It's all about...popular girls...rec rooms...summers at the lake...dates with wealthy, thrill-crazy antiques...small town political corruption...and finding your true path in life. The Paris Hat considers the sometimes frothy, sometimes serious world of novels for teenage girls from the 1950s and 60s.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beyond the Dream

Title: Follow Your Dream
Author: Marjorie Holmes
Cover Art: James Talone
Publisher: Westminster Press, 1961
Setting: Hometown Washington, DC
Fun: Hamsters in the refrigerator; Georgetown grande dames; a crazy cat lady
Quote: "Beside her, holding a monkey, stood the tallest, handsomest and quite the most terrifying man Tracey had ever seen."

The authors of many of these novels, most of whom, according to the jacket blurbs, were the mothers of teenagers themselves, seemed to know very well that marriage did not preclude a career. In fact, in book after book, they are fully in sympathy with girls who want to do something or make something of themselves. Follow Your Dream is a textbook example of this -- there is never any doubt that Tracey will become a veterinarian. The twist is that Tracey wants a man as well.

We first meet Tracey Temple when she is being told, by a school Career Day speaker, that women can't be veterinarians. Tracey proceeds to heckle him, and is reprimanded by the principal. Being a vet is not just her dream, but her destiny, and when school ends, she is thrilled to get a summer job with Dr. Jane Baldwin, Washington D.C.'s only female vet. On the first day there, however, she falls in love with Whit, a third-year vet student. Whit, as it turns out, is in love with Diana, another student. And then there's Jeff, Tracey's old flame, who also falls for Diana, and good old Dudley, the boy next door. In short, it's a full-fledged love...well, pentagon, which winds through the story and pushes the animal-hospital vignettes into the background.

Tracey is a strong characters and Follow Your Dream never for a moment suggests she would be happier getting married and settling down. But what Tracey wants is Whit and a career, and what Follow Your Dream does suggest is that Tracey will never get both. Whit goes off to finish his education at the end of the book, hinting that Tracey ought to "stop knocking herself out over the wrong things. The things that were never meant for you." And Follow Your Dream leaves it at that. There is a future for Tracey, but, as with any of us, it may not be the one we anticipate.

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