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Betsy & Joe Forever

Susie endures Betsy-Tacy Book 7 just so she can get to the good stuff (Joe!) in Betsy-Tacy Book 8.

Betsy & Joe Forever

Susie, our resident Betsy-Tacy expert, is back! You can read her review of the first four books here and books 5 and 6 here.

BOOK REPORT for Betsy-Tacy Books 7- 8 by Maud Hart Lovelace

Cover Story: Somebody call the Doctor!
BFF Charm: Yay! And Love!
Swoonworthy Scale: Book 7: 2 Book 8: 9.5
Talky Talk: Stealthily Educational
Bonus Factors: Delayed Gratification, Love Triangle
Anti-bonus Factors: Very Special Lesson, Child Bride, Black Face
Relationship Status: Totally Devoted

Cover Story: Somebody call the Doctor!

This above image is a perfectly fine new cover. Not the cover I was saddled with.

What the ever loving frack is that?

What are these hollow cheeked, bug-eyed, pallid creatures supposed to be? They're nothing like the illustrations inside. Are they trying to trick TwiHards into thinking it’s a vampire book?

The Deal:

Book 7: Betsy Was a Junior sees Betsy forming a sorority and... not much else, it's the least compelling book in the series.

Book 8: Betsy and Joe follows her senior year of high school and a long awaited romance!

BFF Charm: Yay! And Love!

At this point Betsy's and my friendship can't be torn apart by silly things like a dull plot.

Joe Willard! I love you! You are so freaking awesome! Of course I will be your BFF. You've never let yourself have friends because you think you have nothing to offer in return. That's bullshit! Anyone would be lucky to be your friend.

Swoonworthy Scale: Book 7: 2 Book 8: 9.5

Book 7's love interest, Dave Hunt, is lame. So lame that I'd completely forgotten his existence until this reread. Yes, he's tall and handsome, but he's a cypher. He's the "strong and silent" type, which means he barely ever speaks. Betsy has to carry both halves of the conversation whenever they're together. He never opens his mouth to ask her out, assuming she'll know he's going to take her to whatever dance or event is happening that week. Betsy never knows if he's going to show up. Basically "strong and silent" equals fucking exhausting.

But Book 8, oh hell yes! After teasing us for three books, Joe and Betsy are officially an item. They get along swimmingly, sharing similar ambitions and interests. And the banter! Oh the banter! Naturally the course of true love does not now nor has it ever run smooth. Besty's misguided good intentions in respect to someone else, coupled with Joe's pride throw a hitch into the relationship. And it's heartbreaking. Joe and Betsy are my OTP.

Talky Talk: Stealthily Educational

I remember people being astonished by my vocabulary as a little kid. I didn't get it, didn't every seven-year-old know what a kaiser was? What I'm saying is I was so absorbed by the stories, I didn't notice all the new words I was learning. Beaux, chamois, charmeuse, rarebit, aria, nasturtium, pompadour etc. And that's not to mention the random Latin and German phrase, as well as quotes from Shakespeare sprinkled within the books.

Bonus Factor: Delayed Gratification

From the moment they meet, it's obvious that Betsy and Joe are perfect for each other. But whether it's Joe's self consciousness about having to work for his room and board, or Betsy turning down overtures due to prior obligations, something always got in the way. By junior year Betsy is determined not to let anything get in their way anymore. Cue Phyllis Brandish, twin to Betsy's ex Phil, who winds up on Joe's arm that year. When the obstacles are finally hurtled, it's so satisfying!

Bonus Factor: Love Triangle

Yes, I'm seriously making that a bonus factor. The love triangle that crops up in Betsy and Joe is so well done it transcends the pitfalls of the trope. I can honestly say I've never been more invested in all three points before or since.* This triangle isn't just a plot device to come between Betsy and Joe, it’s the climax of an equally longstanding but separate arc, intersecting with Betsy and Joe's. Tony, Betsy's crush from freshman year, who has been an integral part of Betsy's crowd, develops feelings for Betsy just as she and Joe are getting together. Betsy loves Tony like a brother and doesn't want to hurt or embarrass him so she never declares a preference between the two boys. She also foolishly thinks she can use his feelings for her to keep him from his more self destructive impulses** and misleads him into believing she feels the same. It never feels like I'm supposed to be Team Tony or Team Joe. Over the course of the books, I've come to care about both of them as much as Betsy does and feel just as bad when the situation blows up in her face.

Anti-bonus Factor: Very Special Lesson

Most of Book 7 is about Betsy's made-up sorority Octo Delta. At first it's a fun diversion for Betsy's girl friends, but soon it is causing problems. Betsy neglects her schoolwork and little sister. Other students see the group as a clique, and don't nominate the Octo Delts for class offices or committees. Betsy even loses the chance to compete in the yearly essay contest because of it.

While the other books have things you can learn from them, such as being true to yourself, this one has a LESSON to teach—Greek organizations are bad m'kay? I have no horse in the pro vs. anti sorority race. I'm not objecting to the message itself, just to the way it's executed. It's heavy handed.

Anti-bonus Factor: Child Bride

Book 8 introduces Harry Kerr, Tacy's future husband. Throughout the books Tacy shows no interest in boys, until Mr. Kerr shows up. I call him Mr. Kerr because he is at least a decade older than eighteen-year-old Tacy. It takes one meeting for him to declare his intention to make an inexperienced high school student his bride. Tacy seems to like him as well, but I can't help sharing Betsy's uneasiness with the situation. I know that neither the age difference or Tacy's young age was out of the ordinary for the time period, but I still find it weird. Probably because it happens so fast and Betsy (our POV character) sees him as an interloper.

Anti-bonus Factor: Black Face

The citizens of Deep Valley put on a big Broadway style talent showcase. Tony makes a huge hit by singing a solo—in black face. Again with the black face!*** Yes, I'm aware that at the time the book is set black face was seen as a harmless form of popular entertainment. But just because no harm was intended, does not mean no harm was done. I can't let it pass without comment.

Casting Call:

I cast Betsy, Tacy, and Joe in my last review, but there several key parts up for grabs.

Dakota Fanning as Tib

Tib is delicate, blonde, and a spitfire.

Ethan Peck as Tony

Let's see, who do we know with dark curly hair, a deep voice, and a playfully insouciant manner? Was there any other choice for Tony?

Mary Elizabeth Winsted as Julia

Betsy’s older sister, Julia, goes from a bossy adversary in the first four books, to a supportive idol in the next. While most of her romantic advice is questionable from a feminist perspective, Julia is a great sister. Anyway Julia is a beautiful, diminutive, brunette and so is Mary Elizabeth.

Relationship Status: Totally Devoted

Books, I don't wish I could quit you. We've navigated the good and the bad together. I've worn out your spines,**** and lost you in parks, but you always end up back on my shelf. Other series will come and go, but you'll always be first in my heart.

*Except for Katchoo/David/Francine in Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise.
**Which include train hopping, cursing (gasp!), and cigarettes (bigger gasp!).
***Looking at you as well, Little House.
****Uh...awkward