It’s the return of Old Favorites! This time, with a book for teens. Or mothers. Or people who were teenagers in the 70s. Or the 70s. Or all of the above!
Do people say that you look–or act, or behave–just like your mother? Do you get tired of being compared to her? Have you ever wished you could have met your mother as a kid and figure out if when she says “Well, when I was a kid, we did it THIS way!” it was actually true? Told her that she should be easier on her kids when she has them? Seen what kind of parents your grandparents were? Meet people you’ve heard of, but who were gone before you were born?
If you’ve ever felt that way, you’ll really like Hangin’ Out with Cici, by Francine Pascal.
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It’s been a long time since Victoria got along with her mother. When she was twelve, things were mostly fine. But now that she’s in eighth grade, her mother seems to criticize everything about her, from her messy room to the clothes she wears to her choice in friends. And she’s SO overprotective! Victoria feels like she can’t do anything her classmates are allowed to do. So to retaliate, she picks fights. She complains. She even gets caught smoking at school. She causes problems problems that make her mother despair at her behavior, and to ask Victoria if she actually hates her.
Victoria’s grandmother often steps in and tells her that her mother has a difficult job, and that Victoria should make it easier. That Victoria’s mother caused her own share of troubles when she was young, so she does understand. That her mother loves her, even if Victoria thinks that all she does is pick at her. Victoria thinks her grandmother is cool, and that she has to be exaggerating about her mother causing trouble. Her mother, after all, must have been a perfect kid. As if to prove her coolness, her grandmother even makes peace between them after the smoking incident, and convinces Victoria’s mother to relax her grounding long enough to let Victoria take the train into the city, where she had plans to go to her older cousin’s party.
But even that goes wrong, and after a big fight with her sister, Victoria’s mother is already pretty angry with her when she leaves on the train. But at the party, Victoria gets caught doing something horrible (that she really didn’t do), and her aunt calls her mother. Victoria’s mother is absolutely furious, after everything, this is the final straw. Even though Victoria tries to explain, she is told to leave immediately and come home; her mother even mentions boarding school. Thinking over all the events of the day and everything over the last couple years that led up to the fights with her mother and her bad behavior, Victoria is genuinely regretful. All she wants is for her mother to like her again. Getting on the train to go home, she wishes she could fix what she did. She wishes that she could go back in time and change all the things that put her in this place, to change all the behavior that put her at odds with her mother, to go back in time and… There’s a sharp turn by the train, a pain in Victoria’s neck, and things go black.
She opens her eyes, and she looks at the people around her, who seem to have a very bad sense of style. The train seems noiser and more crowded. The station looks cleaner. When she gets off the train, the conductor calls her “Smiley” and tells her that things can’t be as bad as she thinks–just as he did when she got on the train. But it can’t be the same man; he’s at least fifty years younger than the conductor who greeted her when she got on the train. Maybe they’re father and son?
Victoria soon has bigger problems though. At first she thinks that everyone in the neighborhood is dressed funny for some big event, then she thinks that she’s in the middle of filming a movie, then she thinks that she’s going bananas. She grabs on to the first person who looks familiar–a girl about her own age who says her name is Cici. Cici invites her to join her and Victoria accepts. As they spend the afternoon getting into trouble around New York City, Victoria realizes that Cici is just as much a troublemaker as she is. A kindred spirit! But Victoria knows that she doesn’t know Cici. So why does she look so strangely familiar..? By the time Victoria meets Cici’s mother…a younger version of her own grandmother…it’s obvious that somehow, Victoria has gone back in time. This new teenage mother is fun, but how can Victoria get back to her own time and her own mother to apologize?
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Hangin’ Out with Cici was published in 1977, and was a hugely popular book at the time. (At least, in my school it was!) Francine Pascal, the author, went on to great success as the author of the Sweet Valley High series, followed by Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley University, the Francine Series and the Fearless trilogy. Hangin’ Out with Cici was her first book, and it was followed by two other books about Victoria–My First Love & Other Disasters and Love & Betrayal & Hold the Mayo. Neither sequel was quite as popular as the first book, but they would also rank up there as “old favorites” with many people. Hangin’ Out with Cici was so popular, it was made into an Afterschool Special called My Mother was Never a Kid.
In Hangin’ Out with Cici, Victoria is 14 in 1977; Cici was 14 in 1944. Going in back in time puts Victoria right in the middle of World War II, hanging out with her teenage mother dealing with rationing, blackouts, friends and families with fathers and brothers and grandfathers away at war, relatives that are missing or overseas in the middle of the battles (or worse) and everything else that WWII entailed. Victoria knew that her mother grew up in a time where life was difficult, but the difference between seeing something happen and hearing about something thirty years later is huge. Because of the things she observes and talks to Cici about, Victoria starts to understand more about where her mother is coming from–why she worries and where her strengths originate. Even though her mother is also a bit of a troublemaker who worries her own mother, she doesn’t mean any harm. Victoria starts to understand how she’s hurting her mother with her actions. She also has a couple heart-to-hearts with Cici, which reveal some surprising truths about both girls.
As a teenager, reading the book in the 70s, and knowing that my mother had grown up around the same time, it was a real eye opener. Today’s teens might not have that same awareness, as they’d have to go back an extra generation (or maybe even two!) to find a teenage relative in the midst of World War II. Still, reading this book might remind today’s teen that your mother was a kid once, and is still that same kid underneath. Just with several years of life experience since that time.
The book is out of print, and Weston Library is the only Minuteman Library that still owns a copy of Hangin’ Out with Cici. (Even so, ours has a terrible binding, and is a little fragile.) Our copy was in the Juvenile collection, but after re-reading it, I am moving it to the Teen collection. Some of Victoria’s choices are rather troublesome, so it’s best for sixth through ninth graders. It’s pretty short–only 152 pages–so it’s a quick read. It’s a lot of fun though, and would be a perfect choice for a book discussion group for mothers and daughters.
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If you do read and enjoy Hangin’ Out with Cici, stop by and let me know what you thought!