is the anti-romance. No sympathetic characters, no personal growth, no love, no happy ending.
A common theme of romance novels is individuals helping one another to heal emotional wounds. These may result from childhood trauma or abuse, oppression by family members or society in general on the basis of gender, appearance, reputation, etc, or experiences of violence, grief, or betrayal. If this were a romance, Sandy would come to grips with her unhappiness, the shallowness of her existence, and falseness of her mother's and peer group's expectations. She would grow as a person and acknowledge her true desires. And she would have better sex.
None of this happens. The book contains sex aplenty, but no sensuality and no affection. The characters are alienated from one another and from themselves. In fact, they are written to be incapable of growth, flat and sterile as paper dolls. Sandy's inability to see those around her, even her own family members, as real people who must have thoughts and needs, signs her own emotional retardation. She is not a person, she is cipher for a demographic of women whose crippled condition Blume wishes to convey.
If I believed that Sandy was a real person -- that people were really this flat, this stupid and selfish and incapable of thought or growth, I would have to rethink a number of the philosophical underpinnings of my life. For instance, I might shift from believing that every individual has inherent worth and rights to agreeing with eugenicists that inferior specimens should be euthanized or sterilized (Sandy and Norman don't seem like they'd miss the kids, anyway). However, I don't believe this. While I buy that not everyone can succeed in overcoming early childhood conditioning and free herself to find a more fulfilling life, I don't accept that anyone is this boring. I've met people who seemed
this boring, but we are in Sandy's head and there should be more there. My father used to tell me, There are no normal people, just people you don't know very well yet.
Blume doesn't do the "normal" people justice.
I was tempted to theorize about Sandy being a repressed sociopath. That would explain her utter lack of emotional connection, and there are those fantasies of violence against her husband...
But in the end I decided that would be too interesting.