From award winning author Jacqueline Levering Sullivan comes a tale about true love that will make you giggle, gasp, and weep.
I’m the best buddy, old best pal, faithful Jeanmarie. That means I keep my mitts off Chuck, even if he has had my heart since we were in fourth grade and he was the only one who didn’t laugh when I threw up my egg salad on rye during choir. It takes about all the will power I can muster not to blurt out my undying love. I am destined to be one of those plain Janes whose friends are always prettier and richer and who know practically from birth you never ever wear white after Labor Day.
It is 1953 and Jeanmarie Dowd is crazy about handsome Chuck Neary, captain of Rainier High School’s hockey team and boy wonder musician. But he belongs to Terry Miller, her best friend, the school’s reigning beauty. But Jeanmarie has a few things going for her, too. She is smart, fun loving, and energetic with a wicked sense of humor. She accepts her role as Chuck’s chief confidant, knowing that it might lead to betraying her best friend. She also must deal with her sister Iris, suspected of being a communist. Can she be loyal to both her sister and Terry without betraying those she loves most?
“I really, truly love him,” she says. “Gawd! He’s so absolutely gorgeous.”
Terry proceeds to do a whole inventory of Chuck’s finer qualities. While I was getting my first real look at muscle bound Al Peniche, Terry was cuddling the adorable Chuck Neary.
“We didn’t really do anything, Jeannie, honestly, but we came close.” Terry sighs.
Little jolts of electricity run through me again, but they’re not in my brain.
Pretty much I act like this is our usual routine when it comes to girl talk. I’m trying to listen, but I’m having a bit of trouble because in that section of my mind where I’m trying to rid myself of that image of crazy Al, I’m imagining a more welcome one of Chuck. It’s hard to concentrate.
Then the doorbell starts ringing like crazy like maybe the house is on fire. I can hear Bernie hobble into the hall, swearing a blue streak.
Next there are loud voices, and I realize one of them sounds very much like Earl’s. I know there is no way he’d be here in the middle of the night if there weren’t some world shaking crisis. My heart jumps up into my mouth. My first instinct is to wait. Maybe if I don’t run out there like a ninny, it will turn out to be Bernie’s long lost uncle and we’re all safe. I know better and reluctantly slide out of the nook to go learn my fate.
Bernie looks at me like she’s seen a ghost. Earl, his tux now a mass of wrinkles, is standing just inside the front door wadding his hat up in his hands. “There’s been an accident,” he says. “It’s Iris. She’s had a terrible fall. You’d better come with me.”
Terry has followed me out of the kitchen and hands me my wallet.
“Do you want me to come with you?” she says.
Earl gives her a crooked smile and shakes his head, no, and steers me out the front door. I grab a pair of shoes off the porch and hope they are mine. Just before I get into the car, I turn back and look at the four figures in the doorway, arm in arm, all looped together like a row of sleepy chorus girls. I work hard to push down the sour feeling of fear rising up from my stomach and threatening to lodge in my throat. I can’t really put my finger on it, but something in the universe has shifted off kilter, and I so don’t want to know what that might be.
Excerpt from Lovesick, by Jacqueline Levering Sullivan
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2017.
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2017.
While working on my first book, Annie’s War, I had an intense discussion with my editor about Annie’s use of the word “puke.” The novel takes place in 1946, and my publisher’s editorial staff felt the word was too modern. Since I write historical novels for young readers, it is critical that the slang or expressions I use reflect the informal teen talk of a particular era. Our perception is that slang phrases are a fad and they have a brief shelf life, although the use of “cool” appears to have lasted for decades. As for the word “puke,” it appears in Shakespeare in Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It. Not exactly modern.
To support my case for the use of “puke,” I consulted a handy resource, my students. They were extremely helpful by assessing all of the slang expressions they could think of for vomit. The list included barf, hurl, toss your cookies, upchuck and honk, which they decided were definitely too modern. And retch, heave and plain old throw-up didn’t sound kid like. Puke was their unanimous choice.
Certain slang expressions can suggest a decade. The Sixties: “Can you dig it?” or “Far out.” “Airhead” and “Bogart” the Seventies. And “Freak Out” or “homey” the Nineties. When I began to research the Fifties for Lovesick, I didn’t need to visit a library or use Google. I went directly to the perfect source, my yearbooks, the Tahomas from historic landmark Stadium, my high school in Tacoma, Washington, now best known for the location of the movie Ten Things I Hate About You.
Making that trip back to the past was a “hoot.” Reading what my classmates had written told me a lot about how teens talked to each other in the Fifties, and I was able to pick up speech patterns as well as commonly used expressions. Using slang helped us feel we belonged. And not so surprisingly, my friends and I also made up our own slang or special phrasing of common phrases. “For sure” was commonly used at the end of a sentence and pronounced “For shuruur,” with the “ruur” drawn out for emphasis. When we cruised our favorite drive-in, we were “bippen.” When my mother started talking our language, I knew it had passed its prime.
Samples from my year books show the constant use of swell: “I think you are a swell kid.” Or “It really has been swell knowing you.” My personal favorite: “I’m glad I got to know you cuz you’re just one swell gal.”
In Chapter 7 of Lovesick, Chuck and Jeanmarie are playing cards, and he asks, “Hey how come you don’t have a boyfriend? A swell girl like you?” Jeanmarie does not take that as a compliment. For her, being a swell girl, not a beautiful girl, is the “kiss of death.”
Using slang in YA novels can be tricky. But slang is necessary when an author is creating a teen voice. The voice needs to be genuine, and the words and phrases not too current. What kids are saying today will be “old hat” in no time.
Books by Jacqueline Levering Sullivan
A Less Than Perfect Peace
What people are saying
Q.L. Pearce, Redbird Sings
"Lovesick is an extraordinary story. Through the eyes and heart of Jeanmarie Dowd, the author explores the meaning of love, loyalty, and grief. With a skillful balance of tenderness and wry humor, Sullivan has created a time capsule of the fifties in America. The book is rich with family, friends, and romance against a backdrop of rising political tension in the nation. An excellent read!"
What a great book for teens and boomers alike! Set in the early 1950s, the author brings to life both the innocence and the damaging underside of the era. One one level, it is a teenage love story. But on a deeper level, we learn how society and politics affect ordinary, middle class lives in profound ways. The craziness of the McCarthy era, the painful sadness of childhood leukemia in the 1950s, and the secretive nature of sexuality are all played out in this story with funny and engaging characters. Lovesick is a story of the exuberance of youth, loving families, and decent parents trying to do their best both for their kids and the country. Jacqueline Sullivan brings it all to life in a very entertaining young adult novel. Let’s hope she writes more!
“Based on events in Sullivan’s childhood, this debut novel [Annie's War] tells this story of lost innocence through the eyes of a child who is trying to make sense of what’s going on around her…. Sadness and strength come through, as does a realistic view of bigotry and courage, grief and kindness.”
“[Annie's War] Set in Washington State in 1946, Sullivan’s thoughtful first novel is narrated by a feisty 10 year-old . . . Credible characterization and dialogue help readers absorb the lessons Annie learns from wise Grandma and caring Gloria, that most folks are basically good people.”
Jacqueline Levering Sullivan was born in Tacoma, Washington, a city on the beautiful Puget Sound. It is always in the background of most of her writing. She found the Northwest was the perfect place for her to grow up. The long, rainy days never bothered her; they meant she had plenty of time to read, and she seldom had her nose out of a book.
Jacqueline is also the author of Annie’s War and A Less Than Perfect Peace. Annie’s War won the Kentucky Bluegrass Master List award, was granted the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book award, and was chosen as a finalist for the Children’s Crown Award. A Less Than Perfect Peace was awarded a Best Children’s Book by Bank Street College.
Jacqueline is also a retired professor of Writing who founded the Writing Center at Pitzer College and lives in California
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