Published August 2013
I interviewed my older daughter about a book she recently read and really liked. Here are her thoughts… (she’s quiet so you will want to turn up your volume)
Published August 2013
I interviewed my older daughter about a book she recently read and really liked. Here are her thoughts… (she’s quiet so you will want to turn up your volume)
If you recall, book 3’s co-plot (along with Stacey’s DIABETES) was about how the Baby-Sitter’s Agency honed in on the BSC’s turf and they had to throw down? That the BSC proved that they were the superior sitters because of how awesome they were? Even though they were younger, they were more mature?
Well, screw that.
BSC 4 is basically one long fight between the sitters so that Mary Anne can become friends with Dawn. Without a massive war, she’s so timid that she would never do so otherwise. There’s also all kinds of slut shaming patriarchal bullshit with her Victorian era Dad, but we’ll get to that later.
The book opens with exposition about the club and how it works as Kristy and Mary Anne walk across the street and are greeted by Mimi’s pleasant Japanese accented voice. I’m starting to think we need an ongoing counter of how many times Mimi is referred to quickly followed by the words Japanese, quiet, soft, and accent. Mimi asks Mary Anne how the scarf is coming along because of course Mary Anne knits like all good little girls on the prairie. (Sidebar, this was before the hipsters claimed knitting for themselves–it’s supposed to be emblematic of how repressed and old fashioned Mary Anne is.) Blah blah blah Kristy’s parents are divorced and her mom is engaged to a MILLIONAIRE. Blah blah blah Claudia is an artist with flawless skin and a junk food addiction. Stacey is from NEW YORK CITY and has diabetes. It’s like BSC Bingo.
Why the book-long fight? It’s all that bitch Mrs. Newton’s fault for having a baby.
“Yes,” Kristy was saying. “Yes… Oh, Jaime and Lucy.” (Claudia and Stacey and I squealed with delight.) “Friday…six till eight… Of course. I’ll be there. Great. See you.” She hung up.
From there it devolves to Claudia is a job-hog (not like it’s her phone line and she has to do extra work or anything), Stacey has plenty of friends back in NYC and doesn’t need them, Mary Anne is a big baby, Kristy tells Mary Anne to shut up and she yells back at Kristy, Stacey’s diabetes are called dumb, and Mary Anne loses her shit on everyone.
Maybe I am shy,” I said loudly, edging toward the door. “And maybe I am quiet, but you guys cannot step all over me. You want to know what I think? I think you, Stacey, are a conceited snob; and you, Claudia are a stuck-up job-hog; and you, Kristin Amanda Thomas, are the biggest, bossiest know-it-all in the world, and I don’t care if I never see you again!”
The rest of their argument is various retreads of this. Book 4–have you read books 1-3? A huge fight was also part of the plot of book 1. There are over 100 books left to go–let’s not retread plots already.
As has been well established, Mary Anne’s mother is DEAD. Of what? Who cares! We do find out that her name was Alma, though, which fits with the weird time-warp parenting style of Mary Anne’s father, Richard. Since he acts like one, we’re just going to call Richard “Dick” for my own amusement.
Dick, having been left to raise this freakishly female creature, has decided that his worth as a father is to turn out the perfect Victorian/Edwardian era daughter. Christian Grey had fewer rules for Anastasia—Life with Dick is 50 Shades of Patriarchal Bullshit.
The relationship between Mary Anne and her father is so disturbing on so many levels. Clearly, Mary Anne is supposed to be filling in for the “woman of the house.” She cooks, cleans, is supposed to be dressed nicely for dinner and ask her father about his day. She’s supposed to know what cases her dad is involved in at court and care about them deeply.
We also see the first mention of religion in the books. Apparently, Dick asks God to watch over Alma before every single meal, which even Mary Anne thinks is overkill. She mentions praying at night. I’m not sure if the super strict is supposed to be tied in with religion, but it’s all kinds of Lurlene McDaniel’s level religiosity and appropriate female behavior (6 months to live review is here).
What does Mary Anne want in life? To sometimes wear her hair differently, and to have a kitten poster and an NYC poster in her yellow and navy colored bedroom. Also, to babysit a bit later, sometimes. UNREASONABLE.
Since Mary Anne is fighting with her friends, she needs to find a seat in the cafeteria. She sits down next to some other friendless loser, who turns out to be Dawn who is new in town. Because Dawn is from California, she is blonde and health conscious. She’s also a pretentious hippie and future vegan who shames the rest of us, but that develops over future books.
Mary Anne decides to befriend Dawn to get back at Kristy. As they’re talking, Kristy looks over and is jealous, so Mary Anne really builds is up, going so far as to agree to hang out at Dawn’s house the next day after school.
Dawn’s mom Sharon is a flake. She puts shoes in the freezer and can’t focus on a task for more than 5 seconds. She’s like the polar opposite of Mary Anne’s Dad. Gee, that’s interesting.
Dawn tells Mary Anne that they moved to Stoneybrooke because her parents divorced and her mom grew up here. Hey, so did Dick! What are the odds that they knew each other? Is anyone thinking of that movie Parent Trap? If not, Dawn and Mary Anne actually sit down and WATCH THE PARENT TRAP to get it into your mind. Gee, I wonder what Martin is telegraphing here. Maybe they could watch The Odd Couple next?
BSC meeting, y’all. Said meeting is hostile, lots of sticking out of tongues, hostility, blah blah blah. Except Kristy isn’t there! She blew off HER club. When confronted about it, she suggested that the four of them take turns on phone duty during club meetings and the rest are at their homes. Each girl can take whatever jobs she can handle offered to her during her shift and then has to call the others to find a sitter for the ones she’s not. I wonder how well that will work?
On Mary Anne’s first day as the sole representative of the BSC she lines up a job with the Prezzioso’s–possible the only family in Stoneybrook that is more uptight and formal than hers. For an afternoon at home, Jenny Prezzioso is wearing “a frilly white dress trimmed with yards of lavender lace and ribbon, matching lavender socks, and shiny black patent leather Mary Janes. her hair had been curled, and was pulled back form either side of her face by barrettes from which long streamers flowed.” Her parents call her Angel. Yes, she IS a spoiled brat, how did you guess?
Mary Anne’s Dad loses a case, so obviously Marry Anne picks that moment to push for later baby sitting times, no braids, etc. Dick shuts her down. She’s emo because now she’s fighting with him, too. Mary Anne goes to Mimi for soft spoken accented advice. At some point in the conversation Mimi calls Mary Anne “My Mary Anne.” I gasp at the outrageous faux pas. Claudia overhears this and goes ballistic (AS WELL SHE SHOULD. WTF, MIMI????).
The next time Mary Anne is the BSC, Claudia stays in her room and plays her music super loud. Like I said, as they proved in Book 3, the BSC is a totes professional organization. Then a series of phone calls come in forcing Mary Anne to call Kristy multiple times, culminating in the arranging of a joint babysitting job at the Pikes for herself and Kristy.
I’ll spare you the details but the Pike sitting job boils down to Kristy and Mary Anne only communicating via a passed message through all the Pike kids.
Mary Anne gets back from the Pikes five minutes late, and asks her dad for a later sitting time so she wouldn’t be late. SHOCKER–Dick says no.
Dawn and Mary Anne go through Dick’s old yearbooks. Not only did Dick and Sharon know each other, they were involved. They find Sharon’s yearbook and Dick’s note to her. Wow, if only things had been different, they’d be sisters!
That weekend Mary Anne babysits bratty Jenny Prezzioso, who morphs into high fever Jenny. As this is the pre-cell era, Mary Anne has to call around, but can’t track down the parents. After trying everything, she calls Dawn and then 911. An ambulance comes to take Jenny to the hospital with Mary Anne. Dawn is going to call and leave messages for Jenny’s parents (because again, no cell phone to call from while in the ambulance or while at the hospital). The doctors are caring for Jenny when the parents arrive with the mom in hysterics for her ANGEL. Mr. P gives Dawn and Mary Anne major cash for doing such a great job and drops them off at Mary Anne’s house. What the hell did we do before cell phones?
Mary Anne and Dawn are looking at pictures in Dick’s albums. They are magically seated such that Kristy looks over and sees them together. Mary Anne puts her arm around Dawn and sticks out her tongue at Kristy. Dawn catches her in the act and storms out when she realizes that Mary Anne has been using her to get back at Kristy.
Mr P calls Dick and tells her how awesome and mature Mary Anne is. Mary Anne brings up those small things she wants and gets a later sitting time, the agreement that she can sometimes wear her hair down, AND that she can put up a poster on her wall. Drunk with maturity, she writes Dawn and Kristy apologies for being such a bitch for the past 13 chapters.
Before the sitters can come back together, they have to ruin Jamie Newton’s birthday party. Which serves his mom right for provoking the fight in the first place. In fact, Mrs. Newton has been nothing but trouble since book 1 with her pregnancy and her spawning and her looking for responsible older sitters. She dares to ask “one of them” to go check on the baby–which NATCH starts a fight. Things escalate until punch is everywhere. Way to prove that vaunted maturity, ladies. After the party Mary Anne orders everyone over to Claudia’s house and forces everyone to make up.
That night Mary Anne asks her dad about Dawn’s mom. It’s all Romeo and Juliet–they were in love, her family didn’t approve, blah blah blah
Chapter 16–SIXTEEN!!! WHAT BLASPHEMY!!!—Dick and Sharon finally meet again when she drops Dawn off at the house. Stares and starry eyes, and he asks her out. Mary Anne introduces Dawn to everyone and she is inducted into the BSC
Thank god it’s a BSC week. I need to get the taste of that horrible Sweet Valley book out of my mouth. Say what you will about the BSC (and we can and will say plenty) at least there was never this horrible level of fat shaming and manipulation that we saw in SVH.
Ann M. Martin
Originally Published December 1986
After being super pregnant for two books, Mrs. Newton is about to pop. Kristy, being the forward thinker that she is, assumes that Mrs. Newton has no plans for Jamie when she goes into labor. Obviously, the baby will be born during sanctioned sitting hours so they can ride to the rescue. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the phone call where Kristy tells Mrs. Newton all of this because Janine bursts in, and is all a-tizzy. This is out of character, but I think this is supposed to be an extension of her and Claudia’s bonding moment in book 2. Janine found a flyer for the “The Baby-sitters Agency.” OH NOES! Their sitters are age 13 and up and can babysit MUCH later than the BSC girls can!
Kristy converts the BSC meeting to an EMERGENCY meeting (they have a lot of emergency meetings in these early books—If I recall that slows down pretty quickly-maybe because soon we have Dawn’s California zen attitude calming them down…or the reefer fumes coming off her hippie clothes do).
Who ARE these Baby-sitters Agency girls?
“Those two aren’t babysitters any more than I’m the Queen of France. … They have smart mouths, they sass the teachers, they hate school, they hang around at the mall. You know, that kind of kid.”
I’m impressed that Claudia managed to effectively slutshame them without ever actually mentioning boys. These are BAD GIRLS. You just know how this is going to go down.
Kristy calls the BSA, pretending to be a seventh grader named Candy Kane, who needs a sitter for her little brother Harry because she has a date with her boyfriend Winston Churchill. She’s offered three sitters, one of whom is a HIGH SCHOOL GIRL. I’m dying of laughter over here.
Kristy is like the Don Corleone of Stoneybook. This second babysitting organization can’t be allowed to survive. After all there’s only like 10 families with kids (apparently) and the nearest town next to Stoneybrook is 20 miles away. Clearly, there isn’t enough business to go around.
Stacey goes home and feels depressed. To pass the time, she gives a lengthy exposition about the last year of her life. How her diabetes was discovered, what diabetes is, and how it wrecked her life.
Before diabetes, Stacey lived on the Upper West Side of NYC with a view of Central Park from her bedroom. I hate to bring realism into this, but her parents have to be millionaires for that to be true (especially as she also attended a private school—which is good for 30+K USD a year on its own). I think Martin just wanted to paint all of us the ideal NYC life—because she knows that just like Mary Anne, we’re all dreaming of living in NYC. I’d love to know what a real New Yorker thought of the huge disconnect between Stacey’s NYC life and real NYC life—or if they just shrugged it off because it’s fiction?
After the diagnosis (which came after several embarrassing things, including wetting the bed at a sleepover—which would absolutely be mortifying for a tweenager), her parents morph into psychotic helicopter parents. At first Stacey doesn’t necessarily manage the diabetes well, fainting at school and getting hospitalized a few times. They also don’t want anyone to know that Stacey has diabetes. The way they handle this makes me think they’d be best buddies with Elsa and Anna’s parents.
(watch all the way, including past the credits)
Stacey and her bff go from friends to enemies overnight. In part, obviously because Stacey has cut her out and is lying. Stacey was thrilled to move to CT and get a fresh start. Now she has friends because of the BSC and she’ll be damned if she loses them because of a competing babysitting agency. Which is incredibly flawed logic from the 35 year old perspective, but makes sense from a 12 year old.
The next day there is yet another emergency BSC meeting. This is the first appearance of Kristy in the chair with the visor and clipboard that becomes iconic within the series. However, Kristy is uncharacteristically hysterical and says they should do free housework, drop their rates and bring kid-kits to every appointment. AND they will hire some older kids, too. The only idea any of them like is the kid-kits (which also become iconic), but they reluctantly agree to bring in older kids.
Stacey babysits Charlotte Johanssen. On the way to the playground, they stop at a candy store. In what I think is a really wonderful and genuine moment, Stacey is tempted to buy some. Her diabetes is new, after all, and she remembers candy vividly. As they’re walking, they run into Liz Lewis who hands them a balloon advertising The Baby-sitters Agency.
Kristy was worried. She took the balloons as a personal insult. It turned out that she’d run into Liz that afternoon herself. Only Kristy had had the nerve to tell Liz who she was–president of the Baby-sitters Club, and therefore Liz’s number one rival.
Upon reading this, I hope against hope that Kristy is about to break out the Jets jackets and Liz the Sharks and that they’ll break into some kind of snazzy dance based gang fight. JAZZ HANDS!
One day after school Kristy and Stacey go to Kristy’s house to find Jamie Newton eating cookies with Mrs. Thomas. Mrs. Newton had a game plan! Score one for responsible adults! This of course leads to discussions about how long babies take to be born and what time each of the BSC girls were born. We get the reminder that Mary Anne’s mom is dead dead dead. Thus she can’t find out what time she was born because obviously her dad wouldn’t know? (Luckily Mimi knows and tells her, circumventing her having a conversation with her father.)
Jamie feels a sense of camaraderie with Honest Toddler, and is pissed off that his parents have afflicted him with Infant Sibling Disease. Kristy decides to throw him a big brother party and invite neighborhood kids. We get our first appearance of Mallory Pike, who can’t seem to decide if she belongs with the little kids or the baby-sitters because she is destined to spend the series not fitting in with either. Mrs. Newton calls during the festivities to tell them it’s a girl. Jamie is not whelmed.
But it isn’t just the appearance of a baby sister that has Jamie Newton upset.
“Something else will be different. There will be lots of changes.”
“What else will be different?” I asked.
“Kristy can’t baby-sit me anymore.”
“What do you mean?” That cold feeling crept into my stomach again.
“Mommy called a girl and said ‘We need an older sitter for the new baby.'”
Look, I’m all for 13 year old sitters for my 2 and 5 year olds, but a newborn? Nope, you’re going to have to be 17/18 at the very youngest and 22+ by preference. How much you want to bet this entirely rational, responsible, good choice is going to blow up in Mrs. Newton’s face? Any takers?
Stacey tells Kristy what Jamie had said. Kristy narrows her eyes and says “this means war.”
At school they see the BSA girls handing out flyers and they snag one from a boy (because boys don’t babysit, duh). Kristy calls a triple-emergency meeting at her house after school because it’s her day with David Michael. For now–what if her mom turns traitor like Mrs. Newton? It’s TOO RISKY to talk about things at school. Kristy would make a great drug kingpin. Queenpin. Whatever.
Stacey’s parents are going to take her to go see some new holistic new-agey doctor who will cure her diabetes through nonsense. She tries to tell her parents she thinks the idea is full of shit and gets a stonewall of “we’re your parents and we want what’s best for you.” Stacey is rightfully skeptical of this, and asks Charlotte’s mom about this Dr. Barnes character and has her worst fears confirmed–Her idiot parents are taking her to a quack.
If the BSA is going to use flyers to advertise for new members, then the BSC members are going to wear sandwich boards to advertise for new members. As they do, they learn that they are the only baby-sitters worth a damn in the town. Everyone else watches tv and is horrified at interacting with children. UGH, children. Everyone but Kristy fails…but she has two new members.
That these two new members are pals of Liz? No problem! They had a falling out! THIS IS NOT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL.
But before the next BSC meeting, the girls go over to visit the Newtons. They all have presents for the baby and Jamie. However, Kristy uses this as an excuse to call out Mrs. Newton for being a traitor. Mrs. Newton gives a reasonable explanation for why this is her choice for now. She’ll get hers.
At the BSC meeting, the two new girls get assigned jobs for that weekend.
Shocking news. The new girls don’t show up to the meeting on Monday. Kristy gets irate phone calls to ask why the hell the girls didn’t show up at their jobs. Kristy decides to confront the girls at school the next day–and gets upset when they laugh in her face. I never saw that coming.
A few days later Stacey sees Jamie Newton and he’s mopey. His sitters neglect him and worse.
Jamie nodded. “With a–a cigarette.” He said “cigarette” as if it were a dirty word. Neither of his parents is a smoker.
“Gosh,” I said. “Anything else?”
“Sometimes they talk on the phone. They talk longer than Mommy and Daddy do…Stacey?”
“What’s a boyfriend?”
Ann M. Martin left no bad babysitter stereotype untouched, did she? There are NO sitters worth a damn in Stoneybrook except the BSC. (And maybe Kathy, if she’s still watching David Michael two days a week…unless she turned traitor and joined the BSA? This is never addressed. I don’t know if we ever see Kathy again.)
Then Stacey babysits Charlotte and finds out that she’s been getting babysat by bad girls too. Who only babysit her for the money! Stacey is indignant at the idea, forgetting that she babysits in part to buy clothes. With cuddles and kisses, apparently because stores don’t take money. While Dr. Johanssen is a traitor who hires BSA girls, she does come through for Stacey with a letter for her parents.
What (Stacey) told us got the club ready for the final battle in the war against the Baby-sitters Agency (entry in BSC notebook by Mary Anne)
The BSC girls are walking home and find Jamie Newton on the sidewalk outside his house with no coat and no supervision. The girls tell him to go back inside and only play in the fenced in backyard, and to wear his coat and mittens. See, I told you Mrs. Newton would get what was coming to her.
When Mrs. Newton comes home, they go over and tell her what happened. They’re scared of being seen as tattletales, but are relieved when Mrs. Newton believes them.
“Mrs. Newton,” Kristy said suddenly, “I know you’ll want to call Cathy about this afternoon yourself, but could you let us talk to Liz and Michelle? We have a score to settle with them.”
I’m so disappointed to tell you that there is no dance fighting. The girls defeat the BSA with trivia. What’s Jamie Newton’s favorite sandwich? What’s Charlotte Johanssen’s favorite game? What does it mean when Nina Marshall rubs her ears? What is Nina allergic to? SEE? They’re better babysitters and now Liz knows it, too.
Stacey and her parents leave for New York. Oh noes! They’re going to stay with Laine’s family. Stacey will have to face off against her frenemy.
Stace has to go to the witch doctor and get endless, expensive tests. After a day of this, she sits her parents down and introduces them to reality. She likes real doctors and has made her own appointment with the help of Dr. Johanssen. Her parents agree to meet with him, who explains to them that Stacey already has good doctors and is doing a great job of managing her diabetes. Her biggest problem is her parents (revisit the “How Frozen Should Have Ended” video above again). At least they agree to back off.
Stacey, flush with triumph at taking control of her health issues confronts Laine. Laine didn’t know what was going on, was upset at being blocked out, and when another kid suggested Stacey was contagious she believed him. Stacey explains that she almost had to stay back and that the attention she was getting wasn’t exactly positive. They make up and all is right with the world.
However, in obsessing over her relationship with Laine, Stacey never once talks to Claudia as a BFF. This is particularly interesting as it is a HUGE plot point throughout the books that Stacey and Claudia are best friends. This strikes me as weird.
Once back in Stoneybrook, Stacey learns that the parents have taken down the BSA. Apparently they had this crazy idea of asking their kids about what the new sitters were like, and once they found out, they started calling one another. Everyone, mark it on your calendar–this may be one of the only moments adults in Stoneybrook act like adults.
I’m torn on this book. The BSA/BSC war is hilarious. The way that Stacey’s parents treat diabetes like HIV is just stupid. However, the way that Stacey advocates for herself is really admirable, and I think that’s what a lot of people respond to. On one hand, this article discusses this book as an important part of the author’s journey of acceptance with his own diabetes. On the other, I asked my friend S, who is also a type 1 diabetic about the book and she said “However my vague recollection is of scary view of diabetes that would freak me out if I read it again now and based on those memories the girls won’t be reading them.” You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Next week: Prom Dress by Lael Littke.
This week we’re going back to Stoneybrook! Pull out your hidden junk food and pretend it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 5:30 pm.
by Ann M. Martin (not ghostwritten)
Published October 1986
Kirsten Dunst’s first job was modeling for the little blonde girl on this cover. She says “I was a child actress/model. I did it strictly for the money.” Given her enthusiasm, I’m guessing she has the cover framed and illuminated in the middle of her living room.
Claudia wishes she could be in her room reading a mystery and eating candy, or dreaming about Trevor Sandbourne, or painting. But no, she had to do her Math homework because her parents are facists.
At least Mimi is the one helping her and not Janine the NERD.
Mom has no accent (neither does my father, who also came to the United States as a small child) but Mimi has this pleasant, rolling accent that reminds me of a ship at sea. And she is polite, polite, polite never speaking a harsh word.
Cultural sensitivity wasn’t really a thing in the 80’s, huh?
Mimi helps her with her homework, and sits for Claudia’s painting . They chat about the mystery book Claudia is reading and Halloween.
Claudia asks Mimi why she and Janine aren’t besties. Mimi tells her that it’s because she’s a bitch who avoids and complains about her sister–except Mimi’s polite polite polite about it. But that someday they’ll be friends.
Claudia calls Stacey. Claudia is all swoony over Trevor, the poet. Stacey is still gaga for Sam Thomas (Kristy’s older brother). Boys are sooooooo dreamy.
The next day at schools the girls have a three page discussion about a boy named Alan Gray. They go on at length about a trick Kristy played on him and how now he feels the need to bother her all the time. So they’ll be hooking up by the end of the book.
Mary Anne is “flipping through the Stoneybrook News.” Because seventh graders casually read the newspaper when hanging out with their pals. She shrieks, and drops the paper. OHMIGOD you guys–Phantom Phone Caller On Rampage In Mercer! Mercer is the closest town to Stoneybrook!
“Well it’s still 20 miles away,” I said
Wait, what? Are they surrounded by 20 miles of virgin forest? It’s Stoneybrook, CT, not Storybrooke, Maine, FFS.
The Phantom Phone Caller calls the house to see if anyone answers. If not, he goes and steals their jewelry. He apparently doesn’t take anything else, so your diamond encrusted chairs are safe, millionaires.
Claudia gasps because a few nights ago, the phone rang and no one was on the line!
EMERGENCY BSC MEETING Y’ALL.
The girls decide that the best way to handle a suspicious situation is to stack cans in front of the door or window on the inside, so you’ll know if he’s entered the house
Then there is the elaborate phone message system
We can’t get too hung up on this whole Phantom Phone Caller/Home Invasion thing–The Halloween Hop is coming up. Claudia wants Trevor to ask her. But–sigh–he doesn’t even know she’s alive. “Faithfully” by Journey swells in the background.
Chapter 5 is all about a sitting job at the Newton’s, but there’s no entry. I don’t know why I care, but I do, and I thought you should all know. Everything is going okay until Claudia sees lights going on and off in the house! The phone rings, but stops before she can answer it! Then there are footsteps! Claud peeks through a convenient hole in the fence and looks straight into another eye! OHMIGOD IT’S THE PHAN—Kristy. It’s just Kristy. Kristy was looking for them, and the lights going on and off were all her, going through the Newton’s house looking for Claud and Jamie.
Not to bash your ribbon strategy, ladies….but maybe you should add lock the front door to your list of burglar management strategies?
Another night Claud is babysitting at the Marshall’s. She creeps herself out and calls Stacey. They’re talking about the Halloween Hop and boys when…
I definitely heard footsteps in the garage. “Stacey, Stacey,” I said urgently. “Have you found my b-I mean, did you see my–Have you found my…my…”
“Your red ribbon?” whispered Stacey.
“Yes!” I gasped.
“Yes, I did. I mean, no, I found–I…”
“Did you find my blue—Oh, no, Stacey, someone’s at the garage door. I can hear the knob rattling!”
“I’m going to call the police.”
“Claudia?” called a deep voice.
It was all I could do not to shriek. “He called my name!” I yelped to Stacey
“Claudia,” said the voice again, “we’ve misplaced the house keys. Can you let us in, please?”
That red ribbon plan doesn’t seem to work well under pressure. Also, between two adults who presumably used a car to go somewhere (since Stoneybrook is surrounded by 20 miles of forest), why don’t they have a house key?
GASP! Just as Claudia is about to leave, the phone rings, but when Mrs. Marshall answers, there’s no one there! Does Claudia mention The Phantom Phone Caller? Of course not.
Kristy babysits Karen and Andrew. Karen has new theories about Morbidda Destiny and her spooky spells. At bedtime she insists Kristy read her new book “The Witch Next Door.”
Watson, I’m going to judge you for this. If you’re trying to convince Karen that Mrs. Porter isn’t a witch, buying her a book called “The Witch Next Door,” isn’t going to help matters.
Watson’s house is huge (still waiting for the first time they call it a mansion), and Kristy is jumpy. She gets a hang up call and then calls Claudia…but doesn’t even think about using the ribbon code. She doesn’t remember it. Ladies and gentlemen, your Founder and President.
Then there’s a tapping at the door! IT’S MORBIDDA DESTINY!!!!! Or, you know, Mrs. Porter, who is returning Boo Boo after the cat was eating a mouse on her porch. Although Boo Boo’s so vicious that Mary Anne was explicitly warned not to touch him, he’s obediently sitting in Mrs. Porters arms. Guys, Karen is on to something. Mrs. Porter is a witch.
“He bothers me just by living! Alan Gray is so horrible whenever he’s around me, that he’s all I can think about.” —- Kristy
Stacey suggests that Kristy ask her hot older brother Sam for help with this whole Phantom Phone Caller thing. Kristy retorts that she’d never ask him for help. He’s girl-crazy! I mean, my god, last week he took some green-tipped hair, lace gloves with the tips cut off Freshman to the movies! It’s just not a BSC book without Kristy being thoughtless.
Stacey starts to cry because didn’t Sam like her? (Remember how he called Stacey a “foxy chick” and she called him a gorgeous hunk?) Stacey, this is only the first of a zillion older men you’ll have your heart broken by. Get used it to it.
Claudia moans that the dance is only four days away and Trevor hasn’t asked her to go.
“I think you should talk to him,” said Kristy.
“I think you should ask him to the dance,” said Stacey.
I gasped. “No way! This isn’t the Sadie Hawkins dance. I can’t ask a boy to go with me.”
“In New York we did it all the time.”
“Well, this isn’t New York, this is little Stoneybrook. And I am not asking Trevor Sandbourne to the Halloween Hop.
Stacey should take her own advice and ask Sam out.
Claudia should remember that second wave feminism brought about women CEO’s, astronauts, and the ability to ask a boy to a non-Sadie Hawkins dance.
Shit just got real, people. The Kishi’s neighbors the Goldmans were just robbed! Goldman because Martin was being ironic years before hipsters discovered irony.
Shocker, Mary Anne is suspended from baby-sitting. Given that the robbery was right across the street, I’m surprised Mary Anne is allowed to go to school without her dad.
That night–in yet another babysitting job without an entry at the start of the chapter–Kristy and Claudia babysit for Jamie and his hellion cousins. Same M.O. as book 1–the parents leave, and the cousins go nuts. Kristy, being Kristy, puts two fingers in her mouth and gives an ear piercing whistle, which puts an end to the shenanigans.
Suddenly things get scary…not one, not two, but three phone calls without someone on the other end of the line. Several bangs as trashcans are knocked over. A shadow runs away from the house!
The girls thankfully skip the ribbon nonsense and call the police. The cops show up and go looking for the intruder, and show up minutes later with Alan Gray. Kristy has a lot to say about this.
“Alan Gray, you darn, sneaking rotten–“
“Alan, you are a rat!” she exploded.
They find out that every call without a person on the other end of the line at one of Kristy’s sitting jobs was Alan. He knew where she was because he kept peeking at the BSC notebook.
“Son,” said Officer Stanton in a more kindly voice, “what did you want to ask her?”
….(he mumbles, baby sitting charges tell him to speak up…
“I wanted to know if you’d go to the Halloween Hop with me.”
If I were Kristy, my eyeballs would have fallen out of my head about then. But Kristy just said, “Oh gosh is that all? Of course I’ll go with you….Thanks.”
After the sitting job, Claudia is in her room eating junk food (because of course) when Janine knocks on her door. She saw the police cruiser on her way home. Claudia is touched by her concern, and they talk. Janine hides candy, too! Bonding moment! I’m sure that this will make it all worthwhile when the Kishis have to have their home fogged to kill the ant infestation.
The next day at school, Claudia is approached by Trevor, who has gathered up his courage and asks her to the Halloween Hop. He was behind all of the calls when Claudia was sitting because Alan told him where Claudia would be. Martin wasn’t getting paid enough to give him a different plot.
Claudia, much like Kristy, is completely unfazed by the whole stalking thing. She happily agrees to go to the dance with him. I feel the urge to stage an intervention and explain healthy and unhealthy relationships to all four of them.
The Halloween Hop was terrific. Now I know we’re in a fictional universe–no middle school dance is ever terrific. Ever.
Claudia got an 86 on her math test! Her parents are so proud that they skip explaining that a B is an Asian F.
The Phantom Phone Caller was found trying to rob a mansion in that town 20 miles away (10 books more and it would’ve been in Watson’s neighborhood).
Life is great. Several babysitters have earned in the neighborhood of 15 dollars over two weeks worth of baby sitting, and they clink their diet sodas together.
Advanced courses taught by Edward Cullen
Next Week–Sweet Valley High #4-Power Play (aka that one where the fat girl becomes thin and popular–I have a lot of FEELINGS about that book).
BSC fans–don’t worry, there will be more BSC snark (Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls is next week). Due to the wealth of terribly written tween/teen books from the time period, though, I’m going to alternate in other books. Let’s not spare Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike, or other books that deserve a snarky review.
This week? Six Months to Live by Lurlene McDaniel (at Amy’s suggestion). If you worried that every moment of fatigue and every unexplained bruise meant you had cancer, you’ve read this book and/or the rest of Lurlene’s oevre.
I’ve decided to try to do single entry snark instead of a chapter by chapter retell. Please give feedback in comments.
Six Months to Live by Lurlene McDaniel
Originally published 1985
Our book opens with a doctor telling Dawn Rochelle she has cancer. Oh, good–let’s not bother with establishing characters or trying to make us interested in them, and get right to what we’re here for–Dawn has cancer. Cue parental shock, including
“We thought it was just the flu,” her father gasped.
I may not be the parent of a child who has/had cancer, but I am a parent. And anyone who wants to run tests on my kid explains what the tests are and what they’re looking for first. Are her parents dumb, or in denial?
A kid! That’s what I am, Dawn thought. She was a kid, just two months over her thirteenth birthday…a seventh grader…cheerleader for Adams Junior High…daughter of Pete and Meggie Rochelle…kid sister of Rob Rochelle…super fan of Michael Jackson…collector of teddy bears…a resident of Columbus, Ohio…and now, a victim of cancer
This tells you all you need to know about what kind of ride we’re strapping in for. This is exactly how 13 year old children talk. Unless they’re from THE SOUTH–but we’ll get there later. If you want a drinking game to get through this book (or any McDaniel book)–and you might–take a shot every time a child uses weirdly out of date language. I feel like Lurlene was about as hip to teenage culture in the 1980’s as I am to the teen culture of 2014.
Dawn has to go to the hospital RIGHT NOW. This afternoon. Her pediatrician who apparently sent blood samples to the lab without consulting anyone (HIPPA violation!) has also “made arrangements” for her to get admitted right away. He is drunk with power. Her parents are speechless, and Dawn is asking all the questions, which is totally how my children’s doctor’s appointments go.
Suddenly, she felt like a white rat trapped in science experiment…caught in a maze of mind-boggling proportions…a maze with no exit…a rat with no future.
I’m not editing the quotes. The ellipses are as written. Drinking Game #2-Take a shot every time you see one.
Dawn’s father wants a second opinion, in a startling show of parental involvement. Her mom pooh-poohs this, saying they’ll get lots of opinions at the hospital. I don’t think her mom understands how hospitals work.
Dawn sits and is emo, wondering what she’ll tell people. Kid, you’re not Stacey McGill, and cancer is a lot harder to hide than diabetes.
Then this happens
Rob…Dawn pictured her brother. He was so big and broad across his shoulders—
Dawn, don’t make me invoke The Flowers in the Attic Law.
They get to the hospital and the nurse tells her that she has a roommate, Sandy, who’s “a real doll,” and that “everybody likes her.” Dawn is has angst about the idea of a roommate because how dare the cancer floor of the hospital be full of cancerous kids.
The oncologists visit the room and introduce themselves to the family. Pages of explanation about cancer. I’m betting this is why so much of Lurlene’s fanbase were hypochondriacs. The oncologist then tells her she can be an outpatient, and she then spends roughly 50+% of the book (more or less) in the hospital. For all that her descriptions of how cancer and chemo work seem pretty correct (minus advances in tech over the past 20 years) Lurlene’s understanding of “outpatient” could use some work.
“Dr. Sinclair,” Dawn’s mom asked quietly. “What if we decide to skip all this therapy and just take Dawn home?”
The blue-eyed doctor surveyed her and said “That would be very unwise, Mrs. Rochelle. Untreated, ninety percent of all leukemia victims die within the year.”
Guys, I don’t want to ruin the moment of supreme parental stupidity, but raise your hand if you can smell the foreshadowing.
Dawn tells us that “Dr. Sinclair hates cancer.” Unlike all those other oncologists who just love them some cancer?
She brushed her long, auburn hair and tied it up in a pony tail. “So,” she told her reflection, “in a few weeks I may be bald.” It bothered her a lot. It had taken her years to grow her hair past her shoulders.
If I taught a literature course, I could use this book as an example of what heavy handed foreshadowing looks like.
The mysterious Sandy comes back from chemo sick, pale, and sleeping. We’ll meet her and her hillbilly accent bright and early tomorrow morning.
The girls become insta-friends in the a.m. Dawn comments on how Sandy looked like shit the night before.
“I know. The first time, my daddy got so upset that he almost took me out of the hospital that night!” Sandy said. She gave a smile of remembrance and said, “My daddy’s like that. Cant’ stand to see anythin’ hurtin’ his little girl.”
So this is the first book in a five book series about Dawn Rochelle. Unless the rest of the books are about Dawn’s ghost haunting her sexy sexy older brother, I’m guessing she makes it out alive. Anyone want to place odds on Sandy?
Also–if you need to get drunk really fast because this book is getting painful try Drinking Game #3 –do shots the second anyone from WV ends a word with in’. You’ll be unconscious within pages.
A “psychotherapist” breaks up all the bonding to teach them how to do “Imaging.” Dawn pictures an army of teddy bears fighting her cancer. Sandy is skeptical, which I interpret as a decrease in Sandy’s odds of makin’ it out of this book alive.
Dawn then asks if she can pray for God to take the cancer away as well. Which, fine, except I’ve done my homework on McDaniel and let me warn you she’s got a hard on for The Bible and Traditional Gender Roles. That Sandy doesn’t ask about prayin’ or pray with Dawn is just another big red flag. Why was I shocked that she dies when I was a kid?
Dawn’s friends come and visit her and it’s awkward, which seems pretty true to life. There’s actually a great exchange between Dawn and Sandy after (if you can overlook the stilted language and the hick accent) about how regular people just don’t get it. My elder daughter was quite sick when she was a baby, and after she got out of the hospital, we joined a mom/baby group. It was all kinds of awkward and uncomfortable whenever her illness was the elephant in the room.
Just as the emo music swells, the topic of boys comes up.
Sandy has been kissed by a boy (seriously, Sandy, why not paint a target on yourself?) and that it was “real sweet, like he meant it.” I’m glad that Sandy understands that he meant it because I’m an erotica author and I have no clue what that means. Is that code for tongue? That he took you to the county fair first? That he got a hard on? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Now when my husband kisses me, I wonder how I’ll know if he means it?
Dawn wishes that Jake had kissed her because he probably won’t when he sees her and that no one will ever want to kiss her. To which I reply—five book series.
Dawn and Sandy go through all the medical stuff together (because everyone in the cancer ward has a roomie whose cancer is identical in every way to theirs?). Dawn meets Sandy’s parents, and realizes that “Mr. Chandler was very angry about Sandy being so sick.” Unlike those parents who do the cancer dance with the cancer loving oncologists that populate the rest of the oncology floor? Dawn is DUMB, people. I wish she was the one who was going to die in this book. Anyway, back to Sandy’s dad, who looked into cancer clinics in Europe and Mexico instead of sendin’ her to Columbus, OH. As a kid I thought he was actually looking into cancer clinics. Now that I’m 35, I know that’s just code for “hospices.”
Violation #2 of The Flowers in the Attic Rule
“You’d give me your bone marrow?” Dawn asked Rob shyly once they were alone.
“Absolutely!” Rob said, chucking her on her chin. “I gave you the chicken pox, didn’t I? I can spare bone marrow for you, too.”
“Thanks,” was all she could whisper. She felt deep gratitude for the love he was showing her. Rob…so big and strong…and healthy.
Rob is big and strong and healthy, guys. See, Lurlene? No use of ellipses! It CAN be done!
Fun times in the hospital ensue. Arts and crafts. Popcorn fights! And then to despoil the beauty of those times, Dawn loses her first lump of hair.
Sandy is losing her hair, too. Sandy’s hair was waitin’ for Dawn’s to fall, so they could shed together. Lurlene has a hair fetish, guys–we get a description of Sandy’s hair and all the hair paraphernalia Sandy owns. Dawn’s mom shows up with a beautician friend who cuts their hair and brings along a bunch of wigs for the girls to play with before they each pick one.
Then comes the portion of the book devoted to cancer treatments and all the ways it despoils Dawn (and Sandy’s) poor bodies. Remission feels a million miles away. Everything will be
emo awful forever, guys. The spends pages giving us excruciating detail of everything poor Dawn goes through, and then tells us that Sandy suffered the same agonies (literally–pages of Dawn, one sentence on Sandy). Thanks for clearin’ that up, Lurlene–I was startin’ to think Sandy might have the fun kind of cancer.
Just when it can’t get any more melodramatic, Dawn gets a fever. But not a fever…a FEVER. The ICU kind of fever, and she’s rushed away. People kind of float in and out, and then Lurlene tells us about a drugged out dream Dawn has while high, where her favorite teddy bear comes to rescue her. Then she’s better, so the bear was a metaphor? Except just before she wakes up, he turned into the boy she wanted to kiss, so Dawn is a closeted furry? I…just…don’t…know…what…Lurlene….means.
Aw, Sandy drew Dawn a picture of her Imagin’ picture–a teddy bear army defeatin’ cancer. The girls are so happy to be reunited.
“And we’re going to celebrate with a reunion every year after we go into remission. So start planning on it!”
I wouldn’t, if I were you.
Sandy Chandler and Dawn Rochelle toasted each other and their futures with styrofoam cups filled with warm pop while the hospital routine settled in around them.
Lurlene likes to refer to her characters by first and last name. At least half the time Dawn is referred to as Dawn Rochelle. Which is oddly formal. There was a boy I went to middle school with whose name was Chris Rodney and we all called him that, but I don’t think that’s common. It took re-skimming the book for me to realize that Rochelle wasn’t part of her first name.
Guys, Sandy is in remission and she’s goin’ home! Yay! Dawn is upset, but at least the letters from Sandy start to arrive a page or so later. Sandy tells Dawn that her parents are treatin’ her like she’s made of glass. I get that, and I think it’s pretty normal, although it probably does suck from the kid’s perspective. The boy that kissed her like he meant it doesn’t seem to mean it anymore and avoids her. Lurlene is actually painting a realistic picture! I’m sure that will give way to melodrama soon.
The Psychotherapist (I think? maybe a nurse? I don’t care about the main characters, much less the secondary ones) tells Dawn she should go to cancer camp that summer. Which is the cue for, two pages later, Dawn’s cancer to go into remission.
As Dawn drove home with her parents, she understood how Rip Van Winkle must have felt when he’d awakened form his years of long sleep
Yes. Highly accurate. When Ellie was in the hospital, we lived there. When we left with her, it was almost a month later, and everything had gone from Halloween to Christmas. It was freaky. Except for Dawn it went from April to mid-July. It’s also strange how her friends act like nothing has happened, which upsets Dawn (although she also doesn’t want to be treated differently). Her friend’s petty shit feels petty to her, and she doesn’t know how to pretend that it isn’t petty.
The psychotherapist sends a cancer camp brochure to Dawn, who considers tossing it. Dawn decides to go, but only if Sandy can.
We’re off to cancer camp! Apparently the camp was only for Ohio residents, but the oncologist had gotten Sandy special permission to go. The girl’s hair is growing back magically fast because Lurlene wants to talk about hair again.
Camp has an opening ceremony with “Indians” wearing “buckskin and feathers of an ancient Ohio tribe” canoeing to the shore and then “with a cry and whoop” light the fire. They have this ceremony to “pay tribute to them (Native Americans).”
Cancer camp is just wonderful….awesome…great…. There are these two gorgeous boys who like Sandy and Dawn and it’s perfect how Sandy and Dawn are each crazy for the boy that Lurlene has assigned them. You know they’re having a great time because there are so! many! exclamation! points! Until we learn that Mike-who is assigned to Sandy-is missing a leg. Good thing the girl who is surviving this book got the intact boy, right Lurlene?
Let’s not dwell on that because Cancer Camp is FUN! Let’s have a zany antic where the four of them go to the director’s cabin in the middle of the night and pelt him with water balloons, steal his boxes, embroider them elaborately with flowers, and run them up a flag pole all in the same night. Those kids are so wacky! My favorite part is when one of the boys screams “bonsai!” as he throws his water balloon. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean the elaborately trimmed little tree. I can’t actually find a reference to the actual slang term from the 80’s to get a correct spelling of the slang term meant. But that typo was the funniest part of the escapade for me in what otherwise felt like a retread of a prank that would’ve felt at home in the Haley Mills version of “Parent Trap.” Also-Sandy must be amazeballs good at embroiderin’ to have done the kind of detail described in just one night, too.
The night before the end of camp
Pedro Mendez performed a break dancing routine that caused everyone to howl with delight.
The ethnic person did an ethnic thing for the amusement of the white people! Lurlene has never had a non-white friend. Just write white people, Lurlene. It’s so much better that way than this racist crap. Not that your white people are going to win any awards for well rounded portrayals.
“D-do you think we’ll all be here next year?” she asked, scanning the faces that had grown so familiar to her during the last two weeks.
That whole racist moment with the “Indians” at the start of camp? There was also a bit about mixing last year’s opening fire ashes with this years, including all the ones for kids who died. Dawn is DUMB and Lurlene is HITTING you with the FORESHADOWING stick at this point. BEATING you with it. NO. Sandy is going to die because you have a five book series, Dawn.
Back home and back to school. OH NOES! Sandy is out of remission.
You should see my poor daddy! He’s a basket case. He’s talked to Dr. Sinclair a couple of times, and Dr. Sinclair wants us to come back to Columbus right away. He says that we might have to think about a bone marrow transplant. Boy! Did that set my daddy off!
Now he’s talking about taking me to some clinic in Mexico.
Raise your hands if you think Sandy is headin’ to the warm Mexican embrace of hospice care. YUP. Not long after there’s another letter from Sandy post marked from Mexico.
There’s no chemotherapy either, just lots of fresh food, vitamins and sunshine.
All of which have a 100% success rate of sendin’ leukemia into remission, unlike bone marrow transplants which accomplish NOTHIN’.
Then we get the third and final letter from Sandy
I’m not scared of what might happen to me. At least I don’t hurt all the time. That pleases my daddy ’cause he can’t stand to see me hurting.
Firstly, I’m shocked that the hillbilly fairy allows you to use -ing in your writing. Secondly I wouldn’t be happy that I’m dying and that my daddy is happy that I’m not hurting–I’d be screaming and fighting to get a real motherfucking hospital. Thirdly, I googled end stage cancer and according to a cancer website, end stage cancer hurts like a bitch, which is why they drug you in hospice care. Unless those “vitamins” have a serious dose of morphine, or are crystal meth or something, I call bullshit. Then again, why bring reality into the gorgeous sunset picture of a girl submitting to her father’s wishes and going to be with God when she didn’t have to?
Seconds after Dawn reads the letter she gets a telegram telling her that Sandy’s dead.
HOORAY! The book is almost over. Sad. That’s just so sad.
Sandy’s parents send Dawn a box of Sandy’s stuff. Hair combs (because hair fetish), a popcorn necklace from the super fun cancer floor arts and crafts days, Sandy’s ashes from camp, Sandy’s diary (which sadly doesn’t include any entries about “my idiot dad is sentencing me to death!” but does include Mike’s picture in an entry talking about how she wants to do more than kiss him next summer,
the slut), and a page from the bible with that insipid “to everything there is a season” verse all marked up.
Dawn pondered the page for a long while. It was true. Sandy’s “season” was over. She’d gone home to God. The thought brought Dawn great comfort and made her more determined than ever to live her own “season” to its fullest. She shut the box and put it away on the shelf.
In the remaining three or so pages we see that Dawn is living her “season”–back in cheer leading and Jake (aka healthy boy) likes her! Hooray!
Remember how I touched on Lurlene being a certain flavor of Christian? Yeah. We need to talk about that before I can end the post. You know how I knew Sandy was going to die apart from the “it’s a five books series” thing? Sandy doesn’t ask about prayin.’ She has already made out with a guy and doubles that before the book is over. She even admits that she’s goin’ to go further next year durin’ cancer camp. Her mom over-ruled her dad, so you know that’s going to come back and bite the family on the ass. But when she lets go and lets God, she gets to die and teach Dawn a Very Important Lesson because it’s too late for her. There are books where she does this with a far heavier hand, according to this Lurlene McDaniels snark blog (go read it, it’s hilarious), but this just PISSED ME OFF.
At some point in the future I will buy a physical Lurlene McDaniels book so I can have the pleasure of throwing it at the wall every time she does this–a mom who is a Bad Mom because she works outside the home, where sex has consequences, and god has a plan for those who are good. Because ugh, moralizing.
The only way I can bring myself to read the rest of this series is if you guys promise me that she dies at the end of book five.
Let me know how you liked this format for Snarking Nostalgic!
Next week–Claudia and the Phantom Phone calls.
I’ve uncovered a great deal of nostalgia for these books among my peers, so when I decided to start the blog, I was thrilled for the excuse to reread and snark them. I snark with love, friends–I’m still a total fangirl. So let’s drop what we’re doing, put on our nostalgia goggles, and pretend it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 5:30pm.
Part 1–Chapters 1-3 can be found here
Part 2-Chapters 4-8 can be found here
Part 3-Chapters 9-12 can be found here
by Ann M Martin (confirmed)
Kristy has been condemned to a fate worse than death. She is going to have to baby-sit Watson’s
demon spawn kids because his ex-wife broke her ankle. Her future husband is out of town, so Watson is going to go help her at the hospital and ensure she gets home safely.
Waston put his foot on the accelerator and vroomed us down the driveway. I’ve never seen anyone in such a big hurry–and all over a broken ankle. If Watson could have flown the car back to his house I think he would have.
Watson practically throws Kristy and the kids out of the car, shouting the bare bones rundown—feed them pbj, and if there’s an emergency to call Kristy’s mom. I wonder if Mrs. Thomas has been getting to know Karen and Andrew at all, given that Watson is putting in major effort to get to know the Thomas kids? No mention of Boo-Boo the hellcat. I guess that means there won’t be a third runaway pet subplot?
I stood in Watson’s front yard and looked at Andrew and Karen. Baby-sitting for them was the absolutely last thing I wanted to do.
I sighed heavily
Ugh, babysitting. Amirite President of The Baby-sitters Club?
Karen tells Kristy that she wanted pop tarts for breakfast but her mom said no, even though her dad lets them have them and who knows what because Karen never shuts up or gets to the point. I may have to put up with that from my own daughter, but I can skim over Karen’s babbling.
Karen ate a few bites of her sandwich, then suddenly looked at me very seriously, her brown eyes glistening. “Is our Mommy all right?” she asked me.
Kristy is capable of being an asshat to Karen’s dad, but she can’t bring herself to be one to Karen. So she reassures Karen, sharing the story of how she broke her ankle last summer. Against her best efforts, and despite Karen’s nonstop babble, Kristy starts to warm to Karen. Oh yeah, Andrew is in the room, too.
Then this happens…
“My daddy says he loves your mommy.”
“I guess,” I said uncomfortably. I realized that Karen looked uncomfortable too.
“If they get married, your mommy will be my mommy.”
“Stepmommy, I mean stepmother.” I corrected her. “And guess what. I’d be stepsister. And yours, Andrew.”
“Yup,” said Andrew.
Karen thought for a while again. “I guess that would be okay,” she said at last. And then, “Do you like being divorced, Kristy?”
“No particularly,” I said.
Karen confesses that she doesn’t want her mom to get remarried or her dad–that she just wants them to get together again. Andrew starts crying (which I don’t entirely buy–three year old’s don’t really get stuff like that, and their memories are quite short–he likely doesn’t remember his parents ever being married, although I totally buy that Karen does). Kristy distracts them with ice cream as a special “divorced kids’ treat.”
Karen and Kristy in particular bond (Andrew is wallpaper…he might as well not even be a character). When Watson gets home, Karen says she’s okay if Kristy gets to be her stepsister. Kristy feels shy (which is a nice moment for Kristy, and a bit of personal growth). Andrew is napping so Kristy hangs out with Watson and Karen for an hour until he wakes up. She finally ditches the angry tweenager vibe (at least for the moment).
That night Mrs. Thomas comes in and manages not to scream I TOLD YOU SO in Kristy’s face. Kristy begins to ask the big questions–what will actually happen if her mom and Watson get married.
Apart from the small details, the second half of this chapter is a bit hard to snark because there’s genuine emotion and character development happening. I’m sure that won’t last though…C’mon Martin, give us more secret diabetes and stereotypes.
Great news, guys! Mary Anne has convinced her dad to let her half her baby-sitting money! VICTORY! (West Wing geeks–bring her the finest muffins and bagels in all the land for she drinks from the key of glory). Claudia has explained to her parents that she isn’t an Asian stereotype, and is willing to give up some tv time to let her grandmother help her with Math homework. Too bad she can’t get Martin to understand that stereotypes are useless. Kristy asks Stacey how New York was, and Stacey says it was FINE, OKAY?
“You know, the strangest thing happened on Saturday morning,” I said. As usual, I couldn’t help it. I was dying to say what I knew. There would be no stopping me, despite the fact that Claudia was sending me an urgent telegram with her eyes. Shut up, they were saying. Don’t do this. But it was too late, even though I knew I was going to cause problems. Even though I knew Claudia still considered Mary Anne and me babies, and Stacey sophisticated, and therefore was going to protect Stacey and whatever she was up to.
“Mary Anne saw you come home with your parents on Saturday,” I said. “How come you made your mom say you stayed in New York?”
Stacey shoots a death glare at Mary Anne and flips out, calling Kristy a baby. BURN. You’re from NYC–even if you are a private school kid you know how to curse her out in multiple languages. Baby is the best you’ve got? Martin noted that Claudia thinks MA and K are babies not two paragraphs ago. Someone get Martin a thesaurus–even use juvenile/infantile instead of baby if you’re not going to use dipstick, jerkface, or some other 80’s insult.
Claudia jumps to Stacey’s defense noting (correctly) that Kristy has no tact. Mary Anne says nothing. Kristy tells Stacey not to treat her like a little kid by lying to them.
Claudia’s lovingly described outfits allow her to point out “you are a little kid–look at the way you’re dressed.” Kristy is wearing a sweater with snowmen and snowflakes on it.
“Well you’ve got sheep barrettes in your hair,” I yelled. “You think they’re adult?”
Ok, now I’m ready to throw down–we do NOT mock Claudia’s fashion.
Mary Anne tries to make peace and is yelled out, making her burst into tears. She’s called a cry baby for it. Oh my god, Anne–according to your author’s note, you used to be teacher. In what universe did you teach? Baby, crybaby and mean is the worst you can conjure up? My third graders had fouler mouths than these seventh graders.
In the midst of the BSC cage match, the phone rings. They all try to answer it. Somehow the mom on the other end still offers them a job….which GASP they’re all available for. (WOW-Who saw that coming?) The club looks like it’s about to fall apart when Kristy calls dibs since the club was her idea in the first place. The meeting breaks up with enough of a chill in the room to inspire what future museum curator’s will refer to as Claudia Kishi’s “ice carving period.” (I wonder if you can carve other barnyard barrettes out of ice?)
Kristy gets home, sure it will all just blow over. After all, everyone knows she’s a loudmouth with no tact.
GASP! In a totally unforeseen plot twist Mrs. Thomas and Watson are ENGAGED! Mrs. Thomas is sporting serious bling–Kristy describes it as “the size of a boulder.” Nice to know that Watson made up for being such a pussy in chapter 11.
For the record, most of the graphic novel is free on amazon in the preview feature. It’s hilariously bad.
On Tuesday, Mary Anne and I avoided Claudia and Stacey in school until the very end of the day. Then I screwed up the nerve to ask Claudia if she wanted to hold a Baby-sitters Club meeting the next day as usual. She said it was all right with her.
Scene change to Kristy’s family going over to Watson’s for dinner that night. There is no further explanation, or even dialogue to show us how icy Claud’s demeanor might still be. Claudia is fine with a BSC meeting because…..Ann is contractually obligated to write three more books in the series at this point.
All six kids and Mrs. Thomas and Watson are having dinner to celebrate the engagement. Karen is Karen–her mom Lisa and Mrs. Thomas are saints. SAINTS.
Dinner was fun. Watson made fondue. He set a pot full of hot, melty cheese in the middle of the table. Then he gave everyone a long fork and a plate of pieces of French bread. You were supposed to spear a piece of bread with your fork, dip it in the cheese, and eat it. Watson made this rule that if your bread fell off your fork and landed in the cheese, you had to kiss the person on your right.
Guess who is sitting to Watson’s left? New rule–No weird stepdaughter/stepfather moments like this–I’m going to call it the “Petals on the Wind” law.
Everyone starts making up silly rules. But then Kristy drops some bread in the cheese. Ruh-roh. Kristy gives Watson a super fast kiss on the cheek (thus honoring the “Petals on the Wind law”), but feels guilty about it being so fast later (treading the line) and leaves him a note on his bathroom mirror apologizing for it being super weird and fast (and thus breaking the law–she was so close). It’s just uncomfortable and bizarre and unnecessary. I’m betting Ann M Martin was almost a big a fan of VC Andrews as I would be once I moved on from the BSC (when *I* was the same age as the BSC girls, for the record).
The next day, Mary Anne and I walked to Claudia’s house for the club meeting. We went together, sort of as protection. When we reached Claudia’s room, we found her talking to Stacey. When we entered, the talking stopped. Silence.
Mary Anne and I sat down. I was determined not to be the first one to speak, since I felt I had already made an effort by asking whether we were going to hold a meeting that day.
At long last, Claudia said, “I’m sorry I was so mean yesterday. I’m sorry I yelled.” She was looking at Mary Anne but not at me.
This is one of the least believable makeups in literary history. They make up for the same reason that Claudia agreed to have the meeting in the first place–because Martin has a four book contract.
They offer to get Stacey a salad from the pizza parlor so she won’t be left out during the pizza party. THANK YOU. Was that so fucking hard?
Stacey steels herself and confesses that she has a secret. THANK GOD.
Kristy asks her if she’s anorexic (nope- that will be Jessi’s ballet classmate in book 61). Shut up, Kristy–let’s get the big reveal over with.
Brace yourselves, y’all…
Given the buildup, I thought we needed a big reveal here, too
Diabetes has been so traumatic that Stacey thinks it’s why they moved to Stoneybrook–instead of the Hail Mary Pass on her parent’s marriage that it actually was. Stacey recounts being bullied because of her diabetes. Her new BFF’s tell her that they love and accept her, but maybe she shouldn’t tell anyone at school, to which I can only….
Sam knocks on the door to leave a snack outside. Mrs. Thomas isn’t an asshole, and has left an apple for Stacey along with cookies for the other girls. This is an example of what we call common courtesy, girls.
“Your brother’s so cute, Kristy,” said Stacey.
“I guess. For a boy.”
“No, really….Do you like any boys, Kristy?”
I made a face.
“What do–” Stacey started to say, but I held my finger to my lips.
“Shh!” I hissed. “Do you hear that?”
“Something at the window.”
We made ourselves quiet. We couldn’t hear a sound.
“I guess it’s nothing,” I said.
Let’s not wonder what it was—let’s tell scary stories that happened while babysitting instead of checking the yard for a zombie or a serial killer.
I know what that sound was–it was the sound of foreshadowing for book 2.
Kristy feels all warm and fuzzy and hopes the BSC will be around for a long time. Don’t worry, Kristin Amanda Thomas—Ann M. Martin is going to ride that cash cow and all associated cash cows into the ground.
So fellow BSC fans, that’s book one. Shall I do the next book? Or an episode of the TV show. Or how about the movie? Any other non BSC snarking nostalgic requests?
I’ve uncovered a great deal of nostalgia for these books among my peers, so when I decided to start the blog, I was thrilled for the excuse to reread and snark them. I snark with love, friends–I’m still a total fangirl. So let’s drop what we’re doing, put on our nostalgia goggles, and pretend it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 5:30pm.
Part 1–Chapters 1-3 can be found here
Part 2-Chapters 4-8 can be found here
By Ann M. Martin (she wrote the first 36)
Stacey’s turn. We see Stacey’s entry in the notebook at the start of the chapter, and we learn that Stacey dots her i’s with hearts. I know I’m not the only one of us who did that in middle school as well. Which leads to the question of would I have done that if I didn’t read the BSC or did I do it because I read BSC books? It’s disturbing, really how much of my life Martin/Lerangis influenced, and how much I still remember about these books. Shouldn’t I be using that portion of my brain for something more useful?
Stacey says she had a fine time with David Michael in the entry. Kristy does my snark for me by telling us that
the strumpet Stacey had a fine time flirting with her older brother Sam.
Guys, Sam is 14 and in HIGH SCHOOL. Stacey is 12 and in MIDDLE SCHOOL. She’s got to be one hot piece of ass for a 14 year old to date down like that. Two years? That’s just shocking–as shocking as the exact same age gap between my husband and myself. Sam and Ravi are cradle robbers, yo.
Kristy introduces David Michael and Stacey and then rushes off to babysit–LOL–the St. Bernards.
Five minutes after Kristy leaves, Sam gets home. Sam labels Stacey a foxy chick. She refers to him as a gorgeous hunk. I repress the urge to go make out with my Wesley Crusher poster.
Kristy tries to figure out what on earth Sam saw in Stacey and vice versa. We get a paragraph of Stacey’s outfit, and Kristy thinks it was babyish. Also babyish is the fact that was drinking milk at the time. What is wrong with Stacey? Girl hates junk food and isn’t an alcoholic? Freak.
Sam is wearing a radical t-shirt that says “I know you are but what am I?” immediately triggering this scene from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in my brain.
Kristy admits that Sam is pretty cute. Now, I’m an only child so I’m only guessing, but isn’t it kind of icky to find your sibling hot? Can we invent/invoke the “Flowers in the Attic” rule?
Sam and Stacey do this gorgeously classic teen flirting that actually feels kind of authentic to me until David Michael interrupts and asks for a twinkie. Stacey gives him one, and then Sam offers to split the other one with her. Stacey says no, and Sam compliments her on how hard dieting is (OHMYGOD BOOK STOP WITH THE DIETING TALK).
Stacey suggests to David Michael that they play Candyland.
Heck, I’ll play, too,” said Sam. “We can have a championship series. First one to win two games is the Candy Land Champion of the Universe.”
“You’re going to play?” David Michael’s eyes widened.
“But you nev–“
“Hey, little brother, your shoe’s untied.”
David Michael, quit cock blocking Sam. He’s working here! Stacey has to be seriously foxy for anyone to willingly play Candy Land, much less multiple games. Inventing new rules and throwing the game to make the torture of Candy Land end are my only tools for enduring the hell of that game. No one over the age of seven would ever do that without an ulterior motive.
I’m pretty sure this is another dead end plotline. Book 8 is Boy-Crazy Stacey, and there are multiple books on the same variation of the theme of Stacey likes older guy, nothing happens. Because NOTHING that isn’t PG happens in the BSC–no making out, no second base, and no teen pregnancy. In real life Stacey and Sam would’ve been playing tonsil hockey in the kitchen while David Michael played nintendo.
The only version of Candy Land that they’d be playing is Strip Candy Land? Oh crap, now I’m trying to figure out how to play strip Candy Land—see what you’re doing to me, book?
Worth noting–I stumbled into a dark corner of the internet and found out that the BSC fanfic writers don’t think that Stacey and Sam belong together. There is a serious amount of Stacey and Charlie stories. Even the fanfic writers realizes that Sam is too young for Stacey. I predict she will grow up to be the trophy wife of a Wall Street banker twice her age.
Mary Anne has beautiful cursive writing. Now you guys see why she’s the secretary (although Stacey’s has always seemed more legible to me, even with those annoying hearts over the i’s.)
She totally does a passive aggressive number on Kristy in the entry–
“I think Kristy would really like them if she ever baby-sat for them. Are you reading this, Kristy?.”
Question time-do we think that Mary Anne ever really grew enough of a spine that she would be more than the mom who volunteers for everything at school and then sends out emails saying “If any of you could find the time in your busy day to volunteer for the next field trip, because I’ve done the last five, that would be so great…”? Or, once she goes to college and breaks free of Kristy’s shadow, does she totally vamp up and bust out of her shell? She is the first one to land a serious boyfriend (Book 10–This totally makes sense when you learn that MA is based on Ann M Martin). Maybe she upgrades the part of herself that got the sassy haircut and splurges on tight miniskirts. Does she become a exotic dancer? She does have all that experience with pigtails, plaid and playing shy. I see it going either way–what do you think?
Here is what you’ve been waiting for–we finally get to meet Karen and Andrew! Karen got all the personality for both of them. Andrew is just sort of a formless lump of age three following around behind someone else…and stays that way for the rest of the series. Karen has always struck me as swinging wildly between hysterically adorable (hence why she got her own spin-off book series of 128 books–way to milk the franchise, Ann!) and beyond annoying.
We get our next set-up for the eventual discover that Watson is a MILLIONAIRE
Mary Anne says Watson lives in a very pretty, big house. I guess he has a lot of money. He’d have to, the way he throws it around, buying Chinese food right and left and taking my mom out on dates almost every night.
I need to stop the review to go die of laughter. Watson making it rain with dollar bills at Panda Express. Just picture it.
Anyway, the house is large, and Andrew and Karen have neat rooms. And toys. Mary Anne had never seen so many–gigantic stuffed animals, dolls, a train that you could really ride around the backyard, cars, bikes, a playhouse, costumes to dress up in. It was incredible, kind of like being in Toys “R” Us.
Boo-Boo the cat is a demonic spirit housed the body of a cat almost big enough to be bordering on the size of a mountain lion. He bites. He scratches. He chewed THROUGH A DOOR. Everyone warns Mary Anne to stay away from him because he’s vicious.
“Whatever you do, don’t touch him,” added Watson
Golly, guys…I feel like this might be setting something up for later….
Karen tells Mary Anne that their parents are divorced and that their mom is getting remarried. Hey Watson, you know that having your ex remarry when you’re still single or dating mean that THEY WIN, right? What are you going to do about it?
Karen then babbles on about god knows what–my eyes starting glazing over, just like Mary Anne’s. Until Karen tells us that the witch lives next door, and I groan. Because oh my hell this story line needs to go die–it is funny in one, max two books—but it is a running theme for the next 20 years. MAKE IT STOP.
“Its Mrs. Porter, and she’s an honest-and-truly witch. Mrs. Porter isn’t her witch name, though. Her witch name is Morbidda Destiny. The big kids on the street told me so. And she eats toads and casts spells and flies to witch meetings on her broomstick every night.”
If you need me, I’ll be hiding in a closet. This is exactly who my Elanor will be in a year or two.
Mary Anne strongly considers telling Karen she needs to up her meds, but chickens out.
BOO-BOO IS IN MORBIDDA DESTINY’S YARD, Y’ALL!!!! MARY ANNE HAS TO GO AND GET HIM!!!! Wow, who could’ve seen that plot twist coming? (Although, Ann—Two sub plots about escaped pets in one book? L-A-Z-Y)
Mary Anne is meekly trying to coax Boo-Boo back toward her and away from the flowers. Mrs. Porter, who is a bit of the crazy eccentric old lady (okay, so Karen has an eeensy point when you look at her from pov of a 6 year old) starts screaming at the cat and waving a rake at it. That actually works and Boo-Boo runs back Watson’s yard.
Mrs. Porter shook her rake after him (Boo-Boo). “Rapscallion!” she cried. She headed for her house. Mary Anne could her her mutter things like “Children and pets” and “Darned nuisance.”
Let’s play “What did Mrs. Porter REALLY say” in comments.
Mary Anne then has to explain to Karen that Rapscallion is not a magic spell. I’m dying of laughter over here…but mostly because it’s not me (yet).
They go in and have an uneventful rest of the day. Boo-Boo calms down before the Thomas family moves into the house. I’m guessing Mrs. T required that Watson put him on kitty prozac or got Boo-Boo a regular catnip dealer? I don’t recall a book titled “Kristy, the Demon Cat, and the trip to the Emergency Room for 105 stitches,” but I could be wrong.
BSC meeting on Wednesday. Mrs. McKeever calls to ask for a sitter for the two most atrociously named St. Bernards in the world (Buffy and Pinky are the names of your miniature poodles, not your miniature pony sized dogs, even if you’re Martha Stewart). I appreciate the girls’ restraint in not saying “HELLZ NO,” instead explaining that they’re not pet sitters.
Phone call number two is a new client, Mrs. Marshall. She has 2 little girls. The girls ask if they have any pets. A plot hole opens in the space/time continuum and Kristy says that some people are surprised when they ask this–to which I reply exactly how many calls have you gotten off screen? Because I count three adults calling about 4 baby-sitting jobs, AND if you’d asked McKeever that question the first time, we would’ve only had one runaway pet subplot. They have a non demonic cat. Oh, and you’ll have to give Eleanor her ear drops. Maybe it’s age, and maybe it’s just really lazy writing but I can see this plot twist from a mile away–who thinks something will go wrong?
Claudia gets the job because Stacey is mysteriously busy that night. Maybe she’s using that 10pm curfew to go out on a date with your older brother Kristy? Nah, she’s just MYSTERIOUSLY busy. I can’t quite figure out how this could relate to her SECRET DIABETES, so I’m sticking with my theory of date with Sam Thomas.
You know what would be super fun? Let’s figure out how much money we’ve made at all our sitting jobs! $26.75? WOOHOO! Let’s blow it on a pizza party and junk food instead of all those other things we said we were going to buy with our baby-sitting money.
I’m sitting here bitterly contemplating that my average sitting bill on a Saturday night is $60-75. Even with the almost 20 year cost differential I begin to dream of finding a middle school student I can totally underpay to watch my children. Or of the day that’s roughly 7 years away when I can underpay Elanor to watch Rhiannon.
Where were we? JUNK FOOD, AMIRITE STACEY? Stacey? Stacey? Oh, right…. Stacey lies and says she’s going to New York and won’t be around anyway, so it’s no big deal, they should have their pizza party, OKAY? Every sits there baffled that Stacey’s feelings were hurt that they never remember this really important thing about her because they’re such good friends.
Kristy gets home and WATSON IS THERE. She notes that this is the third time he’s had dinner with them in the last week. When do you see your children, Watson??? Cheapskate didn’t even bring food this time–he’s there for leftovers! Couldn’t he at least have brought food for Kristy to refuse to eat again?
Worse, Mrs. Thomas tells Kristy to go upstairs and put on a dress. Long time readers of the BSC will understand that Kristy putting on a dress is roughly equivalent to my degree of enthusiasm for taking my children on long haul flights from Singapore to Boston (36 fun filled hours in economy and random airports door to door–WOOHOO!) Her brothers have also been told to dress up.
Mrs. Thomas and Watson have news, ya’ll. Brace yourselves.
“Mom,” I said, “will you please tell me what’s happening? Why is everything so fancy?”
“Because we’re celebrating.”
“With leftover SpaghettiO’s?”
“It doesn’t matter what we eat. I just want us feeling festive.”
“Why? What are we getting festive about?”
A few minutes later, we were sitting around the dining room table, which looked almost as fancy as it does at Thanksgiving. Mom had spread out a green tablecloth and put a white runner over it. We were eating off our good china, and everyone had a wine goblet. Mom and Watson were the only ones with wine in their wine goblets though.
“Something very special happened today,” she (Mrs. Thomas) said.
I drew in my breath.
“Watson asked me if I would consider getting engaged to him.”
Full stop. Watson asked what? Pussy. Grow a pair and ask her for real, dude. PUT A RING ON IT.
Further, if you’ve got such momentous news, class it up a bit from spaghetti and gatorade–at least get McDonalds or something!
Finally, is there a real reason to break the news like this if Mrs. Thomas wants to think things over or discuss it with her kids? Especially given that Kristy will explode why are you telling them with Watson there? You lose like five hundred parenting points.
Kristy freaks out. Because of course she does. Anyone who has been reading the book for the last 108 pages could’ve told you that was going to be her reaction.
Kristy freaks out hard enough that the plot hole space/time continuum re-opens and changes Kristy’s meal from spaghetti and gatorade to fried chicken and twinkies. (Did Scholastic get some sort of product placement deal with Twinkies? Because they’ve been mentioned with some regularity in this book.)
Apparently Stacey actually had a legit trip to NYC with her parents on Friday, because the whole family left early that day. Her parents are okay on the permissive/playing along scale but I don’t think they’d take her to NYC just to let her continue to hide her diabetes–that’s taking the subway to crazytown, and I don’t mean Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Kristy, Claudia, and Mary Anne decide to play the whole pizza party thing by ear because Stacey might come back in time for the pizza party, even though she’s made her feelings clear that she’d rather wear ugly clothes forever than go to a pizza party.
Saturday is one of those days. David Michael has the stomach flu. Mrs. Thomas is pissy (probably because 1-sick kid means drama, 2-Kristy is being a bitch about the potential wedding, and 3-because she’s thinking FML).
Kristy then spends FIVE PAGES on the phone.
Mary Anne calls Kristy sobbing that her dad says she needs to save her money for things like college and clothes (he’ll come to regret that last one down the line when she starts shopping at Rave instead of GAP) and can’t use it for a pizza party. She doesn’t want to be a charity case, so she’s not going.
Claudia calls upset that her parents got a letter that she’s not working to her potential and they flipped out so no parties for her. Claudia points out that multiplying fractions is irrelevant to real life and that school is stupid. (I have a magnet that says “School prepares you for the real world, which also sucks.” I think Claudia might need that more than me.)
Kristy calls Stacey’s house because ??? and is surprised when Stacey’s Mom answers the phone. Damn you 2003 one hit wonder.
I introduced myself to her and asked for Stacey. There was a pause, then it sounded as if Mrs. McGill might be covering up the mouthpiece of the phone, and then she got back on the line and said, “I’m sorry, dear, Stacey’s not home.”
“Oh,” I said, disappointed. “Where did she go?”
“Well, sh’s…um…she stayed in New York with friends, Kristy. She’ll be back tomorrow night.”
Liar. Even Kristy can figure out that something bad is happening in Oz (sorry guys, I’m in a music mood today.)
The phone then rings and it’s Mary Anne ratting out that she JUST SAW Stacey. Something fishy is definitely going on.
Kristy calls Claudia and they gossip about Stacey too. Why is Stacey so MYSTERIOUS? What is she HIDING? (For fuck’s sake, it’s diabetes…I’m losing my freaking mind over here)
Mrs. Thomas yells at Kristy to get off the phone and I genuflect in gratitude. Seriously, Kristy, get off the phone.
The phone rings. Mrs. Thomas looks like she’s going to lose it. When it turns out to be Watson, and she
begs him to take her away makes kissy noises at him.
Then she turns to Kristy and tells her that Watson needs a sitter for Karen and Andrew. Right now. HOLY SHIT–ALL THOSE TOYS ARE TO MAKE UP FOR THE FACT THAT HE NEVER SPENDS TIME WITH HIS FREAKING KIDS. She’d have them dropped off at the house, but they could get David Michael’s illness. Kristy thinks it through, and realizes she’s the only one available. She looks at her mom, and knows there’s no worming out of this–she is going to baby-sit Karen and Andrew.
Where’s Kathy when we need her?