A Coming of Age Story

Stuck at the Starting Line

Susan Gelberg

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Although this book takes place in the 1960's, many girls today experience confusion and anxiety about whether they will be able to have a positive romantic relationship with a boy. The story is about how sixteen-year old Diana Campbell gets off to a happy start with Steven Erickson, a boy she meets in Canada while vacationing with her family on their island in Rainy Lake. He is respectful, affectionate, and careful to ask her before they share a first kiss. During the year at home after that summer, however, she makes a bad decision to go out with a Bill Moore, a boy who is has dated many girls. On their first date, Bill expects her to move more quickly into physical intimacy than she is comfortable with. Because he keeps pressuring her on that first date, her refusal to do so makes him angry, and he ends the date. Later that night and in the weeks after the date with Bill, she questions her ability to date any boy. She continues to write Steven, but she begins to wonder if he will also expect the kind of things Bill pressured her to do. Her anxiety symptoms make it difficult for her get through the day. She stops dating and withdraws from everyone but her closest friend, Laura. She has little awareness that her symptoms are in part due to her date with a boy who did not consider her feelings and instead insisted on trying to force her to do whatever he wanted her to do. Initially, she is unable to reach out for help with her anxiety, but she eventually discusses her misgivings with her older sister, Julia. Her sister helps her see that she needs to develop the ability to think for herself rather than bend to the pressures of others. Because Julia is more experienced than she is, she gives Diana advice on how to effectively navigate through the process of meeting boys, making decisions about whether she wants to get to know them, and being able to follow her own instincts with self-confidence. The book is for those teenage girls who may feel "stuck" about moving from friendships into romantic relationships. The author draws from her own teenage experience with how she healed her severe anxiety about physical intimacy. The story is is partly fictional and partly autobiographical. It also reflects the author's professional experience as a psychologist helping young people enter into positive, satisfying romantic relationships.

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