Mary Stolz Essay - Critical Essays

Stolz, Mary


Mary Stolz 1920–

American novelist and short story writer. Stolz's works are recognized as among the first written for young people that accurately represented their concerns, feelings, and lifestyles, and did so with empathy and respect. Her plots and themes are realistic ones: family relationships, divorce, social problems, and the expectations and disappointments of growing up. Although many of her works include a standard boy/girl relationship as their basis, Stolz is mainly interested in the increased awareness and maturity of her characters, whom both readers and critics generally consider exceptionally well developed and true to life. After she completes writing a book, she has said, "I know the characters as if they were friends. They're still there—real." Stolz started her writing career by selling her first stories to periodicals such as Ladies Home Journal and Seventeen. In 1948 she was hospitalized for three months; to combat her depression her doctor (who later became her husband) suggested that she write something of greater length. The book that followed, To Tell Your Love, set the standard for Stolz's portrayals of adolescents and their families. Much of Stolz's fiction is based on fact, especially on things that have happened to her son and young relatives. In order to keep her situations, settings, and dialogue correct and relevant, she quizzes the members of her family to find out if all the details ring true. Her respect for young people is evident in the way she characterizes them: her protagonists, often young women, are intelligent and ambitious, and are interested in literature and the arts. They are aware of the larger world that surrounds them, and are often anxious to become involved in its betterment; Stolz herself has been a part of several movements for peace. She has been criticized for writing novels that are too issue-oriented, and for the similarities among some of her characters and dialogue. However, she has published over 40 books, many for younger children and a few for adults, which have been printed in nearly 30 languages. In 1954, her In a Mirror was given the Child Study Association Award, which is presented to a children's book which deals realistically with the problems of childhood. Her analyses of social relationships and human values in the often complicated world of the young adult have been written with sensitivity and perception for almost three decades. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 10.)

[To Tell Your Love is a] lively, better than average romance-family novel for teen-age girls. As in the 18th century novels of sensibility, the Armacost family leads tremulously emotional lives. The school teacher, bird-watching father, charming gentle mother, twenty-three year old poetry loving nurse, Theo, lovely and impetuous eighteen year old Anne, and self-conscious, sensitive, fourteen year old Johnny—all vibrate to each other's problems like overwrought canaries. Meditations, snatches of poetry and diaries reflect the Armacost problems…. There may be a surfeit of nobility here, but the family relationships are warm and happy, the dialogue witty, and the sobering picture of a moneyless teen-age marriage gives the book substance. Also the sympathetic glimpse of a kid brother may inspire the teen-age girl to take a second look at the traditional pest. (p. 424)

Virginia Kirkus' Bookshop Service, August 1, 1950.

Ellen Lewis Buell

["To Tell Your Love"] is a wise and sensitive story of first love….

The essential poignancy of Anne's experience is balanced by an amusing family background. The Armacosts are attractive people, blessed with humor and imagination. Through them the author manages to say a number of perceptive things about the business of everyday living. (p. 34)

Ellen Lewis Buell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1950 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 8, 1950.

[The Organdy Cupcakes] has the same freshness of touch, depth of characterization and charm in heroines [as To Tell Your Love]. The three girls who pace the action of this novel—which could double as a career story for prospective nurses—are refreshingly intelligent, ambitious and womanly at the same time, but hardly superwomen…. To be sure, the girls pair off with suitable men, but their affection and dedication to their work is enriched, not diverted, by masculine attention. A realistic inside view of the hospital, too, with basins as well as starched uniforms. (p. 66)

Virginia Kirkus' Bookshop Service, February 1, 1951.

Ellen Lewis Buell

Mrs. Stolz' "To Tell Your Love" introduced a talented new writer. Like that novel, "The Organdy Cupcakes" is witty, perceptive and mature. It hasn't quite the poignancy of that story of first love, but it has the same freshness of characterization and writing.

Although it is a story of three student nurses in a suburban hospital it is far removed from the stereotyped career novel…. The girls seem real, not made. So too, do the other characters—Nelle's bat-brained, charming mother; the patients, the doctors. It is this feeling for people which gives the story its vitality and richness. (p. 24)

Ellen Lewis Buell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1951 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 8, 1951.

The careers, home life and romances of three girls … at nursing school are woven deftly into ["The Organdy Cupcakes"]. It is by far the best "career book" of the spring; also it is much more mature in the approach of the older teen age girl audience than was "To Tell Your Love."…

The hospital background is very well done: the atmosphere, the different sorts of work, the relations of nurses, interns, doctors and the rest of the staff are very realistic, honest and interesting. In Gretchen Bemis we meet an unusual character, one we are at first uncertain about, whose love affair will be very satisfying to young readers. Rosemary's troubles with her stepmother, Nelle finding out how to keep a beau, add interesting subplots.

This is "older" than most "junior novels," and therefore most welcome for high school libraries and youth rooms. What separates it, in style and content, from a "regular" novel is a point we shall not press here. Girls over fourteen will be keen on it, whatever their dreamed-of careers. (p. 24)

The New York Times Book Review (© 1951 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 13, 1951.

Ellen Lewis Buell

["The Sea Gulls Woke Me"] is simpler in construction and in theme than are Mrs. Stolz's earlier books, "To Tell Your Love" and "The Organdy Cupcakes," but for that reason it may be even more popular, especially among the younger teen-agers. It has, too, the humor, the sharp awareness of character and scene which have made her one of the best present-day novelists for older girls. (p. 28)

Ellen Lewis Buell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1951 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 16, 1951.

Louise S. Bechtel

A book to delight teen-age girls, ["The Sea Gulls Woke Me"] is the best yet of the three junior novels, or first love stories, by this writer. The problem of her sixteen-year-old heroine is a vital one: to escape the domination of a fussy, smothering sort of mother, and find herself as an individual…. [Jean's mistaken "crush" and] her first real love affair, are very well handled. The philosophy offered, the underlying tone, and Jean's relation to all the adults concerned are fine. There is a bitter "older man" (of twenty-five, a writer) who causes her roommate trouble, and is a bit overdone. But he adds speed to a rather quiet plot.

Miss Stolz has a wide range of references to books, places, poetry, people, also a quick sense of humor. All this she pours out easily, but a bit too freely, with an over-use of carefully unusual adjectives and crowded metaphor that makes some pages lush. But she's able to interpret teen-age feelings so that they ring true. (p. 16)

Louise S. Bechtel, in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission). October 28, 1951.

Margaret A. Edwards

The nearest rival in quality [to Maureen Daly] is probably Mary Stolz. In both To Tell Your Love and The Sea Gulls Woke Me she draws sharp characterizations, brings poignancy to the problems of youth, and has well-developed plots. And yet, while her stories are enjoyed, girls in Baltimore who read them do not send their friends to the library with the general understanding that their lives will not be worth living until they read these books. It may be that this author has limited her audience by writing a junior novel so mature in its concepts that it is best understood by college girls who choose their junior novels, however good they may be. In The Sea Gulls Woke Me Mrs. Stolz includes brief...

(The entire section is 248 words.)


When her mother died, Morgan Connor [in Ready or Not] had to take on the responsibility of caring for her younger brother and sister and keeping house for them and their father, whose job as a subway clerk barely supported the family. I question whether a young girl could possibly run a household as smoothly as she did and gone to school at the same time, but that is the only flaw I find in a far-above-average story remarkable for its perceptive character delineation. Not only the Connors but also Morgan's high school friends and their families, and Tom, the boy with whom she falls in love, are as real and as individual as living people. Mrs. Stolz seems to me our most outstanding writer of teen-age novels...

(The entire section is 245 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

In her previous novels for older girls Mrs. Stolz has explored with wit, originality and a rare maturity the problems of growing up. ["Ready or Not"] is even more adult in tone and is, in one sense, more ambitious in its probing of family relationships. It is also new in setting, for here the author moves from the comfortable, suburban background of her earlier characters to the bare, hard-won respectability of a low-cost housing project in New York City….

Each of [the] characters is sharply individualized and the interplay of family relationships is brilliantly stated. Pitched in a minor key, the story may disappoint those who are hot for certainties, but for thoughtful readers it will be an...

(The entire section is 141 words.)

Richard Sullivan

A quiet, sensitive, close textured novel, "Truth and Consequence." It deals with the diverse events of a single day; its numerous characters are all sharply defined; its phrasing is precise and economical; and its parts come together to make a unified total effect that may be remember with satisfaction after the book is closed.

The central figure is 13-year-old Geraldine….

But the narrative, while centering on Geraldine, switches quietly from character to character, and ranges up and down the street. The fussy housewife; the blind old man; the high school girl miserable in love with her math teacher; the anxious young mother protecting her precocious son; the young wife restless...

(The entire section is 185 words.)

Jane Cobb

There are several good things to be said for Mary Stolz's "Truth and Consequence." The characters are believable and the situations in which they find themselves are convincing. The dialogue is excellent. The flaw in the book is its completely unrelieved glumness. In the entire narrative there is scarcely a shred of hope or humor.

Most of the action takes place in a suburban town where 13-year-old Gerry has been taken to stay with her Aunt Proud….

[Some] pieces in the pattern of misery include a wife who doesn't like her husband and has a lover she can never marry and, of course, Gerry's agonized parents. Miss Stolz has also included a mildly demented woman called Cassandra, who...

(The entire section is 213 words.)

Bernice Frankel

All of Mary Stolz's novels are notable for their eloquence, maturity, and insight. [In a Mirror] is rich in these qualities. The diary form adopted for the story is ideal for Miss Stolz's purpose, which is to disclose the inmost thoughts of a college junior who seeks to understand herself and those about her. (pp. 68, 70)

Bessie's relationships—with Til, the instructor, her parents—are sensitively drawn and serve to enlighten her. Girls who read her story will be enlightened, too, as well as deeply moved. (p. 70)

Bernice Frankel, in The Saturday Review (Entire issue copyright 1953 by Saturday Review Associates, Inc.; reprinted with...

(The entire section is 104 words.)

Margaret Ford Kieran

[In a Mirror] is as penetrative and analytical as anything [Mary Stolz] has ever done. But is it a teen-age book? I confess I bogged down for a minute while I went through it because, as a stream-of-consciousness journal of a present-day college girl, it would surely have Henry James looking to his laurels.

It is extremely well done, once you accept the heroine as a product of the "majoring in psychology" group. Smoothly written and as fascinating as certain psychiatric case histories can be, I nevertheless would not recommend it except to those teenagers of your acquaintance whose emotional balance is well established. They could handle it and would thoroughly enjoy it, no doubt, but...

(The entire section is 149 words.)

Margaret C. Scoggin

The tragedy of the fat girl is handled [in In a Mirror] with perception and some humor. Bessie Muller has brains and a certain objectivity in looking at herself and her easygoing family, but it takes time for her to realize that her overeating is a compensation for certain lacks she must overcome. Her journal reveals her discovery that just as the basilisk died when it saw its image in a mirror, so one can overcome faults when one sees them clearly and stops making excuses for them. Of course, there is more to the plot—college life, dates and parties, Bessie's determination to write, her roommate's devotion to dancing and hopeless love for a young married professor. But the special appeal lies in felicity of...

(The entire section is 154 words.)

Anne Brooks

So fragmentary as hardly to be called a work of fiction, Mary Stolz' ["Truth and Consequence"] is a series of sketches of people who are merely linked together by the circumstance of living in the same neighborhood. But these are singularly alive and acute sketches. Miss Stolz has an exceptional talent for understanding people….

Miss Stolz' greatest merit is that she does not overheighten the characteristics of her people. They are real and reasonable…. Miss Stolz is quietly understanding of the Negro maid, Coral,… and the great pride which makes Coral classify white people into groups which are stereotypes, never intimates. There is the same understanding of Karen, the young woman married to a...

(The entire section is 178 words.)

Andrea Parke

To explore, to interpret, to define the struggles of youth's raw, aching emotions has proved a pitfall for more than one writer. But Mary Stolz, who has written several novels about adolescents for adolescents, understands her young people thoroughly, and in ["Two by Two"] has written a first-rate novel….

Harry … discovers he is in love with Nan Gunning, a childhood playmate. Before the summer is over, thanks to the inept blundering of both families, Harry has accidentally killed a man and has been hurt in a way it will take him years to overcome. Thanks to his own courage, one feels that his and Nan's love will survive. One has only to read the scenes between Harry and his father, between Harry...

(The entire section is 166 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

Never an adherent to the cozier conventions of teenage fiction, Mary Stolz has given us another of her provocative novels [with "Pray Love, Remember"]—this time about a girl who isn't sure what she wants but knows quite well what she doesn't want…. On first acquaintance, Dody is not an entirely agreeable person, but she is very real in her uncertainties, her paradoxes and in her fierce desire to escape the mediocrities of the Plattstown pattern….

All Mrs. Stolz' novels have been distinguished by a mature approach to the problems of young people but this is the most challenging and the best of them all. (p. 50)

Ellen Lewis Buell, in The New York Times...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

Richard S. Alm

Mary Stolz, surely the most versatile and most skilled of [the writers who followed Maureen Daly, but did not imitate her], writes not for the masses who worship Sue Barton Barry [married name of the heroine of Sue Barton, Neighborhood Nurse and the entire series written by Helen Boylston] but for the rarer adolescent who sees in Anne Armacost (To Tell Your Love) a girl of warmth and charm, in love unfortunately with a boy who is afraid to return her love. In a summer of endless days with a telephone which does not ring, Anne slowly understands what has driven Doug away. The poignancy of her losing this first, intense love is a bitter-sweet experience which makes her a little sadder, but a good deal more...

(The entire section is 260 words.)

Lillian Morrison

Mary Stolz stands alone among the authors who now write fiction for the teen-age girl—alone and above. Her characters and situations have the reality and the depth one hopes for in a good adult novel and yet she truly speaks the language of her teenager readers. She seems to live and to be her girl characters, so well does she understand them. "Rosemary" is the story of two girls in a college town who know each other largely through a common interest in several boys. Helena, who comes of a well-to-do family, goes to the college. Rosemary works as a salesgirl and yearns for what the college stands for. It is a town-versus-gown story and it is written with the perception, sympathy, and also the warm understanding of...

(The entire section is 159 words.)

Margaret C. Scoggin

Mary Stolz is quite at the top of those writing for and about today's teen-agers. She gives them to us with all their faults and perplexities, as real as the next-door neighbors. She never provides a conventional happy ending for she knows that the best endings (or beginnings) come when her characters change what they can and accept what they must—when, in short, they grow up.

The setting [of "Rosemary"] is a college community where high school graduates split into two groups, those who do not go on to college and those who do…. Into a former group comes Sam Lyons, college senior…. It is Sam who sets in motion conversations and events which give each of [the] young people a change of...

(The entire section is 285 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

One of the most moving of Mary Stolz's earlier novels was "Ready or Not," a portrait of a New York family living precariously on the edge of poverty, held together by the love and instinctive wisdom of Morgan, the elder daughter. Now Mrs. Stolz continues the story of the Connors [with "The Day and the Way We Met"], taking it up four years later at a time of strain precipitated by Morgan's marriage…. Julie, at 17, feels painfully inadequate to take her sister's place. Impatient, thorny, remote, Julie has also her private problems: her secret, hopeless love for an older man, her boredom with her one steady beau, the uncertainties of her future.

As always, Mrs. Stolz is interested more in people's...

(The entire section is 807 words.)

Virginia Haviland

At nineteen, from the university, Dorothy looks back [in Because of Madeline] to the year when she was a fourteen-year-old student at a co-educational private school near Central Park. Christmas holidays brought a change to her life, to her brother and "the rest of us" because of Madeline, the brilliant gum-chewing daughter of a cleaning woman who entered the school on scholarship. How, because Madeline was an individual and the first non-conformist the students had met, she affected their thinking and made them willing to be less alike is a significant theme, characteristic of this author. Dorothy, who wanted everyone to be happy; her quixotic boarding-school brother; his roommate; and Celia, a less...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

["Because of Madeline"] is a subtle story, complex in structure as the narrator shifts back and forth in time, remembering and analyzing those disturbing moments of self-evaluation—especially the realization of latent snobbery. It is one of Mrs. Stolz' most searching studies of motives and manners, of social and human values. And, for all its knowledgeable, witty picture of sub-deb life, it presents a situation that could happen in almost any school (p. 20)

Ellen Lewis Buell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1957 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 21, 1957.

(The entire section is 93 words.)

Jennie D. Lindquist

Fifteen years old, with charming parents and two small brothers whom she loved, and a very happy home, Barbara Perry [in Good-by My Shadow] still had to go through the stage of adolescence when everything seemed black. She herself realized that she was unreasonable in being dissatisfied with everything but she could not seem to pull herself out of her self-centered sadness. This story of her gradual growth back to happiness is, I think, one of Mary Stolz' best books. Barbara's shyness with the group of boys and girls of which she wanted so much to be a part is perceptively pictured. These young people who seemed so gay and carefree to Barbara are convincing, too; and her completely delightful parents are so...

(The entire section is 162 words.)

Margaret C. Scoggin

["Good-by My Shadow"] is an uncommonly subtle study of a girl emerging from adolescent self-concern to levelheaded appreciation of herself, her family and her friends. Its appeal is for those past 15 who relish the author's flashes of humor, care with words, regard for family relationships—and who remember their own growing pains. This seems to me one of the more adult of Mary Stolz's books. (p. 34)

Margaret C. Scoggin, in The New York Times Book Review, Part II (© 1957 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 17, 1957.

(The entire section is 88 words.)

Phyllis A. Whitney

One of the best of Mary Stolz's fine novels, ["Second Nature"] is a story about life and human beings and love. About different kinds of love because there are so many different kinds of human beings….

The mature teen-ager will find more than a good story in these pages. "Second Nature" has the gift of helping readers to meet their own problems more honestly and clearly. (p. 8)

Phyllis A. Whitney, in Chicago Sunday Tribune, Part 4, May 11, 1958.

(The entire section is 76 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

Once again [with "Second Nature"] Mary Stolz has taken a familiar teen-age situation and, eschewing the easy ending, has turned it into a wise commentary on life. The book is moving without being sombre, witty and knowing in its portrayal of teen-agers and grown-ups alike. And, like nearly all of Mrs, Stolz's books, it calls for more maturity than does the average novel for girls, provoking, at the same time, mature thinking. (p. 34)

Ellen Lewis Buell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1958 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 18, 1958.

(The entire section is 93 words.)

Zena Sutherland

Mrs. Stolz is adept at writing in first person and has created, in [Second Nature's] Anne, a sympathetic and real person. Anne's relationships to her family, her understanding of the need for tolerance and acceptance in maintaining friendships, and her painful adjustment to unrequited love are told with keen insight. The picture of a group of young people, their shifting intragroup relationships and the different ways in which each meets the common problems of courtship, love and adult status, is drawn with nuance and with strength. All the members of Anne's circle are described with candor and are quite realistic. The style is natural and the action consistent with the characters. (p. 114)


(The entire section is 129 words.)

Elizabeth C. Mann

Mary Stolz has done it again—this mature, beautifully written novel ["Some Merry-Go-Round Music"] is one of the season's few worthwhile books for girls. Again, the story's theme is determined by the personality of the main character, a heroine who exists everywhere but whose unheroic qualities have made her unrepresented in fiction.

Miranda Parrish is a young woman with plenty of potential but an unhappy life. Bickering parents, a dull job, and never enough money can happen to anyone, but Miranda's overwhelming desire is for peace at any price—and the price is high…. Only when circumstances force her does she take a stand and find that integrity and self-confidence make a better life than...

(The entire section is 136 words.)

Lillian Morrison

"Some Merry-Go-Round Music" lacks the prolonged introspection we sometimes get in [Mary Stolz's] books, but there are the unusually accurate perceptions we have come to expect, the wry wit, and a basic human kindness, an underlying compassion for families, for drab lives, and above all, for young loves and aspiration. (p. 34)

Lillian Morrison, in The New York Times Book Review, Part II (© 1959 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 1, 1959.

(The entire section is 72 words.)

Zena Sutherland

[Some Merry-Go-Round Music is one] of the most delightful books this dependable author has produced. Miranda is typical without being typed: an ordinary girl from an ordinary lower middle-class family. Living in a Washington Heights apartment and commuting to a dull job in an obscure office, Miranda dreams of romance … and she almost finds it, but the man isn't really interested. Realistically, the book ends on a happy note of optimism because Miranda realizes that her chance will come—a refreshing contrast to the usual patterned happy ending. The book is absorbing chiefly because it is peopled with amazingly vivid people…. Honest and perceptive writing. (p. 68)


(The entire section is 232 words.)

Zena Sutherland

[In The Beautiful Friend each story gives] a vignette of some turning point in the life of a young person moving toward emotional maturity…. There is no variation in the excellence of the stories—they are beautifully written, perceptive, and sympathetic. Especially penetrating are the situations in which a young woman is struggling to free herself from the loving parents who do not realize they are clinging and overprotective. (p. 49)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (published by the University of Chicago), November, 1960.

(The entire section is 87 words.)

Maureen Daly

Mary Stolz is a consistently modern writer for young people. But she should no more be classed as a "teenager's" writer than—say—Katharine Brush in her day. Miss Stolz' characters may be in the teen to 20 group, but her approaches and her techniques are mature, skillful, and poised. The nine short stories in this collection [The Beautiful Friend and Other Stories] are carefully polished little gems.

And Miss Stolz is modern because she knows that many college students commute by airplane, some girls do marry in the teenage bracket and that it's no longer square to study in college and quote from semi-obscure poets. Yet the stories that are so up-to-date in framework might benefit from a...

(The entire section is 180 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

Perhaps it is because we have come to expect so much from Mary Stolz—more than we get from almost any other writer for older girls—that her first collection of short stories ["The Beautiful Friend and Other Stories"] is a little disappointing. The compact form does not allow for the gradual unfolding of personality, the intricate development of situations, the colorful secondary characters and the detailed backgrounds which are the hallmarks of her novels. In comparison to those novels certain of the short stories seem a little slick, too quickly resolved, as in "The Robin" in which a young matron frees herself from a subtly domineering older sister.

This is not to say, however, that Mrs. Stolz...

(The entire section is 230 words.)

Mary Louise Hector

"Wait for Me. Michael," is a beautifully constructed document that works out its psychological puzzle about emerging maturity with neatness. As a novel, it is flat. It has a final chapter of benevolent summary that will offend readers who know the author's usual subtlety and strong sense of reality. Perhaps the most glaring advertisement of the weakness of the narrative is the fact that the plot turns not once, but twice, on an episode of eavesdropping. (p. 30)

Mary Louise Hector, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1961 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 16, 1961.

(The entire section is 97 words.)

Margaret C. Scoggin

[Wait for Me, Michael] is well toward the top of my list of Stolz books, for it has unity as well as subtlety, and the presentation of adolescent feeling is unusually deft. Anny's moments may be sweet, bitter, or bittersweet, but they are always touched with a flash of humor or common sense or intuition on the part of the heroine. Anny suffers but, underneath, she and her readers sense that this is a part of growing pains. For girls beyond girls' stories who ask for something true to life. (p. 285)

Margaret C. Scoggin, in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright, 1961, by the Horn Book, Inc., Boston), June, 1961.

(The entire section is 107 words.)

Pamela Marsh

Mary Stolz's books are not the kind that can be described by a brief plot summary for she is one of the few who write for teen-age girls as sensitively as they would for adults. Her heroine's thoughts and actions spring naturally from a complete background with a sense of past and future, and so do the people who surround her. [Who Wants Music on Monday?] begins with a familiar conflict, glamorous sister versus plain, sensitivity versus obtuseness. But gradually, skillfully, the emphasis seesaws until empty-headedness is pitted despairingly against intellect…. As in her other books Mary Stolz shows especially an understanding of the unconforming thinker, too sensitive about her appearance, too proud of her...

(The entire section is 147 words.)

Madeleine L'Engle

Mary Stolz stands high among the fine writers for young people. Although "Who Wants Music on Monday?" is not her best book, it stands head and shoulders above most teen-age novels in the quality of its writing.

The Dunne children are interesting young people, alive and intensely believable…. [Their] vital concerns are seen by the reader in a vacuum, rather than in action or conflict. At the end of the book Vincent is expected at home with his Negro roommate, but we are not shown the expected encounter. The reader is left with a sense of disappointment and incompleteness. We want very much to know the rest of the story. (p. 22)

Madeleine L'Engle, in The...

(The entire section is 130 words.)


The plots of teenage novels amount to the statement of a problem and its solution, which makes them puzzles or games, rather than genuine plots. E. M. Forster, in Aspects of the Novel, says that a plot is a narrative of events which arouses not only the curiosity of the reader but his intelligence and his memory. "Characters, to be real," he says, "ought to run smoothly, but a plot ought to cause surprise." But what could be more predictable than the plot of the ordinary teenage novel?

It is only fair to say at this point that some writers have a much better record than others in this matter. Mary Stolz, for instance, writes movingly in To Tell Your Love of the heartbreak of a...

(The entire section is 543 words.)

Zena Sutherland

Revised by the author, [A Love, on a Season is a novel first published in 1954 under the title Two by Two…. This is an] honest and a tender story, perceptive in analysis of human relationships and candid in approach to the problem of sex. Although the tension (and misunderstanding) between a father and son is particularly well-described, it does not overshadow the crucial problem of the book: what do two young people in love do to restrain the feelings they cannot deny? (pp. 63-4)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (copyright 1964 by the University of Chicago; all rights reserved), December, 1964.


(The entire section is 104 words.)

Ruth Hill Viguers

Girls rejecting fantasy and period novels and eager for the reassurance in "real stories of girls today" can be deluded by the pseudo realism and false values predominating in many of their books. Mary Stolz's remarkable empathy with the characters in her books is particularly important in her stories about older boys and girls. At a time when many teen-age stories are misleading, she always plays fair. The people of her books are alive, their world is the contemporary world, and their stories are told with truth and dignity. (p. 107)

Ruth Hill Viguers, in her Margin for Surprise: About Books, Children, and Librarians (copyright © 1964 by Ruth Hill Viguers; reprinted by...

(The entire section is 118 words.)

Mary K. Eakin

[Who Wants Music on Monday? is a] quite wonderful book. The individual characters are drawn with sharp perception; relationships between characters are described with the rarely found combination of deep and intelligent insight and that seemingly easy flow of prose that marks the craftsman. Cassie is a thorny, gawky fourteen; blazing with integrity, she resents the easy charm of her older sister, Lotta. Lotta is a case-history belle, a vain and pretty creature who blithely uses people. Their brother and his Negro roommate are concerned about their goals: about marriage, about race relations. Perhaps the most penetrating analysis is seen in the mother of the family, a woman of limited intellect, bewildered by...

(The entire section is 213 words.)

May Hill Arbuthnot

Mary Stolz, whether writing for six or sixteen, is first of all a competent writer. She has a sense of form, style, and outstanding story-telling appeal. Her approach to adolescent girls' problems in dealing with the opposite sex is sensitive and understanding…. [Her books] are free of didacticism, although they are built around some of the common problems that trouble adolescent girls and that need to be brought into the open. This Mary Stolz does admirably in the course of a good story. (pp. 215-16)

May Hill Arbuthnot, in her Children's Reading in the Home (copyright © 1969 by Scott, Foresman and Company; reprinted by permission), Scott, Foresman, 1969.


(The entire section is 106 words.)

Jean Fritz

When Mary Stolz first began writing teen-age fiction, she was hailed not only as a distinguished writer but as a ground breaker, a realist not afraid to introduce a fat heroine into a field dominated by pretty, slim girls, not afraid to let unrequited love go unrequited although traditionally romances were expected to produce happy endings. But now it is 20 years later; realism in teen-age books means drugs, ghettoes, knives, illegitimate babies, alcoholic fathers, and Mary Stolz, after a seven-year absence from the teen-age field returns with ["By the Highway Home,"] a story her publishers say is of a modern girl coping with "contemporary issues."

Thirteen-year-old Catty Reed's brother was killed in...

(The entire section is 366 words.)

Marilyn Gardner

[By the Highway Home] is another in a growing body of teenage books that have had the spun sugar coating scraped off in order to be "relevant." Relevancy here is two-pronged, dealing with a family's grief after a beloved brother is killed in Vietnam, and with their despair when the economic recession puts their father out of a job. The story is told by Catty, a sensitive, likable, feet-on-the-ground 13-year-old, and it is Catty who both makes and saves the story. Not all the events are credible (readers who have ever moved may wonder if such a major change in lifestyle could be quite as instantly accepted and accomplished). But on balance the story is a realistic treatment of mostly realistic situations, and a...

(The entire section is 246 words.)

Zena Sutherland

Fourteen-year-old Jimmie (Janine) sits alone amid the Christmas litter and looks back over the past unhappy year in which her parents have been divorced…. Much of [Leap Before You Look] is concerned with Jimmie's concern for issues, her relationship with her friends, her first love affair, and her love for her small brother, and the story is therefore balanced and realistic. The characterizations and relationships are excellent, the development perceptive, so that when Jimmie, alone on Christmas morning, decides to telephone her father (whose marriage she has resented) it is an adjustment arrived at gradually and convincingly. (p. 18)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of...

(The entire section is 117 words.)

Lael Scott

["Leap Before You Look"] is very bright and busy. Although divorce is the pivot, the author has added so many "with-it" subjects—Women's Lib, ecology, drop-outs, encounter groups—that at times her fiction resembles a new variety of the "Whole Earth Catalog." Her characters ring true, and so does her dialogue. Unfortunately her heroine, Jimmie (whom we pick up as a tomboy and leave a romantic teen-ager), falls disastrously out of character in the middle of the book. From the onset Jimmie seems to understand—better than they—her parents' constant dissension and her mother's peculiar withdrawal and hostility. But when her parents finally announce that they are actually going through with a divorce, Jimmie reacts...

(The entire section is 399 words.)

Zena Sutherland

It demands the skill of a writer like Mary Stolz to write a story [like The Edge of Next Year,] so honest and perceptive that the nuances of shifting relationships and the conflicts between love and resentment are solid and believable enough to compensate for the lack of action—no lack is felt. (p. 123)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (© 1975 by the University of Chicago; all rights reserved), March, 1975.

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Virginia Haviland

[Cat in the Mirror is a skillfully wrought,] engrossing fantasy about a child who lives in two societies, three thousand years apart. Highly individualistic Erin Gandy, who has been miserable at five schools in three countries, is again an outsider at school…. (p. 597)

When school reopens in the fall, a new student, Seti, the attractive son of a United Nations official from Egypt, takes a liking to Erin. He also becomes part of the in-group, whose overbearing leader decides that they will make a film—"switching back and forth between modern days and ancient Egypt …". When their teacher insists that the filming be a class project, Seti secures a role for Erin, for she is the most...

(The entire section is 448 words.)