True to Form
True to Form was an unexpected delight. I had Elizabeth Berg pegged in my mind as the author of sad, depressing novels – and that’s without my ever having read one. What’s that they say about judging a book by its cover? Well, I’m wrong, at least about this one. Instead of being sad, this turned out to be a charming tale of a year in the life of a teenager (who is apparently the heroine of two previous novels, Durable Goods and Joy School).
Katie Nash is a 13-year-old girl growing up with her strict father and sweet stepmother in 1961. She’s trying to navigate her way through summer. Her father sets up two jobs for her, neither of which Katie thinks she’s going to like. One job is babysitting three little boys who she thinks are basically hellions, and the other job is helping care for some elderly neighbors. Her summer turns out to be filled with revelations about herself and the people around her.
This is a short review because, for one thing, it’s a short book, one that only took a few hours to read. Katie is quite a mature 13-year-old. I would like to think that I was as observant and open as Katie when I was her age, but I doubt it. Even when she initially is against something, she gives it a try and usually finds out that she’s wrong. Katie also has to figure out how to be a true friend after betraying one of those closest to her. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and I remember being in similar situations when I was young. Talk about true to form!
I particularly enjoyed Katie’s interactions with her elderly neighbors. They were very sweet and brought as much to Katie’s life in their short time together that she brought to them. I hope that my husband and I can be like that when we are old.
Berg’s writing style really clicked with me. I don’t gravitate toward stories written in the first person, present tense, but that particular point of view worked just fine here – perhaps Jane Green’s fabulous Jemina J got me over that hangup. Regardless, Berg’s words for Katie brought me completely into the story and made the characters real. Her descriptions use the minimum of words necessary and are all the more effective for it.
I quite enjoyed spending time with Katie. I’m not sure why, but I think it was partly nostalgia. You couldn’t pay me to go through that period of life again, and although I don’t remember everything about my life when I was 13, reading about this girl made me want to try. There’s something to be said for that. I’d recommend spending a few hours with Katie and seeing life through her eyes. While doing so, I saw a few truths of my own, and it makes the sleep I lost worth it.