This book in particular is Driver's Ed, by Caroline B. Cooney (who's claim to fame was The Face on the Milk Carton to give an idea of her style.) Of course, I had to do quite the bit of clever googling to figure this out, because all I remember of the stupid thing is that it involved stealing stop signs and idiot teenagers. Seriously, I remember being ten-years-old, reading the book and thinking that the characters were particularly dumb. I think I was also bored, and I had chosen the book for reading day, or it was my reading for after TAAS testing or something of the like, because there was nothing else to do but read the stupid thing.
Of course, when I was ten, I had the mistaken belief that because it was printed, that somehow gave it merit. So I suffered through it, the bland characters, their cardboard motivations, and melodramatic emoting over -- the big plot point: the stealing of a stop sign. Apparently, a very important, life-saving stop sign that was located at a lonely, barely traveled four-way intersection1 that a young mother manages to have a tragic accident at. Of course, this causes massive angst and guilt, and I honestly don't remember how the book ends, except that the mother doesn't come back to life magically, and her young son grows up without a mom.
And I think somewhere during the massive angst-fest about the tragedy of new drivers causing such chaos, I made a promise myself to not ever be so utterly and horribly stupid as to even think of stealing a road sign, much less the blessed stop signs. I think I may have even considered never getting a driver's license, but thankfully I forgot about that one. Of course, this is a little amusing this morning, and somewhat disconcerting, because just this past weekend my mom and I were in a parking lot that had a four-way stop. And I had a tiny, hardly noticeable freak out session, because one of the signs was missing. (Carried away by the winds of Hurricane Ike, I'm sure, and not careless, 2D cardboard teenagers.) It's only this morning that I finally figured out what that was about.
So, thank you Caroline B. Cooney, apparently I have an irrational fear of missing stop signs thanks to your over-the-top book. You would think my elementary school self would have been mentally scarred by reading the unabridged version of White Fang, and Call of the Wild, and things of that nature. But no, I'm traumatized by stolen stop signs2.
Of course, this has me wondering. Does anyone else have a book they read when they were younger, that they really shouldn't have gotten a hold of?
1 - Of course, being an adult who now understands how road signs work, it makes me stop and think. How the heck was this the stupid teenagers' fault? I mean, yes, granted, stealing stop signs is like the stupidest thing in the world (why would you even want one? They're ugly! And you can buy imitations much cheaper than the tools needed to remove the dang thing from it's post). If it was a four-way stop like I think it was, then logically the other three lanes of traffic should stop at the sign, see the oncoming headlights, and, I don't know, not run into the car, tragically ending Red Shirt Mommy's life. Unless someone was running the still-there stop sign on the perpendicular lane of traffic, in which case... um, yeah, that guy's fault. Not the teenager's. Why on Earth did Red Shirt Mommy not see the headlight's of the other car approaching the intersection?
Or, if I'm wrong about it being a four-way stop, and it was in fact a two-way stop on a major street... what the heck was young mother doing to where she's not paying attention to see all the signs of a major thoroughfare and blithely drive into oncoming traffic? Including, once again, the headlights. I have to confess, I'm starting to get really curious, but the book scarred me enough the first time. I don't think it's worth a repeat performance, is it? And why do I care so much?
2 - I also now resent my elementary school's library for having this book in their possession. Clearly, it was not something a ten-year-old version of myself needed to read. Why was there so much Caroline B. Cooney, and not more Scott O'Dell? His books made just as big an impact on me, but they didn't traumatize me about stop signs. They just taught me to never be stranded on islands in the Pacific, and if I were, to stay away from feral dogs. Or hey, what about Jack London? Or Louisa May Alcott? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? I remember having an enormously difficult time finding any of the classics, yet I was stuck with Cooney, and her thinly veiled moral lessons.