Sunday, May 21, 2017

BSC #55: Jessi's Gold Medal

Tagline: Go for it, Jessi!

Jessi is honored - and surprised - when she's asked to participate in a synchronized swimming competition. Sure Jessi knows ballet. But waterballet is a different story. All that swimming is hard work!

Jessi and her partner practice their routines over and over again. Everyone - especially the Baby-sitters - is expecting them to win the gold. But Jessi's not so sure...

Can she do it?

Although it's only spring, it's super hot already, and Jessi can't wait to get out of ballet class. She loves ballet, but it's just too hot, and Jessi gets the brilliant idea of suggesting to her parents to get a swimming pool for the summer. Her parents are receptive to the idea, and have confessed to having discussed it, but alas they don't have enough money for it. However, they do point out that the community centre nearby doesn't have just one, but rather three pools, and suggests that maybe the family can get a membership. Jessi realizes that she'll be able to take lessons and is all pumped up for a summer of swimming.

Also happening are the Summer Olympics, and so sports fever is in the air. At SMS, they're celebrating by having a Sports Festival. Claudia's creating a logo for it, and considers entering in an event. Stacey decides she's going to swim, while Dawn wants to do something really different like shot put or pole vaulting. Kristy's signed up for several track events. With swimming on her mind, Jessi considers signing up for a swimming event as well. Everyone's pretty excited, except for Mary Anne and Mallory, both of whom hate gym. Kristy deflects the conversation, by announcing that Alan Gray has challenged her to a race, getting the girls all excited about what Kristy will make him do when she beats him.

Coincidentally, the grade 6 gym class has just switched over the swimming for their next unit. Mallory is incredibly pessimistic about the whole thing, citing that the only good thing will be that there will be less time for actual gym class, as they have to walk to community centre. Jessi points out that since Mallory already knows how to swim, she might get put in an advanced class, but Mallory doesn't want to have anything to do with it - or the Sports Festival.

Unfortunately for Mallory, gym class gets worse: they're forced to share pool time with the boys' class, and Mallory has a very very old and childish bathing suit. She tries to hide behind Jessi, but that just calls more attention to her. Eventually, they get in the pool and do a basic swim test to check their levels and abilities. Mallory does pretty well on the swim test, but we never get to hear about her and swimming again, because Jessi does even better: in fact, Jessi's been tapped to join the school's synchronized swim team, which means switching her gym class with her lunch so that she can practice with them!

Jessi excitedly goes to her first practice, where she meets the rest of the team. The team is all excited because up until this point, they've been an odd number, which has made routines difficult. One girl, Elise, has just been partnering with everyone, so she'll now be Jessi's permanent partner. Ms Cox, the synchro coach, has Elise work with Jessi to get her up to snuff. Elise explains that she swims competitively, so she's all strength, but no style, while Jessi, with her ballet training, is all style and no strength. They hope that this will mean that they will be able to complement each other and raise each other up. Jessi has fun, but is also incredibly exhausted by the end of her first hour.

The fun doesn't end there though: Ms Cox explains that the whole team will do a routine for the Sports Festival, and then that each pair will be competing against each other. Each pair will have to choreograph and perform a routine for ranking. Jessi starts to feel over her head, but Elise is convinced that Jessi will be great in no time!

Jessi continues to go to practice, and with each practice, she feels worse and worse. She's exhausted and her and Elise can't seem to get the choreography right for their routine. They both excel in their other athletic pursuits, and are just discouraged by their lack of synchro ability. Jessi really enjoys spending time with Elise, so together they resolve to practice and never give up, encouraging each other to do their best.

Making things worse is all the pressure Jessi feels she has. She puts a lot of pressure on herself, since she never had problems like this with ballet. But she also feels pressure from all the encouragement and support her friends and family give her. They're all convinced that she must be great, and Jessi doesn't want to let them down. Jessi decides to keep her troubles to herself.

Meanwhile, the rest of the girls are very excited about the Sports Festival. Dawn has decided to do the javelin throw, and Kristy is competing against Alan in an obstacle course. It's the talk of the school! It's an event especially for the two of them with the loser owing the winner a week of personal service. Mary Anne still doesn't want to do an event, but clearly wants to be involved somehow. Mallory on the other hand...

While helping their sitting charges practice for the Club's Mini-Olympics (more on that later), Mallory sprains her ankle. It's super suspicious, and even Claudia (who was baby-sitting with her at the time) doesn't quite understand it. Mallory ends up on crutches with her ankle wrapped, told to keep off her feet for several days, until the pain goes away. Coincidentally, this ends up overlapping with the Sports Festival, giving her an excuse to back out. Mallory later confesses that she was just going to pretend that she hurt herself, but in all her gusto, she actually ended up hurting herself, and then carried on with the crutches a little longer than necessary.

It's finally the day of the Sports Festival, and Jessi is super nervous. So nervous in fact, that she doesn't want to get out of bed, which is very unusual for her. Her mother, all concerned, asks what's wrong, and Jessi confesses that she's not good at synchronized swimming, not like she is at ballet, and she worries that watching won't be enjoyable for her family and that she'll let them down. Jessi cries and talks it out with her mom, and eventually leaves for the festival feeling better.

The swimming events are last (since they'll involve everyone having to move to the community centre), so Jessi spends the whole day watching the other events. Kristy comes in second in the hundred-yard dash (and first out of the girls). Claudia participates in a backwards race. Dawn does the javelin throw and doesn't win, but does throw a really nice throw. Jessi runs into Mary Anne running the concessions stand: MA says that she realized that while she didn't want to participate in an event, she did still want to participate, and realized that there were plenty of non-event roles to fill.
The last event before the swimming is the big obstacle course. It's almost an entire chapter to itself, with Kristy and Alan taking turns in the lead. The end result is Kristy, just by a hair.

Finally it's the swimming events. We don't get to hear how Stacey does, because Jessi is too nervous and focused on the two synchro events. The first one is the group event, which Jessi says goes well, with the audience ooohing and ahhing at the appropriate intervals. Jessi and Elise are second to go in the pairs competition. It all goes in a blur, and when it's over, Jessi just sorta feels numb. She can't wait to get home and forget all about it. But first, there's the awards. To no one's surprise, except maybe her own, Jessi and Elise get the gold medal! Elise and Jessi celebrate, but ultimately decide that synchro is not for them: it felt too much like work, and not enough like fun, and it was starting to detract from their preferred activities. Instead, they just go get ice cream and decide to remain friends.

The subplot in this one is super closely related to the main plot. The charges are all super-excited about the Summer Olympics and the SMS Sports Festival, so Jessi gets the great idea to have the Club put on their own Mini-Olympics. Everyone thinks it's a great idea and soon get on board with planning all sorts of events. They have a few traditional events, such as races and obstacle courses, but they also do all sorts of silly events so that they can get the less athletically-inclined charges participating, such as three-legged races and silly face races (whatever the fuck that is? they never explain it haha).

But of course, like with every contest/competition, they run into problems. Some of the kids get super competitive, but the main issues are two charges in particular: Andrew Brewer and Charlotte Johanson.

Andrew really wants to participate and win. But he's only 4 years old. So a lot of the other competitors and the events are too old for him. He gets really frustrated at the practices and is really sad. However, on the day of the event, Andrew shows up more determined than ever. He enters every single event. The last event, a cross-country running type event (they have to do two laps around the entire Schafer/Spier property), things start out promising for Andrew. He quickly gets into the lead and stays there for most of the race. However, he doesn't pace himself properly, and sure enough, by the last lap, he's in last place. He runs into his father's arms, devastated. However, the girls have made sure that there are ribbons for everyone, and Andrew wins "Most Determined". This makes him feel better.

Charlotte's issue is that like MA and Mallory, she's not athletic and is also really shy. She doesn't want to participate at all. Stacey tries to talk her into it, but Charlotte sets her straight. However, Charlotte still wants to be a part of the festivities somehow, so she comes up with the idea to create signs for the event. Charlotte proves that she doesn't have to be athletic to participate and have fun.

Random Thoughts:
  • I have actually never read this one at all! I'm kinda super excited to read it now!
  • This one takes leading up to the Summer Olympics 1992. It's actually really confusing, because they reference a real event, and apparently the Olympics are definitely happening during the course of the novel, as Becca repeatedly watches events and gets excited, but the novel definitely takes place during the school year. In fact, it takes place in the spring. The Summer Olympics didn't take place until July that year!
  • I think it's kinda weak that Jessi and Elise get first place. I think it would have been more poignant if they had come in second: they weren't nearly as bad as they thought they were, but they also weren't suddenly super amazing out of nowhere. It's very cliche to have them win the gold.
  • I like that Jessi is more assertive in this one. It almost makes me hate that she gets lumped with Mallory so much. Jessi has a great idea and brings it to the Club. She also hears about this opportunity to do a new sport and dives right in (lolz pun). She doesn't let anything stop her or hold her back, despite her own insecurities and the new territory she's treading.
  • A lot of Andrew Brewer's problems could have been alleviated by having age categories for the events. I mean, he comes in last place in a race that was mostly other little kids, so obviously it's not a guarantee that he would have won. But they could have avoided a lot of the drama by not having him initially go up against much larger kids. At least that would have saved him from prolonged stress.
  • Mallory is super pathetic in this one. I feel bad for hating on Mallory, but after reading the last one, and now this one, it's really hard to sympathise with her. I mean, I suppose I'm supposed to sympathise with her and identify with her as an insecure preteen who is a klutz, as opposed to all the other girls who are written as extremely excellent in everything they do, but she's just so whiny! She should have just been like, "I don't want to participate, and that's fine!" I mean, Mary Anne doesn't participate in the Sports Festival as an athlete, but she still gets involved and has a great time!
    • Although, I totes sympathize with Mallory and bathing suit dramas. I never had a really juvenile suit like hers (with the ruffles and what not), but buying a bathing suit is pretty much the worse thing ever. And then having to be around the boys? Yep, that is definitely the worst. I still hate bathing suit shopping, but I do now own a bathing suit that I don't mind wearing.
  • I'm guessing we never hear from Elise again? It makes me sad that there aren't more Jessi books. I feel like Jessi without the Club would be super cool.
  • I love when the non-athletic members of the Club get in on athletic fun. Like how Stacey gets Kristy to give her some pointers on how to swim and Dawn decides to just do something completely random, figuring no one will know wtf it is, and thus she can't embarrass herself in front of her peers
    • This is actually one of the few concrete examples of Dawn "being an individual" as the books tout so much.
  • I like how Jessi invited Elise to help out with the Mini-Olympics. You never heard of rand-os helping out with Club events, unless they're very special guests, like Abby's twin Anna, and even then, it's only because the Club is in a pinch, or because the guest is dying or has some sort of serious problem/ailment haha

Sunday, May 14, 2017

BSC Mystery #4: Kristy and the Missing Child


Tagline: Everyone in Stoneybrook is shocked. Jake is gone - for real

Kristy can hardly believe it when little Jake Kuhn is reported missing. Jake is one of the kids on her softball team. And Kristy was the last person to see Jake before he disappeared.

Even though the Baby-sitters and all Jake's friends are helping look for him, Kristy still feels horrible. And when the police can't find Jake after almost two days, things look really serious.

Kristy knows she's just a kid, but she's determined to find Jake. Wherever he is...

The book starts off with Kristy baby-sitting for the Kuhns. Even though they're all members of her softball team, the Krushers, she's never actually baby-sat for them. They're going through a rough time because Mr Kuhn has recently left and finalized his divorce to Mrs Kuhn. The kids all miss him very much, but Patsy in particular is convinced that she's seen her father around, despite Laurel insisting that he's in Texas. Jake is particularly upset because his birthday is coming up, and it looks like Mr Kuhn won't be able to make the party. Furthermore, Mr Kuhn invited Jake to join him on a two-week business trip to Europe, but Mrs Kuhn said no, saying that Jake would miss too much school. Kristy soon cheers him up with talk of the party and distracts him with some softball practice. She even tells him that he might be good enough to become a relief pitcher!

Later that week, the Krushers have a game against the Bashers. They lose, but it's okay because everyone played particularly well. Jake doesn't get to pitch, but Kristy promises him that his time will come soon. They're getting ready to head home, when Kristy notices that no one has arrived to pick up Jake. Jake tells her that Mrs Kuhn has gone to the dentist with the girls, and that he has permission to head home alone. Bart and Kristy tell him to hurry, because it looks like it's going to rain. Sure enough, Bart, Kristy and David Michael are caught in a deluge on their way home, having been distracted by work going on at a construction site.

Shortly after arriving home, Kristy gets a phone call from Mrs Kuhn. She wants to know if Kristy has seen Jake. Kristy lets her know that she let Jake walk home alone, worried that she had made a mistake, but Mrs Kuhn quickly confirms that she did give permission for Jake to walk alone. Mrs Kuhn isn't too worried, figuring that Jake probably got stuck somewhere because of the rain. Kristy doesn't think much more about it.

However later that evening, Mrs Kuhn calls again. She still hasn't seen Jake. However, instead of being worried, Mrs Kuhn is more angry: she's convinced that Mr Kuhn must have kidnapped Jake out of spite for her having said no to the Europe trip. At this point, Mrs Kuhn is not too too worried, but she is starting to get really emotional and worked up. Patsy and Laurel spend the night with Stacey, to keep them out of her hair.

Kristy, on the other hand, isn't so convinced that Mr Kuhn took Jake, and is convinced that something horrible must have happened to him. She calls an emergency Club meeting, trying to figure out if there's anything she or the girls can do. They don't come up with any solutions, and before they know it, it's time to leave. Kristy is briefly interviewed by cops, and then her mom picks her and Shannon up. Along the way, they stop by the Kuhns to see if they can offer any help. Kristy is feeling pretty guilty, and doesn't really want to see Mrs Kuhn, but Mrs Kuhn quickly reassures Kristy that she doesn't blame her in any way, and that she's even more convinced that her ex-husband must have taken Jake. Patsy keeps insisting that she's seen his car.

The next day, Kristy gets the bright idea of rounding up everyone she can think of to do a neighbourhood search/canvas. She gets to school and makes an announcement, recruiting some of the older kids to help lead the search. They decide to meet up at the elementary school with Jake's friends and classmates, and then divide up and search. They search everywhere, with Matt Braddock taking the lead in Kristy's group, checking all of Jake's favourite places. They don't find him though. Kristy goes home feeling sick to her stomach about it all, but puts up a brave face since Laurel and Patsy are with her family that night.

Later that evening, Bart's keeping Kristy company, and she tells him about how guilty she feels about everything. They then see a news report about Jake's absence, and it really gets Kristy emotional. Mrs Kuhn keeps calling all night to update Kristy's mom on the situation (they're friends from aerobics class btw). With each lack of concrete news, Kristy doubles down on her resolve to find Jake.

It's now Saturday morning, and Jake has been missing for about 40 hours. Kristy's younger siblings are all worried about being kidnapped, and even Kristy herself wonders if her father would ever do such a thing to her or David Michael. The adults are all still convinced that Mr Kuhn has something to do with Jake's disappearance, especially since they can't find him. Bart comes over, and he and Kristy get organized to search again.

They spend the day searching, stopping by a convenience store that Jake goes to a lot. The man working hasn't seen Jake, but remembers him and wishes the kids luck. Matt Braddock wants to go searching the construction site, but Kristy points out that it's in the opposite direction from his house. Matt insists, telling Kristy about how they were going to find scraps to build a tree house this weekend. Kristy, remembering how enamored Bart and David Michael had been the other day, agrees. At first, it seems like a bust, but eventually Kristy hears a faint voice. Searching, they discover that Jake had fallen through a hole in the floor, and was trapped in an unfinished basement of a house. Bart runs back to the convenience store to get help, while Kristy stays and keeps Jake company. They rescue Jake, he's reunited with Mrs Kuhn, and everything works out in the end.

Turns out Mr Kuhn was on a business trip in Mexico, and hadn't been to Stoneybrook at all. Patsy was just young and confused and missing her dad.

The subplot in this one is that Mary Anne is failing Home Economics. Apparently she's not great at sewing or setting a table, but it all comes to a head when it comes to cooking, specifically Jell-O. Pete Black and other people in their class all tease her about it, particularly her rock hard Jell-O. She spends the whole book bemoaning the fact that she's failing Home Ec and doesn't know how to pass. Then while she's baby-sitting for the Barretts, they want to make Jell-O. As MA finds the Jell-O mix, she accidentally knocks over a bunch of cookie cutters. That gives her the idea to make Jell-O in a shallow pan, make it more solid than usual, and then cut it out with cookie cutters into fun shapes. It works! So MA decides to write down what she did and submit it to Home Ec. It does the trick, and gets her a passing grade. MA later finds out that there's a recipe on every box with instructions on how to do that anyways haha

Oh, and the middle school does some awards ceremony thing at the end, and Mary Anne wins Most Improved in Home Ec and Kristy gets a special award for her perseverance and subsequent rescue of Jake.

Random Thoughts:
  • I really liked this one and was looking forward to reading it!
    • I really like this one because it involves a very real fear (the disappearance of a child) and is realistic: Kristy and the Club didn't tackle a kidnapper or bust Jake out of a locked basement. They just simply found him.
  • Looking at the cover, again Matt Braddock looks hispanic! But then Haley looks Californian blonde like Dawn and her brother! It's always confused me as to how those two are drawn haha
  • For some reason, I always think that the "Mary Anne fails home ec" subplot happens in Mystery #5 Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic, even though logically, I know that that makes no sense. A Mary Anne book wouldn't have a Mary Anne subplot haha
    • It also makes no sense that Mary Anne is failing home ec. I mean, I'm glad they didn't go with the stereotype of "Kristy is a tomboy and therefore can't do Home Ec!", but it really doesn't make sense for Mary Anne to be failing either. I think it would have been more realistic if she was good at it, but was so shy and her teacher so strict and overbearing, that Mary Anne kept getting flustered and being klutzy, thus messing up recipes and knocking things over when trying to set the table or something.
  • To be fair: when I was her age, I fucked up Jell-O too. But that's because I didn't realize you weren't supposed to make it in a metal bowl. Metal bowls were the only bowls we had big enough for a single batch of Jell-O. When you make it in a metal bowl, it develops a hard crust along the curve of the bowl, and then the rest doesn't set well. This went on for a couple of years before I realized my mistake. To this day, I'm still surprised when my Jell-O actually turns out well, despite the fact that I know that that was my mistake, and obviously don't do it anymore.
  • I like how Kristy says that now Mrs Kuhn has to get a job, because she's divorced and on her own. I guess Mrs Kuhn wasn't allowed to just simply have a job before now?? haha
  • I like how they didn't repeat the whole "ex-husband takes kid to teach a lesson" story from BSC #5
    • Although it's funny, because Buddy is the reason why the girls know Jake and the Kuhns haha
  • This is the one where Stacey mentions popcorn picnics that she has with her mother, when entertaining the Kuhn girls. This actually stuck with me as a child, and now I occasionally like to experiment with seasonings when I eat popcorn. It also really makes me want to have popcorn haha
  • I like how in this one, Kristy acts like a 13 year old, and is treated like a 13 year old. I mean, albeit a mature/responsible 13 year old (no one hides anything from her), but still a child. The cops and parents have quite a few conversations without Kristy. In the later ones, they have Sgt Johnson, who takes the girls super seriously and even treats them almost as equals. It always makes me think that he's a young cop, like 22 years old (despite the fact that his rank is Sergeant, so duh, he can't be that young!) and that the girls are like, 18.
    • Like, to the point where sometimes I forget, and I kinda ship him and Abby together. Especially since one of Abby's reasons for not having a boyfriend in #127 is that she just doesn't find any of the boys at SMS mature/attractive and she just doesn't see a point in her dating any of them. So yeahhhhh... I always forget that he's probably like, 35 at least, and Abby is definitely not 18 haha
      • I may also be projecting my feelings for Veronica Mars (17/18) and Deputy Leo (who's like, 22??) onto them haha
  • I'm surprised the police were allowed to interview Kristy without a guardian present. Now obviously she's not a suspect: they just wanted to know when she last saw Jake, since she's apparently the last one to have seen him. But still. I was always lead to believe that the cops weren't allowed to talk to minors at all without a guardian present. Or is that just on TV?
  • This book has a pretty tight timeframe: everything happens in about a week, with some wrap up stuff happening about a week later.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

BSC #54: Mallory's Dream Horse


Tagline: Mallory's gone horse crazy!

Mallory loves horses. She loves reading about them. She loves writing about them. And most of all, she loves daydreaming about them.

Then Mallory's parents agree to let her take professional riding lessons. It's a dream come true! Mallory is so excited she can hardly concentrate the the BSC meetings anymore. But then the lessons begin and Mallory discovers that dreaming about horses can be a lot more fun than actually riding them.

The book starts off with Jessi and Mallory hanging out at Mallory's house after school. They're reading horse books and talking about how much they love horses. Claire comes into the room, using a mop as a pretend-horse. The girls then decide to go downstairs and watch The Black Stallion, while continuing their conversation about horses. They talk about their dreams, and Mallory says she wishes she could ride a horse all the time.

A few days later, Mallory gets a chance. She's checking the mail, and apparently there's a stable just outside of Stoneybrook giving 8-week courses. Mallory takes the brochure to the Club meeting, and her and Jessi decide that they want to sign up for lessons together. Everything is perfect and Mallory can't wait. She rushes home and puts together a strategy to approach her parents. At first her parents are hesitant, but Mallory wears them down, promising them that it was just a temporary expense and that she'd pay for half. Finally, they agree, and Mallory excitedly goes to tell Jessi the good news.

Sadly, Jessi's parents decide that with all of Jessi's ballet lessons, she doesn't really have the time or money to also do horseback riding. Mallory feels bad for Jessi, but mostly she's disappointed because it means that she has to do the lessons alone. Jessi's definitely jealous and sad, but Mallory's too busy dreaming of riding to really notice.

Mallory's first class is not quite what she expected. Her instructor is very cool, has a British accent and looks like she's stepped off the cover of one of Mallory's horse novels. However, the rest of the class is less than welcoming. Mallory instantly feels left out, as everyone else has proper riding gear, and Mallory's wearing a hodgepodge of things. Everyone seems vaguely standoff-ish, and Mallory is very self-conscious. She does alright in the class, but still feels as though everyone is judging her. However, she survives and things are made better by the fact that she spots her dream horse. Turns out that all the horses in the class belong to the stable, which means Mallory will get to ride him if she wants. Mallory quickly forgets about all the bad stuff, and rushes home to gush to Jessi about her dream horse. She tells Jessi about how wonderful the class is, which of course makes Jessi feel terrible. Mallory can't figure it out though.

At Mallory's second lesson, she makes it a point to go up to as many people as she can and introduce herself. It's apparent to the reader that the other students are only being polite, but Mallory seems to think she's made friends and invites them all to phone her and/or hangout. She also gets to ride her dream horse, which makes things even better. She calls Jessi to tell her all about it, and again, completely alienates her. Mallory goes on and on about how this riding class is just the most important thing in her life right now, and about all the friends she made and how they'll be calling her soon. Jessi, understandably upset, makes excuses to get off the phone. Mallory can tell that something's wrong, but has no idea what it is. She tells herself that it doesn't matter, because she has all these fabulous new riding friends, only then she realizes that she has no way of contacting them. A week passes, and Mallory realizes that not only do she and Jessi not talk, but that none of her supposed new riding friends call her.

Mallory's third lesson is a disaster. Not only do none of the kids really acknowledge her, but she ends up with a nightmare of a horse, and gets bucked right off. Mallory's alright, but badly winded and shaken, so her mom picks her up and takes her to the ER, just in case. Of course, Mallory's crying because of the shock to her system, and the rest of the class is giggling at her. Poor Mallory!

Mallory's mom wants her to give up the lessons, but Mallory's dad says that it should be Mallory's choice. Mallory is feeling pretty embarrassed by the whole situation and doesn't want to compound things further by quitting, so she insists on seeing this through. Her parents agree, so long as she doesn't ride that same horse again. The horse gets replaced, but it doesn't matter: Mallory's confidence is shaken and she's now terrified of riding any horse. She's completely miserable and dreads lessons. Worse, she has to suffer alone, because she doesn't want to admit to her parents that after all the begging she did and the all the money she spent, she hates the lessons. Of course, Jessi still isn't talking to her, because last she heard, riding was the most amazing thing ever. Poor, poor Mallory!

Mallory continues to struggle in class, and the kids are pretty mean about it. However, Mallory thinks she's gotten her big break when one of the girls invites the whole class to her birthday party. Mallory is excited, and spends several days agonizing over what to wear. It becomes apparent that she was trying to dress to impress when she shows up all dressed up, and everyone else is wearing bright and funky teen clothes. Being a rich girl, the party is way out of Mallory's league: about 50 kids, a pool, large sound system with giant TV screens playing MTV. Mallory tries to introduce herself, but obviously no one wants to hang out with the shy awkward kid, so they all quickly make excuses to be elsewhere. Mallory spends the party awkwardly hanging out by the foods table, counting down the minutes til her mom gets her. Upon getting home, Mallory immediately calls Jessi, wanting to fix their friendship and tell her everything. Mallory flubs her words though, and it sounds like she's calling Jessi to humble-brag about the "awful cool kids party with all the music and pizza and stuff". Again, Jessi is all distant, and Mallory realizes that she wants to tell Jessi the truth about how awful riding has been, but that she can't seem to find the words. Instead, Mallory awkwardly ends the phone call, and goes to bed feeling worse than ever.

Eventually, Mallory is down to her last lesson. She should be relieved, but the last lesson signifies a riding showcase. Mallory had hoped to skip the riding showcase, but her parents find out about it and are all excited. The Club finds out too, and they're happy for Mallory, asking her if she's ready for it. Mallory then breaks down and admits how miserable she's been. On the way home, Jessi confronts her about everything, and admits that she was jealous about how great Mallory made everything sound. Mallory realizes how ridiculous she had been and unfair to Jessi. They reconcile and everything is right again.

Finally it's the day of the showcase. Mallory gets to ride her dream horse, which is the only consolation for her. Her instructor lends her a proper riding habit, so Mallory doesn't stand out in the class. Jessi calls to wish her luck, and everything goes well. Mallory is extremely nervous at the show, but with her family and the Club to cheer her on, she gets through it. She even comes in 6th place in her class, exactly in the middle! Her parents are super proud of her, and even offer to pay for the next 8 weeks of lessons. Mallory then confesses to her parents that she hadn't really enjoyed herself much, and that she'd rather not continue. Her parents are surprised, and ask if she's sure. Mallory is: she'd much rather look at horses than ride them!

There's two subplots in this one. Cuz y'know, Mallory can't have a whole book to herself! haha

The main subplot is that Nina Marshall has just started preschool and is having a hard time. She's having separation anxiety and refuses to leave her blanket, Blankie, behind. The other kids notice, and it's really getting her down. The girls try to find ways to convince Nina that she doesn't need him, but Nina remains firm. Then one day, Dawn arrives to baby-sit, only to be told that Blankie is in the dryer. When the dryer is done, Dawn goes to take Blankie out. However, Blankie is so old and worn through that he starts tearing and disintegrating. Nina is, of course, completely devastated. With some quick thinking, Dawn is able to convince Nina that this is for the best: Blankie is now in small little travel-sized pieces. Dawn shows Nina how to hide Blankie so that he'll always be with her, but now he'll be her little secret. It all ends well!

The second subplot is that the younger Pikes decide to put on a talent show with the kids from the neighbourhood. It's super lame. Buddy gets Pow to do tricks, Sean Addison apparently can play the tuba, Nicky learns to walk on stilts, and a few other things.

Random Thoughts:
  • I have always hated this book and was not looking forward to reading it. At all.
    • And now that I have, I was right. I really did not like this book.
  • It's funny, because what frustrates me so much is that Mallory is an oblivious little brat in this: but technically she's acting exactly like an 11 year old! A realistic 11 year old! I guess I got so used to these girls being mightier and holier than thou.
    • But yeah. How could Mallory not realize that Jessi was upset at being left out of riding? It's super obvious to the readers, but yeah. I guess that's kinda realistic haha
  • I really really really liked Mallory's outfit for the party: gold and brown kilt, matching gold cotton sweater, penny loafers. It's totes the exact kind of outfit I'd wear now as a teacher, when I'm trying to pretend to be a grown-up haha But yeahhhhh... definitely a faux pas for a cool kids party at age 11
  • I love how Blankie is such a big deal, but we never ever heard of him before haha
  • Why the fuck would Jessi and Mallory ever want to hang out at Mallory's house if they're not baby-sitting? Okay, maybe once or twice, but seriously? If I was Mallory, I'd be looking for every excuse I could find to get out of the house!
  • I love how Mallory's parents are all like, "Ehhhh... we can't really a one-time 8-week course on horseback riding lessons..." when they've apparently been paying for Jordan to have piano lessons for quite some time!
    • Now that I think of it: what the hell is up with that?? How come Jordan is the only kid who gets to take lessons? I mean, I imagine the rest aren't too keen on piano in particular, but are you saying none of the other kids have ever wanted to do lessons or a sport? I mean, I guess the triplets do Little League (wow! Jordan gets to do TWO things??), but the rest of the kids either do nothing, or do the Krushers, which is free. Mallory asks to do horseback riding lessons, and her parents are suddenly all quibbling. Granted, Mallory did mention that the full price is quite a bit, but that with her covering half, they would be less than Jordan's piano lessons, but still! Poor Mallory has to pay for 8 lousy lessons, and Jordan gets to do all the piano lessons he wants, not to mention him and the twins doing Little League! haha
  • Man, in the past year or two, reading BSC blogs and other BSC fandom things, I read that apparently fans generally conclude that AMM must have hated Mallory, because she's either a total loser or just has the worse luck. I remember her not exactly being the coolest of the girls, but yeahhhhhh... Now that I'm re-reading the series, Mallory really does get the short end of the stick. She's written as a total dweeb in this one, socially awkward, trying to impress cool kids, and then gets thrown off her horse and is terrified of riding for the rest of the book!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

BSC #53: Kristy for President

Tagline: She can run the BSC, but can Kristy handle the whole eighth grade?

Kristy's not too happy with some things at Stoneybrook Middle School. The hot lunches, for example, look like dog food. And Kristy's class has to perform Mary Poppins for their annual play. how babyish can you get?

What the eight grade really needs is a new class president. Someone who is organized and has great ideas. Someone like - Kristy!

But can Kristy coach a softball team, get straight A's, baby-sit, run the BSC, and be president? The Baby-sitters are about to find out!
It's Friday, and Kristy can't wait for the weekend. But first, there's an entire school day to get through, including an assembly. Things quickly fall apart when Alan Gray and his friends get everyone to think that there's a fire drill and Kristy's all distracted and not paying attention. While critiquing their disgusting hot lunch, the girls tell Kristy that she should run for class president. Kristy's not too sure about it, and wants to spend the weekend thinking. However, she doesn't get much of a chance to, on account of having to watch her siblings in the morning, then baby-sit in the afternoon. She can't even hang out with Bart when he calls! Still, the girls keep hounding Kristy to run, and eventually she decides that with their support, she'll do it!

Kristy gets Claudia to be her campaign manager, and Claudia helps Kristy to design all sorts of posters and things, as well as chooses her wardrobe for her speeches. The rest of the girls help pitch in to get everything organized, and they run over the other candidates in the running: Alan Gray (who nobody takes seriously), Grace Blume (who everyone hates on account of Cokie Mason and who they think is snobby), and Pete Black (who they... reluctantly admit to being okay haha). Kristy figures with all the talent of the Club behind her, there's no way she can't win!

Things get complicated though when their principal announces that in addition to the Campaign Day before the election (as well as all the postering and general campaigning that Kristy and everyone was doing before/after class), they were also going to have to do two speeches and a debate. Then later that week, there's another meeting called, but Kristy already has a conference lined up with her English teacher! Her teacher is giving her a chance to do better on an assignment. Kristy makes it to the meeting 10 minutes late, and then later is running late for her sitting job at the Kormans. She figures she can do her homework there, but finds the kids are more maintenance than usual. Kristy then decides to put off her homework til the morning.

Kristy manages to get her homework completed, but the next thing she knows, it's Campaign Day, and she has to get to school early to set up. Kristy feels like she's the only candidate taking things seriously, even though Pete is as well. Alan and Grace clearly aren't. Alan comes to school dressed as a bunch of grapes (the grapes being balloons that students can pop) and Grace has borrowed a video camera from her parents and has it hooked up to a TV so students can film themselves and see themselves on TV. All in all, it's a disaster, as the students are far more enamored with Grace and Alan's silly shenanigans than Kristy's genuine effort. To make matters worse, Kristy remembers that she has an incredibly important science test the next day, as well as her usual obligations of dinner, homework and Krushers practice. Realizing she can't do it all, it's with a heavy heart that Kristy cancels the Krushers practice.

It's a few days later, and Kristy's running herself ragged. She's disappointed in herself because she's failed the science test, and she's not usually the kind of person to fail things. Her teacher however, gives her a chance to re-do it the next day, so Kristy heads home with the intention of spending the whole afternoon and evening studying. However, David Michael reminds Kristy that she had rescheduled the Krushers practice to then, so Kristy has to spend the afternoon doing that. Claudia then phones her that evening to remind her of the speech she has to do the next day for the campaign.

Kristy ends up staying up half the night, unable to sleep, worrying about everything and trying to cram everything in. The next thing she knows, it's morning and she has to give her speech. Grace goes before her, and her speech is awful: one sentence per cue card (with a ton of pausing between cards) and all sorts of popular promises that she can't keep. Kristy goes next, and when she stands in front of the audience, she realizes that her friends are all sitting apart from each other, so that wherever Kristy looks, she'll see one of them. Her speech goes fairly well, although Kristy feels it could have gone better with more practice and sleep. Alan's speech is just to yell at everyone to get up, then yell at everyone to sit down, and then to cite that that proves he can be a leader. Pete's speech is also fairly serious.

After the speeches, Kristy runs off to retake her science test. To her dismay, not only does she fail it again, but she does even worse this time around. Kristy realizes that she's doing too much and that she needs to get organized. She makes a list of everything she has to do, and sets out to do it, however it soon falls apart. She's late to a Club meeting because she went from school, to baby-sitting, to doing homework, and lost track of time. Her science teacher has called home to let her mom and Watson know about her grades. Kristy decides she needs to cut back on baby-sitting, while the girls remind her that she has another speech to prepare for the next day. Upon arriving home, Kristy is soon buried by a series of phone calls, reminding her of how she's neglecting her friends and everything in life.

Finally, Kristy decides to drop out of the race. Her speech is all about that. At first, her friends are shocked, but ultimately they're supportive. Kristy gets her life back together, and in the end, Pete wins the election.

The subplot in this one involves Jamie Newton. He sees all the bigger kids riding their bikes past his house, and decides it's time for him to get one too. So he gets a brand new bike with training wheels.  However, even with the training wheels, he's too scared. He insists on practicing all the time, having someone holding on the whole time (despite the fact that with training wheels, there's no way he can fall over). But even so, he's still terrified, needing every single twig, leaf, speck of dirt, taken out of his path, and he can't turn his bike around without getting off of it, and he's barely peddling. Still, he perseveres. Eventually, he gets fed up, and decides to get the training wheels taken off, since the big kids don't use them. Of course, that just makes everything worse. Finally one day, some of the kids from the neighbourhood stop to talk to Jamie. They admire his bike, but tell him he's moving too fast. He needs to learn to ride it with training wheels, then take one wheel off at a time. This parallels Kristy's journey of realizing that she's also trying to do too much all at once.

Random Thoughts:
  • It's funny, because I don't particular remember liking this one as a child, and I wasn't super excited to read it again. I never hated it, but it never stuck out to me either. Re-reading it now, I like it a lot. I relate to Kristy wanting to do everything, getting overwhelmed, and eventually having to realize that enough is enough. This especially spoke to my experience in high school. So yeah, I really liked this one. I like the books where Kristy's a little vulnerable, realizes that she's not infallible and that she can't do everything, when she gets to show a bit of emotion.
  • It took me awhile as a child to ride a bike without training wheels. I think I was 7 years old before I tried. My dad was never home, and my mom was no help, so it was up to me, hence me taking so long. Finally my neighbour helped to teach me and got me going in one day. Anyways, there was a time before I got my training wheels taken off where I wanted to be like the big kids. We'd all race around on our bikes, riding to the park, and the big kids would dump their bikes on the ground and run to the swings. So of course, I'd dump my bike to the ground too. Except, with training wheels, my bike would stay standing, so I would PURPOSELY LAY IT DOWN ON ITS SIDE. I was a crazy child haha
  • I really like Pete Black. I wished we could have seen more of him over the course of the series. He seems cool. Poor guy was a mess when Laine was around; it was the only time he'd ever been written as lame. I like that he ran for class president and won. I also like how Mary Anne keeps pointing out that Pete's a legit candidate and would do a good job. It again makes me ship them together haha
  • It's strange how in this one, apparently Mary Poppins is lame, but isn't that Stacey's favourite movie? And I know later on they decide to do a production of Peter Pan. So Mary Poppins is babyish, but not Peter Pan? That makes no sense!
    • Also: the plays they propose instead are like... so not middle school appropriate. I don't even know a lot of high schools that do them: A Raisin in the Sun (I though Jessi was like, only the second black student to be at their school; how would they pull off this play??), Our Town and The Glass Menagerie
  • Again, I don't understand why the girls buy their lunches (or buys the hot lunch) if it's apparently so gross? Dawn always brings her lunch from home (and the girls tease her cuz it's all healthy foods, but hey! It's food that she likes!) and I'm pretty sure Stacey never eats the hot lunch, but instead gets like, salad and an apple or brings her own. Why would you waste money on gross food you don't like?? When I was in high school (no cafeterias in our middle schools here), I would either bring lunch from home, buy one or two choice items from the cafeteria (actually our food was pretty good, although the sandwiches/burgers were always on the small/pathetic side), or just not eat at all!
    • I like how it's always meatloaf. I'm pretty sure it's been meatloaf in the past, and I feel like on TV and in movies, it's always meatloaf. I don't think I've ever seen meatloaf served in a cafeteria here. Also: I really really really really hate meatloaf. Like, really.
  •  The girls decide to campaign outside of their school, putting posters in the windows of shops and things. There's a little strip mall right down the street from my high school: so all the students go there during lunch and what not. I could see MAYBE putting posters there... but honestly? This just seems like a dumb idea to me.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

BSC #52: Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies

Tagline: How much trouble can a bunch of babies be?

Mary Anne can't stop thinking about babies. First she starts baby-sitting for a pair of adorable baby twins. Then she and Dawn decide it would be great to have a little baby brother or sister of their own.

But Mary Anne learns that taking care of a baby is a big responsibility when she and Logan have to play pretend parents to an egg "baby" for a special class at school. "Sammie", their egg, has to be watched all the time, and Mary Anne and Logan barely have time to breathe. Taking care of a "baby" isn't all it's cracked up to be!

Mary Anne's chilling at home with Dawn, and she's contemplating families. Dawn mentions that she saw the Shillaber twins' new baby brother the other day, and she and MA start dreaming about having a baby sibling of their own. Dawn points out that her mom isn't too old to get pregnant, while MA says that they could always adopt the way Kristy's family did. Eventually the conversation turns to the new Short Takes class they were taking: Modern Living. It would be a class to show the kids how to be financially responsible and how to take care of a family. Dawn and MA think it's pretty dumb, but MA is at least glad that Logan is in her class.

And boy is she ever glad once the class starts, because immediately, the students are to pair up and get married. Obviously, MA marries Logan, and is quite happy. Things start crashing down as Logan and MA realize that they aren't financially stable nor independent, and eventually make the decision that they'd have to live at MA's place if they were married for real.

The next thing they know, the class is given the egg-baby assignment: each pair of students is to look after an egg and pretend like it's a real baby. Mostly, they have to keep an eye on it at all times. Everyone is quickly horrified, trying to figure out how to balance watching an egg with sports practices and lessons and just life. MA and Logan briefly argue over how to keep their baby, until they're able to get together and create a little container for it.

Most of the rest of the book is dedicated to the egg-baby project. We learn that Kristy is paired with Alan Gray, and their baby is named Izzy. Alan takes the project super seriously, and together, they create an entire shoebox environment for their kid. Anyways, Kristy takes Izzy to the Papadakises while she baby-sits. Alan calls her there, worried about their egg-baby. While Kristy fields the phone call and tries to reassure Alan that everything is fine, the egg-baby goes missing. So Kristy in a panic gets Linny and Hannie to search, and eventually they discover that Sari is taking care of Izzy with her dolls. Kristy decides not to tell Alan about this.

Stacey is paired with Austin Bentley, and their baby is named Bobby. This creates issues when Stacey has to bring him with her to a baby-sitting job, since she's baby-sitting for Bobby and Alicia Giannelli. Anyways, the whole idea of having to care for an egg freaks Alicia out, especially since the egg has the same name as her brother. Bobby (the person) eventually goes to play with some friends, but Alicia is too young and needs to stay with Stacey, only she won't until the egg is gone. Stacey calls up Austin and gets him to pick up their egg. This leads Stacey to contemplate how hard life must be as a single parent.

Dawn sits with Mallory at the Pikes, and brings her egg Skip with her. Dawn's paired up with a boy named Aaron Albright, and she doesn't like him very much. They haven't made any attempts at creating an "environment" for their egg, instead just shoving it into a tissue box with some paper towels. Anyways, the Pike kids decide that Dawn's project seems super cool, and they all pair up and have egg-babies themselves. Vanessa breaks hers while trying to "clothe" it (colour it with crayon) and is inconsolable. Eventually the kids decide to pretend that they're taking their egg-babies out to the restaurant, where Nicky describes a menu full of egg-items. Hilarious!

Anyways, things aren't going too great with Logan and MA. They constantly bicker about how to properly care for their egg, and who is going to get stuck with her. Eventually, Logan tries to get MA to go out on a date, and that they should have an evening alone with the baby. Unfortunately, MA can't get a sitter, and ends up having to take their egg with them. They have problems at the movie theatre, because the place is packed and they can't take a third seat for their egg basket. So MA tries putting the basket on the floor, but that just pisses off Logan. They keep making noise, trying to keep track of their egg-baby in the dark theatre, pissing off everyone around them. At some point, MA briefly misplaces the egg, and they have to call an usher to help them find her. They decide to leave the theatre, and on the way home get into an argument over who would take their, Logan not trusting MA, and then being resentful at always having to take the egg.

MA and Logan aren't the only ones in their class having problems. Shawna Riverson decides that she wants a divorce from her husband, since he's never offering to take care of their egg. Turns out the poor guy has never taken care of a baby, or even younger siblings before, and has no idea what to do! Anyways, they're both just frustrated with everything. Another couple have misplaced their egg, and although they're concerned with how they'll finish the project, they're also legit upset about losing their "child". Another student is completely overwhelmed with the project, since his life is full of extracurriculars and his parents are in the process of getting a divorce, causing his mother to lean on him more than usual. At the end of class, Logan and MA talk, reflecting that maybe they aren't doing too bad after all. However, their moment is ruined when Logan yet again tries to keep the egg, despite it being MA's turn. MA runs away crying.

After another hectic day, Logan and MA talk some more, and decide that they've been fighting because they're so stressed. They reflect that they are in no way ready for marriage or children, not until they finish college at least. Later, Dawn and MA discuss how difficult babies are, and decide to give up on trying to convince their parents to have one. The Modern Living class soon ends, and everyone is happy to be free of their eggs. Dawn and MA decide they never want to think about babies ever again, when their parents surprise them with an announcement... they've decided that if Dawn and MA want another pet, they can have one. Dawn and MA decide that even another pet would be too much responsibility for them at this age!

There's really no subplot in this book. Most of it is taken up by the egg-baby project, with a few asides about baby-sitting for real babies. MA sits for the Salem twins, and the twins are so adorable and angelic, which gives MA even more baby fever. Later in the book, she sits for them again, and they're nightmares (and twice the trouble), which quickly quells MA's baby fever.

Random Thoughts:
  • This review is going to be super shitty and short, because 1) I've never particularly liked this book and 2) I just started a new job haha
    • I've always hated whenever books or TV shows do the fake-baby episodes. I am so glad I never had to do this at school. I already knew from a young age that I never ever wanted children. I also knew from a young age that I was in no way able to support myself financially (let alone myself and a child!). So yeah, I never had delusions of becoming a teen parent or growing up too fast, so I never needed to be scared straight or into responsibility. We had a parenting/family studies class in my high school, where they made babies out of sacks of sugar, and had to carry them around for like, 2 weeks. Of course, I never took the class cuz I was too busy being an arts student, with my music and drama haha
  • I find it weird that 13 year olds would want a sibling so bad, that they'd talk about how their parents aren't too old for it yet. It's one thing when a little kid wants a sibling, they generally don't really know how siblings are made, but a 13 year old definitely does. Who wants to think about their parents actively having sex and trying for kids when they're around??
  • I'm trying to imagine all sorts of drama that would have happened in this book if Logan and Mary Anne had been in different classes, and thus had to partner up with different people. I'd like to have seen Mary Anne paired up with Pete Black again, and to have discovered through working closely with him that he's super awesome and that she can have him instead of Logan haha
  • There are more boys than girls in the class, so two of the pairings are all-male. It's interesting, because they make a big deal over "who's going to be the wife", and obviously none of the boys want to be "wives". I wonder if nowadays it'd just be like, "And we've got two same-sex pairings. Moving on!" without any of this "but who's gonna be the wife!" crap.
  • I find it weird how Alan Gray shifts from general pest whose affections somewhat flatter Kristy, to all-out jerk who is a monster and no one should ever date. I find he's more tolerable in the books written by AMM herself, such as this one. He takes the egg-baby project super seriously and almost drives Kristy crazy with his over-parenting.
  • The Pikes aren't loaded. We know that. But time and time again, they do stuff that really makes me question their parenting. Mallory lets her siblings commandeer nearly a full dozen eggs to play with. Now, Mrs Pike needs to buy more eggs. Not only is that nearly a dozen wasted, but what if Mrs Pike was planning on baking with them or wanted eggs for breakfast??

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BSC Mystery #3: Mallory and the Ghost Cat

Tagline: It looks and sounds like a cat- but is it real?

One night when Mallory is baby-sitting for the Craines, she hears a cat crying somewhere in the house. But the Craines don't own a pet. So Mallory and the girls go exploring - and discover a mysterious white cat hiding in the attic. They name him Ghost Cat, and the mystery is solved. They think.

Until Mallory and the girls continue to hear eerie cries coming from the attic. If Ghost Cat is sitting right there with them, who - or what - is upstairs in the attic?
Mallory is excited. She has just gotten herself a regular gig sitting for new clients: the Craines (Margaret 6, Sophie 4, Katie 2). They're normally watched by their Aunt Bud (real name Ellen), but she recently broke her leg and has to be off her feet for a month or so. Mallory meets the girls and has a great time with them. However, on their first day when they're napping, Mallory hears the sound of a cat. Curious, since Mr Craine hadn't mentioned anything about owning a cat, Mallory searches high and low for it, to no avail. When the girls wake up, Mallory asks them about it, only to be told that they don't own a cat.

The next time she's there, Mallory double-checks with Mrs Craine to make sure they really don't own a cat. She's told again that no cat exists, however when the girls are baking cookies, they hear the sound of a cat. They go exploring and search all over the house. Eventually they enter the attic, where they find a white cat, all frail and scared and shivering. He runs out and they trap him in the laundry room. They decide to name him Ghost Cat, since he's so pale and frail. They get him some food, and the Craines decide to get him checked out and to put an ad up in the paper. If no one claims him, they'll keep him.

Ghost Cat starts eating and getting more healthy, but he's still easily spooked, so they keep him locked up in the laundry room. When showing him off to Mallory, he escapes, and they have to go hunting for him again. They end up back in the attic where they had found the cat originally, but instead of finding him again, they find a bunch of letters tied up in a bundle. Mallory brings them downstairs, and together the girls learn about an old man who once lived in the house a long long time ago. His name was Kennedy Graham, and he was sad and lonely, until one day he discovered a kitten hiding in the house. He adopted the kitten, and they became the best of friends. Until one day, the cat died. Kennedy Graham grew older and sadder, and was convinced that he could hear the ghost of his beloved cat (Tinker) still haunting the house. The girls are subdued after this, and return to the laundry room, only to discover that Ghost Cat was there the whole time!

This causes Mallory to think that maybe Ghost Cat really was a ghost cat. She enlists in Dawn to help her determine whether or not this is true. While she's sitting for the Craines, Mallory invites Dawn over, and they perform all sorts of tests on Ghost Cat. Dawn has a thermometer to check the temperature of the attic and around Ghost Cat (ghosts produce a distinct chill) and an ectoplasm meter that she mail-ordered from the back of a book (Mallory thinks it just looks like really sturdy cardboard, and Dawn admits she doesn't know if it actually works or not). Dawn also checks to see if Ghost Cat can be photographed, if he leaves footprints and if he can walk through things. He fails all of the tests, resulting in Dawn announcing that he is a real cat, not a ghost cat at all. Before Mallory leaves, they get a phone call from a man claiming to be the cat's owner, saying that the cat's name is Rasputin. He'll be by in a few days to pick him up.

On Rasputin's last day with them, to distract the girls, Mallory sets up a series of cat IQ tests, to see how smart he is. The girls have fun testing his cleverness and his name recognition, before preparing him a final meal of milk and tuna. While they're with Rasputin, Mallory continues to hear a cat crying from the attic. Before Mallory can think too much of it though, Mr Craine shows up and just in time too: Rasputin's owner arrives. He looks exactly like Kennedy Graham! The cat and the man walk away, happy as can be.

To wrap the story up, Mallory sits for the Craines one last time. The Craines have decided to get a new cat, a female named Tinkerbell. Margaret tells Mallory that ever since Rasputin went home with the old man, and Tinkerbell came to stay, they haven't heard any mysterious cat noises from the attic anymore. Mallory doesn't know what to make of it, but she's happy that there's no more mysterious noises, and that Rasputin and his owner are reunited, hoping that somewhere out there, Kennedy Graham and Tinker are happy as well.

The subplot in this one (which to be honest, is more of the main plot; it takes up a really big chunk of the book) is Mallory's Uncle Joe. He's actually her Great-Uncle Joe, as he's Mr Pike's uncle. Mr Pike has all those great memories of the guy, and it turns out he just recently transferred to the Stoneybrook Manor, so Mr Pike wants to invite him to meet the family and stay with them for an extended visit. The kids are all excited, having heard all these stories of this lively man who would perform little magic tricks and take Mr Pike fishing. Now, Mr and Mrs Pike warn the kids that he's older now, so they'll have to be a little more quiet and change their routines a bit, including eating less savoury foods so as to not upset Uncle Joe's digestion. However, when the day arrives for Uncle Joe to visit, the kids are all shocked: he's a very stand-offish old man who doesn't seem to make the least bit of effort to get to know the kids. No stories, no tricks, nothing. As the month goes on, the kids get more and more discouraged and disappointed. It's hard for them to continue being quiet and calm, to continue eating bland and tasteless foods. Uncle Joe still hasn't learned any of their names and is starting to do odd things, like forget where he is, what time of the day it is, what he's saying mid-sentence. Finally Mr and Mrs Pike call another family meeting, and decide that it's time for Uncle Joe to go back to the nursing home. They admit that he's coming down with the early stages of Alzheimer's and that he needs more care than they can give him. The kids are sad, mostly because they can see how hard this is on Mr Pike, but they do their best to get Uncle Joe ready. On his last day, while the kids are all drawing pictures for him, Mallory discovers that Nicky has disappeared. After searching the house, she discovers that Nicky is in Uncle Joe's room. Nicky is sitting on his lap, and Uncle Joe is showing him a trick. He even remembers Nicky's name! The family discovers that Uncle Joe is better off seeing the kids only a couple at a time, and so they spend the rest of the afternoon visiting with him in pairs. A few weekends later, they go to visit Uncle Joe at the Manor. He seems a lot happier and more adjusted, playing Scrabble with his roommate. They stay for dinner, and Uncle Joe surprises Mallory with a bottle of hot sauce: he says he can't stand eating bland foods!

Random Thoughts:
  • This was a cute mystery. Nothing actually really happens and it's all left up to the reader: was it mundane or was it supernatural??? Reminds me of the old episodes of The X-Files. I really liked that first season, where we still weren't too sure if the supernatural and paranormal and extraterrestrial really existed or not.
  • Apparently this is the only Mystery narrated by Mallory. It never occurred to me that she never narrates another one, so when someone pointed it out, I had to go back and check my collection. I can't believe her and Jessi only get one Mystery each! I guess they thought us readers couldn't suspend our disbelief so much that we'd buy 11 year olds as detectives haha
  • Why the fuck would the Pikes think it would be a good idea to have Uncle Joe stay with them for a month?? I'm 28, and even I wouldn't want to spend a month in a house with 9 people I have never met before, even if they were family! Especially if their house wasn't even big enough for them! Not unless it was absolutely necessary (like I was on an extended trip job searching or interning or something else that wasn't paid for). And that's me, as a totally healthy young adult! Even if they didn't realize how far gone Uncle Joe was, that's still a lot to ask of an old man whom the nurses had warned the Pikes about early on-set Alzheimer's. Especially since he has never met the kids before! Why didn't they arrange for the kids to visit him at the Manor first? Or arrange for a short weekend visit at their place. Jfc this subplot pissed me off. I never particularly liked it as a child, but as an adult, it seems downright stupid and irresponsible.
    • Ugh! I keep thinking about it, and it pisses me off! Like, Mrs Pike is on the verge of losing her job, because her boss is upset from all the time she takes off to spend at home looking after Uncle Joe. Isn't that a sign that he shouldn't be there for an extended visit??
    • And why would they make everyone eat the same bland foods? I mean, I get not wanting to make a million meals, but it seems like the Pikes are already well-versed in picky eaters and variations. Why not make the bland chicken, cauliflower and mashed potatoes... but then have gravy on the side that the kids could add? Salt and pepper on the table? Ketchup and hot sauce? Cheese sauce for the veggies??
      • I also wonder if Mallory ever ended up telling her parents about Uncle Joe and the hot sauce haha
  • Mallory reads A Wrinkle in Time. This is not the first time that book has come up in this series, but Mallory talks about it a lot in this one, so it particularly stands out to me. People always cite it as a beloved children's classic, and I hear references to it fairly regularly, and it's being made into a movie next year. Well, I finally read it for the first time last year. I dunno. I just didn't get it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

BSC #51: Stacey's Ex-Best Friend




Tagline: Is Stacey's friend Laine super mature or just a super snob?

Stacey can't wait! Her best friend from New York, Laine Cummings, is coming to Stoneybrook for a whole week. Laine can spend a day at SMS, attend club meetings, and maybe even go to the Valentine's Dance.

But the minute Laine arrives, things don't go as planned. Laine thinks Stacey's sleepover with her friends is so childish. And she can't believe Stacey's still into baby-sitting. Laine's used to hanging out at high school parties. She even has a fifteen-year-old boyfriend!

Stacey doesn't want to lose her childhood friend. But Laine's growing up way too fast for Stacey. Is this the end of their friendship?

The book starts off with Stacey having a cozy winter day indoors. She reflects that since moving to the country, she likes snow and the quiet. As she's doing homework, Laine calls and tells Stacey that she has a week-long break coming up from school. Stacey gets super excited, and invites Laine to stay with her in Stoneybrook. Laine isn't too sure though, but eventually agrees to it. Stacey is super excited and tells all her friends. She plans a sleepover for Laine's first evening. Before Laine comes over, Stacey tidies up her bedroom, hiding anything that she thinks Laine will think is lame. Apparently lately Laine has been saying comments and calling Stacey by her full name, trying to sound more grown-up. Stacey doesn't think too much of it though, and leaves for the train station super excited.

Stacey spots Laine right away wearing a very chic outfit. Stacey is thrilled, but Laine is less than impressed. She wants to know where the town is! Stacey explains that they'll drive through it on the way home to the party Stacey's throwing, which causes Laine to perk up. However, after they drive through Stoneybrook, Laine is still confused, wondering how she could have missed the entire town. Stacey points out the library and the pizza parlour, but Laine wants to know what everyone does for entertainment. Stacey deadpans that they go to New York haha

Laine and Stacey briefly catch-up before the party. Laine tells Stacey all about her new boyfriend King, who is 15 years old and in high school. His hair is long and black, with purple tips, that he wears all spiked up and bushy. When Laine questions why Stacey doesn't have a boyfriend, Stacey says she's waiting for the right guy, which sets Laine off. They quickly put aside their differences though as the girls arrive.

It's clear that when Stacey said "party", Laine figured she meant something loud with boys and girls. The sleepover is definitely not impressing her. The girls are all having fun goofing with make-up and hair stuff, gossiping about boys. Laine keeps putting everyone and everything down, saying that all 13 year old boys are lame, she's on a diet (so no binging on junk foods), and making fun of their slang (Dawn says "dude"). Stacey then gets the bright idea to find Laine a date for the dance next Friday. Laine isn't sure she wants to go: after all, 13 year old boys are dumb and she wants to make sure King is okay with it. But when Stacey points out that Laine has nothing else to do on Friday, Laine is quick to remind them that they are lame. Luckily before things can spiral out of control, they find a movie to watch that even Laine likes.

Laine spends Monday being bored out of her mind while Stacey's in school, so Stacey gets permission for Laine to shadow her for the day. After Stacey explains that she misses having Laine be a regular part of her life, Laine goes for it. However, the day is less than successful. First, Laine makes fun of Stacey and Mallory for how they coordinate walking to school (white towel means Mal wants to walk with them, red means she's looking after her siblings), making Stacey feel embarrassed. Once at school, Laine questions all the school rules, such as them not being able to leave the building during school hours and only one student allowed to the bathroom at a time. Stacey's relieved once it's lunch time, because there are no rules (except for not being able to leave the building), so she figures there's nothing for Laine to critique. Stacey has even arranged it so that a bunch of her non-BSC friends sit with them, giving Laine variety. Among them are Pete Black, Rick Chow and Austin Bentley, which Stacey thinks Laine will like, since they're boys. However, it's clear that Laine thinks they're immature (they spend lunchtime building molecules out of pretzel sticks and prunes), while Pete spends the whole time crushing on Laine.

That night, Stacey and Laine talk about their day, more specifically Pete. Stacey thinks it would be awesome if Pete and Laine went to the dance together, but Laine is all embarrassed, saying that Pete is immature and what would people think? Stacey points out that the only people who would see them would be everyone who already likes Pete and actually thinks he's cool, and that besides, it'd just be for fun. Laine decides to call King first, and shoos Stacey out of the room. Stacey's a bit hurt, but figures whatever. However, when Pete calls to ask Laine out, Laine asks Stacey to stay, before kicking her out again to call King back. While in her bedroom, Stacey overhears snippets of Laine's conversation. Laine makes fun of Pete, and goes on about how "childish" something is. Stacey assumes that Laine is talking about their baby-sitting clients, but it's pretty clear to us readers that Laine is talking about Stacey and her friends. Even so, Stacey starts to feel like something weird is going on between her and Laine, and she doesn't know what to do.

Stacey decides to double-down on making Laine a part of her life, and brings her to the Club meeting on Wednesday. There, the girls all discuss the Valentine's Day Masquerade they're organizing for their clients. They speculate who has a crush on who, and think it's all very cute. Except for Laine. She thinks it's lame. She also wonders if any of the girls plan on getting real jobs for the summer. You see, Laine has a summer job lined up at an accessories store, so she'll be receiving a real paycheque. Stacey now realizes that her and Laine are living in completely different worlds.

Finally it's Friday, the day of the dance and Laine's last full day. Stacey isn't excited about Laine going home soon, but she's somewhat relieved. Still, she's going to give their friendship one last solid try and make the most of their time together. She rushes home to find Laine reading a large book, about an 18 year old who travels and falls in love; when asked what she's currently reading, Stacey is embarrassed to admit that she's reading Black Beauty. Stacey wants Laine's help in getting ready for the dance, but Laine doesn't seem interested. She's too busy thinking about her book and King; besides, it's just a stupid Valentine's Day dance and doesn't really count. Once Stacey picks her outfit (with no help from Laine, other than "it's lame to wear red specifically because it's Valentine's Day"), she tries to engage Laine in some popcorn and gossip, like the good ol' days, but Laine's on a diet and has just finished doing her nails (after making fun of where Stacey got the nail polish). Finally Stacey gives up, and they get to go to the dance.

Laine puts on a great outfit, and Stacey's mom tells them that they look like they're 15; Laine adds that usually she gets mistaken for 18. Despite the fact that Laine is wearing earrings that Stacey gave her (which warms Stacey's heart), Laine quickly takes back any goodwill by appearing horrified that they were meeting the guys at the school; didn't Stacey know that the boys were supposed to pick them up in their own cars? Stacey points out that the boys can't drive... and neither can King for that matter! When they get to the school, Laine is mortified that Kristy greets them with a "yo guys!" That quickly gets overshadowed by Pete's arrival though. Even though Pete's wearing a suit, he's still wearing his trademark converse sneakers, which of course Laine notices and judges him for. Then the poor guy is so nervous, he can't get the corsage he bought on Laine's wrist, and ends up dropping it, only for it to be trampled in the crowd! Laine doesn't care though, and acts dismissive of everything. She makes fun of the d├ęcor (to be fair, so did Logan, as it was quite pink, but Laine was definitely much more mean-spirited) and the fact that there isn't a live band playing (there will be, but while they set up, it's just a tape playing). The night doesn't get any better, as Laine insults all sixth-graders (one spilled a drink near her, not on her), insults the band, and then insults the food (heart-shaped cookies and punch are for kindergarten). The final straw comes when Pete asks Laine to slow-dance: she turns him down saying she was tired, only to immediately accept an invitation from some other guy (to Kristy and Claud's delight, a seventh grader!). Stacey has had enough.

She pulls Laine aside to tell Laine how rude she's been. Laine pretends that she doesn't know what Stacey is talking about, so Stacey starts laying everything out on the table. Laine interrupts, saying that she wants to go home. To New York. Immediately. So Stacey calls her mom, which prompts more fighting and arguing from Laine. On the way home, Stacey's mom tries to get the girls to talk, but this just causes more fighting. Finally, Laine reiterates the fact that she wants to go home to New York, so Mrs McGill calls Laine's mom. They get into a brief tiff over their daughters, but arrange for Laine to go home that night.

Stacey spends the rest of the weekend calling all her friends and apologizing for Laine. She also worries that because her friendship with Laine is over, things are over between Mrs McGill and Mrs Cummings; Mrs McGill reassures Stacey that everything is fine. Stacey still feels unresolved though. She spends a lot of time reflecting on her week with Laine, and their 8 years of frienship. Finally, with the help of Claudia, Stacey sees who her real best friend is, and writes Laine a letter, saying goodbye.

The subplot in this one is the Valentine's Day Masquerade that the Club decides to organize for their clients. The girls get excited planning decorations and activities for the kids, while the kids get excited to make Valentines for everyone. Nicky Pike has a crush on a girl in a younger grade. James and Matthew Hobart want to get all dressed up and bring carnations, and James even has a girl he wants to invite. Marilyn and Carolyn are also very excited: Marilyn likes a boy, and Carolyn says she likes a boy in an older grade. Eventually, the sitters deduce that Nicky and Carolyn like each other, and are super excited to see this go down at the Masquerade. However, they soon discover that Nicky likes Marilyn... he just keeps calling her Carolyn. Luckily for him, Marilyn likes him too. Carolyn and James on the other hand, are a perfect match haha

Random Thoughts:
  • I think I've only read this one once or twice. I definitely have read it. I remember liking it a lot. But I also remember that it wasn't one of the ones I owned.
  • I never understood why Stacey would think it was a good idea for Laine to come up for the whole week, when Stacey was still in school. Visiting someone else's school is definitely cool and fun and novel, especially compared to your own school... but it's still not as fun as vacation! Laine totally should have arrived Wednesday afternoon, attended school with Stacey Thursday during the day, and then Stacey could have taken Friday off and she and Laine could have had a long visit Friday and Saturday, and then Laine could have gone back home Sunday afternoon. I mean, I get that Stacey and Laine have been drifting apart and that they would have eventually had a falling out regardless, but it just seems like a waste of a vacation and a terrible idea to spend an entire week at school/alone at someone else's house.
  • The girls are way too excited to watch To Kill a Mockingbird. The only 13 year olds who are excited to watch that movie are the ones who skipped a grade and find themselves in grade 9 studying it, and they're only excited because watching movies is better than reading books haha I like that movie and genuinely get excited when it comes time to show it in class, but even I wouldn't be revved up for it on a Friday night haha
  • It's weird that we've had two books in a row where characters have had winter breaks and come up to visit the girls!
  • We learn in this one that Mrs McGill and Mrs Cummings have been friends since college. That's crazy! I had always thought they met because of Laine and Stacey. Now I want to know more about them haha
  • If I were Marilyn Arnold, I would be super pissed that Nicky didn't know me from my twin and had my name wrong. Especially now that they dress completely differently and have completely unique and individual styles. Nicky clearly knew them apart in terms of appearance and personality! It'd be no different than someone calling me "Callie" or "Casey" or "Kelsey" or something that was not my name. I mean, it'd be whatever if it was someone who didn't know me very well, but from someone confessing that they liked me? No way! Not even at age 8! haha
  • James and Matthew Hobart's reaction to the Valentine's Masquerade just reinforces my idea that Australian boys are best haha even though I know that there are plenty out there who are rude and crude!
  • Stacey and Mallory's towel code makes sense in a time where texting doesn't exist. Even though a quick phone call wouldn't take that long, there's always the fact that you have to wait for someone to answer, and what if someone was busy or in the shower, and didn't answer in time? Then you'd have to leave a message, or call back later, etc etc. The towel code is quick and easy: Mallory can throw correct colour up whenever she knows what the plan is for the morning, and Stacey can just look out the window whenever and see it. She can do this while making breakfast, brushing her teeth, packing her bag... all sorts of things that would be difficult to do while on the phone (especially since it doesn't sound like cordless phones were all that prevalent just yet). Of course, nowadays the girls would just send each other a quick text.
  • Who the fuck would ever hire Laine for a real job? Except for maybe a paper route?? She's only 13! Is this a '80s thing, or is this a BSC-thing? Because yeah, the girls are always getting real jobs, and it's super weird. Here, most places need you to be 16 before hiring, and your options even then are fairly limited. 
  • Laine's book sounds like a Danielle Steel novel haha I remember in grade 7, one of the grade 8s on my bus reading those novels, and thinking 1) damn, she's so grown up and 2) that book sounds really boring and not my style haha
  • Do we ever hear about Laine again?