Saturday, November 23, 2013

To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie (Book Review)

Publication Information: Little, Brown & Co., hardcover, 1982; Lizzie Skurnick Books, trade paper, 2013
Genre: Young Adult    Setting:  1956, United States

Plot:  Sylvie is a pretty, movie-magazine-obsessed, mature-looking 15-year-old who has lived in foster care since she was 7, and the last three foster families have included a lecherous father.  Sylvie learned the hard way that no one takes her fears of these men seriously so she has saved every penny to run away to Hollywood where she expects to be discovered.  Naturally, some creep on the bus steals her savings and Sylvie is forced to use her wiles to continue her journey to stardom.
What I liked: How I love Ellen Conford’s books!  Dear Lovey Hart, I am Desperate; We Interrupt This Semester for an Important Bulletin; and The Alfred Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations are three of my all time favorites.  Sylvie is a poignant rather than funny heroine, so yearning for affection that it breaks the reader’s heart.  The humor so pervasive in Conford’s other books is replaced by a vivid description of 50s suburbia and a heroine whose escapism into movie fandom completely informs her world view.   Carrie Wasserman is self-deprecating and appealing; this book has a lot of amusing moments but Sylvie is not intentionally funny:

That hatbox was one of the very few things I’d bought for myself out of my savings.  It was beautiful, ivory-colored simulated leather, and even though it cost $14.99 on sale, I knew I had to have it.  I’m very realistic and practical, and I knew it might take me a while after I got to Hollywood to get my first break in the movies, so I figured I would do some modeling until I was discovered.  A lot of movie stars start that way, and models make sometimes $35 to $50 an hour.  And all the models go from job to job with their stuff in a hatbox, just like mine.  It’s a model’s trademark, her hatbox, and if I had one, they’d know I was a professional just by looking at me.

Amusing to the reader but sad too.  At times this book seemed more like a YA problem novel from the 70s than my beloved Ellen Conford.  I don’t recall reading it before although I knew exactly when Sylvie was going to be robbed on the bus (memory or instinct?).  I like that this is dedicated to Susan Beth Pfeffer – isn’t it fun to think of authors you like being friends?   I met Ms. Conford once in 1986 and she signed A Royal Pain for my sister at the old Eeyore's Bookstore.  She was a bit taken aback by my enthusiasm and said, "Aren't you a little old for my books?"  I guess that was before YA adult readers were out of the closet! 
Source:  I bought this book, and am delighted it is back in print from Lizzie Skurnick’s new imprint to join my Conford collection.  And I love the new cover!

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