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Think Happy Days, Grease, James Dean, Rock Hudson/Doris Day, Elvis–all the oldies but goodies, but with a heaping dose of reality and world events thrown in for good measure (book banning, the Sputnik space race, Vietnam war, hippies, etc.) Then add a dash of Ruby Fruit Jungle and The Swashbuckler, and you have Mavis Applewater’s blast from the past, Tempus Fugit.
It’s the summer of 1956. The last thing high school student Ellen Druette needs is to fall for a fellow cheerleader. If anyone finds out she’s into girls, life as the cool chick knows is over. Being labeled a perv, a homo, or a queer is bad enough, but Ellen worries more about the risk of losing her parents’ love and respect.
Laurie and Ginny Swenson are the new kids at school and drive into town in twin convertibles. They may be identical twins on the outside, but they are as different as night and day on the inside. One could say Laurie is the evil twin and Ginny is a total sweetheart, yet everyone agrees, the Swenson twins are tall, blonde, gorgeous, bright, rich, and stacked. Most of the girls in town hate them, and the boys trip over themselves trying to get close to them. Ellen wonders why the boys she dates don’t make her insides turn to mush; then Ginny provides the answer.
I found the quiet way Ellen’s parents acknowledge their daughter’s sexuality one of the most endearing parts of the book. While they don’t verbally condone it, they never let their daughter’s sexual preference get in the way of their love and devotion. To their credit, Ellen’s parents adopt Ginny. The respect the girls give them in return for their unconditional love, acceptance, and profound wish for their happiness is a thing of beauty. At a time when homosexuality was illegal and the world wasn’t ready for the likes of Ellen and Ginny’s budding romance, Samuel and Doris Druette supported the young couple in every conceivable way.
When Ginny is wrongfully incarcerated for soliciting a prostitute and engaging in lewd acts with an underage girl, the law and her parents are against her. Ginny suffers a horrific injustice. Not only does the crime not warrant the punishment, but she hasn’t even committed the crime. Can Ginny be saved from a prejudiced society that shuns ex-convicts, gays, and other “social deviants?” Can she be saved from herself? Will Ellen and Ginny finally realize where they belong?
Applewater hits upon tough issues while enticing the reader into Ellen’s tormented and hormone-raged mind. The 400-plus page book held my attention because of the hope that justice would ultimately be served. Although I enjoyed the banter and the multi-layered subplots, I grew as impatient as Ellen’s parents and friends for Ellen and Ginny to get a clue and go for broke. The novel could have been trimmed a bit, but Applewater’s winning writing style, wit, and honesty made the length forgivable.
Blue Feather Books, Ltd. / $26
Paperback, 444 pp.