24. Taking Terri Mueller – Norma Fox Mazer
Norma Fox Mazer is another heavyweight of the painted covers young adult era. While the graphic design possibilities have “improved” over time, a cover with a painting on it still appeals much more to me. Taking Terri Mueller’s 1981 Flare edition (seriously, it’s a Flare Original Novel) features the same cover subject matter as many YA novels about girls – a girl. However, in this case, she’s not staring blankly out into the ether. She’s using a payphone. And she’s not wearing some lengthy flouncy dress (not that there’s anything wrong with that in period novels or novels that are bottle episodes taking place at prom or maybe homecoming) and isn’t just a cut off head, again, staring blankly, she’s concentrating on the phone. Both hands are on the receiver, she’s wearing seventies colors including an awesome puffy green vest like my grandpa’s and jeans. Because running around a lot and avoiding your foes requires pants to be most effective. And, hey, another landline! That’s right, I’m a little overly excited about non-smart-phones. Get off my lawn.
Perhaps I should discuss the content of the book in my review, seems pertinent. Terri lives with her dead in a neverending state of flux. They move every six months, apparently her dad looks good in jeans so he finds ladies to replace Terri’s mother – but not in the “this is your new mom now” sort of way, they have a dog named Barkley, and they have failed at having guinea pigs.
Terri’s dad thinks guinea pigs are “dumb” because of the noises they make. The eponymous wheek. Well, screw that guy. Terri said they “weren’t very interesting pets” (p. 20) … and felt bad about getting rid of them. She was also incapable of separating them by sex after one had babies and was inclined to think that they may have more babies. Seriously, it’s not that hard to separate guinea pigs by sex after they are old enough to be purchased or adopted from the roadside. I cannot tell you how many times my male guinea pigs have made it extremely clear with their giant fuzzy balls and consistent rumble strutting that they are male. Belvedere started rumble strutting when he was like eighteen days old, it was a little disturbing since his voice was so highly pitched. Also, he was hitting on his mom. Creepy. Anyway, many people make assumptions about guinea pigs, like that they breed quickly. A sixty to seventy day gestation period is not quickly in the rodent kingdom. Murderface’s gestation was seventy-two days. In case anyone’s wondering, I did not breed her on purpose and she only had one set of babies, who never had babies or fathered any babies (Sorry, Bel). The gestation period of a rabbit is about thirty days. Thirty. That’s quick.
So, Terri’s thirteen and was not a competent guinea pig owner, but she does have questions. Questions about her mother. She wants a stable home life and to stay in the same school for a while – she has a crush named George and a new friend Shaundra! Terri is as confused and anxious as any teen would be after breaking in to her dad’s lockbox and finding a divorce certificate. It should be hard to divorce dead people, I mean, I’ve never tried, so I don’t rightly know, but…