The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon (Copyright 1986)
I read this book around 1988 at age 13. It is about a girl who wakes up one to discover that she isn’t 13 anymore, but now age 17. She was in a coma for four years. She also finds out that her mother was killed in the same home robbery attack that Stacy was injured in. Even before she leaves the hospital she’s lived in for four years, she finds that the media is completely interested in her story, calling her “Sleeping Beauty”. (Although, Stacy points out that this is incorrect – when Sleeping Beauty goes to sleep, everyone else in the castle does, too, so they really don’t lose out on anything.) For her, she went into her come before really maturing, and in four years time, suddenly lots of makeup, shrunken jeans (remember those days?), and punk styles are in. Her best friend from growing up comes around to introduce Stacy to what being a teen is all about. Stacy has no idea. She’s still just getting used to how different she looks.
If this story took place now, not only would the media be getting pictures of her, etc, but the other teens and young adults at the party she goes to would be taking pictures of her on their phones, and chatting about her via text and IM. This would have made things even worse, as the murderer is still around and he knows that Stacy might be able to remember who was there in their house that spring day.
Most of the plot of the story is about who did it – who killed Stacy’s mother and robbed Stacy of four vital years of her life. She’s very angry throughout the book. Hey, I would be, too! The killer is Jarrod Tucker. At the party, he is the one who gets her drunk. Stacy has no idea there is vodka in her pop, and it naive enough not to suspect. When I first read this book, I had more dire suspicions – perhaps Jarrod would spike her pop with some kind of poison like cyanide. In the end, when Stacy has a gun pointed at Jarrod, she does not shoot him. She had previously thought that if she had the chance to do so, she would take it, but then Jarrod tells her what her mother had told him: “It’s all right. It’s all right.” This is what spoke to Stacy: yes, he’s right, that’s what her mother would have said. Stacy didn’t have it in her any more to killed him. She says, “I didn’t really have a choice. Jarrod’s life doesn’t belong to me.”
Things I really noticed during my re-read this week:
- Mid ‘80s punk: There is mention of a punk rocker “Glory Beans”. Real? I think not. I never heard of her then, and if you Google the name, you get a YouTube video with some people doing some thing Glory brand beans. I have mixed feelings about using fake musicians versus real people in fiction. Both have their negatives and positives .
- Shrunken jeans: I noticed this during my youth when originally reading it, but tight jeans were really still in then, too. However, 1988/89 is when ripped jeans were also in – so tight ripped jeans. Really lovely. I never ripped my jeans on purpose, but when they ripped from regular wear and tear, that was fine with me.
- The name Stacy: That is a name of my generation. I haven’t seen so much of this name in kids born in the last 18 years or so, at least. One of the Babysitter’s Club girls is named Stacy, but these books started coming out around the time this book was released, so generation-wise, it makes sense.
- The name Jan: This is my middle name, so I always thought that was neat. However, even in 1988 I thought this name was untrue for a teenager at the time. I thought it was more of a name for my mom’s generation. Lately I have noticed that a lot kids are getting more old fashioned names that go back to my grandma’s generation, such as Evelyn.
- Donna: Stacy’s sister is about 21, is married and expecting a baby. We hear that she has promised their dad that she will still graduate from college. It seemed to me even then that the name Donna was very old-fashioned. I equated it to The Donna Reed Show, which we’d seen on Nick at Nite, and to a book from the early 60s that my mom had (and I will discuss here on another date) – Donna Parker at Cherrydale. We never learn what the sex of the baby is that Donna (Stacy’s sister) is carrying. I always felt gypped out of never knowing what happened. I always wanted to know if the baby was a girl or a boy.
- The Pasta Salad: Donna makes Stacy a chicken pasta salad. Stacy doesn’t eat it because she has no clue as to what it is. Donna makes a comment that nobody knew what they were until recently, and she’d forgotten that Stacy knew nothing of the previous four years. I always thought this was funny, because I rarely ate pasta salads either, back then. First, I did not like cold pasta. Second, they often had chicken, and back then, I hated cold chicken. Third, there was usually some kind of dressing on it, and I hated the taste of the dressing. The entire combination seemed revolting.
- Jeff: He is the narcotics officer working under cover at the high school. He helps protect Stacy, and seems as if he’s making a move to be become Stacy’s boyfriend. Stacy doesn’t know what to think. He’s very evasive at times when it comes to questions about himself. It is not until the very end of the book when he takes the gun out of Stacy’s hand that he tells her the truth. It also makes for a somewhat satisfying ending when he tells Stacy he will wait for her – because he doesn’t want to be just her “first love”, but the “real thing.”
I just realized that my paperback copy of this book, like other paperbacks from the 80s, have a page listed other books by the author along with a little order form. Each paperback title is listed under $3 each. I do not believe that book companies do this anymore. People can just go online to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, find the author, read reviews, and order what they want. I don’t do that because I try the library first. I think books nowadays still have lists of other books, but not the ordering forms.