This book makes me think of an episode of Hey Arnold! So, my memories might actually be about that show, not the book. Although, honestly, they may have the same plot. I don’t think writers for either were that original.
But anyway, the basic story I am thinking of is that Mal meets her favorite author and is disappointed by her. But then Mal acts all spunky or cute or whatever and wins the heart of said author. Like I said, not that original.
Mal has a new favorite author, Henrietta Hayes (HH, for the rest of this post). By sheer coincidence, HH lives in Stoneybrook. Since Mal needs to do a school assignment on something connected to her dream career, she comes up with this project where she’ll interview HH to write about her life. Then Mal will write a play herself, that kids will perform.
Mallory tries sending letters to Henrietta, but keeps getting form letters back. She finally decides to go to HH’s house and knock on the door. Mal tells HH she was inspired to do this by the character in her books. This succeeds in not only getting an interview, but a part time job as her assistant. This is not as outlandish as it seems, Mal is just performing random tasks at HHs house, not working in an office or anything.
Anyway, Mal has decided that all writers must write things that are true about their lives. I don’t know why, since she has demonstrated writing talent in the past, but she has. And this causes two problems:
The first is that she is crushed when she finds out about HH’s real life – mainly that she grew up in foster care and had a child who died – because this means Mal’s favorite books are all “lies.” When HH tells her she is an idiot and that there is a difference between novels and biographies, Mal storms out.
The second problem is that Mal is writing her own play based on her family, and chooses to highlight the most annoying traits of her brothers and sisters. Since the Kids’ Club from the elementary school is performing it, her siblings end up hearing about the play and get pissed off. Mal is convinced that she can’t change it, because writers have to tell the truth. Finally, her mother convinces her to change it.
Mal talks to HH again who explains the concept of fiction to Mal. She tells her that good writers can write about true emotions without literally only writing about things that really happened. And during the whole experience, Mal inspired HH to write a “reunion” novel about characters from her previous books.
- Mal’s assignment is 80% of her English grade for the marking period. That seems like a really high percentage for the type of project it is.
- Awe, poor Mal really has no self-esteem. She says she might not put an author picture in her (future, potentially published) books so she won’t spoil the book for kids.
- Vanessa Pike has a Skip-It. I really wanted one of those as a kid.
- So, Henrietta Hayes does not exist (at least not as a writer). But, I wonder if she is supposed to be representative of a real author. Ann M. Martin seemed to like mentioning real books and writers when possible.
- Mallory references writing the letter to an author that shows up in the flashback Super Special.
- Mal says Mary Anne and Dawn didn’t have a lot in common when they met….but they sorta did, didn’t they? That was why they bonded so fast.
- Mal is like the kid in a Christmas Story….she thinks that her teacher will say her proposal for the project is the greatest he’s every heard, and he thinks it sucks. Or, he thinks it needs revisions.
- Weren’t Mal’s siblings in Kids Club? In this one they aren’t, but hear about the play through their friends. But I swear Vanessa and Nicky were in the club.
- Ms. Hayes is actually much nicer than I remembered her. She only gets bitchy when Mal starts asking questions about her dead child. Which, is pretty much an acceptable time to be bitchy.
- When Mallory shows up at HH’s house, the woman just lets her in. Would an author just let in some strange kid? Has she ever hear of stalkers?
- And Mal just goes inside a strangers house? Just because she is a published author doesn’t mean she is safe.
- Mal thinks it is cool that Ms. Hayes uses a teapot to boil water and not a microwave like in her house. It seems like a random detail to throw out.
- Even the other girls in the BSC tell her that her play is unfair to her siblings.
- I know Mal is easy to make fun of, but she has always been shown to be reasonably intelligent. At least in terms of school. However, she seems to have lost all her brains in this one. Besides the whole “writing the truth” thing, she thinks she can write about Henrietta Hayes’s life based soley on the interview. When her teacher tells her to do research, Mallory is all, “but why wouldn’t she just tell me everything I need to know?”
- It is weird, because Mal is all upset that HH’s books aren’t true, but when her siblings complain that she is making them look bad in her play, she claims artistic license. It is sort of a contradiction.
- Mal is horrible at the whole directing kids in a play. Seriously. She changes her mind every two seconds about what she wants the characters to do, and she can’t seem to keep any semblance of order. Which again, is unlike Mal, who usually can handle baby-sitting a lot of kids.
- Mallory actually says, “What would Ernest Hemmingway think of Henrietta Hayes?” As though Ms. Hayes did this incredibly awful thing by writing something that wasn’t a mirror image of her real life. I mean, really. It is not like she claimed it was a memoir.
- Mal is a bit insensitive… Danielle Roberts has to start missing rehearsals cause she has doctor appointments (because she has cancer), and Mal is all, “Oh, I knew we shouldn’t have given the lead to the sick girl.”
- In the revised version of the play, Danielle does get to perform. To play Mal she wears, “a bright red corduroy jumper with a white blouse underneath.” Do you think that is an intentional callback to her outfit in this book?
- When she is told she can’t write only the truth, she says she doesn’t know what to write. Again, really?
- Even when Danielle does perform, Mallory makes a point of saying she looks pretty, “despite the dark circles under her eyes.” Nice.
- Mal gets a mention on the acknowledgements page of Ms. Hayes book….but she is looking at manuscript of the first three chapters of the book. Rough draft manuscript. Who includes acknowledgements there?