Young Adult Education

Young Adult Education: ‘Here's To You, Rachel Robinson' by Judy Blume

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Heyward wrote about some of Judy Blume’s best books, including Just As Long As We’re Together (also known as the book that taught me that if a boy has leg hair, it means he’s “experienced”). I love that book for its realistic and funny depiction of the friendship between Stephanie, Rachel and Alison, but I also have a major soft spot for its sequel, Here’s To You, Rachel Robinson.

While Just As Long As We’re Together was told from Stephanie’s point of view, Rachel is the narrator of Here’s To You, Rachel Robinson. Rachel is a classic perfectionist overachiever, kind of like what I imagine Hillary Rodham Clinton must’ve been like as a 7th grader. She practices her flute for 45 minutes every day, she never gets less than an A, and she’s on the Debating Team. Her mother likes to joke she was born 35 (although Rachel will contest she “was born a baby, like everyone else”). She worries about boys and her friendships, but her biggest problem is her brother, Charles.

Charles spent most of the past year in boarding school because he was “acting out”. When he’s expelled, he comes whirling back into Rachel’s life like a mean, insulting tornado. He calls their sister, Jessica, “Pizza Face” because of her cystic acne. Their mom is an “ice queen”, while their dad is “weak”. For Rachel, he uses the term “child prodigy”, which doesn’t really seem that bad (compared to “Pizza Face,” anyway).

Charles might seem like a bad kid, but his presence actually helps his family members express themselves. In the beginning of the book, Rachel says, “In our family, we don’t scream. We swallow hard, instead.” With Charles around, they’re so upset that they actually have confrontations. When Rachel’s dad and Charles finally break through their anger and distance to share a hug, I’ll admit it, I had a few tears in my eyes. Listen, I’m sure I’m not the only girl in her mid-20s to have an emotional moment while rereading a Judy Blume book in a coffee shop.

Probably the best thing about Here’s To You, Rachel Robinson (and Judy Blume’s books in general) is that we don’t get a fairy-tale happy ending. Rachel kisses a boy, but it’s not like he’s her boyfriend. She’s getting along better with her friends, but she’s still insecure. Her dad and Charles may have briefly bonded, but it doesn’t make everything okay. She can joke with Charles by the end of the book, but their relationship isn’t perfect. It’s the little things that show Rachel her life might be slowly getting better. As Rachel says, “Life is full of surprises and they’re not necessarily all bad.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write some fanfic from Alison Monceau’s point of view.

Some Highlights:

-When Rachel has to write her biography for class, she writes a section about her future called “Rachel, The Later Years”. In case you wondered, Future Rachel creates a vaccine that prevents hairballs in lions. You know, the typical teenage girl dream.

-Jeremy Dragon (so nicknamed because he wears a jacket with a dragon on it. Rebellious!), the crush object of Just As Long As We’re Together, makes his triumphant return! He plays a sexy Monopoly game with Stephanie, Rachel and Alison.

-Rachel describes her pretzel eating strategy like this: “It’s true that I have a special way of eating pretzels. I like to lick off all the salt first. Then, when the pretzel is very soft, just before it’s actually soggy, I chew it up. I didn’t always eat pretzels that way. But a few years ago I broke a tooth on one, and ever since I eat them very carefully.”

-Rachel sees her sister as heroic because of her cystic acne. “I consider Jess one of the bravest people I know. She gets up and goes to school five days a week. She has friends. She even manages to have a sense of humor.” Maybe Rachel is going a little bit overboard, but seriously, being a teenager is hard enough without cystic acne.

-The girls read Sassy magazine for style tips. Oh, the early ’90s.

Are there any young adult books you’d like to see in Young Adult Education? Let us know in the comments!

Image via Goodreads

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