Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Paula Danziger 1944–

American young adult novelist.

Following the tradition of Judy Blume and Norma Klein, Danziger writes fiction for young adults which portrays contemporary adolescent life realistically. Since the publication of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit in 1974, Danziger has become one of the most popular writers among young adults. Her appeal can perhaps be attributed to the fact that she combines realism with humor and addresses some of the more difficult aspects of growing up with candor and empathy.

A junior high school reading instructor, Danziger has based much of her work on her own life and on the experiences of her students. Cat, for instance, stemmed from the stormy relationship she had with her father; like Marcy, she was a perpetual failure in gym and had a younger brother who stuffed his teddy bear with orange pits. Danziger's funny, somewhat self-effacing middle-class heroines face a variety of problems as they move between school, family, and friends. Her novels present dilemmas to which teenagers can relate, ranging from simple feelings of inadequacy to the trauma of divorced parents.

Critical reaction to her novels has been mixed. While it is acknowledged that her subjects are relevant, some critics feel that she explores such important issues as peer pressure, challenged sexual mores, and parental insensitivity without depth or fresh insight. While granting that Danziger does not romanticize her characters or their situations, some critics feel that she dilutes reality to the point where her books are valuable only as light reading. However, her use of wit and humor is universally applauded, as is her ability to create believable heroines. Despite critical reaction, the wide readership of young adults has affirmed their appreciation of Danziger's sensitive, accurate portrayals of their concerns and feelings.