this series became my topic for "T", I decided to read the whole series again.
I read the series a lot while growing up and you'd think with how often I talk about it (read more about that here, here, and here) that I'd have already reread it for this blog. It wasn't that I didn't want to read the series again, it was just that I had such fond memories of it that I didn't want my adult brain to ruin it. I LOVE THIS SERIES SO MUCH!
So, I reread it with trepidation and then a funny thing happened. While thinking of myself as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior in high school, I was also thinking about my students.
Thinking about the books in this manner made me look at each in two ways 1] as a piece of nostalgia and 2] as a how-to manual of sorts. I'll be talking about each book in this manner.
Class of '88 Freshman
I think this book has one of the best beginnings. Five friends all wrapped up in one another in their childhood hang-out, a tree house, anxiously waiting for the first day of school. Only this first day won't be like any other as they are going to a brand-new high school and several junior highs are flowing into make up the student body. Allie and Cecilia are so different that they must be best friends. Nick and Meg are the group leaders and also the best of friends. Sean is the nerdy member of the group, best friend to all, but sort of an outsider as well. Their experiences are typical of every high school freshman. Allie and Cecilia want to try out for cheerleading, but only one has the looks and the potential. The other must find another way to fit in. Their friendship slowly fades. In a different atmosphere Nick and Meg realize that they may be more than friends; the only problem is that they realize this at different times. This goes on through-out their high school experience. And, Sean has to realize that he's more than the smart hanger-on to a star football player. He must find his own merit. It takes a shocking event for him to begin the journey.
As A Piece of Nostalgia
I remembered reading this for the first time and being enthralled with the idea of high school. While the story that occurs in this book (five friends entering a new high school) doesn't happen to everyone the feelings of alienation, dependence, independence and wanting to fit in are still quite real. I thought maybe this time around that I would feel a little more for the character I like the least (Cecilia) but I found myself disliking her more as I've realized those kinds of girls actually just grow up to marry boys like them and neither of them really change much, they just have annoyingly shallow children that I have to teach. I sympathized more will Allie as a kid than I do now as well as I know that girls like her turn out alright in the end. I hate her parents, but some parents are just too selfish for words. There is a scene with Sean towards the end of the book that still breaks my heart and makes me wonder how kids (same cruelty only more passive now) can be such bullies. I still have a deep love for Nick and Meg as I see myself in Meg (aside from that long hair thing) and I believe that Nick tainted (still debating whether this is good or bad) the way that I look at all boys, even today. I love how his character develops throughout the books.
As A How to Manual
Freshmen really do have bigger fish to fry than finishing their homework. They are trying to fit into high school. They are trying to understand how and why friendships are changing. They are being looked at and talked to by upper classmen. All of this is going on outside of my class. And, although I am with some of them more than they are with their parents that doesn't mean I am with them 24/7. So much inner turmoil and feelings are churning up during this year. It's a wonder that any learning occurs at all.
Seriously, this is probably the first book that I read from my youth that stood up to my feelings as an adult. I want to read it again, right now.