Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Snail Mail No More


The sequel to P.S. Longer Letter Later, here by popular demand!

Tara Starr and Elizabeth now have access to the Internet, so they can IM and e-mail away to their hearts' content. When the book starts, Elizabeth visits Tara and they have a party for her. Later on in the book, Tara's still preggers mother, Barb, is confined to bed for a while so she won't lose the baby. Tara quits the school play to stay with her Mom after school (aw). The baby is born (named Scarlett) and Tara adjusts, while getting up to some fun PG 13 scrapes.

Elizabeth continues as editor of the school poetry magazine, Silhouettes. (It's named for Elizabeth's favorite Langston Hughes magazine, not, as I had hoped, Sadako's favorite Diamonds song.) She and her friend Howie sort of date but then she decides to only be friends/soulmates with him. (Elizabeth, you can't "choose yourself" when you've only got one guy after you. And, in my opinion, you always choose the guy who hires Frankie Valli to sing for you.) The big thing that happens in this book is that towards the end, Elizabeth's father drives drunk and dies in a fiery accident.
  • When Tara mentions getting a bad sunburn when she was up at her friend's lakehouse, Liz freaks: "Tara, you should really be more careful with the sun. Did you know that just a few bad sunburns can lead to SKIN CANCER? I'm not kidding." An evil little part of me wants to show Liz such tanorexics as Blayne from Project Runway and Danielle from Real Housewives of Jersey and watch her head explode.
  • At school Tara's doing a project where she has to take care of egg-babies. For Christmas, Elizabeth makes little egg holders as well as an outfit for Scarlett. I misjudged Elizabeth when I decided she'd be in New Bedlam before she was 30. She'll be there before she graduates high school since she's already making homemade crap for inanimate objects at age thirteen.
  • Tara DRINKS at a party. She says she has two cans of beer, a little Southern Comfort, a sip of Bailey's, and a mouthful of Scotch, and then, predictably, she vomits a lot. It's your typical teenaged drinking experience that's depicted in books and on TV--you get wasted at a party, get yelled at by mom and dad, throw up, never drink again. Unless you're the best friend who grew up in a trailer park, upon which after the first binge drinking incident, you continue to drink in private and then do something stupid that leads to you going to AA, and then no one speaking of it again. (Or you're the wealthy male love interest who goes to AA regularly and never touches the sauce until the mafia blows up your father.)
  • Of course, Elizabeth gets all her information about drugs/alcohol from Go Ask Alice and freaks out, assuming that one incident of drinking means that Tara's going to be staying home from school, drinking wine coolers while watching Days of Our Lives and (Elizabeth's worst nightmare) calling Ann Landers a "boring old biddy." She also pulls the "I have an alcoholic dad card" which means she gets to act like a bitch with the excuse that she's saying all these things out of the perfectly reasonable fear that after one bout of drinking, Tara will turn into Lee Remick from Days of Wine and Roses. Elizabeth finally concludes her e-mail by saying she doesn't think she can be Tara's friend and cuts her off for about twelve days.
  • When Tara's dad, Luke, picks her up from the party where the drinking took place, she and her best friend Hannah throw up in the car. Luke gets annoyed and Tara says he never gets angry when baby Scarlett spits up, and that pisses him off even more. Okay, Tara rocks, just for that comment alone. But if you're really seeing red, Luke, there's nothing like renting the Exorcist for being grateful for your progeny's regurgitative habits.
  • Elizabeth and Tara have plans to talk on Thanksgiving evening (either on the phone or AIM). Elizabeth writes Tara a letter telling her what she did that day because she figures they'll probably spend the whole time when they actually speak in person talking about Tara's baby sister. Liz really needs to make friends with those women who shoot out a baby and then find Junior's bowel movements and spit up patterns the most fascinating conversation because she's probably the only childless person who would find that stuff interesting.
  • Elizabeth's father does such embarrassing things as show up drunk at their house when the Bessers (Howie and his dad) are over. He also sends Emma a huge stereo system. (Emma is Elizabeth's four year old sister.) I really wish that this plotline had been used in the BSC. For Stacey, of course. Come on, you know that her workaholic dad was already hitting the sauce, but wouldn't you love to see him lose his job and eventually die, and for Stacey and her mom to downsize to a tiny apartment, and for Stacey to never darken the doors of Bloomie's again? And for her to barely be able to afford insulin, let alone a tacky new outfit every week?
  • I'm not sure why Ann M. didn't want Elizabeth and Howie to do anything remotely interesting, like get to second base. And I'm not talking about second base for the 00s, or even for the nineties. Second base by Ann M.'s early sixties standards (kissing without tongues) would have been fine. Really, I found myself wondering what Elizabeth would have been like if Paula had gotten to work with someone besides Ann M. Martin. Like, what if she'd been a Judy Blume creation? (Less, "OMG, Tara, I made your baby eggs a knit sweater!" and more, "OMG, CVS is stocking a new brand of tampons with LILAC scent, oh if only I had my period. I must, I must, I MUST increase my menstrual pus!") Or an ethereal Francesca Lia Block character who talks to rainbows and wears fairy wings while listening to punk rock music and screaming and writing poems about skinny hipster boys. I'm starting to think that both Paula and the reader got really gypped.
  • My favorite part is when Tara talks about Liz's dad and his death: "I keep thinking about what the police officer told your mom--that your dad probably died instantly when the car hit the tree. As awful as that is, I'm so glad he didn't have to live through the explosion." This couldn't get any better unless Paula Danziger had added, "And at least he couldn't feel any pain when wolves pulled his body out of the car and feasted on the charred remains."
What lies ahead for Tara and Elizabeth? I see the two girls at college, Elizabeth at Wellesley, inspiring Tom Wolfe with her chastity and her sensibility to write a sequel to that Charlotte Simmons book, and Tara at Sarah Lawrence living the life of a typical Bret Easton Ellis creation, e-mailing each other about their cool new lives.

"Hey Elizabeth, how was your weekend? I went into the city where we finally got a chance to use our fake IDs. I know you're always telling me to be careful, and I was. I only let the underground filmmaker that I met finger me in the bathroom at the Slipper Room (no more bathroom blow jobs for Tara Starr!) and he's putting me in his new experimental film, An Untitled Work of Staggering Mediocrity. How's your macrame horse?"

"Tara, I TOLD you to be careful. Using the bathroom in clubs below 14th Street seems...really dangerous. I went to a Well Woman meeting this weekend where one of the tips was to never sit on toilets in public places like bars and if you must, to ALWAYS use a toilet seat cover. Please, Tara, this is really important--you could get gonorrhea or herpes or worse! The macrame horse is coming along great--but I think he's a zebra now. I spent all Saturday night working on him, after I finished doing all the reading on the syllabi for all my classes, of course. Did your roommate like the homemade samplers I made for you guys last month?"

And that's all, folks! I don't really have a particular book in mind to recap as I haven't really read anything YA this weekend. I do still have the first Gossip Girl book, and I've got a bunch of stuff that I've owned for a while but never recapped. So vote in the poll and tell me what you want me to do next, or if you have a particular YA book in mind that needs snarking and yet hasn't been done yet, totally let me know.