play a trick on Mr. Billey. He hitches a ride on the back of his wagon and hides. Chet has a new horn that he got for his car but did not get a chance to install before it was stolen. It is small and very loud. From his hiding spot, Chet keeps honking the horn causing Mr. Billey to move his wagon to the side of the road to make way for a phantom car. After doing this about three times a real car approaches and starts honking its horn, but Mr. Billey refuses to move thinking it is the phantom horn again. The driver eventually calls the cops and they get into an ensuing argument in which both men are telling the truth and they cause an even longer line of cars to get backed up.
When Joe and Frank go into the woods with their friends Joe discovers an abandoned roadway with what appears to be recent tire tracks. He discovers that the unusual tread matches the tires on the missing roadster. All the boys search the clearing and eventually find the missing car. When they drive back to town they discover there's been quite a hubbub as the Tower Mansion has been robbed. Tower Mansion is a castle-like structure sitting on a hill overlooking the bay. Barely anyone in town has been inside it for years. It was built by Major Applegate, an eccentric old army man who made his money through lucky real estate deals. The house is currently owned by Hurd and Adelia Applegate. Hurd is about 60 years old and is an expert on stamps. He ended up building a second identical tower on the castle only a few years ago. Adelia is a 55-year-old spinster who is best known for wearing wild clothes. Earlier that morning Hurd showed up at the police to say that the safe in the library was broken into and all the securities and jewels were taken. He asked Fenton for help in trying to retrieve the $40,000 that's been stolen. He agrees to let the boys accompany Fenton to check the crime scene.
The boys discover that Hurd believes that Robinson, his caretaker, stole the money but he has no proof. Robinson happens to be the father of Perry, a friend of Joe and Frank. He believes that Robinson is the only other person who's ever seen the safe opened. Plus, he paid off a note at the bank that very morning for $900 which seems very unlikely since his family has had a hard time with debt. Fenton can't find any fingerprints or other clues and asks to speak to Robinson. Perry, aka Slim, declares to the boys that his dad is innocent. Robinson admits to knowing the combination because he saw it on a piece of paper but he proclaims his innocence and says that he's not at liberty to say where the $900 came from. Hurd demands that the police arrest Robinson. Frank and Joe have a suspicion that the man who stole Chet's roadster and held up the ticket booth could possibly have something to do with this robbery as well. They decide to go back to the scene of the wrecked car. Frank finds an engine number but he bets that this car was also stolen. Frank then finds a red hair on the seat which leads them to believe that the man with the shocking red hair was wearing a wig. Fenton believes that this is sufficient proof for a chain of evidence. This man the boys saw was clearly a professional and, failing to rob the ticket booth, might have hung around for something better. Perry admits to having seen a strange man lurking around the mansion's yard about two days before the robbery. The next day the boys discover that Hurd Applegate is offering a $1,000 reward for information. They decided they will be the ones to crack the case.
While Perry's father has not been charged with anything, Hurd Applegate fires him and now he cannot find another job because people are still suspicious. Perry tells the boys that he might have to leave school for work to help the family. The boys decide to check out all the pawn shops locally but their dad has already beat them to it. So far there has been no trace of the stolen goods. They decide to recheck one more time were the roadster was found. Searching the nearby bushes they discover a red wig, hat, and a coat. Fenton says that he can possibly find the man by tracing the labels in the wig to the shops that possibly sold them. He goes to New York City to trace the clothes. The wig happens to be bought by Harold Morley and he just happened to order a second one identical about a month ago. Fenton goes to see the actor and learns that the original wig was stolen from him. The thief also took his watch, ring, money, and some costume pieces along with five other red wigs. Fenton spends the next week following up on leads for cold cases that dealt with redheaded crooks. When Fenton returns to town a week later he tells the boys at the wig has been traced to John “Red” Jackley, a crook with a fondness for red wigs. He traced him to a hotel and searched his room one night and found the stuff that he stole from the actor, which means that he is pretty sure this man is the automobile thief. Unfortunately, he got caught in a jewelry robbery and tried to flee town by train. He stole and crashed a railway gasoline speeder and the authorities doubt that he'll live. This means that they have no clues to connect him with the Tower Mansion robbery.
Fenton wants to question John before the chief of police gets a hold of him as he believes he will be more likely to confess something to Fenton instead of the cops. When he receives a call that John is awake and conscious but will probably not make it to the morning he rushes off to the hospital. The boys know that they have to make sure that the chief of police misses his train so they decide to go to their friends to brainstorm ideas. Chet decide on a bomb. They get some items from the Hardy's barn where they keep all their old toys and such junk and they all put it in a box. At a fruit stall nearby the police headquarters one of the boys stashes the package under the stall and riles up the Italian in charge who eventually discovers the mysterious ticking package. Through much fuss the cops eventually open the package to find an orange alarm clock and the chief is not going to make it to interview John in time.
Fenton informs the boys that John is dead and he did confess. He said that he wanted to rob the ticket office but failed. He committed to going to the Tower Mansion instead. All he said was that he couldn’t get away with the treasure and he hit it in the old tower. He then died. The boys want to try to hunt down where the treasure is hidden and Fenton agrees to let them hunt for it. Hurd Applegate is cautious about it though. He still thinks Robinson is involved. The boys look all over the old tower in the mansion but all they see is dust. If someone was in there recently it would be more disturbed. Maybe he meant the other tower? However, Adelia refuses to let them continue their search as she believes Robinson is still the thief. Hurd, however, offers to help them look in the second tower. Unfortunately, they find nothing. Fenton gets permission for more thorough search even though everyone now believes that Robinson was involved. The second search reveals nothing and Robinson is arrested.
Feeling disheartened, the boys end up hanging out on Shore Road which connects to the railway where John had worked. As they think about the case they look up from their picnic to see two water towers in the distance—one old and one new. It would be quite natural for John to go to his old haunts after committing the robbery. The boys make their way to the rundown tower. Once inside they search and eventually find a bag that contains the treasure stolen from the tower. Fenton gets everyone involved in the case together at the mansion for further evidence. The cops are shocked that the evidence clears Robinson of all accusations and Hurd Applegate promises to rehire him. The boys also receive a check for $500 each for solving the case. Adelia turns out to like the boys a lot and invites them and their friends to dine at the mansion whenever they want. Perry finally admits to where the $900 came from. It happened to be owed to his dad by a man who should've paid back some loans to other people first but didn't. They didn't want to release his name in case he got in trouble.
Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research
A lot of evidence at the beginning of the book tells us about the Hardy’s, their parents, their friends, and other aspects of daily life in Bayport. We learn early on that “these were the Hardy Boys, sons of Fenton Hardy, an internationally famous detective who'd made a name for himself in the years he spent on the New York Police Force and who is now, at the age of 40, handling his own practice. The Hardy family lived in Bayport, a city of about 50,000 inhabitants, located on Barmet Bay, three miles in from the Atlantic, and here the Hardy Boys attended high school and dreamed of the days when they, too, should be detectives like their father” (p. 2). He learn why they are interested in the career of a detective when the author writes that “like most boys, they speculated frequently on the occupation they should follow when they grew up, and it only seemed to them that nothing offered so many possibilities of adventure and excitement as the career of a detective” (p. 2-3).
Chet Morton, their best friend, who in the original 1920s/1930s versions of the story was a likeable, well-drawn out secondary character. In the revisions of the 1950s he suffered the fate of many secondary sidekicks when he was cast into a lesser role of the fat boy who is nothing but a jester. Here, however, we learn about the original Chet: “Chet was a great favorite with all the boys, not the least of the reasons for his popularity being the fact that he had a roadster of his own, in which he drove to school every day and with which he was very generous in giving rides to his friends after school hours” (p. 11) and “Chet was one of the most popular boys at the Bayport high school, one reason for its popularity being his unfailing good nature and his ability to see fun in almost everything. He was full of jokes and good humor and was rarely seen without a smile on his plump, freckled face” (p. 13). The famous girlfriends of Frank and Joe are hardly mentioned. In fact, Callie gets just a passing mention that she “of all the girls at the school . . . was the one most greatly admired by Frank. She was a pretty girl, with brown hair and brown eyes, always neatly dressed, and quick and vivacious and her manner” (p. 22). Also common to many old series books was the idea that the police are completely incompetent with their jobs. Chief of Police, Ezra Collig, is described as “a burly, red-faced individual, much given to telling long-winded stories. Usually, Collig was to be found reclining in a swivel chair in his office, with his feet on the desk, reading the comic pages or polishing up his numerous badges” (p. 26). We learn later that Fenton “did not trust Chief Collig and Detective Smuff, who came to him only in emergencies and who usually took all the credit for themselves whenever he helped them out on major difficulties” (p. 123). Mr. and Mrs. Hardy don’t get too much mention in this series opener. We also learn that “although he was a busy man, Mr. Hardy was not the type of father who maintains an air of aloofness from his family, the result being that he was on as good terms with his boys as though he were an elder brother” (p. 33) and that Mrs. Hardy must like cooking because that is all she’s doing in her few appearances in the story (“Mrs. Hardy quickly made up a generous package of sandwiches”) (p. 45).
Later on at the very end of the novel we learn a little more about the female characters that are pretty much nonexistent in the book. We learn that Mrs. Hardy knows her place when it comes to her husband’s work (p. 141-142): “‘Solved another mystery?’ asked Mrs. Hardy gaily, as she poured the coffee. She seldom asked questions about her husband's work, being of a gentle nature that instinctively shrank from any discussion of crime. It frequently distressed her that Mr. Hardy's occupation should be one that meant terms of imprisonment for those whom his cunning cleverness had brought to justice. But her husband's attitude this morning was so unmistakably jubilant that she was glad for his sake if he had scored another success.” The book ends, of course, with Mrs. Hardy happy that her sons are safe as detective work is a dangerous thing: “Mrs. Hardy, who was in the kitchen with the cook, smiled when they made known their request. Fair-haired and gentle, she had been tolerantly amused by her sons' activities in the tower affair, but she was glad to see them return to their boyish ways” (p. 186).
We receive a little bit of a description of Joe’s future girlfriend, Iola: “a plump, dark girl, . . . sister of Chet Morton and had achieved the honor of being about the only girl Joe Hardy had ever conceded to be anything but an unmitigated nuisance. Joe, who was shy in the presence of girls, professed a lofty scorn for all members of the other sex, particularly those of high school age, but had once engagingly admitted that Iola Morton was ‘all right, for girl.’ This, from him, was high praise” (p. 174).
There is a wonderful description of everyday boy life in a long passage which finds the boys hanging out in the woods: “When the boys reached the lane that led in toward Willow Grove from the main road they broke into a run and raced into the woods, shouting and yelling like wild Indians. Once in a friendly shade of the trees they tapered about the joy of their Saturday freedom. The day passed in the usual fashion of such days. They swam, they ate, they loafed about under the trees, they played games at imminent risk of life and limb, explored the woods, and otherwise enjoyed themselves with all the happy energy of healthy lads. Joe Hardy, who is an amateur naturalist in his way, went roaming off by himself during the afternoon while the other boys were enjoying their third swim of the day, and penetrated deeper into the woods. He walked about the undergrowth, examining various flowers and plants that came to his attention, but discovered no specimens that he had not seen before” (p. 47).
There are a few moments when economic conditions are given some attention. Obviously, the Hardys are quite well off but poor Perry Robinson and his family is another matter. On page 80 we read that “the Hardy Boys were silent. They were sorry for the Robinsons, for they knew only too well that the family were badly off financially and . . . it would indeed be difficult for Mr. Robinson to get another position.” Perry tells the boys, “We've rented a small house just outside the city. . . . It is cheap, and will have to get along. . . . But if dad doesn't get a job it will mean that I'll have to go to work.” Later on when the boys visit Perry’s new house it is said that “Frank hesitated. He had the natural shyness of his age and he felt awkward about visiting the Robinsons in their new home, for he knew they were now in reduced circumstances and my not wish their former friends to see them in their present plight” (p. 110).
The biggest piece of evidence to this story is a sub-plot involving the Black Hand, an Italian crime organization. The boys need to prevent the chief from getting to the hospital and interview (or scaring him so badly he won’t talk) John. So the devise a plan to scare a local Italian street vendor into thinking the Black Hand is after him and they plant a fake bomb. This is a scene that was removed in the 1950s revision because of its racist nature.
First, we receive a description of Tony Prito, the Hardy’s Italian friend, when he asks dialectically, “What’s the mattah?” We learn that Tony is “the son of a prosperous Italian building contractor, but he had not yet been in America long enough to talk the language without an accent, and his attempts were the cause of much amusement to his companions. He was quick and good-natured, however, and laughed as much at his own errors as anyone else did” (p. 130). He is the only who mentions the Black Hand (p. 132):
“If we were in Italy we could get the Black Hand help,” said Tony Prito.
“The Black Hand!” declared Chet. “That's a good idea!”
“We got no Black Hand society in Bayport.” objected Tony. “Let's get one up. Send the chief a Black Hand letter warning him not to take that train.”
“And if he ever found out who wrote it, we'd all be up to our necks in trouble,” pointed out Joe. “I'd like to put a bomb under his old police station.”
“Fine idea!” applauded Tony. “Where we get the bomb?”
We learn that not far from the Bayport police station was a fruit stand over which presided an Italian by the name of Rocco: “He was a simple, genial soul, who believed almost everything he heard and, like most of his countrymen, he was of an excitable nature” (p. 133-134). The boys decide to get him worked up by claiming that the prices he charges for his fruits are very high and that they can shop at another vendor (p. 134):
“‘He no can do!’ shrieked Rocco. ‘My price is da low.’ Then, angered by this reflection on the prices of his wares, he burst into a lengthy explanation of the struggles confronting or Italian trying to get along any new country.”
When threated with the Black Hand: “‘Poof! W'at do I care for da Black Hand. No frighten me!’ said Rocco bravely, but he gulped when he said it and there was no doubt that the shot had gone home” (p. 135).
We then get the lengthy description of what happens when he discovers the bomb (page 136-137):
Rocco stared. His mouth opened in dismay. For, something clearly from the inside of the package, came a steady “tick tock, tick tock.”
“A bomb!” he shrieked. “Put heem down!”
Thereupon he scrambled widely over the array of fruit at the back of the stand, tipped over a tray of oranges, and went sprawling over the opposite counter, roaring, “Police!” at the top of his lungs.
Rocco, in his white apron, was dancing about in the middle of the street, yelling, “Bombs! Police! Da Blacka Hand!” Then, suddenly fearing that the supposed bomb might explode at any moment, he whirled rapidly about and raced down the street away from the stand, and the general direction of the police station.