I found Seventeen by Booth Tarkington at McKay’s, one of the most magical places in the world. It’s a huge used media warehouse essentially; I get my book, movie, video game, and music fix there. Why did I pick this book up you ask? Look at it. How was I going to leave that behind, especially since it was only 10 cents? I like picking up the oddballs. 1. This cover art is just odd, and look at the legs on that man! My boyfriend asked why it looked like Doctor Who, making me look at it afresh, and I realized yes, it absolutely reminds me of classic Doctor Who. 2. The author’s name is Booth Tarkington. Booth. Tarkington.
So what’s is about? Making fun of teenagers in love. A boy falls in love for the first time with a girl who speaks in nothing but baby talk the entire time, and he makes a complete and utter fool of himself in the process.
The Good: This book is freaking hilarious. I laughed out loud very hard a few times because the book transcends time and is still very relevant today. Tarkington nails teenagers, their awkwardness, and antics in the name of love. Baxter’s exasperation with his younger sister and the embarrassment she causes him have been explained to me many times over by every friend I’ve had who has a younger sibling.
All of the teenage characters involved in “love” are ridiculous, and they’re juxtaposed against the other rational characters. The love interest makes me cringe because she’s just so bad, yet all these boys are blinded by her beauty while everyone else is cringing as much as the reader. We follow William Sylvanus Baxter, and Tarkington uses him to showcase how the smallest inconvenience or even something not convenient becomes the most catastrophic, damaging drama for the young lad. The characters are over the top, and I think this book would be amazing as a stage play (there is a film adaptation from 1940 I might give a try).
The Bad: Who Baxter ends up with makes me uncomfortable. I was going along with the book having a good time, and then the ending made me cringe in a bad way. If I ever read it again, I’ll probably just skip the last chapter.
The Ugly: This book is full of racism. It was written in 1916, so times were different and what could be said was very different. Just be prepared for that because it kind of sneaks up on you.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book immensely. The only other books to make me laugh this hard were written by comedians. I definitely want to see what else Booth Tarkington wrote.
Who would enjoy it? If you have a teenager, I think this book could be a great reprieve for you. You could read a chapter and then look at your child and laugh and laugh; then when they get offended and storm away, you can laugh some more. If you like farcical comedy like Oscar Wilde’s and P.G. Wodehouse’s, you’ll definitely like this book.
Cover photo: I wasn’t actually about to throw the book in the fire. I discovered that Amazon Prime Video has ambiance videos, and I started this book on a snow day with this crackly fire video going in the background.