In honor of YALSA’s Teen Read Week (October 18-24), I’m revisiting two of my favorite teen reads: Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace. As a girl, I devoured the entire Betsy-Tacy series, which follows Betsy Ray (an aspiring writer!) and her friends Tacy and Tib from the time they are in elementary school up through college and beyond. The books for teens–and teens at heart–have just been reissued with forewords by Laura Lippman, Meg Cabot, and Anna Quindlen.
The theme for this year’s Teen Read Week is “Read Beyond Reality.” And while Betsy is certainly no alien, wizard or vampire, the fun of this series is that it captures the magic details of a time long since passed while remaining true to the real-life dreams of readers today. As Laura Lippman writes, “I reread these books every year, marveling at how a world so quaint–shirtwaists! pompadours! Merry Midow hats!–can feature a heroine who is undeniably modern.” Exactly.
I adored Betsy because she was determined to have a career. She delighted in “correspondence” (yes, the old-fashioned kind, sans keyboard and IM). She had her very own desk converted from a trunk. She recorded her stories on fancy pink stationery and sent them to magazines. She faced the rejection, self-doubt, and joyful successes of a writer coming into her own. At the same time, she dealt with crushes, cliques and all the other day-to-day ups and downs of teen life. What’s not to love?
This Teen Read Week, I am thanking heaven for Betsy. I have loved reading for as long as I can remember, but she was the first character who inspired me to write.Claire Mysko