- Daddies' Girls
Daddies' Girls? I might as well admit right at the beginning that this title is a tease. But what could be more appropriate when my subject involves young adult books which many older adults would want to hide behind discreet brown paper covers before reading them in public places? If you read the title of this essay and thought, "Daddies' Girls—sounds Oedipal/Electra-like," you are on the right track. And if you thought, "Daddy's girls are little girls, or at the least, big girls who act like little girls—sugar and spice and everything nice," you're also on the right track. Finally, if you free associated with the first word of the title, the phrase "Sugar Daddy" might have crossed your mind. This is, in fact, my point of departure. The books I discuss here—Daddy-Long-Legs, Daddy's Girl, and Lovecrazy—present Oedipal scenarios that range from barely submerged subtexts to explicitly stated plot devices, and the heroines all define themselves as little girls; but the big story here concerns the books' Sugar Daddy linking of erotic/romantic love with dependence and with money. In these novels, money inspires erotic/romantic love, and love itself buys money. Sexuality is less an affair of the senses than an affair with an older man's bank account. The bottom line shows sex as a commodity and the sensual life as a series of consumer goods.
Having admitted that my title is something of a tease, I can move into the part of this essay that I call "delayed gratification." The two contemporary novels Lovecrazy and Daddy's Girl are my real focus, but I will pause and explain what these novels aren't before I discuss what they are. And I won't go very far into discussing what the novels are until I pause again for a look at one of their precursors—a sort of great grandfather if you will—none other than the aforementioned Daddy-Long-Legs.
At first glance, with its lavender background and good-looking eighteen year-old cover girl, Judy Feiffer's Lovecrazy simply appears to be just another one of today's teen romances, those formula fictions that made their debut with the current decade and caused more than one critic to shake her or his head and sigh, "Here's the eighties' backlash to those gritty and taboo-breaking problem novels of the sixties and seventies." One would expect the heroines of teen romances to be Daddies' girls because the books conform to conservative and patriarchal social norms which dictate that a girl's place is in the home—first her father's, and then after an orderly transfer of power through the institution of marriage, her husband's. The Daddies' girls I'm talking about, however, are more subtly constructed creatures. They aren't sisters of the heroines of teen romance series; they are more like kissing cousins.
Wendy Smith's gleaning of teen romance publishers' guidelines reveals that, for most of the books they publish,
The manuscript generally has 40,000-50,000 words. The heroine is 15-17, the boy slightly older. The story is told from the girl's point of view. The action takes place in a suburb or small town. There is no explicit sex or profanity. Although romance is the focus, the story may also deal with other adolescent problems. The ending is upbeat. Readership is assumed to be girls aged 12-16.(58)
Smith is quick to note, however, that "each series has at least one book that breaks some of the rules" (58). This rule breaking applies to some of the rules, but not all of them. Explicit sex is a firm taboo, and that, as well as a big city setting and a large age difference between the heroine and her love interest, make Lovecrazy something other than an exception to the rules of teen romance.
A clue to the nature of that something else appears—where else—but on the book's front cover, which states that Lovecrazy is a Flare Original Novel. As Pam Pollack explains in "The Business of...