Fifteen by Beverly Cleary

fifteen bev

     Beverly Cleary, author of the famous Ramona Quimby books, wrote the quaint novel, Fifteen, about a first love in the 1950’s. The main character, Jane Purdy, is a fifteen year old girl who dreams about having her first boyfriend. While she’s babysitting the obnoxious, French-speaking little girl, Sandra Norton, Jane meets a delivery boy named Stan who is delivering horse meat for the Nortons’ dog. Jane immediately starts fantasizing about seeing Stan again and becoming his girlfriend. She starts thinking of different ways to run into him and even goes so far as to ask her parents if they can get a dog just so Stan can deliver horse meat to their house as well. Jane doesn’t end up having to scheme at all, because Stan ends up calling her on the phone and asking her to go on a date with him to the movies. This is where the novel begins to show how old-fashioned it is. When Stan comes to pick up Jane for their date, he refuses to sit down and Jane doesn’t realize that he is waiting for her to sit down first. She is also not allowed to go in a car with Stan, but her parents do allow her to walk alone with him to the movie theater.

     Despite all the facts that make this book a sweet, corny and typical young romance, the character of Jane Purdy does accurately depict a young girl’s feelings in the early stages of a crush. Beverly Cleary also does a good job of showing the strange and tenuous relationships girls have with each other at the age of fifteen. Julie is Jane’s best friend, but it is Marcy Stokes that Jane is truly envious of. Marcy Stokes is written as the popular blond who has a fantastic wardrobe, the girl every guy in school has a crush on. Marcy also isn’t very nice to Jane and there are a few times in the novel when Marcy seems to want to make Jane feel uncomfortable and small in order to make herself feel better in comparison.

     Fifteen is a good book to read if you are feeling nostalgic about those days before you knew what heartbreak was. It is a wholesome, romantic novel that even a pre-teen girl can read and enjoy.

Posted by Naptharoe


2 thoughts on “Fifteen by Beverly Cleary

  1. Fifteen. I loved this book! I loved presenting this book and the themes of it were so relate-able and admirable even from a grown up like me. The challenging part for me is that upon researching the history of this book, in terms of the inspiration behind the plot and characters, there wasn’t much material about Beverly Cleary’s Fifteen. Nontheless, as Naptharoe points out, the themes of young love and envy are evident and innocently portrayed in ways that I believe can be appreciated by young and old audiences alike. I’d also like to point out in addition to Naptharoe’s pointers, that although Jane was the baby-sitting and unpopular type, Jane exhibited characteristics from the beginning of the story until the end that deems her something of a heroine. She showed tenacity, creativity and persistence when trying to figure out a way to “bump into” Stan again, she maintained poise and resorted to logical conclusions about why Stan didn’t ask her to the dance, and when she messed up and allowed Buzz to kiss her, she made up for her inappropriate “Ms. Muffet” attitude by marching through her critical onlooking peers to Stan’s house with a grand surprise. Moreover, though Jane envied Marcy, the intriguing fact is that Marcy was jealous of Jane and the fact that Stan wanted Jane. So I think that this is more than just a 1950s love story; it’s a story about learning, accepting, embracing and being oneself–a lesson that all people should learn to adopt.

  2. JES,
    Thanks for the reminder that Marcy was jealous of Jane. I actually loved that part of the book. While Marcy is clearly portrayed as the popular girl, she and Jane still have the same circle of friends and seem to be friends with each other in that competitive way high school girls have with other girls they aren’t close with, but don’t actually dislike. What’s great about Marcy is how her character can show young readers that even the most popular and seemingly successful high school girls have insecurities. The way that Beverly Clearly portrayed this aspect of Jane and Marcy’s relationship was spot on. And although I did not personally relate to the characters in Fifteen, I could definitely see similarities that these characters had with many of my boy-crazed friends in high school and even now.

    ~ Naptharoe

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