Goodreads: Betsy Was a Junior
Series: Betsy-Tacy #7
Betsy’s older sister Julia is off to college and her new experiences quickly provide Deep Valley with a new source of entertainment–Betsy and her friends are starting a sorority! Though the Crowd thinks the new group fun, other students at the high school feel excluded. Will junior year by Betsy’s best one yet or will the sorority ruin everything?
I have waited a long time for the Betsy-Tacy books to draw me in, following Betsy Ray from the age of five when all she did was eat her supper on a bench outside through her first two years of high school when she spent most of her time flirting. Now, however, with the seventh book in the series, I can finally say that all the reading was worth it. In Betsy Was a Junior, our titular heroine finally focuses on her friends and has exciting new experiences that help her grow as a character.
I do not want to imply that previous books were completely dull or featured little character development. In Heaven to Betsy, for example, Betsy and her sister consider joining a different church from their parents. In Betsy in Spite of Herself, Betsy learns that she loves writing even more than she loves boys. However, the books really seemed to highlight Betsy’s flings over other plot elements and that disappointed me somewhat. The books are part of the Betsy-Tacy series, after all, and I hoped to see more of the lovely friendships Betsy had developed with both Tacy and Tib. Betsy Was a Junior finally prioritizes Betsy’s female friendships over her dating “conquests”.
And what a plot we get now that Betsy is hanging out with her girls! I felt little connection with young Betsy (ages five through twelve, which correspond to the first four books) because Betsy never seemed to get into trouble even when she did something wrong. But, really, little went wrong in the first place. The stories may be based on Lovelace’s idyllic childhood, but I thought the narrative could have used a little artistic license to spice things up. Now, at seventeen, Betsy is finally getting into trouble–not because she is a bad person, but because she is sometimes careless or sometimes just because other people do get hurt or jealous and lash out. The people in this town finally seem like, well, people.
I still think the previous high school books could have used a little more moments of female friendship (though Julia, as the kind older sister, really does get to shine now that she and Betsy have matured), but at least now I can look back at them more fondly, as representing part of Betsy’s somewhat thoughtless youth. Betsy has made no sudden transformation into a saint–be assured of that! But she is growing and it is now fun to look back on the character arc she is beginning to complete. The next book, Betsy and Joe, hopefully will not only get our Betsy together with the man she’s wanted all along, but also help Betsy establish for herself the kind of person she really wants to be.