Tomorrow I will be taking place in a photoshoot for Company C’s print and online advertising. This inspires the book review for this week as I revisit a favorite book of my childhood and teens to see how it holds up when read as an adult, “Over the Hill at Fourteen” by Anna Callan.
As a young adult while I was a voracious reader, yet most books I would only read one time. This is one of a few books from that time I’ve read multiple times, though it is has been many years since I picked it up again. As the book was written in 1982, I was especially curious to see if parts of it that would be feel dated by necessity would take away from the novel.
The novel is narrated by the titular model, Sylvia who is written convincingly as a teen. Despite working with adults she is quite naive, which allows her to try to fool her parents that her platonic friend Brad is taking her on a movie date, they sneak into an adult’s party where she is pressured to act more mature, be in love with her 28 year old photographer and be shocked when a print shoot she is in, quite tame by today’s standards is interpreted by many including her leering classmates to have a much more risqué meaning.
One of the great things about this book is that although Sylvia finds herself in the aforementioned adult situations, she’s never in real danger nor do some situations that might happen in a book written in modern times happen. A few older characters are flirty, at times inappropriate with her, but no one tries to hurt her, nor is there a suspicion her drink was tampered with. The photographer knows of her crush, many people do, but he treats her in a brotherly way. Her classmates and their parents react to the commercial with disdain, but you get the feeling things will to normal in the somewhat near future, she won’t need to transfer schools or hav she family move to have a normal high school eoxieirnce again.
Sylvia feels like a real person in part as she has real problems and reacts the way many teens would. Both her crush and her friend find love with others and she deals with her shock and disappointment. She talks with a model who is sixteen about how many girls at their ages are too old for the business, which was true then and now, and what other career options they may have. Her dad loses his job and she gets a job at the mall as a perfume spritzer as the costume they make her wear qualifies it as a modeling job, and when she predictably gets fired does so for acting as many teens would in such an unusual job.
The fact that the novel is set in the 80’s mean certain modern things cannot appear and change the scope of the story. A cell phone would have come in handy in a few scenes such as when Sylvia is briefly unable to find her father. When her agent and a client insist at different parts of the story that her hair be made to resemble Veronica Lake’s she wondered aloud who that was, something she could have cleared up with a simple Google search. When Sylvia’s commercial came out, the teasing could have become global and longer lasting had Facebook, Twitter or similar sites been around.
The ending of a book can make or break it for me. The ending was great, wrapping up lose ends and giving Sylvia a happy conclusion, yet leaving room for a sequel which unfortunately did not get written.
I’m glad I revisited this book which was just as sweet and funny as I remembered. This book is out of print, yet worth buying a used copy of and can be found on Amazon though with a different, plain cover. If our baby is a girl, I’d be proud to give it to her in future years to read.
Rating – five baby booties out of five