Imagine that you’re a teenager living in Atlantic City during the early 1960s. Dick Clark acts as your professional advisor and you’ve become a regular guest on “American Bandstand.” Imagine that Bobby Rydell is your secret boyfriend; you party with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funcello; and you console Fabian when his film career sags. Life promises continuing rewards. You only have one problem . . . this glamorous scenario isn’t true. You’ve created a vivid fantasy life to substitute for your dismal middle class real life. And even in your fantasy world, nothing ever quite works out for you.
In scenes reminiscent of The Bell Jar and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, the intelligent neurotic heroine of Bobby’s Girl intertwines fantasy and reality. Her dream world is an exaggeration of the common romantic fantasies young teens develop after pouring over fan magazines. But even in this dream world the heroine experiences failure. By facing the failures in her fantasies she learns how to deal with the problems in her life, gradually growing free of her suffocating family and making new friends. With a breathtakingly direct style and a searing authenticity, Ratner tells a story of the drab and the glamorous, of fear and hard-won joy.
With a poet’s care for nuance and detail, Rochelle Ratner has written a beautifully charming growing-up-story. There’s pain in Bobby’s Girl, but the wit and accuracy of Ratner’s language shines through, making even it glow. And time and place are captured too; cities, families, public figures in fantasy, they all live: like adolescent songs in the memory. A very moving and special book.
“. . . this rendering of a painful adolescence effectively underscores the gravity of youth’s seemingly transitory traumas” —Library Journal
“The troubled, unnamed heroine in this short, first novel by poet Ratner often lives in a fantasy world populated by singers such as Fabian, Bobby Rydell and Annette Funicello (the story takes place in the ’50s and ’60s). As for the character’s real life, school is boring, her parents are by turn overly solicitous or oblivious to her suffering, and she is convinced that her schoolmates make fun of her. It is only when confronted with an impending hospitalization that the heroine begins to grapple with her outside world, a process that coincides with the collapse of key parts of her fantasies. By the end of this evocative novel, the protagonist is on the road to recovery.”—Publishers Weekly