“To use the lingo of their era, these novels are square. The protagonists have names like Jane and Barbara; they are not the misfits of which much teen literature is made but instead fundamentally good girls who long to fit in, and usually do … Viewed through the lens of contemporary culture, and especially contemporary teen lit, these girls should be boring and shallow. But Beverly Cleary’s supposedly ordinary girls are complex: resentful of their mothers one moment and sympathetic toward them the next, willing to do anything for one special boy but indignant when they’re taken for granted.” On the unexpectedly complex nature of Beverly Cleary’s boring protagonists with Ruth Graham at Slate.
For the Squares
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