Dig out your blue eyeshadow, your body glitter and your Aqua Net, because it’s time for PROM WEEK on Pictorial.
It’s 1983, and high school sophomore Molly Knight wants three things: to pursue a career in broadcast journalism like her local TV idol, the glamorous Faith Campbell; to date the most popular boy in school, sad-eyed Duncan Grover; and to attend a formal prom.
That is the premise of Dream Prom, a teen romance from the imprint “Sweet Dreams,” labeled as appropriate for readers 11 and older. The book shared a publisher with and there are in fact ads in the back for the Sweet Valley High series.
We meet Molly the morning after her Sweet Sixteen party, which was a huge success because her crush, Duncan (!!!) attended, slow danced with her, and left her a note afterward saying he wants to get to know her better. VERY MAJOR. Unfortunately, Duncan takes too long to call and instead she hears from his best friend, Matt, who wants to take her out. She says sure—but only as friends!
During their hang, she tells Matt about her grandmother from Mobile, Alabama (our heroine lives in New Jersey but has a Southern mom), and how much she’d like to attend a formal:
“We have a trunk filled with the white gowns she wore to all the balls,” I said dreamily. “White ball gowns, white shoes, and white doeskin gloves. Even white orchids, dried and pressed into the pages of books....
“All my life I’ve dreamed of going to a ball like that. A formal ball where all the girls wear white billowy gowns and flowers in their hair and long white gloves. I’d fix up one of my grandmother’s gowns to fit me and—oh, I’d give anything to have a magical night like that!”
Basically, she desperately wants to attend the ridiculous 1950s prom we covered earlier this week—which was even held in Mobile. Unfortunately, it’s 1983 and the formal-industrial complex is still clawing its way back from the casual ‘60s and ‘70s: “I’d been around Landon long enough to know that the school always held a dance for the seniors, but I also knew that even though everybody called it a prom, it was a laid-back affair, and nobody got too dressed up.”
But not this year, though. Matt offers to make her dream come true: This year, it’ll be a proper affair, and he would be happy to take her. She demurs—she doesn’t want to date Matt, she wants to date Duncan. Nevertheless, he gallantly insists the invitation will stand.
Anyway, Molly quickly gets together with dreamboat Duncan, who promptly asks her to the prom. Her response is, of course: “I’d love to go to the prom with you, Duncan. You have no idea how much. You’ve just made a dream of mine come true.” Only, the course of true love never did run smooth. You see, Duncan is about to flunk English, which means no graduation and no prom. He stubbornly refuses Molly’s help studying, because—hand to God—when Duncan was young his dad had a heart attack and nearly died and basically gave up on anything that might be a strain or excitement, leaving Duncan to do everything himself. This jeopardizes Molly’s dream:
And what about me? What about my dream? It was such a perfect, complete dream—the prom, Granny’s white gown, and Duncan. It was going to be the night of my life, the kind of experience you remember until you are old and gray, just like Granny. And I’d always know that it had to happen with someone I cared for a lot. That was part of the dream, part of what made it so magical.
Oh, why had Duncan asked me to the prom? Now I wished he’d never invited me. First he’d taken my dream and made it real, not just fantasy. And now he’d destroyed even the fantasy. I almost hated him.
They fight over this several times. One tiff is resolved after she’s interviewed about a paper she’s written by—you guessed it!—her local TV idol Faith Campbell.
Oh, meanwhile, she tells Matt thanks but no thanks and he should take her friend Maria instead, who totally adores him, but he insists on keeping the offer open because—hand to God—his older brother got a dishonorable discharge from the Army and he refuses to go back on his word, ever. That is, until Molly gets a job working at the local radio station and her boss decides to give her a segment launching their new feature, “From the Teen Point of View,” and she talks about when a promise isn’t really a promise and Matt sees the light. Hallelujah!
Finally, Duncan accepts her tutoring, they study like hell, and he passes English. Only now they’ve got tension over whether Molly is happy for the right reasons. All she cares about is prom—doesn’t she care that he can graduate and go to college now?
Nevertheless, they make it to prom, and Molly realizes what’s really important, which is not prom but rather her relationship with Duncan. Not that we don’t get a very thorough description of her look:
Then I went downstairs to wait for Duncan to pick me up. I didn’t even look in the mirror again. Strangely, I lost interest in my white ball gown, my white gloves, and white high-heeled sandals. My trembling stopped, and my doubts vanished. I wasn’t worried about how I looked. I’d pulled my hair into a pile of curls on the top of my head and held it in place with two rhinestone hair combs. Little wisps of hair fell over my forehead and curled daintily around my neck. And I wasn’t thinking about the pearl earrings Mom had held out for me just an hour before.
“This is a lovely prom, a wonderful night,” she tells her sad-eyed hunk. “But you’re worth ten-thousand dreams, a million proms. It’s you I really care about, not some silly prom. You, Duncan. And only you.”
Truly, a Dream Prom.