THE SUMMERBOY by Robert Lipsyte


Email this review


Another summer with Bobby Marks, first met in One Fat Summer and then in Summer Rules, sees him proudly applying for a ""truck helper"" job at Rumson Lake's Lenape Laundry. Though to Bobby this is just a college boy's summer job, to be one of the guys wearing Lenape Laundry drivers' caps still seems to him the height of recognized manhood and local acceptance. He gets the job, apparently on the whim of the laundry's playboy-owner, Roger Sinclair, who suggests that Bobby spy for him among the workers; but Bobby still must prove himself to the staff, who resent the summer boy's presence. With the men this proves surprisingly easy--a misunderstanding has them all believing that he's a master of the martial arts--but pretty, militant Diana shuns him ostentatiously on the grounds that he's a management spy. Black marks mount against the stereotypically caddish owner: An old woman employee is injured because of a faulty steam valve Sinclair had long known was unsafe. Bobby's friend Joanie, who's been having an affair with Sinclair (this is obvious to leaders long before Bobbie catches on), ends up getting an abortion, with Bobby, not Sinclair, making the arrangements and accompanying her to the doctor. And then there's Diana, whose esteem Bobby craves. It all leads up to his heroic-finale confrontation with Sinclair and rousing call-to-arms to the workers. This loses Bobby his job (what the hell, the summer was ending anyway) but it wins the workers a significant victory in their incipient struggle for safer working conditions. It's corny in outline and just as corny in the preemptive ironies of the telling (Bobby fantasizes about fiction and film, where the heroes maintain a more glamorous mien)--yet, beyond the calculable series appeal, Lipsyte can be counted on to put a sharp edge on his observations of '50s mores, and to wring some real feeling from Bobby's adolescent rue.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row