“Young as I am, I know now that everything is about to come. Jimmy will be the place for me to learn the real happiness. He will be my Joy School. My joy. Mine.”
These words sum up this story, about a 13-year-old girl, Katie, transplanted to Missouri after her mother’s death, and subject to the mercurial moods of a stern, inaccessible father; she finds solace in the housekeeper and in her two friends—Cynthia, who is odd and whose grandmother actually interests Katie, with her loud, Italian ways and her penchant for cooking pasta in the middle of the night—and Taylor, a shoplifter, who introduces Katie to her larcenous skills and to make-out sessions at the drive-in theater.
And then there is Jimmy—a 23-year-old married man, who comes to her rescue one day when she has fallen through the ice while skating—and who pays her the kind of attention she is sorely lacking in her everyday life.
This coming-of-age tale skillfully describes a young girl who is out-of-place in her world—a world set in the fifties or sixties—and who searches for some kind of kinship with the cast of characters placed in her path.
We connect with her, in that the author paints a picture of this isolation in such a way that we can relate. We think—Oh, yes, I know what that feels like. And as the story comes to an end, we can feel the hope—just as she experiences it.
Joy School (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) is memorable, hilarious and heartbreaking.