The Mundane World
Sam Albertson is a 12-year-old girl growing up in an idyllic Midwestern suburb. It’s the summer of 1970, and Sam and her three best friends seem preoccupied with innocuous summer fun – raising money for a tree house, tormenting neighborhood boys, swimming and playing red rover.
The Call To Adventure
The girls’ budding adolescence is beginning to complicate their lives. Sam feels particularly confused as a result of her parents’ recent divorce her mom’s quick turnaround into the dating world. She feels betrayed and loses all trust for adults. Sam begins to see the world as an unfriendly place. She becomes obsessed with the paranormal and the town legend of Dear Johnny, a boy who was mysteriously killed in their neighborhood years ago. Sam feels compelled to find out what actually happened to him.
Crossing The Threshold
Sam convinces her friends to bike ride to the next town over, which has a library containing old newspapers that might help them solve the Dear Johnny mystery. The trip symbolizes their developing need for independence and “answers.”
The Path of Trials
Sam learns a lot about life during and after the girls’ trip. While riding on a country road, the friends encounter a vagabond Vietnam vet who tells them to think for themselves and not believe everything they’re told. Sam takes this advice to heart. Later, Sam goes to visit her friend Teeny, who also has family problems. Until this point she has not told any of her friends about the divorce because she doesn’t want to be stigmatized. Sam breaks down and confides to Teeny, who comforts her. Sam feels less alienated after their conversation and rediscovers that she can trust people. While walking downtown with Teeny, Sam drops a bracelet in a sewer and goes after it. She gets stuck in the sewer drain and nearly downs until Crazy Pete, the town recluse, appears and rescues her. Teeny and Sam gain a new appreciation for Crazy Pete.
Master of Two Worlds
Finally, Sam and her gang find the true story of Dear Johnny in her grandmother’s attic. Dear Johnny and his mother were murdered by a burglar who broke in while Crazy Pete – who turns out to be Dear Johnny’s father – was out at the bar. The girls come to terms with the fact that bad things happen in the world outside their sheltered town. Sam confronts Crazy Pete, who still feels guilty for his wife and son’s deaths. He advises her: “Things will happen in your life that you can’t stop, but that’s no reason to shut out the world.”
Although reverent of Crazy Pete’s wisdom as a child, Sam does not fully understand his words until her adult self (a jaded, commitment-phobic writer played by Demi Moore) reunites with her best friends in their hometown. The women renew their childhood vow to always support each other. Sam learns that relationships are worth taking risks for.
Submitted by: Emily Lawrence