Title: Jean and Johnny
Author: Beverly Cleary
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Beverly Cleary is a giant in Children’s Literature, & has been for the past few generations. Whether a person has read her Runaway Ralph series, grew up with Ramona, or delved into her teen romances such as the one I’m about to review, it’s no mistake that her fiction has a timeless quality. Of course, some may be put off from reading this book because of the title itself, Jean & Johnny are two names which aren’t quite so common anymore, couple that with details relating to Jean’s economic background e.g. having to sew her own clothes, prices at the stores & drive-in, & it obviously dates itself a bit.
What makes it timeless is how Cleary keeps you engaged with the character, one many young girls can remember being. They were all fifteen once, or at one point felt very unsure of themselves. They were interested in boys, but didn’t have the confidence, or felt themselves appealing at all to the opposite sex.* Pop stars were their idols, & this shared interest was a great way to bond with their friends.
In Jean’s case, she’s an awkward young girl, who has a best friend name Elaine & they share each other’s company. But after sneaking into a dance, Jean is invited, to her surprise, to dance with the most popular, handsomest boy in the school, Johnny. This changes her entire outlook of herself, because she doesn’t see why a boy like Johnny would pay any attention to her. So, Elaine & she begin their efforts to make Jean noticed by Johnny to find out why he likes her, if he does at all.
What I liked most about the book is how it teaches you that you must value yourself & not depend upon the attention of others for self-esteem, how you should listen to your elders, especially in this case her sister Sue who is a little older & wiser, & how you should remember who has always been there for you, such as your dear friends, even after you start dating. Most importantly, it teaches a young reader that the exterior is only one aspect of a human, that they must pay attention to the behavior of a person to tell their true character & feelings.
*I’m not intending this to be heterosexist.