What Jenny's Reading

{October 23, 2014}   Review: Little Town on the Prairie: Mean Girls on the Prairie Part II: Prairie Harder, Pt. II

So, where were we?  Oh yes, the school thing.  Laura’s friends mutiny because Miss Wilder treats her poorly.

The whole school problem seems to blow over a bit, and now the boys are back in school, so there are new things to think about. (I said she should be daydreaming about boys!) Cap Garland is back, and I was going to call him the story’s Shane Oman, except that he and Almanzo are friends, and Cap likes Mary Power. Also, in my opinion, Shane Oman was way hotter than Aaron Samuels, and I Googled Cap Garland and Almanzo Wilder, and let’s just say Almanzo was pretty hot and Cap…well, not so much, at least not the pictures I found. So never mind. (Interestingly, though, I did real that in real life Laura had a thing for Cap, and nearly broke up with Almanzo because of it. I cannot WAIT for Pioneer Girl to come out, you guys. Love triangles are usually so dull, but I’m so excited to read about this! Best friends almost torn apart by the girl they love – it’s like a human Vampire Diaries on the Prairie!)

Laura does get to thwart Nellie again here, which is nice. I guess Nellie either likes Cap herself, or just doesn’t like other girls having things she doesn’t have (my guess is the latter), and steals all the candy Cap brings to Mary, and embarrasses him with tons of stupid flattery (“Oh, Cappie! You are so big and handsome and strong!”). For some reason, no one stops her, even though everyone knows what’s going on, until Laura takes back the candy and gives it to Mary. Then Nellie makes a big deal about how she could have Cap if she really wanted (which I believe, considering his sudden lack of spine when it came to the candy issue), but that she really wants Almanzo. Oh, it is so ON!

I love this book, really I do. It’s the least bleak one since Little House in the Big Woods (or Farmer Boy, but that doesn’t count since it was all about Almanzo’s plush farming life), which is nice, and it’s the most teenager-y. I love reading about the fights, the silly fads, the swooning over boys. It’s fun to get to see Laura be a real, live teenager, even if just for a few minutes.

Another aside: during the name card thing, Laura’s friend Ida mentions yet again she’s adopted, and shouldn’t make a fuss about the cards, because she has a “good Christian home” and that’s all an orphan can really ask for, right? I get the feeling that the Reverend and Mrs. Brown do a lot of patting themselves on the back for their “good Christian” behavior of taking in Ida the orphan. Do you think they treat her like a real daughter? I wonder.

Surprisingly, Ma and Pa let Laura have some name cards. I think they feel guilty for using her hard earned money to buy a fug dress and forcing her to be a teacher. Well, I bet Pa does, anyway. She picks some out, and then is almost late for school. Oh no! Horrors! Well, remember when I said it was so on, a couple of paragraphs ago? Almanzo swoops in and offers her a ride, and they exchange name cards. Swoon! I think this means it’s their first date. None of the other girls has even so much as SEEN another boy’s name card. Laura’s pretty sophisticated, here. Soon she’s going to be teaching all the girls how to French kiss. Except Nellie, because I’m sure Nellie knows some kind of new kissing technique from New York that’s way more popular than French kissing these days. You know, this paragraph ended in a very different place than where I intended when it first started. I’ll leave it that Almanzo mentions that Eliza Jane talked about Laura. If you’ve read Farmer Boy, you know that Almanzo and Eliza Jane don’t really get along, so I’m choosing to believe that whatever she said just made Almanzo more intrigued by her. Also, Laura totally ignores this statement, which – HA!

Then Laura becomes a total social butterfly, attending a crappy “dime sociable” and a birthday party for her classmate Ben (She claims to have never been to a party before, which is just a lie. Or maybe she’s blocked out Nellie’s awful town party). For the sociable, Laura wants to get bangs like her friend Mary Power, and even though they’re super stylish, and we know Ma’s all about style, she doesn’t want to let her. What the FUCK, Ma? Do you remember a few months ago, when you were all in a tizzy about Mary’s hoop skirts? Well, Ma and Pa finally relent and Laura gets to be super stylish too. Hooray!

The town forms a literary society, and it seems like they are trying, at least, to invent fun here. I mean, it isn’t fun by today’s standards, but at least they’re trying. They do a spelling match, charades, and singing. The less said about the super offensive and racist minstrel show, the better, I think.

But now, a moment of joy: it seems fun has FINALLY been invented! Mark your calendars, people. After Ben’s birthday party, all the students start hanging out together. The girls and boys at school play games at recess, like snowball fights and sledding, and all have a good time. Even Nellie joins in sometimes. Hooray, Ben! You invented fun!

But then Laura’s grades slip to a paltry 92%, and fun is over. Well, it was nice while it lasted. The next winter while everyone’s in town, they don’t do Literaries, because there was already so much going on, with church on Sunday and Wednesday and two (two!) dinners and sociables. Oh, and best of all – a School Exhibition. Wow. These people really knew how to live! (That was sarcasm. I don’t know if I need to make that clear.)

No big thing, Laura, you and your friend Ida are just responsible for reciting all of American History, from the beginning. I know that it’s like 1889 or something at this point, but there’s still over 100 years of history to remember, and a lot of stuff happened during that time. Oh, and their teacher tells them this right after remarking about how he’s really hoping the School Exhibition will be good enough that people will build a bigger schoolhouse for the next year. No pressure, girls! Oh, and you have to go to nightly revival meetings, too, otherwise people will shun you and say you’re an atheist. I’m surprised “atheist” was a term back then? (I looked it up. Apparently the word is pretty old, from even Medieval times. You learn something new every day!)

Revivals are just more church, but here they actively “save” people. I’ve been to churches like that. It’s as fun as you imagine, which is to say, not at all. Pro tip: if you’re ever at that kind of church and someone asks if you want to be saved, just ask them “From what?” They will not know what to do. And Laura gets in a pretty good dig when she imagines that her preacher is actually the Devil. But what’s actually important about these revivals is that this is when Almanzo finally makes his big move! He asks to walk her home. Yeah! Ma is terrified of this, because I think she’s worried that Almanzo will marry Laura before she gets the chance to force her to be a schoolteacher.

He sees her home every night after the revivals. Their first walk is a bit of a disaster; Laura has no idea what to say, because she remembers that he and Cap went out on that dangerous mission the last winter to save the town and gets tongue-tied because she’s hanging out with a local celebrity and possible frost demi-god. Their next walks are better, but she forgets all about Almanzo because now it’s time for the School Exhibition.

Laura does great, of course. And Almanzo is there again to walk her home! Hooray! He even manages to make her laugh with a joke about how he didn’t even ask if she would walk home with him, he just assumed. Smooth, Wilder. Very smooth. What he doesn’t do is compliment her on how well she did, which is kind of jerky. He’s too busy telling her about the little sleigh he’s going to make and asking if she’d go on a ride with him. She’s hilariously excited about pissing Nellie Oleson off with this news. You know, when I was a kid, I was certain she didn’t really care for Almanzo all that much. I haven’t seen anything yet that dissuades me from that thought, but we’ll see.

Of course, Ma has to shit all over Laura’s teenage dreams by talking about how they just need extra money for Mary to stay in school and however shall they earn it? Cripes, lady, why don’t you get your own job in town to save some money? She’s your kid, not Laura’s. Of course it isn’t a few days later that their friend Mr. Boast comes along with a guy named Brewster who’s decided Laura’s the teacher he wants, even if she isn’t old enough yet. Fuck those child labor laws, I guess. Since Mr. Boast’s wife is Ma’s best friend, I’m side-eying this pretty hard. And coincidentally enough, Pa isn’t home when they come, because I bet Pa would’ve shut that shit down. But yes, Laura gets her certificate, and the book ends with the knowledge that she’s going twelve whole miles away to teach during the winter, so that Almanzo can’t take her for a sleigh ride. I bet Ma’s feeling pretty happy about that, but we’ll see. Somehow I think that Almanzo will find a way around this! (By “somehow” I mean, I know he will!)


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