Friday, March 28, 2014

My review of Pat Boone's Twixt Twelve and Twenty...

I almost forgot about dear Pat Boone, patriarch of four very well-scrubbed daughters and author of his very own self-help book geared toward teens…

Pat Boone offers advice to young folks... circa 1958

Aug 16, 2013 (Updated Aug 16, 2013)

Review by knotheadusc in Books

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros: Some interesting reading, especially about Pat Boone's upbringing. Unintentionally funny.
Cons: Out of touch with today's teens. A little weird.
The Bottom Line: I'd read this strictly for fun, not for its intended purpose.

I have kind of an odd obsession with Pat Boone and his family. It started when I was a teenager and read a book written by his daughter, Cherry Boone O'Neill, who had suffered from anorexia nervosa for many years. Later, I read his daughter Debby's book circa 1981, when she was 25 years old. Then, I read daughter Lindy Boone Michaelis' recent book about her son Ryan Corbin's traumatic brain injury. Having read all these books from the Boone family, I decided it was time for me to read Pat Boone's 1958 classic, 'Twixt Twelve and Twenty.

My copy of Boone's book is a second printing, which was published in 1973. It has a new introduction, written for the teens of the 70s. I got quite the kick out of Boone's chirpy foreword for the new generation. He writes on page 12:

"So pull up a chair. Turn down that Carole King, James Taylor, Seals and Croft, America, Chicago, or Elton John record-- and let's talk! We've a lot to say to each other!"

Really Pat? In the early 70s, did young folks really feel like you were the same role model you were in 1958?

The book's title is the same as one of Boone's popular songs from 1959. In 1973, were kids listening to Pat Boone? Maybe if their parents were. I know in the 70s, Pat Boone was still doing a lot of touring with his family. His daughters were performing with him and it was four years before Debby Boone became a household name.

What this book is about…

This is a book of advice for teens written by Pat Boone. Written in quaint, 50s era prose, the then young Pat Boone, was at that time barely 24 years old and already the father of four girls, born in about three-and-a-half years. He had married his wife, Shirley, very young and they were dedicated Christians. At that time of his life, Pat Boone was a member of the Church of Christ. His book is liberally peppered with religious dogma and homespun tales of growing up. Pat Boone's mother was apparently very much a proponent of corporal punishment, as was Pat himself. He writes on pages 30 and 31:

"I didn't become a good Christian overnight. In fact, I got my last spanking when I was seventeen... It never mattered to Mama who started fights. She finished them with the sewing machine belt and both of us [Pat and his brother, Nick] leaning over the bathtub."

Pat continues:

It had been a long time... since the last one and this time, neither of us cried. We were too old. That shattered Mama."

Both Cherry and Debby, Pat Boone's oldest and third daughters, have written about how Pat Boone spanked them until they were legal adults. In 'Twixt Twelve and Twenty, Boone makes it clear that he thinks spanking is the right way to discipline children. But as this book is for kids, not their parents, it seems odd that he would write so much about it.

Aside from his ruminations about the virtues of a good spanking, Pat Boone also dispenses advice on being "a good Christian", preparing for a happy marriage, dating, finding your life's work, and making appropriate friends. He offers tidbits on what he finds attractive about his wife, Shirley, whom he claims is a very natural beauty who doesn't swear. He also writes quite a lot about Rosemary, a cow he and his brother, Nick, took care of when they were growing up. Apparently, she supplied them each with the gallon of milk they drank each day. Having her was a "necessity", as were all the other animals the Boones cared for; they were not "gentleman farmers", you see.

My thoughts

Frankly, I kind of got a kick out of reading this short book Pat Boone wrote for teenagers. It seeems pretty hopelessly dated today and I'm sure it would shock a lot of parents. Most kids would not be able to relate to Pat Boone, even though he was quite young when he penned this book. Even as a young man, he's hopelessly "square". Curiously, he did get letters from young admirers in the 1950s, some of which inspired the chapters in this book. I thought it was pretty funny when, on page 106, Boone writes:

Too strict parents either literally don't remember their own youth at all, or seem to remember it too well with distaste and fear.

This is the same man who spanked his daughter, Debby, at age 19, because she took twenty minutes to buy candy from a hotel lobby vending machine. He also spanked his daughter, Cherry, for coming home later than expected. Since she was anorexic, there was little fat to cushion the blows and she was left with bruises. Boone also reportedly called his daughters' makeup "war paint" and would make his daughters scrub it off if he caught them wearing it. But maybe when Pat Boone was 24, he was still somewhat "hip" and empathized with young folks more than he apparently did when his daughters became teenagers.

Boone writes on page 107, "Do-as-I-say,-not-as I-do is poor bait for landing teen-agers." And yet, based on books by his daughters, he didn't exactly practice what he preached.


I don't think this book would be very relevant to today's readers. It's kind of fun to read if you're my age or older, though. It's a quick read and there are some pearls of wisdom that still resonate today, mainly the parts about personal hygiene. It's a quaint book, valuable mainly for nostalgia purposes, but not really for the teens of today.


  1. i think it was around five years ago when i read this book from my aunt's library. i found it bizarre then and i find the excerpts you've highlighted bizarre now. Either the '50's teenager was a VERY different animal than today's teens (which is quite possible) or the book was NEVER relevant or both. I'd guess that both are true. i really wonder what was the point of a 1973 reprint. Other than for the unintended humor, I'd say both the original and the reprint are useless as teats on a boar.

    1. LOL… I misread that. I thought you wrote "teats on a beer".


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