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13 Dec 2018

Wacko, not Weirdo.

Written by sally @ 3:58 pm — Section: sally

I set a Goodreads goal of reading 50 books this year, and a few days ago I panicked when I realized I had only read 47. I enjoy setting an arbitrary goal that no one cares or knows about and then taking it very seriously, I guess. (Old schoolers: remember that time I posted every day for a YEAR?) I read Lucy Knisley’s Something New (#48! I liked it, but not as much as Relish) and then took to my shelves at home looking for a thin volume I could knock out.

I’ve always been a big reader, though for most of my childhood/preteendom I read a lot of teen garbage. All the Sweet Valley Highs. ALL OF THEM. I’d get a stack for Christmas and have finished a couple by the time we got to my grandparents’ house. I read and loved The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but I really loved that teen garbage.

One of my favorites was called The Rise and Fall of a Teen-Age Wacko. (I could’ve sworn on my life it was Weirdo, not Wacko, but it’s Wacko). It must’ve been one of the books I kept at my dad’s house and really read over and over because at some point the spine broke and half the pages fell out. I bought a copy (with all the pages in it) from Thrift Books a couple of years ago and didn’t read it then, but it was perfect for my purposes this week.

What I remembered: a girl stays in Manhattan by herself with a babysitting job, which she announces to her parents like this: “I’ve a job”; she has a little sister who at one point says “I put my money in a safe place: I keep my coins in my mouth”; Woody Allen is involved; there is a part where her dad has a moped which I read as in “I moped around the house” but was actually “small lame motorcycle thing.” And that’s about it! So yesterday I read it. (#49!)

First, the cover is divine.

There was much I’d forgotten, obviously, but so much that was familiar. The narrator goes to Bloomingdale’s and buys an outfit that includes a “chocolate tee” and I remember being fascinated that a teenage girl would spend money on a brown shirt. Like, it’s a brown tshirt? Ok. But in context this time it seemed to make sense, perhaps because I am old enough now to enjoy a brown shirt. She takes her babysitting charge on truly fun-sounding New York adventures that I want to go on as well — the Morgan Library and auctions where you can buy a vintage dress for $40 and it fits you perfectly and you feel like Gene Tierney!

But the Woody Allen part was a much bigger deal that I remembered. I knew that she somehow fell down and was thus in a Woody Allen movie; I’d forgotten that after she falls down and accidentally gets into a Woody Allen movie, she reads that he scrapped the project and then decides to become obsessed with Woody Allen and like, stalk him around town in order to get into another Woody Allen movie. She goes to Elaine’s on a night he’s supposed to be there, she reads that he’s filming another movie and just walks down to a creepy dark park alone and some dudes on rollerskates with painted clown faces scoot out of the darkness towards her, and then a police car drives up and she runs towards it and the cop gets out and HE has a creepy painted clown face too, and it turns out someone is filming a horror movie and now she has messed up the shot. Then she goes home and her dad has come back into town and is worried about her and she has told a lot of lies and everyone is mad at her but then at the end everything is fine.

Anyway, let me end this by saying that unless you spent a lot of time rereading this book in your formative years, there is pretty much zero reason for you to seek out and read this book. Unless teen Woody Allen fan fiction featuring chocolate tees appeals to you, and you are trying very hard to meet an arbitrary reading goal, of course.

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