My Mother Made Me!, Sharon Brain

Once upon a time I read this book and remember it as being hilarious, and remember laughing aloud as I read it.  I purchased it so I could re-read it.  Sometimes it works out and the magic is recaptured.  This time? Not so much.

The protagonist of My Mother Made Me! is Jane Tivik, a Canadian high schooler, and her friends Marna, Carlie, and Steph.  They like hanging out and even if it is boring, it’s still summer.   During one of their hangout sessions, Carlie announces that her mother is going to challenge the “only boys play hockey” tradition. Their town, Amesbury, Ontario, is a hockey town.  So many boys play hockey that the rink has teams scheduled starting at 5 am.

Even if girls wanted to play, there’s no rink time available.  Instead, girls play ringette in other towns, which (correct me if I’m wrong, Canadians) is like hockey, only instead of a puck, there is a rubber ring that is picked up instead of shot like a puck.  The four friends have no interest in hockey, but soon Jane’s mother is eager for her to play.  Jane’s dad is chair of Amesbury’s hockey association, and has no desire to fight this battle.

When Jane’s mother tells her that she wishes for the same opportunities that Jane has, Jane begins to understand some of her mother’s motivation, but still doesn’t want to play hockey.  In the midst of the hockey drama, Cousin Allison comes to visit from Chicago.  She is Canadian like Jane, but she’s also older, beautiful (aren’t they always?) and extremely well-dressed.

Allison comes up with a plan for the girls to avoid playing hockey.  It involves them running away and hiding in the rink since it’s shut down for the summer.  They can shower and cook there, and once their parents see the error of their ways, they can return home.  This plan works great, except for the part where Jane forgets to leave the letter with their reason for leaving, which also includes the demand that they not be forced to play hockey.  The moms turn this to their advantage, proclaiming that the girls ran away because they wanted to play hockey and the town wouldn’t let them.

Sandwiched into the story is a short romance between Jane and Bill, a boy she’s known since kindergarten, and much discussion of Jane’s love of the “romance” known as The Great Gatsby.  Marna, Carlie, and Steph are more than Jane’s sidekicks.  Marna’s younger sister Jenny wants to play hockey, but there are no leagues for her to play in.  Marna doesn’t want to play, but recognizes what an opportunity this would be for Jenny if she did.  Carlie and Steph are best friends, but overweight Carlie is constantly being called fat by Steph.  Of course it’s for Carlie’s own good, but what kind best friend says things like that?  The cover even features a heavy girl with a double chin.  If Steph were a character in a book written, she would totally be the Mean Girl.

For a book that was only 120 pages long, there was a lot of feminist subtext going on OUTSIDE of the hockey.  This book was written in 1978, so there were a lot of changes that had occurred and were about to occur, so it kind of makes sense.  Jane spends a lot of time thinking about looks and how women are judged by them, even as she admits she does it too.

A handsome male character dates a girl who is not very pretty, and he uses her to prop up his ego.  Jane comes across him trying to persuade her to put out, and then the boy hits on Jane when his girlfriend leaves.  Jane catches herself falling for his lines and has to remind herself that he’s a jerk, even though she just saw him treat his girlfriend like crap.  Jane discovers that Allison plays hockey in Chicago.  In the end, the girls don’t play hockey themselves, but do take pleasure in watching girls like Jenny get their chance.

After reading this a second time, I have a hard time understanding what I saw in it the first time.  Maybe I didn’t “get” the emotion behind the mothers wanting their girls to play sports because when I read it, Title IX had been in effect for many years, and I already had those opportunities.  I also don’t see what was so funny the first time.

As stated earlier, this book did not hold up for me.

Graded by me 25 years ago: A

Graded by me today: D

This book is out of print.  It was published by Scholastic in 1978, and the copy I have was printed in 1986.  WorldCat shows that 11 libraries worldwide own it, and 7 are in Canada.  If you want my copy, it’s yours!

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This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Grade D Reviews, Teen Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My Mother Made Me!, Sharon Brain

  1. Jacqueline says:

    I read this book for the first time the summer I was 11. By the end of that summer I had reread it at least 5 times. It became a tradition. Ever summer for the next 3 or 4 years, I would pull out my very battered copy, find a quiet corner, and escape. Some time later I lost my copy and it took 25 years to find another. Though I love having it in my possession, I can’t bring myself to read it. I guess I somehow knew I would be disappointed. Regardless, just seeing the cover reminds me of long summer days and how much I laughed at the nail polish on the toilet seat prank.

  2. Senetra says:

    Jacqueline, I almost wish that I hadn’t been able to find it again, because what I remember was so much better. I found myself very uncomfortable with the relationship between Carlie and Steph because of Steph’s meanness, even though she does redeem herself a little bit in the end.

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