BEGINNERS' LOVE by Norma Klein


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With that title and the Norma Klein byline, you probably already know exactly what you're getting: a casually confided tale of high-schooler sex/love, in a Manhattan/YA style that's R-rated (with a dollop or two of X). The narrator is 17-year-old Joel, a shy senior at The Willard School for Boys--so unlike his best friend Berger, who's noisy and daring. Still, it's Joel, not Berger, who attracts blond Leda at the movies (Endless Love, of course); she calls him up, inviting him to see a play at her father's theater. (No ordinary occupations for Klein-kid parents: Joel's father is a restaurant critic.) And eventually, after a Simon & Garfunkel concert, furtive necking, and teen-chatter, there's intercourse, oral sex, and an intense-passion phase--though Joel isn't pleased that Leda learned her fellatio technique from a guy named Ramon who looks like Erik Estrada. But that's only the beginning of the downswing in the Joel/Leda affair: Joel is displeased with Leda when she comes to dinner (""If only she hadn't worn that damn blouse without a bra! If only she didn't talk so much!""); Leda manages to get pregnant (she said she was wearing her diaphragm); and, after a quickie abortion, things can never be the same. . . as Joel moves on to college and Leda moves on to another boyfriend. As in her previous teen-romances, Klein fills out the monumentally thin material here with mildly comic subplots: friend Berger's wooing of a lady doctor; the upcoming nuptials of Joel's older, swinging brother; bits and pieces involving Joel's hang-loose parents (""Did I mention that my mother is a feminist?""). But despite one very funny line about the Leda/swan word-association, the humor can hardly save this hip urban popsicle: serviceably ordinary as a YA item, negligible as an adult publication. (See Sextet in A Minor, p. 23, for Klein at her grown-up best.)

Pub Date: April 25th, 1983
Publisher: Hillside/Dutton