the best friends you’ll never have

I think that good way to examine about this book is to compare it to Maggie: Diary Three. Yes, Jeanne Betancourt actually wrote that one and not Ann, but Ann presumably had a hand in it.

M:D3 is about what happens when you’re the girlfriend of a teen idol. Just a Summer Romance is the story of how an ordinary girl becomes the girlfriend of a teen idol, and for half the book she doesn’t even know that’s what she is. Thus, it is monumentally less interesting and unique, and reads more like a basic first boyfriend story.

Melanie Braderman, Bronxville resident, spends the summer on Davis Park on Fire Island, just like Stacey. Stacey’s evil shy twin, Lacey, who is also sophisticated, from New York City, blonde and fashionable, lives next door and is Melanie’s summertime best friend. While on Fire Island, Melanie meets a totally cute boy named Justin after her little brother hits him with a frisbee. After literally grabbing a pair of binoculars and stalking the poor guy, they start dating.

They have a fine time on Fire Island together, only once it’s near the end of summer, Justin starts acting totally weird, and says that he wants it to be “just a summer romance,” because they’re young and going to meet a lot of people. He doesn’t even give Mel his phone number, even though he takes Mel’s.

At this point, I think we have to let poor Mel into a little secret:

And she does move on, kind of, accepting a date from a perfectly nice guy named PJ, who is not as cute, but he IS taller than her. (I can feel you rolling your eyes.) As it turns out, however, Justin had been lying by omission the whole time. He kept on having to go and “work,” and Melanie never bothered to find out what exactly this fifteen-year-old boy does for a job. He is, in fact, the star of a new sitcom, and by the time she gets back to Bronxville, a.k.a. civilization apparently, since no one was reading People or TV Guide on Fire Island, he is all over the damn place. Melanie feels like an idiot for not knowing she was dating a STAR that whole time.

Melanie gets Justin back the same way she got him in the first place: by stalking! She finds out from a copy of Variety left in the Bloomingdales’ ladies’ room that Justin just happens to be appearing at a meet and greet at Lincoln Center that very day she is in New York City visiting Lacey. So she and Lacey go, she sees him and hands him a napkin and a pen, and he writes “I LOVE YOU” and his phone number on it. It’s that easy!

While I commend Melanie here for taking the bull by the horns and making her move, I’m still like, what. The dude dissed you. He had your phone number. He could have called you. He later explains this by saying that he had wanted to play the field, but then realized that no one was as great as Melanie because she stalked him without knowing he was famous:

“Mel,” Justin said seriously, “anyone who tails me on the beach and lies in the sand dunes spying on me with binoculars because I’m Justin Hart, not Zack Brody, is not ordinary, and is much more my type – and means much more to me – than a million Tanias or Merediths. And now I have a question for you…Would you come into the city some Saturday and spend the day with me?”

Mel, however, was not tailing on the beach and lying in sand dunes spying on him with binoculars because he was Justin Hart. She did that because he was hot, which I don’t think is really any different from doing that because he’s a celebrity. But no matter! They get back together. Justin gives her some sand. The end.

Now, dating a celebrity must be very difficult, especially when you’re a freshman in high school. I think that makes for a much more interesting story, so if you want to read something along those lines, I’d go for M:D3 anyway. Just a Summer Romance is much more about Melanie swanning about with her crush on Justin and then taking it pretty well that he hasn’t contacted her and never told her about his celebrity. There isn’t even very much interesting that happens at school in regards to people finding out she dated the #1 Hot Teen Idol of the Moment.

I also think that this book was kind of spoiled for me because I read alula_auburn’s excellent snark of it fairly recently. Perhaps the book is more effective if you don’t know who Justin is until it’s revealed in the book, which is more than halfway through. Alula has some great thoughts on the writing quality, etc. of this book, so I highly recommend checking out the snark.

Random thoughts:

  • This book also features lipsticking. I feel like every early Ann book I have read so far except for Inside Out and the Stage Fright ones has mentioned it. I can’t believe I can use it as a verb and feel like you guys will understand what the hell I’m talking about. I am now SHOCKED that it did not come up in BSC until Dawn: Diary Three. I think it can officially join I Love Lucy and The Wizard of Oz on Ann’s list of obsessions.
  • Mel’s mom, on the other hand, is obsessed with how chocolate/junk food will ruin Mel’s complexion. Like the girl wants some damn peanut M&Ms and her mom freaks out.
  • Lacey’s older sister is named Jeanmarie, and I am sorry, someone who names their kid “Lacey” in the 70s was not going to also name a kid “Jeanmarie.” “Crystal” or something would have been appropriate.
  • Once again, Ann makes New York City suburbs sound very far away when they are not. Bronxville is extremely close to NYC, and it should be no problem for Lacey and Mel to maintain their best friendship between Manhattan and Bronxville. Just get on the damn Metro-North, Mel.
  • Davis Park apparently did not change between the writing of this book and Stacey’s Lie. Ann even talks about “Bedside Manor.”
  • When Mel is caught spying with binoculars, she tries to cover her ass and say she was birdwatching, but then she says she saw a flamingo, and I am pretty sure there are no flamingos on Fire Island.
  • Before Mel and Justin actually meet and she is just stalking him, she sees him at the ice cream parlor and changes her ice cream order to his because, I guess, if he sees that both of them are eating Fudge Ripple, he will understand that it is destiny.
  • Lacey’s family has 2 girls and 1 boy the exact same ages as the 2 girls and 1 boy in Melanie’s family.
  • Justin makes an Auntie Mame reference. This is totally a reference that a fifteen-year-old boy would make.
  • Apparently these two make an appearance in Eleven Kids, One Summer somehow. I will confirm this when I get to that book.

    External links:
    BSC Chronologically‘s review

    I put up this post early because it has been very hot here and my brain is fried. Next week: Ten Kids, No Pets.

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    » Early Ann Books Readalong, Week Twelve: Eleven Kids, One Summer Stoneybrookite: the best friends you’ll never have said, June 24th, 2014 at 9:46 am

    [...] in Fire Island. First off, I have to ask why Fire Island. No such explanation was needed in Just a Summer Romance, because Fire Island is a reasonable place for a New York City-area family to own a beach house. [...]

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