Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley
I grew up reading the entire series (over 35 books) and I will be including the entire series in this as my least favorite book.
I know why I loved them as a child. They were romantic and idealistic and dealt with all the struggles I was going through at the time. (The injustice of a cruel father or so I thought, my struggle for perfection and faith, my desire to be in another place and time.)
I can tell you exactly why I despise them now. I do not know if Martha Finley wrote based on what she knew, but the stories are so blatantly unreal, even fairy tales rank higher on my list of believability. There is no way on earth any child of eight (and continuing into adulthood) can be as perfect and just…perfect as Elsie Dinsmore. I understand that her hard upbringing must have shaped her quite firmly, but even her supposed “sins” show up as more misunderstandings between herself and the other characters (namely, her father).
I cannot stand a story that shows all external struggle with unjust and horrific characters constantly throwing flaming arrows at the poor, helpless protagonist. Not only is that completely unrealistic, but it makes for a shallow hero/heroine who becomes a victim of circumstance. It’s only when the circumstances change and not the character herself/himself that we see a happy ending.
I am sorry, but real like doesn’t work that way. We all have character flaws and true sins we must curb and conquer (by God’s grace) before we can experience joy and happiness. It doesn’t matter if the circumstances do not change then. For our character has been strengthened to overcome those circumstances.