Series: Sweet Dreams #1
Published by Bantam on January 1st 1981
When her father left after the divorce, Mariah lost her sense of family. Now she's lost her special summer, too. Instead of fulfilling her dream to become a writer, Mariah has to help her mother with a house-sitting job in very rich, very snobby Palm Springs.
People with a lot of money make Mariah uncomfortable. Until she meets Paul Strobe, the rich boy next door. Paul's not a snob and he doesn't act superior. In fact, his sandy sandy hair and piercing blue eyes break down all Mariah's defences. With Paul, Palm Springs becomes the most romantic place on Earth.
But Paul has to go into the hospital for some tests and then an operation. He's seriously ill and all his family's money can't help him.
Will Maraih lose Paul, too, just when she's found her first love?
Not to be confused with the novel of the same name by Cecelia Ahern (which was turned into a movie starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank), P.S. I Love You by Barbara Conklin was the first book in the titular Sweet Dreams series (think Harlequin or Mills and Boon novels except aimed at the teenage market).
My previous blog entry on the Sweet Dreams Series provided a bit more detail on the series as a whole but the purpose of this post is to review P. S. I Love You (one of the few Sweet Dreams books I didn’t read when I was teenager) and to kick off my new feature: 80s & 90s YA Fiction (previously discussed here: 80s and 90s YA Fiction).
A word of warning – there will be SPOILERS in this review. I will try to be vague but since this book was originally released in 1981, I am quite positive that anything I say will not spoil anything for too many people. However, if you do intend to read this book in the future (for the first time!) I would suggest looking away now.
P.S. I Love You has the distinction of being the very first novel in this popular romance series. It is, ironically, the only one to not have a happily ever after attached to it. I knew going into this book that it was supposed to be heartbreaking so I was prepared for the twist when it came.
Nevertheless I cannot say it hit me all that hard partially because I was expecting it but also, more importantly, I am not a teenage reader anymore and it is fairly normal for YA novels these days to have hard-hitting themes. However, if I had been reading this when I was a teenager I have no doubt that the ending would have left me feeling quite devastated.
Quite simply, novels of this ilk did not generally have sad endings. This book was quite the anomaly for this series which tended towards upbeat, happy endings where the girl gets her guy (usually learning a life lesson or two along the way).
For that alone, I would be tempted to rate this book higher (I am a sucker for a sad ending – don’t judge!) but unfortunately I just cannot do it. Don’t get me wrong, this book is poignant and sweet, the characters are all likable for the most part and I completely feel for their situation but (and this is a BIG but) the story felt a little juvenile to me at times.
I think that my reading tastes have evolved somewhat over the years (I would hope so anyway!) and this type of novel does not hold the same appeal to me anymore. If I were to have read this when I was a teenager though, I would have been completely blown away by this story. It was exactly the type of book I did love to read when I was younger and I would have probably rated it with top marks.
The story is a simple one. It is about a sixteen year-old aspiring author called Mariah who is unhappy when her mother upsets her summer plans by taking Mariah and her younger sister Kim to Palm Springs to house-sit a rich couple’s property for the summer.
Mariah is initially very resistant to the idea but when she meets the handsome Paul Strobe (who is helping maintain the property) she soon changes her tune. Mariah has always been shy in the company of boys but there is something about Paul which allows her to open up and really be herself. Paul is equally attracted to Mariah and they soon begin a sweet summer romance which looks set to become something more long-lasting.
However, Paul turns out to be seriously ill and Mariah is in danger of losing her first love just as she has found him. Will their love last or will tragedy tear them apart? If this had been any other book in the series I would have said yes to love everlasting (it is not written by Lurlene McDaniel for one thing!) but this book turns this notion right on its head and actually has the balls to kill off the love interest.
It was a brave and bold move and I really have to give the author Barbara Conklin props for such a shocking twist (for the time anyway). As mentioned above, I knew that this was going to happen but even so I still found myself a bit bewildered when the somewhat sappy love story took a side-step into tragedy. I find it interesting that it was the very first book in this series that broke the mould – the rest of the series really stuck to conventionality for the teenage romance sub-genre.
P.S. I Love You is probably the most revered book in the series and I can really see why. The author has an easy, flowing writing style (if a little bit simplistic) which really sucks in. You end up really caring about the characters and I actually wanted them to get their happy ever after even though I knew one wasn’t forthcoming.
The characters and story actually felt more real to me because they did not get to have their expected happy ending. A bittersweet love story it may be, but I can see why it would have been really affective and moving at the time of its release.
So, one book down on my personal challenge to try and read (or re-read) some popular YA books from the 1980s and 1990s. Despite the fact that the book would probably be considered a little immature by YA readers of today, it was still an enjoyable and touching read.
I do wish I had read this as a teen though – I think I would have appreciated it much more than reading it with an adult’s perspective (albeit one who still loves to read YA).
If I had read this when I was a teenager, I probably would have awarded it 5 stars but as it stands right now, I could not possibly rate it that high compared to some of the truly phenomenal YA novels I have read in recent years.
Still, as a piece of nostalgia, it was an entertaining one and I can see the merits the book possesses even though I am a bit past the age (and the time) of being truly appreciative of it.