Treacherous Love: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager by
"Anonymous Teenager" and edited by Beatrice Sparks is
another volume in the Spark's gallery of "diary formats"
works on teen social problems. Treacherous Love deals with
the issue of sexual abuse by a teacher and how the relationship
finally resolves itself.
Treacherous Love is set in a suburban any town, USA. Fourteen-year
old "Anonymous," aka "Jennie," is having difficulty
finding any love in her life. Her parents have separated, her
Dad has vanished, and her Mom is using pills to cope that turn
her into "not Mom." Bridget, her girlfriend, has a boyfriend
and he has commandeered all her time and attention. Into her empty
life comes Mr. "JJ" Johnston, a substitute mathematics
teacher. JJ is funny, eager to listen, and very supportive. He
compliments her, writes her notes, buys her gifts, and soon is
gently caressing her neck and shoulders. JJ has moved from being
"the greatest teacher EVER!" to "MY BOYFRIEND"
and finally, to much more.
Treacherous Love is written in the format of a diary covering
a year in the life of Jennie. Sparks does diaries well, very well.
It was, in fact, the diary format that brought Sparks fame and
fortune with her Go Ask Alice (1971). Since 1971, she has
"edited" a number of other teen diaries on topics ranging
from pregnancy, cults, gambling, HIV/AIDS, and street gangs. The
diaries and "true-life accounts" are supposedly garnered
from Spark's clinical work with troubled teens. There is, however,
some speculation that Spark's books are not real diaries, but
actually composite of her cases or even possibly completely fictional.
It is not for me to debate this issue here, but as a review, I
feel it is my responsibility to mention it. Either way, her books
present very realistic pictures of what teenagers might experience
in rather difficult situations. For Sparks willingness to confront
these very controversial topics in a realistic manner, for this
alone, Sparks deserves praise.
Treacherous Love is excellent book. It is slow paced, but
that is what makes it so believable. JJ is a master at the art
of seduction. His technique is neither too fast nor too much.
His early advances are very subtle and can fall into a "questionable"
or "gray area" for appropriate student-teacher behavior.
[What is and is not appropriate is made clear in the "Question
and Answers" section at the end n the book.] As an adult,
it was easy to notice the subtle ways in which he gently manipulated
Jennie into his web while all the time protecting himself and
his reputation from discovery. Jennie, however, is not an adult
and written from her point of view, it was easy to see how and
why she fell victim to his charms.
Beatrice Sparks is a family and adolescent therapist. She holds
a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Behavior. Her books have won the
American Library Association Young Adult Notable Award, the Christopher
Medal, School Library Journal Best Books, and Quick Pick for Recommended
Reading by the American Library Association. Dr. Sparks was a
1996 National Book Award Judge for Young People's Literature.
Her first venture into teen literature was Go Ask Alice
(1971) that became an instant bestseller and made for TV movie.
She has since edited many diary format works on topics such as
AIDS (It Happened to Nancy, 1994), cults & the occult
(Jay's Journal, 1979), runaways (Almost Lost, 1996)
and teen pregnancy (Annie's Baby, 1988).
Treacherous Love is guaranteed to hold teen readers' attention.
While labeled for "Young Adult" it is neither graphic
in language nor sexual description. It is, in my opinion, appropriate
for young teens and mature pre-teens. If, however, Jennie in Treacherous
Love seems to "goody-two-shoes" for your taste -
try Leslie's Journal by Allan Stratton .
The story line, home situation, and characters are very similar.
One noticeable difference is that main character, Leslie, at fifteen,
is rebellious and tough while Jennie, at fourteen, is obedient
and docile. (To read one is to read the other.) I would highly
recommend either book. I would also highly recommend that parents
read this book and discuss its content with their sons and daughters.
For the teen readers, these books are a safe way to learn the
warning signs of "inappropriately behavior" between
teens or between an adult and a young person.
© 2001 Suzanne Garrison-Terry
Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S.
in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S.
in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University,
and a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological
Seminary. She is currently completing a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual
Direction from Sacred Heart University (July 2001). She is a Licensed
Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor
in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.
Interests in Mental Health: I am interested in the interplay between
psychology and spirituality. My current research focuses on the
role of hormonal fluctuation during puberty, pregnancy, and peri-menopause
as a stimuli for mystical experiences. Through the study of autobiographical
accounts of the mystical experiences of "historically accepted"
female Christian mystics and additional biographical information,
I am analyzing the connection between the onset of mystical experiences
and biological data/symptomology for the potential existence of
hormonal fluctuation or irregularity. If this sounds like an unusual
topic, nota bene how many medieval female mystics began having
"vision" on or about the age of 40!