Rusty Desmond by Steve January. Avon (1954), 187 pp.
Rusty Desmond, almost fifteen, and her slightly older friend, Patsy, are looking for excitement during their long summer vacation. Parental constraint isn’t much of an issue. Rusty’s mother is barely functional since her divorce, and Patsy’s folks pay little attention to her. Although the girls live in North Hollywood, far from the ocean, they like to hang out at the beach in Santa Monica. There they meet two guys from Westwood, older but still in high school. They pair up: Rusty with Gil, pleasant but insecure, and Patsy with Tige, self-confident but mercurial. Summer does provide excitement but does not turn out as they hope.
In fact, one way or another the girls face more issues than they (or their newly acquired boyfriends) are ready to handle -- gender roles and class differences, drugs and alcohol, pregnancy and abortion, robbery and murder. The book is jammed with social comment but never gets preachy. Even the ending disquisition on juvenile delinquency seems deliberately unconvincing. By that time the author will have taken readers through too much to let them off with platitudes. You have to wonder what modern-day fans of young adult fiction would make of the novel. And speaking of the author: Since “Steve January” is a pseudonym, who gets credit for actually writing this book? Clearly, it’s someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing.