Goodreads: Heaven to Betsy
Series: Betsy-Tacy #5
Betsy and Tacy are about to enter high school and, to Betsy, that means only one thing–boys! Soon she’s hanging out with the Crowd, a group of fun-loving friends that includes Cab Edwards, the boy next door; Herbert Humphreys, the girls’ grade school crush; and, most importantly, Tony Markham, a mysterious new arrival in Deep Valley. Betsy is head-over-heels in love with Tony, but will he return her affection?
Heaven to Betsy is a welcome change after the first four Betsy-Tacy books. The girls have grown up and their world expanded. Previously the stories often seemed more like fond recollections recited by a mother to her children than novels, but now the books begin to take more of a narrative form, connecting events, fleshing out characters, and introducing more exciting episodes than simply two little girls walking up a hill or coloring sand. All this served to capture my interest more than ever before, so that by the end of the book, I could finally say I was actually looking forward to the next installment of the series.
Still, Heaven to Betsy is not quite the book I had expected. The adoring blurbs on the backs of each volume and the fond introductions to each of the books indicate that generations of readers have found Betsy to be a friend, a kindred spirit, if you will. I hoped that Betsy and I could develop a similar relationship–who doesn’t want to find a new friend in the pages of a novel? But such is not to be, at least not yet. For it became clear quite quickly that, if that author were not providing some redeeming insights into Betsy’s mind, I would not have found much to like in Betsy at all.
Heaven to Betsy, though in some sense a coming-of-age novel (or the beginnings of one–that arc really comes to fruition in the next book), really just focuses on boys. Betsy lives for them. She wakes up in the morning pondering how she’ll never “get” any because she thinks she isn’t pretty enough and she goes to bed trying to improve her chances by curling her hair and attempting to erase her freckles. But, though convinced she is not good enough for a beau, Betsy certainly attracts a fair share of boys to her side. Most of them like her as friends and some of them she suspects just like the hospitality of her home, but she flirts with them all and has her share of little flings. She is what most books would call “a terrible flirt”.
This new side of Betsy regrettably means that her best friend Tacy, who does not understand all the fuss over boys, spends most of the novel on the sidelines. She appears regularly to gush with Betsy over her crushes and to support Betsy in her attempts to snag a man, but otherwise is mostly left out of the action. She really is the most loyal and supportive of friends (something Betsy tends to take for granted) and could be a really wonderful character–many readers who, like me, also do not want to spend all day mooning over boys, would find her refreshing and relatable. She would also help to balance the plot, so to speak, giving readers a break from the boys, boys, boys!
Some important events do happen, of course. Betsy and her sister consider converting to another Protestant denomination and schoolwork occupies some of Betsy’s time (though not nearly as much as it should). The elusive but desirable Joe Willard makes his first appearance. (We won’t count him among the boys because as soon as you meet him, you know this guy is serious and definitely meant to be the Gilbert to Betsy’s Anne.) But all these matters are overshadowed by the constant (and sometimes almost desperate) flirtations. I like a little romance in my novels, but this is too much.