Like most of the other titles of the series, this book makes me nostalgic for a time period I have never lived in. I love the old fashionedness of the girls’ concerns about marriage, and the very polite and courtly way the boys and girls interact with one another. I love what a huge deal it is for Julia to visit from Germany, and the way Betsy tries so hard to fill her shoes because of how heavily Julia’s absence weighs on her close-knit family. While no time in history is truly idyllic, Lovelace makes it seem like nothing could be more pleasant than living in Betsy’s time, a fact about these books which undoubtedly contributes to their popularity.
Another great thing about this book is the involvement of Betsy’s younger sister, Margaret, who is so markedly different from either of her sisters. She has always been too young to have much impact on the plot, but now that she is a bit older, it is interesting to read Betsy’s reflections on her relationship with Margaret as compared to her relationship with Julia. I actually found myself even worrying a bit over how empty the house will seem to Margaret if Betsy also goes away from home (which I imagine she does, given the title of the next book, Betsy and the Great World.)
Betsy and Joe would make such a great graduation present, as it really causes the reader to stop and think about the end of high school and what is to come next. Betsy and Joe are also great role models when it comes to dating. They show a great deal of respect for themselves and each other, and a kiss is a major, serious event in their relationship, rather than something taken for granted. I just can’t help but be drawn to the innocence of these books overall, and I wish there were more contemporary reading choices out there with similar values.