As a kid, I wasn’t sure if we were going to get a new character to replace Dawn when she moved to California (the first time). At first, I thought this book was really introducing a new character, which was an idea I sort of like and sort of hated. But I think I was a little relieved that the potential new member introduced in this book didn’t become permanent. What’s weird is I can’t remember if I liked her or not. I know she was all “rebellious” at least for a BSC member. Part of me thinks that I agreed with her points about Kristy overreacting to a little lateness. But that may have just been an opinion that formed when I reread the book a few years later.
This book picks up soon after Dawn leaves for her “six-month” visit to California. Because the BSC’s now one member short, they’re super busy. On top of that, Mallory has been feeling tired, because the ghostwriters are setting up the next book where she gets Mono. This means she isn’t around to sit as much either. So, Jessi suggests they ask a new friend of hers, Wendy, to join. Wendy attends one meeting, which is so insanely busy the other girls don’t really have time to ask her any questions, or to tell her how the club works. But she does get to go along with Jessi on a sitting job for an audition. She’s great with the kids, so the girls make her a member.
However, it seems Wendy’s a pretty laid back person. Meaning, she doesn’t think it’s a big deal to get to a club meeting 20 minutes late or to take a job sitting for her neighbor without telling the BSC. She even shows up for a sitting job late (because it was at the Pikes and she was only the second sitter). Kristy tries to yell at her for these criminal offenses, but Wendy doesn’t particularly care and thinks that only her parents and teachers can tell her what to do. She ends up quitting the club and walking out of a meeting. Later, she and Jessi agree to stay friends, but I don’t think she’s ever mentioned again. Meanwhile, Shannon suddenly has extra free time so she agrees to be a regular member until Dawn comes back.
Subplot: The Barrett kids miss Dawn, and they come up with an idea to make a video for her with some other neighborhood kids. They end up doing a skit that’s a combination of Snow White and Captain Planet. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually think they come up with a kinda cute story. By sheer coincidence, Dawn gets the idea to make a video with some of the kids in California. Then, the book seriously dates itself by having both sets of girls create a VHS that they snail mail across the country.
The second subplot is that Margo Pike is suddenly a shoplifter. She steals a pack of gum and a troll ring. Jessi catches her, and eventually tells Mallory, who makes Margo fess up to her parents. And they totally let her get away with it. Mrs. Pike makes Margo tell the store manager what she did, who just takes the stuff back (and money for the gum). And that’s it. No mention of another punishment.
- Jessi claims that Squirt’s two. When did he have a birthday? He’s always been one-and-a-half. It’s especially annoying, since in the next book preview in the back of the book, it says he’s one-and-a-half.
- Jessi’s sitting for her siblings when Wendy calls her. And she just invites Wendy to come over and hang out while she’s sitting. That seems like she’s breaking some kind of sitting rule.
- The cover of this book made me laugh, because it shows Wendy sitting at a BSC meeting, chewing gum. And the tag line is “This is Dawn’s replacement?” As though chewing gum at a meeting makes her a horrible person.
- Claudia: “She was wearing an oversized white shirt under a black vest covered with a design of shiny beads. (She had sewn the beads on it herself). She wore neon green leggings and black ballet slippers (on which she’d sewn a matching bead design). From one of her pierced ears hung a dangling earring made from the same beads and on the other ear she wore a green hoop earring.” I guess the ghostwriter didn’t know Claudia has three holes.
- Mallory outfit: “She was wearing a faded lavender sweat out-fit, her blue terrycloth robe thrown over it.”
- I remember this scene so vividly – Vanessa Pike gets a curler stuck in her hair, and Jessi has to cut it out. Then she makes a little braid out of the cut section. I sometimes tried to imitate that (although, not the actual hair cutting).
- Now speaking of Vanessa, she was doing her hair for a birthday party she was going to at 5:30 on a Thursday. That seems like a strange time for a party, especially for a fourth-grader.
- I don’t really buy how busy the club is with Dawn gone. She was one person, and she likely wasn’t sitting more than once a day. So, each girl would be taking on one more job a week. But supposedly they’re all twice as busy as before?
- They also talk about how meetings are much busier without Dawn, supposedly they are getting a lot of phone calls. But they only have one line, so it’s not like an additional person can answer more calls.
- Mallory falls asleep while reading Claire The Three Bears. And Claire is all, “I don’t blame her. It’s a really boring book.” That made me laugh, which is rare for Claire.
- The Margo shoplifting plot totally comes out of nowhere. There’s no build up for it at all. Unless it’s supposed to be a sign of how screwed up the Pike kids will be one day.
- When the girls are shopping for props/costumes for their video, they see an aisle in the store full of trolls. Now, THAT’s a flashback. I totally had a troll collection back in 4rth-5th grade.
- Good continuity alert: Dawn’s video shows Stephie (from the California Super Special) and mentions her friend Margie, who I’m sure was mentioned in another book.
- The day she quits, Wendy’s all annoyed because she was beating her friends in a Super Mario Brothers tournament, but had to leave to come to the meeting.
- Considering how rigid the BSC is sometimes, they don’t even bother to explain how the club works to Wendy.
- I guess Wendy was supposed to be a bit of a bitch, but she really just acted like a normal middle schooler.
- I wonder if this book was being planned when the previous book (where Dawn leaves) was written. In that one, Shannon says she doesn’t have time to be a full time BSCer. But by the end of this book, she suddenly has plenty of free time.
- There’s a scene at the end where the girls all go rollerblading, and they make a big deal out of describing not just Claudia and Stacey’s outfits, but their helmets and safety pads. I remember thinking how it was such a lame attempt to preach to kids about skating/biking safety.
- Claudia’s skating outfit: “Hot pink stirrup pants and a fuzzy pink sweater that made a nice contrast with her neon green pads and helmet.”
- Stacey’s: “Cool as ever in jeans and a short brown leather jacket. Her helmet was black with silver streaks.”
- The BSC members all go out to pizza and apparently “everyone” agreed on having a pepperoni pizza. And they decided the “one good thing” about Dawn being gone is that they don’t have to order a portion of the pie with no meat. BUT, from my recollection, Dawn was never the only person to get plain. She would usually want vegetables or plain, and everyone else wanted various different combinations. I remember one book where they ordered like 3 pies, with each half different.