Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Altared Plans, by Rebecca Cornish Talley

As a teenager, part of me thought teen romance novels were really stupid. After all, falling in love as a teenager and scoring a date to the prom certainly were not end-alls to everything in life. Besides, as soon as the hero and the heroine are introduced and the sparks fly, you already know how the story’s going to end. It doesn't matter what else happens; you know they'll be together in the end. Why read a whole book about it? (Incidentally, there is a reason why I was voted “Best Scholar” of my graduating class, and not “Most Romantic.”)

But part of me enjoyed reading teen romances anyway. I liked the idea that there was someone out there who cared deeply about the heroine (and maybe that meant that there was someone out there who would care deeply about me, too). And I have to admit I was fascinated with scenes that actually showed how guys and girls acted when they were interested in each other and how relationships were built. (Yeah, that’s me again—taking something romantic and turning it into an educational opportunity.)

I bring all this up because as a teenager, I also was very curious about what it would be like to date LDS guys with the objective of marrying in the temple. After all, I knew that as an LDS girl, that was supposed to be my ultimate goal as far as romance went. So I think I would have really liked Altared Plans by Rebecca Talley, if it had been available a few+ years ago. It’s now available in bookstores.

Altared Plans is a fun romantic novel that does in fact involve students at BYU dating with the objective of marrying in the temple. Books with characters at this stage of life can be hard to classify, since marriage involves adults, but most adult readers are older than typical BYU singles. Altared Plans has been listed as a young adult novel. And while I enjoyed reading it myself, and I’m sure many other adults would enjoy it as well, I think it would best resonate with young adult readers looking forward to this time in their lives. It does address some serious issues such as marrying outside the temple, the importance of commitment, and dealing with nonmember parents and painful break-ups, but the whole tone is light-hearted. The banter between the characters is great, the dialogue is well-executed (especially important for young adult readers) and the whole thing is fun.

The book starts with Caitlyn’s wedding day—or, with what is supposed to be Caitlyn’s wedding day. She arrives at the temple only to find that the groom has decided to date someone else instead. Without anything better to do, Caitlyn returns for more school at BYU, but with an enormous chip on her shoulder against the whole dating scene. This eases with time, and with some good masculine attention. But she’s still afraid of trusting her heart to anyone again.

That’s the gist of the story. I could discuss individual characters and twists to the plot, but—hey, it’s a romance. You can guess how it will end.

I would have liked the relationship between the hero and heroine to be fleshed out more; I felt like their mind games took precedence over a real courtship. But then again, I’m probably the only female in the world who thinks Bella should have just decided she wasn’t going to date until college and then skipped the Edward thing altogether. So all you romantics out there, do take what I say with a grain of salt. Or two.

And enjoy Altared Plans. I did. And while I was happy for the characters in the end, I was sorry the book was over.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blueberries for Sal and My Lifelong Dream

Today I fulfilled a lifelong dream: I picked blueberries. Now, it's not my only dream, and it's certainly not the only thing I ever want to accomplish. But it's something I've wanted to do since I was about four.

You see, my mom checked out Blueberries for Sal from the library for me when I was little, and we read it together. And I remember being completely enthralled with the story of Sal and her mother picking blueberries together. Her mom had a big bucket, and Sal had a little bucket. Sal picked her own blueberries, and they fell plunk! into her pail. And she could eat the berries, too. In fact, she ate all three berries in her bucket.

The pictures in the book were beautiful, and Sal and her mom looked so happy. By the time the story was over, I knew what my mom and I needed to do.

We had to go pick blueberries.

However, there was a small problem with my plan. We lived in Oklahoma, and there were no blueberries there. It wasn't just that we couldn't go right that minute, or it wasn't the right season. We couldn't go, period. Ever.

The idea that I just couldn't do something I wanted to, no matter how much I wanted to do it, was quite a concept. After all, I still believed kisses made owies better.

Fast forward a few years to today. I'm, well, a lot older now. My own kid outgrew the Sal book a long time ago. And I don't live in Oklahoma anymore. Here in Wisconsin, there are blueberries to pick.

And when friends invited me to go berry-picking with them, I figured I at least owed it to myself--my four-year old self is still in there somewhere--to go pick blueberries just like Sal.

And you know, in a way it was as magical as I'd imagined. The berries are sweet and plump, and come right off the bush when you pick them. They're full of good flavor, unlike the bland ones from the grocery store. I'd tried the grocery store ones occasionally over the years, and always wondered if blueberries were really as good as they were supposed to be.

They are. The real ones are.

Another interesting parallel is that Sal met a baby bear when she picked blueberries. I did not meet a bear today, but I did manage to bring home a tiny slug who was hiding in my berry bucket. I even picked it up and let it crawl on me, and I forgot to be grossed out.

Now that's some real magic.

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