Monday, June 22, 2015

Final Thoughts on the Cherry Ames Series

I owned a Cherry Ames set for around eight years, intending to get around to reading them.  I had trouble getting motivated, because the books never appealed to me.  I am not overly fond of Vicki Barr; the books are okay but not stories that I greatly enjoyed.  I have always suspected that I would rank Cherry Ames about the same as Vicki Barr. 

On this page, I ranked the different series books that I had read up to that time.  I suspected that Cherry Ames would get ranked a "1" like Vicki Barr.  Now that I have read the series, I can report that I was correct.  I rank Cherry Ames somewhere between Vicki Barr and Melody Lane on my list.  For me personally, this is a below average series.

The Cherry Ames series has many fans but is not my type of series.  The books are not bad, but they are not the kind of books that I greatly enjoy.  The books are too sentimental and get hung up on great detail.  I am not interested in nursing, so the detailed descriptions of nursing practices were not of interest to me.

It didn't help that I didn't like most of the people who are important to Cherry.  I especially didn't like Dr. Joe or Midge.  Midge outright annoyed me.  I didn't even feel much for Cherry's family.  I strongly disliked Cherry's first suitor, Lex.  I also didn't like her second suitor, Wade.  I only slightly liked most of her later suitors.  Cherry's nursing friends were okay, but I didn't like them much, either.

Cherry doubts her abilities in book after book.  It's logical in the first few books, but by volume 10, Cherry's lack of confidence is ridiculous.  This is particularly jarring during the Julie Tatham books.  I suspect that Tatham read the early Cherry Ames books and modeled her books after those.

I found Cherry's constant job-switching to be quite annoying by halfway through the series.  I feel like the series would have been stronger if Cherry had stayed with a few of her jobs for more than one book.  Cherry's nursing jobs all seem very important to her.  If so, why does she abandon them so easily?

I noticed strange changes in the series towards the later books, and I have to question whether Helen Wells really did write all of the later books that were credited to her.  The changes make Cherry Ames seem more like Nancy Drew.

Several higher-numbered books mention Cherry going to church.  There is no reason to mention church anymore than there is reason to mention Cherry going to the bathroom.  Most all series books never mention restroom needs, other than baths or showers.  Even though series book characters don't use the bathroom, they do go to church, at least in some Grosset and Dunlap books of the 1960s.  This is most prominent in the Nancy Drew series, so I was interested to see it appear in some Cherry Ames books.

When church is mentioned, it is usually just a single sentence, and it has nothing to do with the plot of the book.  It's like mentioning church was a requirement of the books at that time, just like with the higher-numbered Nancy Drew books.

By #24, the series fell in line with the other Grosset and Dunlap books of the 1960s.  I have to wonder how much editing was done on the books.  #24 is eerily similar to other Grosset and Dunlap travelogue books of the 1960s.  I would have thought that the book was a product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate if I didn't know better.  #24 uses the word "swarthy" more than once.  I don't recall this word from any earlier Cherry Ames books.  Did an editor place "swarthy" in the book, or did someone other than Helen Wells write the book?

Here's what I thought of the books.

Greatly enjoyed and wouldn't mind reading again:

 8. Visiting Nurse
 9. Cruise Nurse
13. Clinic Nurse
14. Dude Ranch Nurse
15. Rest Home Nurse
17. Boarding School Nurse
22. Rural Nurse

Enjoyed but probably wouldn't read again:

 1. Student Nurse
 2. Senior Nurse
 6. Veterans' Nurse
 7. Private Duty Nurse
12. Mountaineer Nurse
16. Country Doctor's Nurse
18. Department Store Nurse
20. At Hilton Hospital
23. Staff Nurse

Did not enjoy:

 3. Army Nurse
 4. Chief Nurse
 5. Flight Nurse
10. At Spencer
11. Night Supervisor
19. Camp Nurse
21. Island Nurse
24. Companion Nurse
25. Jungle Nurse
26. Mystery in the Doctor's Office
27. Ski Nurse Mystery

I see this series as divided into three parts:  the early Helen Wells books, the Julie Tatham books, and the later Helen Wells books.

Early Helen Wells:  #1-8
Julie Tatham: #9*-16
Later Helen Wells:  #17-27

*#9 was credited to Wells but was written by Tatham.

Let's see if there's any pattern as to which books I liked the best.

Early Helen Wells:  greatly enjoyed one book, enjoyed four books, and disliked three books

Julie Tatham:  greatly enjoyed four books, enjoyed two books, and disliked two books

Later Helen Wells:  greatly enjoyed two books, enjoyed three books, and disliked six books

My opinion is mixed for all parts of the series.  It looks like Julie Tatham has the edge, although I didn't like all of her books.  I definitely dislike the later books in the series the most. 

I am going to sell a good many of the books in my set.  I only bought these books to try, never expecting to like them greatly.  My experience was about what I expected, although I did enjoy some books greatly.  I plan to keep the books I enjoyed greatly plus some of the books I overall enjoyed.  I will sell all of the books that I didn't enjoy.


Right after I finished writing the previous part of this post, I began reading Biff Brewster #2.  I had tried reading Biff Brewster just before beginning Cherry Ames and found that I couldn't get interested in reading #1 again.  I decided that since I didn't especially enjoy reading Cherry Ames that trying Biff Brewster again might actually work, as in I might be more receptive to the series than previously.

I noticed a great feeling of relief as I read Biff Brewster #2, and that feeling strengthened as I began reading Biff Brewster #3.  I didn't enjoy every single part of the two books, but I enjoyed them far more than most of the Cherry Ames series.  This made me realize how difficult it was for me to get through all of the Cherry Ames set, more so than I realized as I read the books.

In conclusion, most of the middle part of the Cherry Ames set, which includes some books by both Tatham and Wells, was a pleasure to read.  The last part of the set was a bit torturous, and the first part of the set was also fairly difficult for me to enjoy.  Now that I have moved on to another series, I have decided that I will likely sell most of my Cherry Ames books.


Homeschool Mom said...

Given the time they were written, they certainly were designed to appeal to one of the few professions acceptable for young women. Don't you think the changing venue was to add interest as with Nancy? I should think it a challenge to combine continuity with enough change to be interesting. I am surprised there wasn't a series about a young teacher--maybe there was, and I just don't know about it--but a teacher wouldn't offer as many opportunities for exotic locations or exciting scenarios.

Do you oppose the inclusion of references to Church? I noted quite a few, as you mention, in the Nancy Drew series.

Thanks for your review.

Jennifer White said...

I agree that the changing venue is interesting, and no doubt it is a positive to many readers.

I am neutral on the reference to church, but it always jumps out at me when mentioned just for the sake of mentioning it.

As I read Cherry Ames, I thought about how a series would play out if it were based on a teacher. I think it would be just as rough on me if done in a similar style to Cherry Ames. I can imagine my boredom while reading multiple chapters on how to plan lessons, how to teach students on all levels, and how to motivate students. Yuck. And yes, I am a teacher, but I don't want to read about it in great detail. I avoid all online teacher groups because I don't want to immerse myself in it in my spare time. I also don't want to read about math, either, for the same reasons. I like teaching it, but I have better things to do in my spare time.

As an aside, I read recently on Facebook that Rudy Nappi (Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys cover artist) never painted again after he retired because it was his work. I'm like that with respect to my profession.

I do like books set in schools, but I don't want to read great detail like I had to regarding Cherry's profession. I am glad that all of the nurses who love Cherry Ames are able to appreciate the descriptions.

On that subject, my reviews of this series have likely been disturbing to many people who love it. I apologize if that was the case. I recall that I have had several readers clamoring for me to review the Cherry Ames books over the years. I probably disappointed them. We don't all like the same things, and not everyone will like all of the different series. Most of the appeal of this particular series completely escapes me. It's just not my thing.

Amanda said...

I've only read a few of the Cherry Ames books myself. As someone who had to visit the doctor excessively as a child, it's difficult for me to read books or watch television and films about the medical profession. While the medical descriptions were probably to add depth to the text, I was surprised how much the medical issues did not bother me. Perhaps the profession just isn't interesting to you.

As to mentioning the church frequently, the historical time must be taken into account. 'Going to church' in the 1960's was something everyone did, like going to school or the grocery store. It was also the center of social life. The best comparison (from the series I know best) is how often in the Dana Girls series the books mention the girls head to class. It's an every day way to change setting and move onto the next step in the plot. I also wonder if since the books were written for children, perhaps a bit of morality may have been thrown in as well. I think the church mentions pop out to our modern eyes is because so few books today and in the past few decades mention church at all, let alone visiting frequently, I imagine to be inclusive and not offend.

Jennifer White said...

My original reason (10-20 years ago) for not wishing to read the Cherry Ames series was a strong aversion to anything having to do with hospitals. I am not certain from where the aversion came. It probably was linked to the time I got stitches in the emergency room when I was seven, and the doctors and nurses questioned me because they thought my parents had hurt me. No, I jumped off the heavy swing set glider, stupidly sat up, and it whacked me in the face just like I kept saying. They didn't believe me, but at least they finally let me go home. Additionally, my grandmother was hospitalized for quite some time before her death when I was a teenager, and that was unpleasant since we knew she wasn't going to get better. Hospitals are stressful places.

I don't watch television hardly any these days; I'm too busy reading. But when I did watch television, I never chose shows with doctors and hospitals because of my aversion to the setting. I don't watch television hardly any these days; I'm too busy reading. But when I did watch television, I never chose shows with doctors and hospitals because of my aversion to the setting. I always chose westerns or shows like the Waltons that were set in the past, like what I like to read.

And I've mentioned that I am not interested in medicine or nursing in the slightest. I had gotten past my aversion to the setting enough that I was finally able to read the books, but I still didn't like them much.

Homeschool Mom said...

I really enjoy your reviews--sorry if I sounded otherwise. I understand your thoughts about hospitals as well. Thanks for sharing all you have learned and experienced from these series with us!

Jennifer White said...

I didn't take your comments as critical; it's that I've been feeling bad about not liking this series much. In the day or so before this post published, I decided to write a comment containing something similar to what I ended up writing. I knew I had disappointed fans of Cherry Ames, several of which had really wanted me to review the series.

Homeschool Mom said...

I have probably asked you this before, but have you read/reviewed the very short Ginny Gordon series? I think that is probably the first such mystery/series I read--it was my Mom's, and I really liked it. I see them here and there at book stores.

Jennifer White said...

I read a Ginny Gordon around 10 years ago and didn't like it, which is kind of surprising since Julie Campbell Tatham wrote them. I believe most Trixie Belden fans like Ginny Gordon. I'd like to give Ginny Gordon another try, hopefully sometime in the next year.

Homeschool Mom said...

I need to get my few out again and see if they were as wonderful as I remember! Have a great weekend.

Chris said...

I am not much of a Cherry Ames fan either (the Sue Barton series is better) but I was reading one of them and a set of twins - a brother and sister - were described as "identical twins!" Bad enough in any series, but inexcusable in a nursing series..

re Ginny Gordon - the series did flop, compared to Trixie, especially, but how can you not love a series book in which the kids set up a Lending Library! If you are going to try the series again, go with that title first...