Goodreads: Betsy in Spite of Herself
Series: Betsy-Tacy #6
Sophomore year in Deep Valley means many things to Betsy Ray–the opportunity to serve as class secretary, continued attempts to charm Joe Willard away from his work, and another chance at winning the Essay Contest. However, nothing can compare to the delight of collecting boys. But so far the boys who congregate at Betsy’s home seem to like her only as a friend. Can she win the dashing Phil Brandish by remaking herself as the Dramatic and Mysterious Betsye?
While Betsy in Spite of Herself continues along much the same lines as the previous book–Betsy spends her days flirting and plotting ways to get boys to swoon over her the way they do over her older sister Julia–this installment branches out a little to illustrate the protagonist’s developing maturity. While Betsy still considers boys the most important thing in the world, her new flirtations are not present in this story simply to show how silly Betsy sometimes can be. Instead, they teach her that, above all, she has to be true to herself and to her own aspirations, even if that means losing a date.
I mentioned in my review of Heaven to Betsy that I had, contrary to the experiences of generations of readers, difficulty relating to Betsy and that, indeed, at times I even found her unlikable. This book provides the same experience, at least for me. Of course, that does not mean Betsy is not still an interesting character and one whose adventures I can enjoy following. I read both the last book and this one with pleasure. There was just always something missing. If anything, I wanted more Tacy–Betsy’s old friend who does not swoon over boys and who can thus provide a relatable character for readers who find Betsy’s machinations to ensnare boys she does not even really like a bit odd, maybe even a bit manipulative. Betsy’s romps with “the Crowd” simply do no match the pleasure that can be found in her loyal friendship with Tacy.
Fortunately, however, this book provided me hope with the future of the series. Betsy does act very silly. She neglects her studies and pretends to be someone she is not, all to capture the interest of a boy who owns an auto. But the whole time readers can sense that Betsy knows she acts silly, knows that she wants to be someone else–wants to be considered smart as well as popular, wants to be known as a writer as well as a catch. If she loses herself for a time, readers can forgive her. What is it to be young if not to make mistakes?
Writing a review about this book thus proves a little difficult, for it really centers around a short-lived romance that could conceivably have been only an episode in a longer work. Other things happen, of course, but the Philip Brandish plot overshadows them all, making Betsy in Spite of Herself seem a little like a bridge book. We have seen Betsy go out with half the school in the previous book. We have seen her realize she cares more about writing than Philip in this book. So now the real question is how Betsy will remodel herself in the next book. Everything in Betsy in Spite of Herself points forward.
But I am glad it does. I grow tired of watching Betsy flirt and get bad grades when I know she is capable of so much more–and wants so much more. It is not, I want to tell her, impossible to date and study. I do not want to watch her throw her future away because she can never decline an invitation to a dance or a party. I may not fully understand Betsy, but Maud Hart Lovelace has certainly still managed to make me care about her.