Cece is 15 years old and, golly, just has to get working at the local radio station. She’s practiced her elocution, can whistle like all get out, and knows a lot about sound effects. That’s because her father does the sound effects for one of the local stations. The trouble is, her father hasn’t been around a lot lately and she can’t seem to convince him to let her work at his station. That doesn’t stop Cece, though. With the help of her friend, Bev, she goes behind her parents back and gets her foot in the door at a competing station. Its her dream come true! Or is it?
I picked this book up at the library because of its cute cover and the little sticker on the binding that indicates it was “historical fiction.” I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover. It was a simple read, a book my own 11 year old would tear through in an afternoon. And with the cute cover of Cece Maloney reading into the microphone, I almost let her read it before I previewed it. And that, my friends, is why I type up my thoughts.
Firstly, I didn’t find the book terribly heavy in the “historical” part of “historical fiction”. Cece uses the word “nerts” a lot, and radio is big, and Orson Wells makes a cameo appearance (as does his “War of the Worlds” broadcast). At its core, though, the story strives to go out of its way to depict immorality as social norms of the day. Cece’s father is cheating on her mother, has left her in fact, and doesn’t even send money to support Cece and her mother. Cece’s best friend’s father has also deserted them. And of all the rushing crowd in the “War of the World” broadcast, the one family we see clearly is that of a single mother and her three children – the youngest an infant – somehow, in the rush and chaos of the War of the Worlds, the author finds time to let us know that the husband has abandoned this family.
This is a story about Cece Malone, a fourteen year old girl who knows better than her mother about what is good for her. Bev, Cece’s best friend, knows better than her own mother, too. Both mothers are, in fact, “certifiable” as their “sole purpose on earth is to wreck their daughter’s lives.” I know, I know. I’m supposed to read this as a fourteen year old girl would read this. I am suppose to excuse this as mere teen angst. And I was ready to do that. I was ready to scratch out the copious notes I took on the stupidity of one’s parents, on the benefits of lying and sneaking behind their back, and on the benefits of manipulating whomever may wander into your life. I would have done that. I would have scratched off half of the notes if, at some point in the story – one small moment of grace – there was a conversion. But there wasn’t. Rather, I was given fourteen year old girls rewarded for their misbehavior and a mother who acknowledged that her daughter knew best. In everything. There was no “I was wrong I misunderstood you but you shouldn’t be sneaking around.” Nope. There was a: Hey! I met your father at the radio (I snuck around, too) and wound up pregnant with you at age 16 (not the older age I lied to you about) and then your father and I married…and look where I am! A run down housewife wife whose husband has now left her for a beautiful movie star!
Finally, we come to the role of faith. Bev’s mother is a (fraud) medium, channeling (non-existent) spirits who offer advice to her gullible clients. Cece’s mother isn’t a medium: she’s an abandoned housewife who has turned to her Catholic faith “as a crutch.” Indeed, in my reading I didn’t see any instances of the Catholic faith (or any faith) being portrayed as remotely good. And, at its pinnacle, Radio Girl contains parts of a story (written by Cece’s young aunt as a submission to “True Confessions” magazine) about a young woman’s affair with her parish priest. In the confessional.
Still, it isn’t the details I’ve noted above – the things IN the novel – that makes me want to scream “run away!” Its what the book lacks. Under the rebellion, behind the mockery of our faith, and bundled up in each of the families portrayed – is a complete and utter lack of hope. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Times were never good. What you – troubled and “reluctant” reader – experience in your life is all that there is. So suck it up and join the crowd. Eat or be eaten in this dog eat dog world. And who wants to read that? Since when have we denied our children hope? It doesn’t spring eternal for them?
- Author: Carol Brendler
- Publisher: Holiday House (August 1, 2013)
- Hardcover 224 pages
- Reading Age: Publisher doesn’t provide reading age
- Role Models/Authority Figures – Mother of main character is weak and attends daily mass as a crutch to deal with her cheating husband. Both the main character and her best friend have fathers who left their families. Another family is portrayed, in passing, as being fatherless. Cece and her friend Bev lie to their mothers and sneak behind their backs (dates, jobs) without any consequences. Cece makes a note to not tell her mother what a poor job she is doing of raising Cece. The two girls are always speaking I’ll of their mothers mentioning the mothers “chief purpose” of “ruining their lives.” “You can’t believe everything you hear. Not even from an authority like a news announcer, or a fortune teller, or…your own father.”
- Violence –
- Sexual Content – Cece is obsessed with her “bosoms” growing. Cece sees Mr. Malone (her father) kissing his movie star mistress. Noreen writes a rather shocking and explicit story about a young woman’s affair with her priest, complete with confessional love scene, for a “True Confessions” magazine.
- Language – one use of the word dammit when Mr. Malone is shaving.
- Consumerism – None.
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – People smoke (its the 1930’s, after all).
- Religion – Catholic religion is referred to as a crutch. Cece is always trying to get out of mass, and is always successful at getting out of daily mass. She is flippant when she refers to the sacraments and sacramentals. Bev’s mother is a medium, channeling spirits in her seance room. It is later revealed that she is a fake and that there are no “spirit mediums.”
- Other –