Sunday, March 6, 2011

Prom

My apologies for the delay. I had a slight laptop charger mishap that resulted in a new laptop. So no more pink laptop and (hopefully) no more blue screens or dead batteries! Back in business until the next mishap!

Ashley is a "normal" teenager. She lives in a poor working class neighborhood near Philadelphia. Her dad is a cabbie and her mom is a bus driver. Her house is too small and filled with too many younger brothers. She has a shit-tastic job at the off-name Chuck E. Cheese where she has to wear a rat costume and serve greasy pizza.

Her boyfriend, TJ, is something of a screw-up. He's dropped out of high school and hasn't done much with his life yet. TJ's one big plan is for him and Ashley to move in together after Ashley graduates. The apartment he gets, though, is an empty room over a mechanic's shop. There is no bathroom, car parts are stored everywhere, and TJ's idea of grocery shopping results in him only buying popcorn.

Ashley is strongly anti-prom. (Aren't the best of us?) She's not going to prom! Never! Despite the title of the book! This changes, of course, when it's revealed that the math teacher/prom committee advisor embezzled all the prom money to pay her student loans. (Moral? Pay teachers more. Pay attention, Walker!) Ashley's friends make up the entire prom comittee, and they're absoltuely devastated. IT IS THE WORST THING EVER!

Ashley is trying to be moral support for her bff, Nat, when she goes to an emergency prom committee meeting. Which leads to her making a sensible suggestion: Instead of a pricey banquet hall, hold the prom in the school gym. Suddenly, Ashley is the star of the prom committee. She's roped into being Nat's right-hand woman.

There is the small problem of Ashley being a mediocre (at best) student. She skips school enough to have almost more detentions than days to serve them. (True story: There are 180 days in a school year. Her senior year, my mom got over 180 detentions. Because of the pickle that causes, they were all excused. This apple fell far from that tree.) Ashley cuts a deal with the new math teacher/detention monitor to help re-plan prom if he'll say she goes to detention. Can't go wrong, right?

Everything flows according to a hyper-organized plan implemented by Nat. She has a pink notebook with to-do list after to-do list (a woman after my own heart) that she faithfully assigns to Ashley and the other prom committe girls.

Because no one will ever find out, Ashley doesn't tell her preggo mama about the prom committee. Her mom is really enthusiastic about the idea of sending Ashley off to prom, so the whole thing is hushhush. No one wants to upset the pregnant mama with the promise of Ashley going to prom and the disappointment of her not going. Of course, Ashley's younger brothers spill the beans. Ashley finds out when her aunts all show up with various borrowed prom dressed for Ashley to try on. The one dress that makes Ashley look awesome ends up splitting up the back. So where will Ashley ever get a dress? *strokes imaginary goatee*

For a prom committee project, Ashley, Nat, and the tribe of women that is Ashley's family hit King of Prussia to look for donations. Ashley and her mom team up and end up in a store hawking prom dresses. Ah. By pretending to be in labor, Ashley's mom scores a bigger discount on a clearance rack dress that looks okay on Ashley. Not as great as the first dress, but close! Prom dress crisis adverted!

Everything for prom is coming together nicely. Tickets are selling thanks to Ashley bribing the most popular girl in school to give the prom-in-a-gym a chance. Everything is going as planned. Until Nat, who has been breaking in a ridiculous pair of high heels, wipes out and breaks her leg. PROM CRISIS! PROM CRISIS! PROM CRISIS!

All of a sudden, Ashley is in charge of a prom she didn't even want.  She's a good girl and finishes everything on Nat's epic to-do lists. But then! A twist ripped from the Law & Order headlines! The principal bans Ashley from going to prom. Her prom! Ashley's detention-for-prom-committee arrangement has back fired. She has too many unserved detentions to attend prom.

Ashley quietly accepts her fate. Yeah, she's pissed. But what's a girl gonna do? TJ still plans to pick her up for a make-your-own-prom. She'll still wear her dress and they'll go on a hot date. Except that Ashley's dress gets destroyed on accident. What ever will she do?

Turns out, that Nat's senile grandmother was actually a bomb ass seamstress back in Russia. She surprises everyone by whipping out a gown she's been secretly working on. It's Ashley's fairy godmother! Surprise!

The dress looks weird but it works for Ashley. Amaze-balls.

So Ashley heads off to prom. Without TJ. She's dumped his ass, although we never find out what suddenly made her come to her senses.

But wait! She's not supposed to go to prom! Ashley's parents go with her to try to get her into prom. Again, Ashley's mom pulls the scary-preggo-is-in-labor card. Ashley pops right into prom! Win! From there, she dances her ass off and dodges the principal's watchful eye. Prom=success.

In the end, Ashley has broken up with TJ for good, has decided to live with her parents for awhile longer, and has signed up for classes at the community college. Her mom finally has the baby, a little girl. Life is rainbows and unicorns. Or something more realistic.

Actually, the entire conclusion is very fast. Everything is wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste. It's just all Boom! Happy ending!
  • "I put on Nat's sweatshirt and Monica gave me her jacket to cover my legs. My skin did not tan. My skin burned, peeled, and freckled. God did not intend for Irish kids top play in the sun, according to my mother."
    • MY PEOPLE! There is a reason why pale people live in Ireland. It's theorized that evolution gave us less skin pigmentation in order to be able to soak up all the vitamin D we could from the limited sunshine. As you move toward areas with greater sun exposure, skin pigmentation increases. More sun means a lower (lesser?) need to soak up all the sun available 'cause there'll always be more. (This is scientific theory. Look at y'all learning.)
      • True story: I have a hand print shaped tan line (which only developed after two weeks of a sun burn that landed me in bed, crying) on my back. From May. Because someone didn't make sure that I had SPF 100 on my back all the way. (I tried. Hence the hand print.)
      • And now you all know way more about my skin tone and tanning problems than you ever wanted to know.
  • The idea that Ashley initially has no intention of going to college is strange for me. I realize that it's related to my upbringing and my status as middle class, but in high school, it never occurred to me that not going to college was not an option. I'm glad she ended up planing on going. Huge relief.
  • Ashley isn't the only one with a messed up prom. I went to prom. Alone. With manymanymany couples. Awkward? Yeah. But that wasn't as bad as finding out the next day that my 9th grade science lab partner had been arrested and charged with making terrorist threats after he bought a sniper rifle and told his friends about his plan to snipe everyone going to prom.
    • So yes. I could have died at prom. I like to think I would have survived, though, because I was his lab partner. I was nice to him!
  • My freshman year roommate (who I ended up not liking so much...) worked at Chuck E. Cheese. She had to be the mouse. Apparently, you can't see shit in those costumes and another waiter has to follow you around to make sure you don't trample small children that are in your blind spot. (Almost everything is your blind spot in those costumes.) On top of that, there is almost no ventilation in those costumes, so just a few minutes leave you superduper hot.
    • So how is Ashley serving pizza solo in this rat costume? How is she not passing out from heat stroke everytime she picks a pizza up in the kitchen? How is she not trampling small and medium sized children?
  • I have some higher than average sensory needs. When I was younger, I remember loving to stroke my sister's Goosebumps books for the bumpy text. This book cover has the same kinda deal for the word Prom. It's all raised and bumpy and lovely to touch.
  • This book is a huge departure from everything else Laurie Halse Anderson has written. Speak and Wintergirls both left me raw and drained. This book was, as Anderson said, about a "normal" girl. There is no great drama. There is no sexual assault or struggle with an ED. It's just a girl. A normal girl. And by "normal," Anderson means that this girl is inner city, working class, and has little hope for her future. That is really disappointing.
    • There is a problem about the authenticity of the book. I'm a middle class kid from a rural area. I never went to high school in the inner city. I never skipped a full day of school, not even on senior skip day. I never went to high school at a place where it was a struggle to succeed. 
    • What I'm getting at here is that I have no idea what Ashley's life would really be like. I do know that this was pretty unrealistic. Yeah,  prom would be a bright spot for a lot of these kids to look forward to. But are there really so few consequences for Ashley's compulsive truancy or anything else she does? If everyone at her school is so bad ass, why aren't any of Ashley's friends ever getting into trouble? 
    • It feels like this is what Anderson thinks it is like to be working class attending an inner city-ish high school. I don't think that that's what it's really like. It doesn't feel authentic. Of course, like I said, I don't have any way to tell y'all if this is realistic. I only know that it doesn't feel realistic. It feels like Anderson is trying very, very hard to write the voice of a character that she doesn't entirely understand and whose background she is completely unfamiliar with.

4 comments:

  1. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that you weren't going to be talking about your own (presumably awkward) prom experience. I guess I forgot this was a literary blog...

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  2. "I went to prom. Alone. With manymanymany couples. Awkward? Yeah."

    Maybe I should read the post before I comment from now on.

    Also, I did the same thing with Goosebumps books. Even now if I happen to be reading a book (I know, right?!) with raised letters, I end up feeling it up the entire time.

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  3. We call it the ball, not prom, so much more...classy?
    I also went solo but it was pretty fun, helps that I wasn't the only one.

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  4. I could not stand this book. It was a struggle to get to the ending. Laurie is usually very good at creating compelling protagonists, but Ashley was effing irritating. Or maybe it's because all girls I know named Ashley are just generally annoying.

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