When I was a kid I had never heard the term “RetCon,” but if I had, I would have known this book fits that definition perfectly. Because in this book Mary Anne suddenly has a whole history that none of us had ever heard of, where she lived with her grandparents. And I just thought it was so unbelievable that such a “secret” existing when we had never heard a single hint about it in the past.
But I was still totally jealous of her. Just because it seemed like it would be so cool to have a secret about my past to discover (even if it was a “bad” secret). I guess I was at the stage where I was old enough to think the BSC was unrealistic/silly, but still young enough to want to be like them.
Mary Anne has been thinking about her mom a lot. Or, more accurately, she’s been thinking about her lack of a mom. This gets worse because Stoneybrook’s having a “Heritage Day” for the town historical society to raise money. Because of this, all the kids in town are working on projects that relate to their family or to Stoneybook history. Mary Anne sits for Charlotte, who’s really into her project on her ancestors. Charlotte shows Mary Anne all sorts of photos of her great-great grandparents (or something like that), which inspires Mary Anne to look in her own attic for pictures of her mom. What she ends up finding is letters and photos that suggest she (Mary Anne) lived with her maternal grandparents in Iowa soon after her mom died. This is a bit of a shock, since she didn’t even know she had living grandparents.
Mary Anne gets it in her head this means her dad gave her away as a baby, and that he never wanted her. She doesn’t want to ask him about this, and instead, just lets it eat her up inside. She even worries that she might have to go back to her grandparents. Then, in a coincidence that is WAY to convenient, her grandmother calls Richard for the first time in years. Mary Anne accidentally picks up the phone, so she hears that her grandfather died. Grandma (whose name we don’t know) wants Mary Anne to come for a visit, but Richard doesn’t want to let her go. However, Mary Anne only hears part of the call, and thinks her grandma wants (and could get) custody. She’s scared to tell anyone and kind of freaks out about it. She eventually goes back to the attic and reads the rest of the letters she found. She learns that after a few months her dad asked for Mary Anne to come home to him, but her grandparents refused. She doesn’t find any more letters, but obviously she knows she ended up back with her dad. However, she’s still upset and worried that her grandmother could get custody.
Finally, she breaks down and tells her friends. They encourage her to talk to her dad, and he explains that he was not in a good place after her mom died, and he agreed to let Mary Anne stay with her grandparents. After a few months, he asked for her back and pushed to make it happen. The grandparents said it would be easier for them to make a clean break, and broke off all contact. Nice people. But now, Grandma thinks that was a mistake, and she’s mad that her husband didn’t see Mary Anne again before he died. Once she hears all this, Mary Anne decides she would like to go for a visit. The last chapter ends with a bunch of letters being exchanged while she’s visiting…where everything is all hunky-dory. And after this book, there was always an extra sentence or two in the traditional Chapter 2 about Mary Anne’s grandparents, and how Richard was strict because he’s trying to prove something to them.
- This book has yet another instance of Charlotte regressing to 3rd grade.
- Mary Anne has a dream early in the book, where she’s on a farm with an elderly couple – and later realizes it’s really a memory. It’s a bit coincidental that she suddenly has this dream.
- Mary Anne: “That day I was wearing a pink sweater and chinos, with these cute little boots I’d just bought. I guess you could say that my style is basically pretty preppy.” I think Mary Anne may be the only one who’s outfits always seem normal.
- Claudia: “For example, that day she was wearing a lacy white top over a solid white bodysuit, a black mini skirt with white polka dots on it, lacy white leggings, and red high-tops. Plus some really outrageous back-and-white jewelry…that she’d made herself.” That sounds like it wouldn’t be TOO bad, if it weren’t for all the lace.
- All the kids in town have different projects for Heritage Day. For example, Vanessa Pike’s class is reciting a poem about Stoneybrook that Vanessa is writing. That seems like a really unfair assignment. Vanessa has to write a poem (a really long one, apparently), and the other kids just read it? Shouldn’t they have all written something, and the teacher picked a couple to read? Or something else that’s more balanced.
- Mary Anne can’t find her mom’s grave at the cemetery, and she starts to look for graves with her mother’s maiden name (since her mom is buried near relatives). But if her family is from Iowa, why are they buried in Stoneybrook?
- Does Mary Anne really think her grandparents (who she hasn’t seen in years) have a chance of getting custody of her over her Dad (who’s raised her for years)?
- Mary Anne doesn’t tell anyone what she’s found for a while, but people can tell she’s upset. Dawn keeps telling people Mary Anne must have had a fight with Logan. She even refuses to let Logan talk to Mary Anne when he calls. It’s really rather condescending.
- So of COURSE the BSC ends up involved with Heritage Day…they make cut outs of “famous” Stoneybrook-ites from history, so people can pose with them in pictures.
- One of the cut-outs is of Sophie, the “ghost” in Stacey’s attic. The model the cut-out of Sophie off the “picture of her they found in the attic.” And I wouldn’t remember this if I hadn’t just read the other book, but the portrait was of her mother.
- Also, would anyone in town really know who Sophie is? The BSC only knows because Mallory found her diary.
- Dr. and Mr. Johansson have to work the day of some Elementary School parent-child picnic, so they call the BSC. Which is so ridiculous.
- Mary Anne doesn’t take money for taking Charlotte to the picnic, which is actually really nice of her.
- What are the chances that Grandma calls out of the blue at the exact same time Mary Anne is uncovering all this?
- When they are painting the cut outs, the BSC gets into a “paint fight” and Logan gets paint on his shirt. He ends up taking it off, and Mary Anne gets so embarrassed over it.
- A woman shows up at the house asking if it’s the “Spier-Schafer” house. Now, who asks for a house like that? I’ve lived with relatives where we didn’t share a last name, and people are always assigning the wrong name to the wrong people. And that is after years. The Spiers-Schafers have only been merged for a few months at this point.
- Mary Anne thinks this woman is a social worker, and that she’ll get a bad impression (because the girls were having a paint fight, playing music, and Logan had no shirt on). Now, Mary Anne was super-worked up, so I’ll let her get away with that assumption. But, we find out later the woman was a “census taker.” But what is this woman doing taking the census in 1992? Would it be so hard to come up with a more realistic reason?
- Mary Anne says that Claud’s spelling was “a little off” in the sign she made. It read: “POSE WITH STONNEYBROOKs SELEBRITYs.” If that’s what Mary Anne calls a little off, I’d hate to see what she calls horrible.
- There’s a scene when Dawn talks about how heritage day makes her want to find out more about Jared Mullray. Richard is all, who? And Dawn answers, “the guy who haunts our secret passage?” Then Richard is all, “oh. That Jared Mullray.” For some reason that scene totally made me think of Jack Bristow.
- Just like in the book where Richard gets married, Richard gives Mary Anne a letter that her mom wrote before she died. She wanted Mary Anne to have it when she turned 16, but Richard decides to give it to her early because she is “so mature” for her age. It seems so arbitrary that her mom would pick the age 16, but not want Mary Anne to have anything before that.
- This book’s weird, because it definitely takes place during the school year, but Mary Anne ends up on this extended vacation in Iowa. They don’t say how long she’s there, but the last chapter is full of letters between her and the rest of the BSC, and it seems like she’s there for weeks.