Thomas Y. Crowell Company
New York, NY
"Say, you told me you thought Les Miserables was the greatest novel ever written. I think Vanity Fair is the greatest. Let's fight." ~ Joe Willard to Betsy Ray (Chapter 4, page 47)Betsy and Joe opens during the summer of 1909, just months from the beginning of Betsy’s senior year at Deep Valley High School. Once more Betsy and her family (sans Julia who is traveling abroad) are vacationing at the lake where Betsy spends her days relaxing, swimming, writing letters and stories (she's determined to get published before the summer is over), and planning out her last year of high school.
Betsy learned a lot during her junior year and she is resolved to continue this pattern of growth and maturity as she starts the school year. For starters, she is determined to be a steadier and more loving individual. Betsy also plans to help more around the home, study harder, spend more time reaching out to others, and most of all -- rescue her long-time friend, Tony Markham, who has fallen in with a bad crowd. But what Betsy doesn't plan for ends up being the biggest surprise of her summer -- Joe Willard and she will finally get their chance to be together…
I think it's safe to say Betsy and Joe is my all-time favorite book in the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. It's the culmination of the high-school years and the reader finally gets to find out more about the handsome yet mysterious Joe Willard. And yet, it's not just another chapter in the "Betsy high school saga," for as is true with any of the books in the series, Mrs. Lovelace weaves a story that is both entertaining and endearing with subtle lessons and the adventures and tragedies that are found in real-life.
I find this coming-of-age novel romantic and yet still very realistic. It’s both entertaining and heart wrenching. Love is lost, love is gained, and love is even found where it's not expected. Betsy has to make a choice whether to help another or to follow her heart. Her faith is stretched as she watches those around her lose loved ones and yet carry on. She faces challenges head on, she's improved, she's matured... and yet she still makes mistakes. But I find her flaws and virtues just make her a more realistic and lovable heroine. She's not perfect, but you don't want her to be.
Yes, Betsy and Joe is definitely the culmination of the books following Betsy’s childhood and youth, but it's not the end of her story. Mrs. Lovelace drops various hints to the reader as to the future course of many of the characters in the book and the reader has the delightful opportunity of two more books about Betsy as she enters the Great World.
On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate Betsy and Joe a 5. This is an excellent read and well worth your attention.
Note: As I mentioned in my last Betsy review, Betsy loves to read. I noticed her novel of choice in this book was Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, which I read and reviewed this summer.
Mark Your Calendar! The Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge begins here at A Library is a Hospital for the Mind on Monday, September 28.