Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
Sixteen-year-old Trish Masters is the consummate good girl. She’s smart, kind, friendly, and has a sparkling reputation to match. It’s no wonder that her best friends Janet and Rachael are surprised to see her falling for no other than the class clown Colin McNamara. Seriously, she could do much better, especially when simple-minded but good-looking jock Mike Pilsner is interested. But Trish is drawn to dim-witted, flirty Colin, who’s nearly flunking all of his classes and is rumored to have gotten his last girlfriend pregnant. The more they “happen” to run into each other, the more Trish begins to think there is more to Colin than meets the eye. Soon enough she uncovers his secret, and it’s up to her to convince him to reveal his true self to the world.
What a treat this light and charming retro YA turned out to be. Excepting the light tone, it’s very like Ellen Emerson White: Boston setting, strong family relationships, tennis, The Brady Bunch, and the cola soft drink Tab. From the dated cover to the stating-the-obvious title, contemporary YA romance just seems to have been marketed different back in the day. Beyond the anachronisms it’s hard not to be interested in the “more than meets the eye” trope, especially when it goes both ways. Less obvious is Trish’s own cracks belying her perfect façade. While Colin is a singular mix of class clown and bad boy, it’s not an understatement to call Trish a good girl. In fact she could even be called a goody two-shoes, and while some teens may not connect to that image, I did. Trish is both teased and congratulated for her wholesome vibe, while today she might be shunned for her naivete. Naturally I was surprised when Colin and Trish’s relationship quickly became touchy-feely but I enjoyed the wave of first love nostalgia it brought on. Their relationship felt like authentic, high school affection, the kind that is so new it literally makes hearts flutter and girls giggle with giddiness. There’s a lot of polite, permission-granted and self-conscious kissing, which I found at times embarrassingly cute yet refreshing in a modern YA climate where lust at first sight or undying, serious love is the norm. Instead, what Trish and Colin have is fun and playful without being saccharine. While Colin’s big secret wasn’t completely plausible for me, it also didn’t make his character any less endearing. It’s rewarding to see him come out of his shell. Anyone looking for a breezy, quick and pleasantly retro read will not be disappointed with Romance is a Wonderful Thing. My teenage self seriously missed out.