Sandra Scoppettone Annie Gottlieb - Essay

Annie Gottlieb

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Sixteen-year-old Billie James, heroine of Sandra Scoppettone's Long Time Between Kisses … has grown up in SoHo and Greenwich Village, and she dodges drug dealers and street crazies with aplomb. Harder to take lightly are her divorced parents: her mother, a failed artist turned carpenter …, and her father, a failed musician who freaks out on angel dust and has to be dragged away in a straitjacket. What can Billie do under the circumstances but cut her hair very short and dye it purple? This precipitates a breakup with her boyfriend, and soon Billie believes she's in love with a mysterious "older man" of 21 about to be confined to a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis.

Weird, huh? Yet this relentlessly up-to-date scenario camouflages a conventional Y.A. plot: basically good kid learns basic moral lessons—like doing the right thing hurts but it's better than selfish fantasy, and you don't have to dye your hair purple to be noticed. The emotional dimension of the book rings true; Sandra Scoppettone handles the tension between Billie's surface jive and her deeper loneliness very nicely. But the moralizing has that whiff of condescension; under the hip surface is a sugar pill.

Annie Gottlieb, "Young but Not Innocent," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1982 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 25, 1982, p. 44.∗