So, the best thing about the Betsy books is that they are funny and honest without being overly moralizing or sentimental. The second book is even better than the first one, and it speaks to the pressures of being a young woman in a society that places so much importance on a certain “feminine” ideal.
Betsy is now a sophomore in high school. Her relationship to school has definitely improved, though she (still) has yet to learn the importance of academic writing over purple prose (don’t worry, Betsy—I definitely had to learn that lesson throughout my academic career). A handsome and mysterious new boy has wound his way into town, and all the girls are a-twitter. Yet somehow, Tony Markham has selected Betsy. She feels uncertain that Tony could be excited about her, and so she becomes aloof and disinterested in the bookish things that used to entertain her, even changing herself to become “Betsye.” But could Tony love the real Betsy—in spite of herself?
The struggle to be oneself in spite of an exciting love life is super relevant today—sadly. I think that Betsy represents the problems many young women face, but she does so in a way that feels realistic. And I have to say, I love the relationship Betsy has with her family. They are supportive and sweet without being too saccharine. Also, Betsy throws some hilarious shade on Elsie Dinsmore (the world’s most didactic and Mary Sue-ish of books). I am all about that.