LONG TIME BETWEEN KISSES by Sandra Scoppettone


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Combined with almost fluorescent green lettering, the cover photo of a pensive, bespectacled teenager in spikey purple hair will draw its share of readers into the story--and that begins straight off with 16-year-old Billie taking scissors and dye in hand. Other characters are introduced via their reactions: her mother, a divorced former sculptor who now does carpentry in their Soho loft, is negative but not hysterical; her best friend Elissa likes it; other neighborly denizens of Vinnie's Luncheonette, where the two girls consume endless cappuccino, give their opinion; her spaced-out jazz-musician father doesn't even notice; and his psychobabbling girlfriend Nostalgia is taken aback as she's just given her own hair the same treatment. From here we have Billie breaking up with her unsympathetic boyfriend, who's embarrassed by the hairdo; failing in love at first sight with a young man named Mitch she then discovers has multiple schlerosis; and breaking promises to visit Mitch in order to care for a Vinnie's habituÉ, in his eighties, who's going senile. Eventually, Mitch tells Billie why she dyed her hair: as the no-talent child of artistic parents, it was her way of standing out. But she has a talent for loving, Mitch goes on, citing her visits with him and her care of the old man, but not realizing that Billie's love for him is of the ""in love"" variety. She eventually demonstrates that talent, though, by bringing Mitch together with the Connecticut fiancee he'd run from when m.s. struck. And so Scoppettone brings the threads of her story smoothly together, though at the risk of losing kids who have more respect for punk style. In any case, the trite situations and characterizations limit involvement: Elissa's warmhearted Aunt Ruthie from the suburbs, a Jewish Malaprop of clichÉs (""take the cow by the horns"") who advises Billie, is as clichÉd as her speech; so are Mitch's and his fiancÉe's true love, and the senile old man's pathos; and Billie's father and his girlfriend are so stereotypically awful they just give the impression that Scoppettone has it in for the type.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row