Just Patty, by Jean Webster

33299440Just Patty is the prequel to When Patty Went to College, which was Webster’s first novel. We see the same lovable prankster at school, causing just as much havoc as ever and delighting her fellow students with her scornful disregard for rules and etiquette (from Goodreads)

There’s no storyline, it’s more like a recollection of episodes from Patty’s last year of school. She attended to a boarding school for girls, because of course.
This book began as a huge disappointment. I had high expectations of it, because Daddy-long-legs and Dear Enemy, her most known works, are books that I have read unnumbered times and I cherish them with all my heart.
But the first chapters were dreadful. I understand that this book was written before WW1 and that everything was different and blah, but I couldn’t read it without my 21st century mind, and fear what could a young person today could learn from it (I kept thinking about my 13 years old cousin)
During the first chapter we learn that Patty is, basically, a bully. She and her friends begin to torment their classmates in the aim of “improve them”. Studying too much, being too religious, being a butch, those where the kind of sins they wanted to erase from the other girls… Fat shaming? SURE! Were they punished for their behaviour? Of course not, Patty and her friends are intelligent, vivacious, joyful, resourceful, a role model for everyone! Ugh…
I kept reading hoping it would get better eventually… Luckily, the extreme cringe-worthy events occur in that first chapter. The rest of the book is… ok. Patty is annoying throughout the entire book, and there were always little bits here and there that kept reminding me of how far we have come in terms of human decency, feminism and general common sense in the last century, despite everything.
I couldn’t stop thinking, though, that if I’d read this book when I was 12, I’d probably enjoyed it. That’s a little disheartening.
I’m wondering now whether I would read the other book about Patty or not.

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