June Allison Gibbons: The Pepsi-Cola Addict
This novel is the only work published by June Allison Gibbons, best-known for her relationship with her identical twin sister and their crime spree and subsequent incarceration (see main page for more details). The book was published by a vanity press, for which the sisters paid £700. It has a Courier-like typeface and lots of typos. There are very few copies left in the world. Despite its obvious interest as the only work of Gibbons, given her story, it is not a bad book, even if not great literature.
Gibbons and her sister, Jennifer, wrote stories, using their dolls as models. These stories often related to American teenagers with troubled lives, even though the girls had never visited the United States. This one is set in Malibu and concerns Preston Wildey King.
Preston is fifteen and lives with his mother and sister, Erica. His father is dead. He has two obsessions: Peggy and Pepsi-Cola. We meet him at the beginning of the book, using $5 to buy a pack of 32 cans of Pepsi-Cola. (It has to be Pepsi; he does not like Coco-Cola.). We will later learn that he has probably stolen the money off his sister. He drinks Pepsi-Cola incessantly, obsessively. It causes him some problems. Firstly, he does not have much money to get it. Secondly, he seems, not surprisingly, to need to urinate frequently. Thirdly, it seems to have affected his love life with Peggy. Finally, throughout the book he is often listless and irritable, which may be put down to normal teenage issues but the excessive consumption of Pepsi-Cola cannot have helped.
He had been dating Peggy but she had broken it off, at least in part because of the Pepsi-Cola problem, and is now dating what Gibbons calls a super-jock, Curt Miller. During the course of the book, he will try to resume relations with Peggy and partially succeeds, as they continue to have an on-again, off-again relationship. This involves meeting Peggy’s father (a police officer), Curt Miller (who beats him up) and Lisa, Peggy’s sister, whose hobby, she says, is dating her sister’s boyfriends (she tries with Preston).
Preston is something of a loner but he has a best friend, Ryan, and often hangs out with him though, from the beginning of the book he seems less keen than Ryan on doing so. We eventually find out that Ryan’s motives are not just for friendship but because he is in love with Preston and wants a homosexual relationship with him. Preston is horrified at the thought, particularly when Ryan sexually assaults him.
Whether because of teenage issues or the Pepsi-Cola (or both), Preston is struggling at school and frequently plays truant (or hookey as Gibbons might have said). His mother is concerned and so is his teacher, Mrs Rosenberg. She offers to give him extra help with his maths and he goes to her home for that purpose. Her husband is currently away in Europe for a long period and, gradually, she seduces Preston, who more or less acquiesces.
It is Ryan who suggests to Preston that they rob a local store, with Ryan’s brothers. Preston is at first reluctant but eventually goes along with it. However, while the others are grabbing the money and causing mayhem, Preston sees the Pepsi-Cola cans and starts drinking. He is still drinking when Office Kennedy, Peggy’s father, arrives. His time in prison is not too happy, as a guard makes a homosexual approach to him, and a fellow inmate stabs a guard in front of him and he is nearly blamed. Even when he is released, things only get worse.
Preston may be seen as a typical teenager, unhappy, sexually unsure of himself, perhaps missing his father, no idea where he is going, missing his girlfriend. However, Gibbons adds an extra and original twist, with the Pepsi-Cola addiction. Yes, it could be seen as a surrogate for marijuana, glue-sniffing or some other drug but given it is a (fairly) innocuous substance, it does give the book an extra dimension particularly as we see Preston obsessed with getting his Pepsi, even at the expense of his own liberty. The book has something of a melodramatic ending but, overall, it is not a bad book.
First published in 1982 by New Horizons