Also by this author: The Pigman
Published by HarperCollins on 2005-03-29
Genres: Dating & Sex, Family, Friendship, Parents, Social Issues, Young Adult
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Four friends, Two couples, One year that will change their lives. Liz and Sean, both beautiful and popular, are madly in love and completely misunderstood by their parents. Their best friends, Maggie and Dennis, are shy and awkward, but willing to take the first tentative steps toward a romance of their own. Yet before either couple can enjoy true happiness, life conspires against them, threatening to destroy their friendships completely.
My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel is the book I was so excited to review. I had so many thoughts when reading it and when I finished I just could not wait to get them down. Essentially, My Darling, My Hamburger is a book about first love, but it is more than that, rather it is a book on how teens deal with sexuality. Two couples are featured, Maggie and Dennis — testing relationship waters for the first time, and Liz and Sean who engaged in sex. Now, get this, when I read a book, I never ever think about the context in which My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel was published. The thought does not ever cross my mind, that oh this book was published in 1945, what a crazy time. However, My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel, I was like OMG CONTEXT BABY CONTEXT. Then I did a little context-ing dance. What you should know is that this book was copyrighted in 1969, and oooh does it push some envelopes.
First, there is a abortion in My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel. Yet, it’s published pre Roe v. Wade, riding the wave of the feminist movement. So yes, read this with all of that context in mind and prepare for your mind to be blown. I mean, I sat there think, wow this is pretty darn racy for YA, what with the sex themes and abortion. I could definitely see this book being banned. It’s interesting too, because I see a whole lot of pregnancy in the YA I read but never any abortion. I wonder then, is it still a taboo topic?
ALSO, while parts of My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel are fairly progressive other parts had me shaking my head going, omg, pre-Rape Culture. Especially because what I had read mirrored this post. Now, I’m wondering, this does contain Rape Culture by today’s standards, but what about by the standards of 1969. Was this acceptable then? You see, Sean wears Liz down so she eventually dates him. Then, he wears her down until she has sex with him. She gives in because she probably does not want to hear him complain any more, and the pressure is on for her to do the girlfriend thing. She gives into dating him because she doesn’t want to be seen as an ice queen, and boy doesn’t take no for an answer. Yes, not cool.
“He had told her off. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ He remembered how shocked she looked when he said that….The next day he asked her out again and she refused. This time he was the one who said ‘I’m sorry.’ And the next day he asked her out again. Every day for two weeks he asked her out. He checked the attendance book in her register class for her telephone number, and on weekends he called her house.” pg. 15
Ding, ding, stalker alert.
However, on a different tack, I do admire My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel. Mainly because it tackles difficult topics for the time it was written in. I mean, omg, it mentions THE PILL. As you know, the Pill had just come out, and like anything that has to do with sex ever, it was controversial. I mean, mentioning the Pill in a book for teens? In the late sixties? Oh, friend, that is crazy talk.
Then, like I stated, I waver. Especially when some of the attitudes in My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel strike me as sexist in today’s context. For example, Maggie. She has all the self-esteem of a wet blanket, therefore her self-worth is based on how attractive she is to males. Then there is Liz. Liz, Liz, Liz who is a passive participant in her relationship. She doesn’t really sexually awaken or anything, and it’s her boyfriend who is CONSTANTLY pressuring her to do it. I’m not sure that’s very accurate. I mean, yes teen boys want IT, but so do girls.
I think by today’s standards, My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel falls short. It’s not as good as say, Ellen Hopkins, but I see it’s value. I think it’s an interesting look at teens of the late 1960s/early 1970s. It reveals a bit about the social constructs of adolescence of it’s era. If you look at this from a sociological/gender context, I absolutely recommend this. It’s a good book to read for analysis and making meaning of text and how our attitudes have changed over time and remained the same over decades.