Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cliches Don't Grow on Trees or: The Tomboy Terror in Bunk 109

Story Order: #2
Publication Order: #10 (1991)
Time Covered: Three weeks in August, the summer before 5th grade.

Up next, the second prequel in the Linda Berman series, The Tomboy Terror in Bunk 109. This one was published last, after Loving Two is Hard to Do. Again, I give a resounding why? By now, the most important prequel, which I don't like to consider a prequel, is out. 2 Young 2 Go 4 Boys was a perfect segue into Linda's transition from Tomboy to boy crazy teen. So why do we need to see what happened to her for three weeks during camp...unless it's important.

Let's see if it is...

Plot Summary
Tomboy Terror starts where Want to Trade Two Brothers For a Cat? leaves off, with Linda destined for three weeks of summer fun at Camp Winnipeg. Of course, if it weren't for her friend, Matthew Bainbridge (casually referred to as "Matt" from now on), Linda would be miserable at camp. Snotty, prissy Brenda Roman is sure to make her life Hell! Luckily, Matt is happy to see Linda and introduces her to his friends Sam and Brad. At first, they are reluctant to accept a girl, but Matt vouches for her.

Linda decides that she doesn't want to spend her summer with Brenda and her friends Sharon and Melissa, so she concocts at plan to get into the boys cabin. Bravely, she cuts her hair and takes on the alias of Lindon Berman. Next, she accosts Brenda and blackmails her into lying about her true sex. When bunk assignments roll around, Linda, excuse me, Lindon, manages to trick Counselor Greg and is moved into Bunk 9.

She's still not fooling anyone.

Of course, that doesn't last. The boys' first activity is swimming. Linda borrows Sam's extra swim trunks and wears a t-shirt, but her bickering with Brenda gets the best of her. Brenda promptly tattles to Mr. Hawkins, the camp director and Linda is moved to Bunk 109 with the other ten-year-old girls despite her protests.

Linda moves in with the help of Carol, the assistant counselor of Bunk 109. Carol claims to have once been a tomboy too.
"I started growing up. I found some girls I really liked as friends, girls I could talk to about anything. I began to be interested in boys in a different way--as boyfriends, not just as friends. I discovered the good points about being a girl."
"What are those? I can't find any."
Linda is certain everyone in the bunk will judge her because of her short hair and Tomboyish attitude. She has a rough morning and is grouped with wimpy Farah Barton and two other girls, Heather and Rachel for her chore group. At breakfast, Linda expresses her annoyance to the boys. They invite her to be on their team for sports.
"Do you mean it, guys?" I felt unexpected tears burning in my eyes. I pretended to have some dirt in them so the boys wouldn't notice. It made me feel great to be accepted by Matt, Brad, and Sam.
Linda runs the idea by Carol, who insists Linda gives playing with the girls a shot. Of course, all they're interested in are the boys! When swim time comes, the girls spend too much time trying to decide on which suit "do the most for our figures." The only one who has a figure is Aileen, Bunk 109's head counselor. Linda stares at her in lesbianish awe.
I couldn't help staring. And wondering. Would I get to look like that one day? For the first time the thought entered my mind that maybe it might not be so bad to be a girl, at least not a girl who looked like Aileen.
Due to meddling, Linda later convinces Mr. Hawkins to combine boys and girls sports. Neither side is happy with this. The boys are too rough and girls are sissies, but the game goes on. Jed Lalotta is most upset by this and can't stand that Linda is just as good as him. At the end of game, Linda challenges him to tree climbing contest to prove who is better, once and for all. (DUN, DUN, DUN!)

Awww...too bad this fight will never turn into ANYTHING!!!

The next night, the tree climbing contest takes place with Linda as the victor. Although Jed is defeated, Brenda serves as some kind of consolation prize. He even gives her a better position on the baseball field, but Linda takes advantage of the situation and Brenda ends up with a twisted ankle.

The next big event is an over night camp out WITH THE BOYS!!! Everything is going great and then Linda sees Brenda and Jed K-I-S-S-I-N-G and humiliates her in front of everyone. Linda is certain Brenda will take her revenge, but nothing comes of it. In fact, the two call a truce for Parents' Day. Linda means to embarrass Brenda further by announcing her and Jed's woodland activities to everyone during their skit. But she decides not to.

This moment of peace is brief. I'll spare you the details, but soup gets poured on Brenda's head and Linda runs away into the woods. Mr. Hawkins finds her and explains...blah, blah, blah. Anywho, Linda and Brenda make up. They aren't friends by any means, but they live with each other for the rest of session. Besides, Brenda is conveniently moving before school starts!

Camp ends with Linda realizing she wouldn't have made the friends she did if she had gotten away with her scheme of living with the boys. She also decides to start 5th grade as a girl and not cut her hair again.

Well, any romantic hope I had at the end of Want to Trade... has been dashed. I've actually read this book before, too. And I remember being disappointed with it. Trust me, it's not as bad as it's predecessor. Definitely less juvenile, disappointing.

First of all, I'm going to maintain that the Linda Series is a romantically based series. Don't believe me? Four of the titles have the word "boys" in them, three specify "that boy", and one concerns "loving two". I suppose that the titles of the two prequels aren't misleading that way, but it still grinds my beans.

In Want to Trade... we are introduced to Linda, her family, her friends and her supposed "tomboyishness". But, like I said, there's no proof other than she only has guy friends. I'll admit that a camp environment is a good place to show off. You're in the woods, you're starting fires, canoeing, playing sports, not showering, and peeing in an outhouse. It's the perfect chance to show that you are tough in comparison to those Brenda Roman types who do their hair every morning. (OMG!)

In Linda's defense, she does bring out the Tomboy guns at camp. The biggest being her haircut. Now that is brave. I'm way too vain to do something like that. I even was way back in my so-called Tomboy days. Man, Linda really doesn't want to be with the girls. Which makes me think...why does she hate girls so much? She goes to school, so she must know that not all girls are like Brenda Roman. There've got to be other Tomboys in the neighborhood, right?

Silly, Jo! There's only one Tomboy per 
female group of friends!

I was actually pretty excited for some Twelfth Night type antics with Linda cross dressing all summer. Perhaps an unwanted romance? What if Brenda decided Lindon should be her summer boyfriend? You see, now that's entertaining! It's also out of the realm of possibility so Linda is sent back to the girls.

And here is the biggest problem with Tomboy Terror: Linda's goal is to spend all her time with the boys. She doesn't. She hangs out with her bunkmates. This isn't an order. She isn't forbidden to see the boys, she just doesn't hang out with them...and it's never explained!

I understand that Linda needed to learn that female friendships are more/just as important as her male friendships, but it seems to be at the expense of spending time with the boys. They don't even say "Hey, Linda, why don't you hang with us any more?" It just flows along without any any trouble. All of the conflict comes from Linda and Brenda butting heads. By the end, they learn to deal with one another, but it never goes anywhere because Brenda MOVES AWAY FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD! WHAT WAS THE FRIGGIN' POINT OF THIS BOOK?

One more thing! When I was younger, I was very, very into camp. I was a Girl Scout.

Old Mill Day. Oakesdale, WA. June, 1999

In fact, the only reason I was a Girl Scout was to go to camp. Seriously. I loved camp that much. Every summer between 1999 and 2003, I spent at least a one week session at Camp Four Echoes as a carefree camper. In 2004, the summer before my junior year, I became a Counselor-In-Training. The next summer, I worked as an apprentice counselor, meaning I worked for no money, but got free room and board. That was my last summer, mostly because all the fun of it had been sucked out and I couldn't live through another summer surrounded by only women in some kind of cloistered abbey situation...but I digress.

The point is, in preparation for my fun times at camp, I read a lot of books about camp. There are quite a few, and interestingly, they're all set in the late 70's and early 80's (huge generalization!)....okay, my favorites were. Books about camp seem to be non-existent today. I can only assume it's because isn't a huge coming-of-age event anymore. (Honestly, it wasn't for me, not compared to the events during the school year...but I digress again.) Now, kids are too dependent on technology to enjoy it. (And this is coming from someone raised in the "internet generation"!).

One of my favorites!

The Tomboy Terror in Bunk 109 is just a camp book. It can be read separately from the rest of series, because it has no foreshadowing (I think) to later books and all of the characters fall to the wayside. And as a camp book, it's cliche at best. The main character never wants to go to camp, but ends up having a blast. There's a campout, a food fight, and a rivalry with a bunkmate that is always resolved at closing campfire. This one hits every single cliche...appallingly.

At least the worst is over.

Useless Character List for My Enjoyment
  • Linda Berman - Protagonist (1, 2)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Berman - Linda’s parents (1, 2)
  • Brenda Roman - Linda’s prissy rival (1, 2)
  • Sharon Snyder and Melissa Dillon - Brenda's friends. Members of the Glitter Girls. (2)
  • Mrs. Roman - Brenda’s mother (1. 2)
  • Matthew "Matt" Bainbridge - Linda's friend from Want to Trade... (1, 2)
  • Sam and Brad - Matt's friends who accept Linda into their group. (2)
  • Mr. Bruce Hawkins - Camp Director (2)
  • Greg - Counselor of Bunk 9 (2)
  • Jeff - Greg's assistant (2)
  • Aileen - Counselor of Bunk 109 (2)
  • Carol - Aileen's assistant (2)
  • Farah Barton - Girl in bunk below Linda (2)
  • Debbie, Karen, and Cindy - Other bunkmates (2)
  • Heather and Rachel - Other bunkmates in the Bathroom Brigade (2)
  • Jed Lalotta - Cute blonde boy Brenda likes. (2)
  • Scott - Swimming counselor (2)
  • Kevin - Bunk 9 camper (2)
  • Ira and Joey Berman - Linda's brothers. (1. 2)
  • Mrs. Hawkins - Mr. Hawkins' wife (2)

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