Deep Blue Eyes and Other Lies
Deseret Book , 1996. Paperback:
Suggested retail price: $6.95 (US)
I borrowed this book from another AML-List member, Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury,so I thought that I should at least post a review on it. She highlyrecommended it to me (as someone who is attempting to write a young adultLDS novel), and I strongly recommend it to youth and to anyone concernedwith youth, or to anyone who just wants a fun read.
Deep Blue Eyes and Other Lies concerns barely-sixteen-year-old HollySpencer of Pullman, Washington. She is learning that the perfect life shehad envisioned that she would magically have when she turned sixteen isnot so easily attained. Instead, her life has suddenly become rathercomplicated. The beauty of this novel is that her trials are not anythingextraordinary, but that they are in fact ordinary ones that many LDS youthencounter. Her best friend has just moved away. The new LDS girl atschool, Emma, is rebelling against the Church and her family. The otherLDS girl at school, Elizabeth, is a snobby cheerleader who wants nothingto do with Holly. The Young Women's president, who is also Elizabeth'smother, is proving to be not quite as saintly as Holly would like. Holly'sown mother has been inactive for several years. She has non-LDS friendswho don't understand LDS standards. And, of course, dating brings ona new set of problems all its own.
The "Deep Blue Eyes" of the title belong to Chad Warren, the (nonmember)school football star who Holly has had a crush on since eighth grade. Finally,with Emma's help, she succeeds in getting his attention at a school dance.Holly is now understandably on Cloud 9 as he invites her outside, but asthe following scene shows, not all dreams can come true:
"So, have you thought much about college?" he asked. . . .
"I'll probably go to BYU," I said.
I could see the expression on his face change. "BYU? As in Brigham Young University?"
. . . "It's just, I didn't know you were a Mormon, and there was this party after the dance I was going to invite you to. . . ."
He didn't have to explain further. I knew the type of party he meant.
I shifted around uncomfortably. It should have been easy to say, "Well, thanks anyway." It wasn't the first time I'd turned down a party. But I'd never been asked by Chad Warren before. I wondered if it might not be so bad to go with him. I wouldn't drink. I could go and just be there with Chad. . . .
But somehow, even as I thought about it turning out great, I still knew it wasn't right. I'd told myself a long time ago I wouldn't go to those parties, and I knew I shouldn't change my resolve just because Chad asked me to.
It took everything I had, but I said, "Sorry, I really can't."
"No, I guess not." He glanced back at the school. "Well, c'mon, I'd better get you back inside. . . ."
I didn't want to regret my decision, but I began to. A voice in my head said, "You blew it. He'l never talk to you again. You've liked him since the eighth grade, and you'll never have another chance with him." (pp. 81, 82, 84, edited)
What I appreciated about this scene is that, for Holly at this time, doingthe right thing does not magically bring her blessings. She doesn't feelthat little warm glow telling her she did the right thing. She isn'timmediately approached by a handsome LDS guy who's just perfect for her.And Chad doesn't change his mind and decide he'd rather be with Holly thango to the party. In at least some of LDS lit, particularly literature foryouth, some immediate blessing would have occurred. But here it doesn't.Instead, doing the right thing has, at least for now, made Holly feel prettycrummy.
Through the course of the book, we eventually see that Chad is not the kindof guy she is looking for. His standards are a lot lower than hers, andshe really did do the right thing. And she does end up with a handsome LDSguy (of course). But the connection between her blessings and the crucialdecision she made at the dance are seen only in retrospect.
Holly is a thoughtful narrator throughout the book. As in the above scene,she really thinks about things and how they fit in with the commitmentsshe has made to the standards of the Church. But she's also generallylighthearted about the whole thing, and her sense of humor really shinesthrough. This kind of narrator, the kind that can find a punch line inpractically any situation, is not uncommon in young adult fiction. Itdoesn't always work, either; but fortunately, here, it does. The punchlinesare funny and some scenes are nothing short of hilarious.
Holly is, also, admirably, a good Mormon girl. Rallison has done a finejob in "building" her: she's good, but she's not self-righteous, andshe isn't depicted as a celestial princess or anything. She doesn't seeherself as anything special. She has doubts just like anyone else. Thereader is not supposed to be overly impressed with her goodness, but instead can identify with her human struggles in quietly doing what's right.
I do have a few picky problems with the book. At the end of the book, herproblems have all been dealt with to one degree or another. Some of themseem to work out a little too easily. Emma, for instance, after resistingChurch standards for most of the story, repents very easily at the end. This happens after much thought and prayer on Holly's part, but all it takesis one episode of Holly's and Scott's (Emma's brother) dealing with herin the "right" way, along with the fellowshipping they've been doing allalong. A few scenes are not as realistic as I would have liked, and seemto have been inserted more for comedic effect. And yes, sometimes it getsa little preachy. Maybe some readers wouldn't find Holly as inoffensiveand un-self-righteous as I do. But, hey, it's a fun book and I gainedsome new insights into teenager-hood and the perpetual tightrope that ouryouth have to walk by being in the world but not of it. I wish this bookhad been around when I was a teen; I would have loved to see that therereally were other kids around trying to do the things that I was trying todo, and having the same feelings of confusion despite knowing "the right"thing to do. I would have loved to know that these feelings are all right,and that things really do work out in the end if you do what's right.
(Okay, Kathleen, now you can have your book back . . . :-)
--Katie Parker email@example.com
© 1997 Katie Parker