Books that made me love reading: 'Fifteen' by Beverly Cleary

BooksKristina Pino5 Comments

Being 15 is a really big deal. It's that age that we're enjoying the fun bits of early high school life while discovering the joys of dating and falling in love. For me, being 15 is especially important since for Cubans it's our coming of age. It's usually heralded by a big huge party, or more recently girls could choose to take a trip somewhere with the family.

Fifteen is about a girl, Jane Purdy, who is hoping that at some point during her summer vacation some boy will waltz into her life and sweep her off her feet. She has never dated, and does indeed meet a boy during one of her babysitting jobs towards the end of summer break. From there on, the story follows all of Jane's teenage woes and triumphs on her journey to confident young woman and the beginnings of first love.

The suggested age rating printed on the back of the book says "9 and up," which leads me to believe I read this well before I was Jane's age. I'm sure I didn't quite understand every little crisis that she endured, from making sure her mother is wearing stockings (making sure her parents are presentable), or debating whether she should choose coffee or ice cream at Nibley's, the devastation of waiting for a call from a boy all day and getting none, or worse, picking out get-well flowers for said boy and having to deliver them personally.

"Mrs. Purdy went on in a voice so low that Jane had to strain to catch her words. "I'm glad our daughter is a sweet, sensible girl.”
"Mom, how could you, thought Jane. Sweet and sensible- how perfectly awful. Nobody wanted to be sweet and sensible, at least not a girl in high school."

Reading the book now, I'm able to see a lot of these events as trivial, teenage, end of the world occurrences that happened all around me by the time I was in high school. Reading the book now, I can also appreciate the dialogue between Jane and her parents that much more. Lastly, I've also seen that, more than the romance involved, the real main point is to just be yourself and be confident about it. Even if the writing and everything are a bit dated (I just learned it was originally published in the '50s!), the story goes the same way.

On an unrelated note, I also learned something relevant to my life now from Jane: that asking a kid (in a babysitting scenario) to do something you want them to and telling them to do it are two very, very different things. As Jane so brilliantly demonstrated, it could be the difference between a spanky clean kitchen or having to pick up a big mess after turning your back on the kid for just a second while preparing their lunch on duty.

I had some fond memories of the book Fifteen and know I read it several times when I was younger, but considering I'm not much for romance novels I will admit I was worried I'd be re-reading something dreadful. As it turns out, it was a nostalgic trip more than anything else, and honestly a sweet story of first romance that I was glad to revisit. In case you're wondering what happens: Jane indeed gets the boy.

[Buy Fifteen on Amazon]

[image via Harper Collins - Quote is an excerpt from the book]

This post is a part of the Books That Made Me [Heart] Reading Challenge.