HEROINESHeroines of fifties teen romance novels tend to share similar characteristics. The heroine is generally not a beautiful girl, but perfectly pleasant on the eyes. She tends to get along well with her family, although there's always a little tension with either her older sister or her bratty younger sibling, or some combination of both. Her parents (and she does tend to have two) are usually the good-natured, easygoing, dry-humored type.
At school, she tends to work on the school paper rather than being a cheerleader. She is not the most popular girl, but she's not a cast-out wallflower either. She generally has two, or three good girlfriends and enough friends for a good-sized dance party in someone's furnished rec room.
She may start the novel with a steady beau—-generally of the tall, dark, handsome and good-natured variety, or pick up one during the novel. Even if she does have a steady beau (who is always respectful and kind), she may undergo a brief flirtation with a taller and more handsome boy who is usually slightly less good-natured than her steady, but often far more exciting.
Dates often include long walks, trips to the malt shop, formal and casual dances, and the aforementioned rec room get-togethers, complete with listening to records, dancing, drinking soda, and perhaps the odd bridge game.
DREAM DATESIn the fifties teen romance novel, dating is usually the main focus of the plot. The dating issues usually follow one of many well-traveled paths:
- Girl likes boy, boy is oblivious
- Girl dumps steady boy for new "bad" boy
- Girl and boy suffer comical misunderstanding
- Boy dumps girl
- Boy knocks over a display case of peanuts at the drugstore and can't afford prom tickets
In one of the best-loved plots of these novels, the heroine is being torn between two boys. Generally, one is the longtime, steady beau and one is a slightly more dangerous newcomer. However, as these are set in the fifties, the supposed bad boy is pretty tame. The worst that he ever does is drive too fast or take her to a roadhouse (and drink beer!) This all seems very tame compared to contemporary fiction (and life). Oh, and in some novels, the girl has to choose between three different boys! Some girls have all the luck.
Here are a few fifties teen romance heroines and the boys they have to choose between:
Tobey Heydon (Practically Seventeen by Rosamund du Jardin)
Tobey has to choose between her longtime beau Brose Gilman, who is quite tall, has “brown hair with a little curl”, and is strong and silent and college boy Dick Allen, who is tall with nice, broad shoulders, brown hair and has blue eyes "with a little twinkle." Sigh. Life is hard for poor Tobey!
Fran Mathushek (Senior Trip by Marjorie Holmes)
While on her senior trip to Washington, D.C., Fran tries to make up her mind between her high school beau Nicky Lomax--the handsomest boy in class, with "alert, good-humored brown eyes and a very curly mop of black hair" and Sgt. Vance Crandall, who is "tall and erect", and has warmth, force and vigor, strength and confidence. Quite the decision.
Bonnie Schuyler (Candy Stripers by Lee Wyndham)
Bonnie has an even harder decision to make, this time between three boys: her almost steady--Rock Hamilton, Hamilton High's star athlete; David Adams, the older hospital intern with gray eyes and clean-cut face; and Cliff Coburn, the handsome, but distant next-door neighbor who's smart and plays in a swing band.