Joy School, by Elizabeth Berg

Cover ImageFinished 2-17-09, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 1997

This is the thing about strong people: you can mostly be scared of them but sometimes the way they are makes you feel safe.

page 108, hardcover

Katie and her father have moved to Missouri from Texas just as Katie is entering the insecurity and wonder of her teen years.  Her mother is dead, her sister is pregnant, her father is distant, and she is mostly ignored at school.  She thinks maybe the only people who like her are the cafeteria ladies because they always give her seconds.  Then she meets Jimmy, the much older manager of a gas station and her luck seems to be changing.  She begins spending more time with the married Jimmy and even finds a few friends along the way.

Katie’s story covers all of the universal feelings of youth.  Loneliness, awkwardness, confusion, and fear all come together for the perfect storm we call  puberty.  I was touched by Katie and when she was uncomfortable or horrified, so was I  because the memories all came back to me.  She was heartbreak and humor at once.  She had me laughing out loud (her first experience at the drive-in was priceless) and also cringing at her optimistic view of a future with Jimmy.

I love this book.  There is something distinctive about the words Elizabeth Berg chooses and I am immediately engaged.  I recognize myself in her characters and I think you will too.  If you haven’t read her, you should!

This book stands on its own as a wonderful read, but it is a sequel to Durable Goods.  I did not know this until I was finished reading it and it really made me mad.  I think you should read this book, but I also think you should read Durable Goods first (even though I haven’t read it myself!).

Highly recommended.