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.
- 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