Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit

by Paula Danziger

Ah, yet another classic YA novel from my childhood!

Marcy Lewis hates her life. She hates her body (she’s fat). She hates school, especially her gym class. And she hates her parents: her father is a tyrant straight out of the 1950s, and her mother seeks solace in tranquilizers.

Marcy’s attitude towards school (and everything else) changes with the arrival of Ms. Finney. Ms. Finney is her new, young, hip 9th grade English teacher. She’s big on communication and not just the kind covered in English class. Marcy and her classmates experience getting in touch with their feelings with Ms. Finney. Marcy thrives on the experience, becoming more confident and open with others.

Clearly, the good times are not meant to last. Ms. Finney is way too radical for the school (and the times). When her job is jeopardized, meek Marcy Lewis finds the strength to rally the students and her mother ‘round Ms. Finney’s cause. She finds the courage that has long eluded her, and this is no small victory for Marcy.

I read this novel dozens of times back in the day. I still like it, though Marcy’s parents are caricatures from days gone by. Marcy’s insecurities are real, and her experiences and feelings are knowable. It may be dated, but the message of this novel is not. It was worth rereading.


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