Mary Anne Saves the Day
Ann M. Martin
Originally Published February 1987
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.
- She must wear braids at all times
- She must dress well for dinner
- She mustn’t say naughty words like gross, hey, and “a long list of other words”
- Must have perfect table manners
- Her room is pink and white, which are appropriate girl colors
- The only picture in her room is Mary Anne and her parents on her Christening Day
- The only artwork in her room is Humpty Dumpty and Alice in Wonderland prints
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