Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Trouble With Wednesdays (1986) by Laura Nathanson

Becky's biggest problems at the beginning of this book are her messed up teeth and her lazy parents who expect her to do all of the cooking and cleaning. Her top two eye teeth are longer than they should be, causing a mean girl at school to call her a vampire. However, things are going to get so much worse.
Becky's orthodontist is her father's cousin, who is seeing her at a discounted rate. (There is a thing about Becky finding out at the end that she hadn't been going there for free, but it really doesn't make what he does any more horrifying so I wish this part had been left out.) Right away, Dr. Rolfman behaves inappropriately with Becky, feeling her up in the dentist chair. On subsequent visits (not sure why she would have to go every week for a retainer, but she does), he gets even bolder, rubbing up against her before she can escape out the door. Becky immediately confides in her parents what has happened, but they do nothing. Her mother tries to reassure her that the end result of getting straight teeth will be worth it while her father plays dumb. In one frustrating scene, the dentist molests Becky right in front of her mother. The reader logically thinks she is about to be rescued, but the mother turns her head to what is happening. This is a calculated move by Dr. Rolfman to show Becky that no one will help her.
Becky becomes extremely depressed and withdrawn. She stops caring about her appearance and avoids her best friend. Finally she runs into her teacher on the way home from a particularly traumatizing appointment. Ms. Markham guesses right away what is going on and contacts authorities.
The story ends on what is probably an unrealistically happy note. In the epilogue, which takes place nearly a year later, Becky's parents have put down the liquor and pills and have become loving and attentive toward their daughter. Becky switches to her friend Hilary's dentist with apparently no post traumatic stress so she will even be able to get her straight teeth. Dr. Rolfman is put in a mental institution near his grown children. As typically happens, he had had a history of being inappropriate with young girls before Becky. Even though the story wraps everything up too neatly, as with Don't Hurt Laurie by Willo Davis Roberts, you are glad to overlook it because the likeable protagonist has been through so much that you want a happy ending for her.
Through all of this there are some classroom scenes with Becky's sixth grade gifted and talented group. The dialogue doesn't ring as true here as it does in other parts of the book. Still, the author had potential and it's unfortunate that she apparently didn't go on to write any other books.