My strongest memory of this book is not about the plot, but about the cover of the book itself. Because while the first five mysteries had blue covers, this one had a purple one. And then following this book, the mysteries alternated colors…similar to how the regular books did, only with darker tones. But having those five blue covers in a row looked so weird on my bookshelf.
In terms of the story itself, I’m sure I liked it, since it was back when the mysteries were semi-realistic. Now, I wish I could say that as a kid, I solved the mystery before Claudia did. Because I remember that the secret was that Janine had a boyfriend, and thinking about it now, it seems obvious. But I am not sure it would have been obvious to my eleven-year-old self.
Claudia notices that Janine’s acting “strange” lately. She’s been wearing makeup and different clothes, coming home late, and got caught lying to Mr. and Mrs. Kishi. She actually gets grounded for going to eat pizza when she said she was at the library (the rebel!). Claudia also suspects that Janine’s been looking through her (Claud’s) room. Then, an even weirder thing happens. Janine asks Claudia to give her a makeover. Some genius she is.
Despite all this, Janine refuses to say what’s going on or why she’s acting strange. So, Claudia decides to be a bratty little sister and spy on Janine until she finds out what the story is. And when she can’t figure out what’s going on, she decides to recruit an eight-year-old to help. The kid is Derek Masters, who’s back in Stoneybrook for a few weeks while his show is on hiatus. Since he guest starred on a kid detective show, Claudia thinks he can help solve the case of the weird Janine (which would have been a more interesting title). Since Derek doesn’t ask Claudia for fashion tips, I guess he is smarter than Janine, so it’s not so wrong for Claudia to ask him. But, in the end, he doesn’t help Claudia figure anything out.
While tailing Janine, Claudia sees her meet a strange (but hot) guy, and she can’t figure out who he is. He must be really hot, because Claudia keeps telling everyone over and over. When she sees Janine and the guy a second time, Janine is getting into his car. Claudia’s worried that he’s some kind of cultist/criminal and tells her parents. They confront Janine, and we learn that Janine’s been acting weird because she got a boyfriend and was embarrassed to admit it. He’s super-smart too and apparently hated when Janine wanted to wear makeup, so she goes back to being her boring old self. But with a hot, genius boyfriend. And the Kishis all meet the guy and like him, and he likes them. Go, Janine.
The sub-plot is kind of mixed in with the rest of it, because it surrounds Derek. When Derek isn’t helping Claudia with the “case,” he’s dealing with the fact that he will have to kiss a girl on the next season of his show. To hide the fact that he’s scared, Derek tells Nicky and the Pike triplets he has kissed lots of girls. So, they try to get him to demonstrate (on Vanessa, Becca, and Charlotte). But he can’t go through with it, and eventually fesses up. But, none of the characters really care, so I’m not sure why I should.
- This book is awesome because not only do we get a ton of Claudia outfits, but we get Claudia making over Janine. And we get Claudia making fun of Janine’s clothes.
- Claudia outfit: “lace leggings, purple tie-dyed T-shirt dress, and purple high-tops.” This is the type of outfit I always wanted to wear when I read these as a kid.
- Claudia says she’s embarrassed to write in the club notebook because of her spelling mistakes. As she should be.
- Mrs. Masters says she’ll be needing a lot of sitters while the family is in town, because she and Mr. Masters are busy “managing Derek’s career.” Although, we also find out he has a separate agent. Does this mean neither of them work and they just live off Derek?
- Does it really make sense that the Masterses would keep their house in Stoneybook to come back to on hiatuses? I know a lot of kid actors go to regular school between movies, but it seems harder to do with a TV show. Especially since most TV shows would be on hiatus in the summer.
- What kind of TV show has eight-year-olds kissing people?
- Why is it that when they talk about some girl on Derek’s show having black hair and blue eyes, which is an unusual combination, I know that it matches exactly what they say in earlier books?
- Even more embarrassing, when I was in high school I was obsessed with Dylan McDermott, and he made me think of how the BSC books said it was so unusual to have black hair and blue eyes.
- Another Claudia outfit includes, “this pair of black-and-white-checked stretch pants,” which she pairs with a black shirt with white polka dots. “The dots next to the checks made [her] feel a little dizzy, but [she] decided that the total effect was just what [she] was looking for.” Now, that outfit, is one I’d never want to copy.
- Just two pages after Claudia puts on this checked and polka-dot ensemble she makes fun of Janine for wearing orange nail polish and blue eye shadow together. Let me repeat that….the girl who wore an outfit knowing that looking at it made people dizzy, is putting down another person’s fashion statement.
- The rest of Janine’s outfit includes: “a gray kilt, a pale-blue-button-down shirt, and a gray crew-neck sweater.” Now, I actually have worn outfits very similar to that. It makes me feel old and boring.
- When Mallory and Claudia are sitting for Mal’s family, the Pikes leave a half-hour early. So, Mal was on her own with all seven kids. And yet, her parents won’t let her pick out her own clothes?
- Claudia refers to all her black blouses and all her white blouses being dirty. All of them? How many does she have?
- Another Janine outfit: “Navy-blue crewneck sweater, worn over a white blouse with a Peter Pan collar. Pleated knee-length gray wool skirt. Gray knee socks. Brown loafers.” Not that exciting, but not offensive to the eyes or anything.
- In one chapter, the ghostwriter wrote “crewneck sweater” as “crew-neck sweater” and in another as “crewneck sweater.”
- Claud’s new outfit for Janine is actually pretty decent, since Janine was insisting on nothing too dramatic. It’s a black skirt, a white shirt, and a blue-and-green sweater, with some boots instead of Janine’s typical loafers.
- Janine totally freaks out when Claudia puts mousse in her hair. She has no idea what it is or how to get any. It’s kind of funny, but I’m not sure how realistic it is. Even if Janine wasn’t that into fashion, I would think she’d be aware of the existence of hair product and drug stores.
- So, the BSC’s sitting around talking about what Janine’s deal is, and they’ve got some typical guesses like she’s running for student council, or impressing a teacher. Then, Mallory suggests she has a boyfriend, and everyone laughs at what a silly guess it is. Then, Claudia sees Janine with the hot guy. And instead of saying, “I told you so,” Mal is all, “maybe he’s a spy and Janine is handing information to him.”
- Yet another Claudia outfit: “A royal-blue sweatshirt dress.” It’s not really detailed enough to make fun of, but based on her record I’m going to assume it looked awful.
- One afternoon Claudia’s having a Devil Dog as a snack and Janine’s eating rice cakes. Now, this is supposed to be showing how different the two of them are, but way back in "Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls," Janine said she hides junk food in her room too.
- And another one of Janine’s post “make-over” outfits: “a gray wool skirt (one of her old ones, which she’d hemmed to a much more interesting length, a pink oxford shirt…and [Claud’s] red sweater….her fingernail were still orange.” Claud thinks the pink and red and orange clashes a little, and I would have to agree. But really, if Claudia wore that, all the BSC members would swear she looked totally cool.
- When Janine gets caught lying about eating pizza, Claudia tells us how if she had been caught in a lie she’d have told her parents she went to get pizza after the library. I’m kind of surprised a kid’s book gives tips for lying to your parents.
- When Kristy goes on a sitting job for the Masterses, Todd (Derek’s brother) doesn’t remember her. So, Kristy explains that she used to baby sit for him. But, did he? Cause I thought Jessi had all the Masters’ jobs in his first appearance. Kristy had a regular sitting job during the vampire movie, but that was later.
- When Claud does Janine’s makeup, Janine looks in a mirror and is surprised she’s looking at her own reflection. This is similar to the makeover Kristy got at summer camp. Now, I’ve had makeovers where other people did my make up, and I’ve never had a problem recognizing myself in the mirror.
- So, Derek is helping Claudia find out what is going on with Janine. They have this idea to get Janine to confess the secret she’s keeping by acting out a mock courtroom, complete with a speech about why lying is bad. The excuse for this is that Derek needs help with his homework, and Claudia is too dumb to do it herself. I am pretty sure this was the plot of a Brady Bunch episode.
- And….of course, the lying speech didn’t work. It just makes Derek admit he has never kissed a girl and is scared to. Shocking! I can’t believe any one could pass seven without being kissed. Anyway, Claud and Janine just tell him to admit the truth to the Pike boys (since they are the only ones who seemed to care). But, I think this ending happened on the Brady Bunch too.
- I have to give Claud some leniency for not realizing the guy Janine was meeting was her boyfriend, since the first time she saw them, the pair shook hands when they greeted each other. Janine admits later that at that point, they hadn’t reached the kissing stage. But they do by the end, and Janine is all happy about it. Again, go Janine.
- Claudia tells Janine not to correct all of Derek’s grammatical mistakes, because he is just a kid. And Janine says, “I will try to resist the impulse.” Which just totally cracked me up.
- Janine’s pretty pissed at Claud for tattling, which is one of the few times we actually see “mean Janine” being mean. But she gets over it and the two are friendly again by the end.