Parent Involvement: Talk about being nice to people
You guys! I’m so sorry for my big delay in reviews! I’ve had some stuff going on, and, if I’m being honest, I knew Tenney 4 was coming and may or may not have gone into Ph.D. in Procrastination mode 😛
I have to do a little bit of a disclaimer here. Tenney Grant is why this blog exists. I was so excited when it was announced that AG was releasing a boy doll, and even though I hadn’t personally been closely following American Girl for a several years, I decided I wanted to read the books. When I did, I was horrified. Tenney is not my generation’s American Girls. For her first three books, she is intolerably bratty. Brattiness isn’t a horrible thing, almost all AG characters (and certainly humans in general) have their moments of brat behavior, those moments are – say it with me – Learning Opportunities. What makes Tenney horrendous is that NOT A SINGLE PERSON IN THE BOOKS REALLY CALLS HER ON HER ATTITUDE. In fact, her parents are more likely to scold the dang dog than they are to EVER say No to or correct Tenney. Ugh. This child makes my blood boil.
Anyway, when number 3, Tenney Shares the Stage rolled around, it turned out to be arguably the worst American Girl, and children’s book I’ve ever read (ok, so Z On Location really gave it a run for it’s money, but Tenney 3 still wins). I decided that with my lifetime of positive experiences with AG, it may be the only brand on the planet that I would normally not have any hesitation about just letting kids read any book in the line. Tenney showed me that while over 90% of AG books are great and educational, there are apparently some that are really problematic. And I wanted to give parents fair and honest reviews they are able to read more quickly than the entire book. From that point, the idea evolved and turned into this blog.
All that being said, I have not reviewed Tenney 1-3 yet. Mostly because I’m dreading it and would rather get an unmedicated root canal than crack them open again, and also because I really don’t want to come off as an AG hater, because I’m not. I just don’t know what in the world they were thinking publishing Tenney in the state she was.
My review of those three books can be summed up with this: Just don’t. If your kid has not read them yet, just don’t. Pretend she doesn’t exist because there is almost zero redeeming quality until book 4, and then it is just because it’s the best book in the Tenney saga, not because it is A GOOD BOOK.
So, Tenney, thank you for being such a son-of-a-bacon-bit that the trust in the American Girl brand suffered. Way to be you, girl.
It does require a short synopsis of the events of the previous books to truly review the 4th.
From his introduction, Tenney and Logan have had an extremely contentious relationship. And it has seemed like almost all of that contention has been on Tenney’s part. She’s bratty in every area of her life, but something about Logan brings it out like nothing else. In the first book, Tenney tries out for a record label at the Bluebird Cafe. She doesn’t make the cut. The owner of the label feels that she is just too inexperienced and immature to be signed yet. She essentially throws a hissy fit, and because of that fit, the record label owner gives in to her, agreeing to not sign her, but to be her “manager” while she grows into her full musical ability, on the condition that she work with 14-year-old Logan, who he has been mentoring for a while. Tenney (12) is spitting tacks she’s so angry that she has to be part of a Duo, because she thinks she’s good enough to just be an acoustic act with her guitar. Whatever, girl. So that’s her beef with Logan. It is unrelenting for the first 3 books. And she can be downright nasty to him, and by nasty, I really mean verbally abusive. Then, if he snaps back at her she squeals like a little Chihuahua all the way home to mommy and daddy to explain how horrible Logan is, to which they say “Oh honey, we’re so sorry. Just remember that Zane (Record label owner) wants you guys to work together to prove you are mature enough to sign with him, maybe he’s testing your maturity by making you work with with Logan.”
Basically, Tenney is the emotional twin of Little House on the Prairie’s Nellie Oleson. Except she’s supposed to be the hero, not the villain. It’s not a comfortable experience.
Book 3, Tenney Shares the Stage is when the whole scenario changes from her being an annoying Nellie Oleson character to something more horrific. Tenney still has a major chip on her shoulder with Logan, who is suddenly acting even stranger than ever. Any adult reading it can call that something horrible is happening at home for Logan by page 2 of the book. All of a sudden, he starts showing up to rehearsals and falling asleep. He is late or sometimes forgets his appointments. His mom (whom no one has ever met) keeps forgetting to pick him up every day. His bike is broken, but he still tries to ride it, turning away offers of help because it’s “no big deal, he can manage.” He’s HUNGRY. When Tenney’s dad offers for him to come over to their house for dinner, Logan CRIES. HE CRIES. He tries to hide it, but his eyes fill with tears, and he says “No, thank you, I should go home.” (this is in Chapter 1, by the way). Tenney’s dad insists (I was thinking Tenney’s Dad was actually getting a brain and figuring out there was something wrong with Logan, #WishfulThinking ) and Tenney does what Tenney does best – throws a fit. She says IN FRONT OF LOGAN “Ugh – Dad… Why does Logan HAVE to come over? He doesn’t want to come and He’s not my friend.” (I paraphrase because – remember? Root canals are preferable to opening this book again) Anyway, Logan continues to spiral the drain, Tenney continues to hurl insults at him NON-STOP for the entire book, the adults blame Logan for his problems and “irresponsibility” and they also blame him for all Tenney’s problems, too.
About 2/3rd of the way through the book, Logan is arrested. Turns out, his dad is “gone” they make it sound like he might someday be coming back, but basically they haven’t seen the man in over 6 years because he’s been “Touring Asia with his band”. Right. His mom is working 2 jobs, day and night shift, and Logan is 100% responsible for everything at home, food, cleaning, laundry, etc. and caring for his 6-year-old brother Jude who has life-threatening asthma. One day, he is home alone with Jude when a bad asthma attack comes on, and Logan realizes he forgot to go get Jude’s rescue inhaler from the pharmacy on his way home in the last few days, so he takes off running on foot (broken bike) to the pharmacy to get it, when they get the inhaler, he realizes he forgot his wallet, and decides, for the sake of saving his brother’s life (who is hopefully still alive, alone at home) to grab the inhaler and run, and then bring his wallet back to pay for it. Which he does, and is arrested when he approaches the door with his wallet to pay. He offers to pay, but they want him arrested, so he is. (Yep. You read that correctly.)
The adults in the picture seem myopically focused on the fact that Logan technically shoplifted, and got arrested, not the fact that – hey, this kid needs help. So the parents and even Zane, even WITH all the applicable information, seem overly invested in reinforcing that Logan is a “Bad kid” (direct quote from Tenney’s dad), and that they can’t continue exposing poor, innocent Tenney to such a “delinquent” (Zane said). They go so far, that TENNEY feels the need to come to Logan’s defense. Remember, this means, their behavior is so egregious that Nellie Oleson is trying to convince the town they SHOULDN’T PICK ON LAURA. Tenney starts trying to set up scenarios to prove how awesome Logan is and that he was caught in a bad situation and is NOT a hardened criminal.
This personality transplant in Tenney would be almost heartwarming, were it not for the disgraceful behavior of every person over the age of 20 in the entire book. End of story: Zane reluctantly lets Logan back onto the contract with Tenney, but only if he stays on the straight and narrow, Tenney’s parents suggest Logan bring Jude with him to rehearsals and they’ll watch him. Tenney and Logan seem to freaking finally not be ripping each other apart (One directionally, at least) all the time. Yay. Kind of. More like Yay, I finally finished the book, and American Girls have always had 3 books or less, so I’m done with Tenney, the little…. Ahem. Darling.
And then they announced Tenney: A Song for the Season! Book 4!!!!
Oh, the “excitement” was palpable in my house. There most definitely was screaming.
SO – Song for the Season was Nowhere NEAR as bad as the previous 3. In fact, if this book was book 1, I’d have a much different (more positive) opinion of Tenney.
Tenney and Logan start off clearly better than they were before. They seem to be (almost) friends. Tenney has a generally more sunny attitude and is much more palatable as a person. She has her moments, but no big deal, really. Nothing compared to the previous books.
It lasts until just under half-way through. They are playing a show, the sound system dies and they lose half their performance time while the tech people fix it. Then they aren’t very coordinated in what to play now that they are off the “Set list”. Little Miss Thang is humiliated and lashes out at Logan because he doesn’t agree with her assessment that it was the worst show ever, he urges her to just be happy they could play at all with the sound issues. She verbally takes his head off. He shuts down and is reluctant to talk to her for the rest of the book. Logan’s emotional withdrawal brings out all the worst things about Tenney amazingly rapidly. She really reminded me of a middle school girlfriend constantly pushing her boyfriend for more and more attention, and getting more and more pouty and moody when she doesn’t get it. (yes, this is still only a fraction of her miserable attitude from previous books.)
Basically, there’s a series of challenges that they face without grace, she blames him 150% for things that are somewhere on a spectrum from somewhat related to him to completely beyond his control. She even starts a new habit of snapping at him while they are on stage. Tenney, Bringing Classy Back since 2017.
After 70 pages of Oh-This-Again, she actually has a conversation with the boy and remembers that while not everything is about her, her craptastic attitude doesn’t help. She pulls herself together and starts being nice again. It took being stranded with a broken down van in a blizzard with no cell phone service and the adults walking to the next town and flagging down cars to help for her to figure these things out — but subtlety has never been Tenney’s strong suit.
She writes Logan a song, she does nice Christmas things for people because she realizes that she’s not the only person to be sad they’re stuck in a blizzard on Christmas Eve and she can help cheer people up (Yes, Tenney, that is called Empathy, and it will help you.) They finally get home from their mini tour and she’s grateful for being home, her family and almost sort of maybe happy that she knows Logan. Merry Christmas.
A Song of The Season is the most innocuous of the Tenney books, she is still a total “Mean Girl”, but she’s definitely toned down with her emotional maturing process. Either that, or the author was forced to read her own books by an editor, which I find substantially more likely.
Because of her fairly inexcusable bad attitude, I recommend staying away from Tenney books in general, so that includes this one, even though it’s a solid “fine”. Kids are so influenced by the behavior they are exposed to, especially characters they love or look-up to, and Tenney has an intoxicating story for kids, she’s a musician who plays for audiences, works with important people, etc. But about the last thing that Tenney NEEDED to do with this series is reinforce the Prima Donna stereotype in conjunction with the entertainment industry. But she not only does that, she takes it to her own heights. It’s just not enjoyable, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t think kids need bad behavior modeled and rewarded.
If your kids have already read the other books, this one is just fine – in fact even helpful because she Does tone down her rhetoric and anger, and despite a relapse, is nicer to Logan than usual.
As of this writing, there are no futher Tenney books on the American Girl release schedule that goes to about March of 2018. I guess we’ll see if they leave it here. That would most definitely be my recommendation!
This post contains relectant, but unbiased affiliate links for you to buy your own copy of Tenney, A Song For The Season – if you so choose. 😉