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Childhood relinquishes its grip as the 1950s lure Mandy Rossiter into adolescence. For Mandy it is a time of comparing her body’s physical changes with that of her peers. When a classmate “gets into trouble” and old wives tales flourish.
Mandy feels robbed of identity as her friends wear makeup and trousers and her parents hold old-fashioned views.
Then one day an older boy pursues Mandy. The type her father forbids her to see, wearing stovepipes, slicked back hair, smart-ass, dressed all in black.
It is a time of young love. Of temptation. And betrayal.
Mandy’s story begins with the gift of a diary and her friend Peggy’s Big Secret.
Meant for her eyes only.
Today Sally doesn’t wait till I show up to play records, she comes racing up to my place. I’m already outside, waiting for Gordon to come past and I’m beginning to think I missed him.
“Here,” Sally says, shoving a thick book into my hands. She flicks a silky black ringlet over her shoulder and grins at me stupidly.
“What does it look like? A diary! A five-year diary. So you can start writing in it today.”
I gaze down at the book and brush my finger over the picture on the cover. “A lucky Leprechaun. Thanks, Sal!” I beam at her. Sally’s been my special friend ever since she arrived in Auckland.
Sally Kearney and her family come from Belfast in Northern Ireland. They wanted to get away from all the shooting, dodging bullets when they went out shopping, or to school.
Sally loves telling me all this. From the very first day when she realised she shocked me, she reminds me. Every day it seems she remembers new stuff to tell me.
Today it must be something good because she’s grinning like the Cheshire cat in Alice In Wonderland.
“So, are you going to tell me?”
Sally’s eyes sparkle and she says, “Guess what? I’ve got a secret. You’ll never guess. It’s already in my diary. Write it in yours, if you want. That’s what they’re for. Secrets.”
I hug the diary to my chest, thinking how lucky I am to have it. “Oh, I love secrets. What is it?”
“Ella’s bought a new record?”
As Ella spends heaps buying new records I figure it’s a good guess. Sally’s sister is old, about thirty, I think, and she has this neat gramophone. At times she lets us play it, and we take turns cranking the handle. Then we have fun, singing along, dancing to the music. I love Vera Lynn’s “The White Cliffs Of Dover” even though Sally reckons her music is a bit old now. And when Perry Como sings “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes”—ooh ooh. I get goose pimples and shivers scamper along my spine.
We play that song over and over; it’s a wonder we don’t wear it out. Ella is never selfish with her records. Now if it was my sister—well, I know Josie would keep them for herself.
“Better than that,” says Sally, tapping her foot. “You’ll never guess!”
Sally has green eyes with flecks of gold in them, like a kaleidoscope. Today they look brighter than usual.
“Tony has asked you to the flicks?”
“Not yet.” Sally screws up her nose. “But he will. That’s not the surprise.
“I can’t. Just tell me.”
Sally giggles, jumping up and down like she’s about to pee in her pants any minute and I know something really good has happened. Maybe her brother’s back from visiting his grandmother in Ireland.
“Peter’s home?” As soon as I say it I realise it can’t be the secret because Sally would just have announced her brother is home and I wouldn’t be playing this annoying game.
“No. Guess again!”
She’s really getting on my goat and I feel like thumping her, bursting to know her secret.
“Come on, tell me!”
With Sally prancing around and grinning like crazy, I spot her buckteeth and this gives me a clue.
“You’re going to get braces?”
By this time Sally can’t wait any longer and neither can I. She leans over and whispers in my ear. Her breath tickles my skin and I can smell toothpaste.
“I've got my period!”
My mouth drops open. My stomach does a funny little dip, like it’s dive-bombing right to my feet.
My mum calls it your pain but Sally has been talking to me for ages about periods so I know what she means.
I narrow my eyes at her. “So what?”
I’m jealous because she sounds so excited and all and because I’m only thirteen I’ll have to wait ages for it.
It’s not fair!
Then Sally says, “I’m a woman now, Mandy. Look.”
She whips her skirt up above her waist and turns her back on me.
She bends over.
By now we’re in the empty garage, so she must feel safe enough to flip her skirt up like an umbrella on a gusty day. Dad could come in or anything.
“While I will admit that at the start of the book I wasn’t too keen on this story, I cannot recall where Mandy Rossiter pulled me into her world and made me want to stay there. Ms. Otto writes in a poignant way which makes the reader feel Mandy as if she was there and the reader was her best friend. The reader is taken along this journey, and sometimes is terribly frustrated to be only a silent observer, wanting at times to laugh with Mandy, bash her on the head when she is about to do something stupid, and cry with her when her life goes hay wire.
Mandy’s story is one any woman can relate to, because we’ve all been there at one point, be it in different eras or decades. At heart, Mandy is the girl in us.
Thanks Ms. Otto for having caught this elusive essence of growing up in this book.” – Zee, Enchanting Reviews, Dec 2007
“Judith Otto is the author of My Eyes Only, a wonderfully written book for youth and adult alike with deep emotions exposed and truth that stings. This is an absolute pleasure to read. Bravo!
Otto allows us into the diary of thirteen-year-old Mandy Rossiter. This sacred journal is the maingate into her world and its complexities of home, school, boys, and religion, set in the 1950’s and all that entails. You will find yourself comparing her friends with your friends from junior high and high school. You will not be able to help yourself because these characters have crossed that invisible line from make believe to reality. It is raw and it is magnificent.
My Eyes Only is destine to become a classic, sharing the stage with the likes of Bridge to Terabithia. This fine piece of crafted story-telling is a must read. Having a first publication of this book would be wise as it will become a collector’s edition in due time.” - Reviewer: Cheri, Euro-Reviews
4 Books! “My Eyes Only is a compelling read, whether you are a young adult or older. This work is evocative, annoying, and utterly impossible to put down. The main character – who is in many ways a typical 1950s teenager – is frequently not admirable. Mandy seems to lack a moral code of conduct. She’s frequently coarse about topics we’d like, for niceness’ sake, to be a little more circumspect about. The story, from the outset, does not fit perfectly into any classic genre, but blends several.
The easy to identify with main character you will dislike, admire, and be fearful for (sometimes all at once.) There are a lot of elements to this story; it could easily be labeled the classic young-person’s journey/coming of age story, but the elements of romance and incredible interactions of various characters (some nice, some not so nice,) are terrifically important. Friendship – and how we treated our friends, is important; and this reminds us.
This book offers a perspective on the world’s expectations and on human interaction from the perspective of a teen. Confusion, self-doubt, self-consciousness make for an uncomfortable read at times – but it’s a discomfort you might well identify with, or at least, remember. And, although we foresee all kinds of doom for Mandy as she makes poor choices, there is that chance that she could develop into a nice person. She just might find that person who makes her want to do all the right things… for all the right reasons.
This work takes so many unexpected turns, and visits things like risk, betrayal, anger, and grief, all alongside self-discovery. Truth is, I can’t say I loved this book – but I read every word in one go, and I’ll not soon forget it.” – Snapdragon, The Long & Short Of It Reviews
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 194
Paper Weight (lb): 8.2
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