Richard Peck Jean Alexander - Essay

Jean Alexander

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Older characters in Representing Super Doll,] for the most part, are stereotype adults: the teasing father, the devoted mother, the English teacher who wears straight skirts and gives assignments on "Your hopes, your dreams."

Verna is a midwestern farm girl attending a small-town high school after her earlier years in a country school…. She becomes friends with three town girls, one of whom is the beautiful but stupid Darlene Hoffmeister.

Mrs. Hoffmeister, a divorcee living on alimony, enters her daughter in several beauty contests, one of which is Miss Teen Super Doll. When Darlene wins the regional contest she gets to travel to New York City and compete in the national event, and Verna is given the chance to go along with her as a chaperone.

In New York the two of them meet up with more stereotypes and Darlene bungles her chances in the big contest by her vague confused answers to all questions. Bernice begins to learn that she herself is attractive and, unlike Darlene, is able to answer questions. When the chance comes on a television quiz show to guess who is the real Miss Super Doll, Verna is asked to participate because one of the contestants fails to appear. Guess who everyone thinks is the Miss Super Doll?

The author fails to make his point. The beautiful Darlene is really the heroine of this novel although Mr. Peck maybe didn't intend it that way. She makes her own choices. She will not be the beauty queen that her mother insists she be. Perhaps in her own fumbling, inarticulate way she found the only way out of her mother's plans. Unfortunately we see this person, an early teenage Marilyn Monroe, through the eyes of smug Verna whose only goal was to become what Darlene chose not to be.

Jean Alexander, "Girls Growing Up," in Book World—The Washington Post (© 1974, The Washington Post), November 10, 1974, p. 8.∗