Carla is the new girl at school, and somehow she’s been voted to be in the auction for the Fall Ball. The rumor is that it must be a joke being played on her by Troy Lester and his friends, and Carla agrees. After all, she’s no prize, or so she imagines. But when Troy bids on her–and wins–at the auction, she’s not sure what to do.
Though my last experience with romance novels was somewhat less than satisfactory, I thought I’d give them another shot, though I didn’t want to commit too much time to being so fair-minded. So, I read The Girl in the Painting by Eve Bunting, a “Fastback Romance.” Despite being bound as a single book, it’s really more of a short story–a little more than five thousand words, I guess.
The story was written in 1978, and I don’t know if it’s just me, or that time marches on, but the way the girls were talking about being sold in the auction, and fetching a good price, was distinctly creepy to me. It was also weird that Carla skipped a class to go home and do housework while she tried to decide what to do. Okay, sure, I might clean a room when I’ve got something on my mind, too, but frankly, after all the talk of selling the girls, it just struck me as having unfortunate implications.
These things aside, though, the story isn’t bad. Bunting manages to fit in a little moral ambiguity in the 37 pages of The Girl in the Painting: as it turns out, initially, Troy did have Carla voted into the auction as a joke, but he came to see that she was an interesting person, and ‘bought’ her because he really wanted to go to the ball with her. There’s complication, provided by Lorraine, and the resolution is fairly satisfying.
One further note, regarding the cover. The two people on the cover don’t match Carla and Troy (who I suppose they’re meant to be) at all. Neither is wearing glasses, and, frankly, there’s no way the girl on the cover could be mistaken for being unattractive. I suppose they wanted the cover to be appealing, to sell the book, but it’s a shame, given that the message of the book is that it’s what’s below the surface that counts.
The Girl in the Painting is a decent, quick read, if you can find it, though I wouldn’t go out of my way to get a copy. It reminds me of the short stories that filled the anthologies we used in English classes in middle school–not a bad thing, but nothing worth writing home about, either.