Wednesday, June 30, 2010

“That summer started off like most of the other summers of my life. But by the end of it, everything was different.” BSC: The Summer Before


So, I’m ashamed to admit this, but I was actually looking forward to reading this. I’m not sure what I was expecting, though. There’s really no plot. And certainly no new information revealed. My post is going to be a bit different than most because it’s a new book and I obviously can’t remember reading it as a kid.

The book’s narrator alternates between the four original BSC members. Kristy, Mary Anne, and Claudia’s stories are somewhat linked because they’re all in Stoneybrook and are interacting with each other. Stacey hasn’t left New York yet, so her story’s kind of isolated. She spends the summer helping her mom pack for the (first) move to Stoneybrook. She’s pretty much friendless because Laine turned on her when she got diabetes, so the only other thing she does is baby-sit for a bunch of kids who give her a good-bye party when she leaves.

Back in Stoneybrook, Mary Anne’s been trying to find out more about her mom. She’s been going through some of her boxes of stuff in the attic. She doesn’t find the letters about living with her grandparents as a baby, but she does find some of her mom’s old dolls. She convinces Kristy to come with her to ask Claudia to help her design clothes for them. Claudia’s horrified at the idea of Mary Anne and Kristy still playing with dolls, which is actually part of a larger issue.

Claudia’s feeling like she’s outgrowing Mary Anne and Kristy, and she’s becoming closer to some of the other “cool” kids in school. She’s also interested in boys, and convinces her parents to let her have a boy-girl pool party at their neighbor’s house for her birthday. Janine invites a couple friends as well, including Frankie, a 14-year-old boy that she knows from her summer school class. Claudia ends up hanging out with Frankie a lot over the summer, and she thinks of him as her boyfriend, even though she isn’t totally sure that he is. But he does come over all the time, invites her to go places with him and his family, and tells her how great her art is. This causes issues with Janine because she had a crush on him, and Claudia’s too clueless to notice, at least at first. But they make up by the end (but then fight again before the next Claudia book, as usual).

Kristy and Mary Anne are doing their own thing, which for Kristy, is baby-sitting. Kristy asks Mary Anne to come with her on a sitting job for the Pikes, and Mary Anne decides she likes it. Her father will only let her sit when she’s with someone (Kristy or Claudia), which Mary Anne can’t stand. But by the end he lets her sit on her own (obviously, since she can sit by herself in Kristy’s Great Idea).

Kristy’s mom’s starting to get closer to Watson, which annoys Kristy. She’s also missing her father, and writes to him hoping it’ll help him remember her twelfth birthday in August. However, the letter comes back as “addressee unknown.” And of course, he doesn’t show up on her birthday. Mary Anne had guessed this would happen, so she plans for a “Kristy Day” the day after her birthday. This is an outing with a bunch of the neighborhood kids, and it does make Kristy feel better.
At the end of the summer, Frankie’s friends come home from camp or summer vacations, and he dumps Claudia. Then she, Kristy, and Mary Anne have a talk about how they want to stay friends and hope they will find something to tie them all together. Hmmm, I wonder what that could be? Anyway, we see the first day of school, when Claudia and Stacey meet, and then the last chapter of the book’s a condensed version of the first part of Kristy’s Great Idea.


  • The first chapter is a Kristy one, and it starts with some transition text about how she and the other girls talked “when they were older,” and they found out they all thought they didn’t belong during the summer before 7th grade. So, I guess the book is sort of supposed to be like they are flashing back?
  • Kristy makes a point of saying how lately she and Mary Anne have been “shocked” at Claud’s outfits. I guess that’s a nice way to say she looked like a freak.
  • I sometimes have a hard time reconciling Mary Anne’s father in the later books with the super strict father in the early books. During summer vacation he leaves her a note saying to call him before 9:30 and then again before any time she leaves the house. It also includes a bunch of rules for her to follow. Which seems a little excessive.
  • Claudia outfit: “[She] was wearing willowy black pants, cinched at the waist with a drawstring, and a boldly patterned summer shirt with ties that she was adjusting around her midriff…Claud had slithered into a lacy black tank top before she’d put on the shirt.” Not too bad, relatively speaking.
  • Kristy said her mom met Watson in May, the year she was in 6th grade. Which means, when they get engaged in the first book, they’ve only been dating four or five months.
  • Claudia has some nice neighbors. How many people would just clear out of their house for a day, and let a bunch of tweens use their pool?
  • The pool owners are the Goldmans, which I am almost positive was the name of Claudia’s neighbors in the Phantom Phone Caller book. I think those were the ones who were robbed.
  • Because Kristy’s still refusing to meet Karen and Andrew at this point, Sam agrees to baby-sit for Karen and Andrew. I would really like to see how that played out.
  • When sitting for the Pikes, Kristy and Mary Anne play a game called “Tail Trail,” where someone says an animal, and then the next person has to think of an animal that starts with whatever letter the last one ended with (like elk, then kangaroo, then otter, etc). We used to play that on car trips, only with countries instead of animals. But we never called it “Tail Trail.”
  • There are a couple scenes where people talk about “watching for meteors.” Kristy’s whole family actually sits out one night to watch for them. It just seemed odd to me.
  • Stacey tells us how Laine had really turned into a mean girl BEFORE she got diabetes…supposedly it started right after Laine got back from camp before sixth grade started. Which would be fine, except it totally contradicts what happened in the Baby-sitters Remember.
  • Mary Anne freaks out when she hears an ad for back to school supplies at the beginning of August (because she doesn’t want summer to end), and her dad just laughs at her. It’s kind of amusing.
  • Stacey’s surprised that you can get take out in the “country.” You would think a sophisticated person would know the difference between suburbs and the country.
  • When the McGills get to their new place, a neighbor comes by with some food from a bakery to welcome them. And Stacey’s all, “wow people are as nice here as they are in the city.” Which just seemed funny to me, because you usually hear people say the opposite.
  • Kristy says her dad is re-married, but didn’t that happen in one of the Friends Forever books? Which was way after this book takes place.
  • The first day Stacey meets Claud, she decides Claudia must have decorated her bell-bottoms herself. How would she know this? Isn’t the idea that Claudia does such a good job it looks “professional?”
  • Claudia also wears a fluorescent-green hat, that Stacey says looks like a “bejeweled engineer’s cap.”
  • Just for fun, I flipped through a copy of the re-released Kristy’s Great Idea, to see if I could find any of the updates they supposedly did. The only thing I found was that in the beginning, instead of the line where Kristy said she was always closer to Mary Anne than Claudia, it says how they Claudia was starting to drift apart over the summer, but then they had a talk about it at the end of the summer.
  • In the re-release, there’s a scene where Kristy’s description of her clothes changes. In the K she said how Claudia and Stacey were wearing “cool” clothes, but she and Mary Anne had on skirts and blouses, and that she (Kristy) was wearing knee socks and loafers. But in the new description Kristy’s wearing jeans and sneakers. Claud’s outfits stays all stay the same. The line about sheep being “in” is in there as well.


Kait W. said...

It's funny how the line about sheep being "in" stayed for the re-release, but got changed in the graphic novel version (where I believe she said that rainbows were in).

I also find it funny to see the things Claudia wears in the early books that are supposedly so cutting-edge high-fashion. In one book she wears teddy bear barrettes with ribbons on them, and Mrs. Newton says she wants to get a pair for her baby.

Ashley said...

No, it was mentioned in the original Kristy's Great Idea that Patrick was married, I think that Zoey (from the FF series) was his third wife.

nikki said...

Not surprising that Patrick would be on multiple wives. That guys a dick.

Also, we used to sit out and watch meteor showers when I was a kid. I grew up in the country. I live in a densely populated area now, so I can't even see stars anymore :(

booboobrewer said...

Yeah, I see nothing weird about watching meteor showers...

Why ashamed about the new book? Your whole blog is dedicated to the series! ;)

Correct that the Goldmans were in Phantom Phone Calls.

Nikki Neurotic said...

I've watched several meteor showers. Once my dad got me and my brother out of bed at 2 in the morning to watch them. It was late fall or something so it was pretty cold outside but it's one of my favorite memories.

Devika said...

My mom and I used to play the countries game on car trips too! Haha all this time I thought my mom made that up.

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

I guess I'm the weird one then, cause I really never heard of anyone watching meteor showers. I do remember going to some place to try and see Haley's Comet, though. But we had to drive awhile to get there, I guess my town was to congested for views.

Kait W. said...

I just bought and read this book and realized something: isn't the story of how Claudia and Stacey met completely different from how it was described in the series? I thought the original story was that they bumped into each other in the hallway and they were dressed alike in off-the-shoulder sweatshirts or something.

There is also something that Ann gets right here. People often say that it's weird for the girls to be thirteen and in eighth grade or eleven and in sixth. But in one chapter here, Stacey says that if she had moved in the fifth grade she would have had tearful goodbyes with twenty-five ten- and eleven-year-olds. So maybe she does realize that eighth graders are more likely to be fourteen, but just gave them all late birthdays.

BSC Snarker, aka Kristen said...

I almost commented on how Stacey and Claud meet, but I wasn't sure if I was remembering it right.

As for the age, I think 13 is the right age for 8th grade. Most schools have a guideline that a kid needs to be 5 by October/November-ish to start kindergarten. So, most people would be 13 when they start 8th grade, with many of them turning 14 in the later half of the year.

Anonymous said...

I've very saddened to hear they changed Kristy's Great Idea (like with Kristy's outfits). :( I liked how in the early books she really didn't care what she wore, and basically just wore whatever her mom put her in.

maria said...

We also played a car game like in the book, but we did it with names and it was called the name game. You had to come up with a celebrity/historical figure/fictional book character and you based it on the first letter of the last name. For example, if you started off with the name, Stacey McGill, the next person could use Mary Anne Spier.

I don't think 4-5 months is too short for people of Sharon and Watson's age. I mean, they have children and have been through marriage once. They're probably pretty aware of what they want in a partner by now and don't waste much time.

I'm torn between being disappointed or glad that the book doesn't offer a glimpse into what the girls are doing as they age.

Anonymous said...

" * There are a couple scenes where people talk about “watching for meteors.” Kristy’s whole family actually sits out one night to watch for them. It just seemed odd to me."

Why is that odd?

Anonymous said...

I haven't read this yet, but I still want to. I grew up with the
BSC, it being the first book series I ever started, as well as read all the books. It was unrealistic, but fun. I too think that Kristy's dad was married several times, maybe due to his commitment issues? He left because he basically couldn't handle being a dad anymore, but then remarries, and then again and again? Sounds reasonable to me, and I'm sure it happens tons more in real life. As for the neighbors, if they had all been neighbors for like, 12 years, then its reasonable that they would say the girls could use their pool (unless its other people, like I said, I didn't read the book yet, so I'm not sure how that plays out). I think all in all its supposed to be a simple read, not really something to read deeply into and analyze. But thats just my opinion.

SJSiff said...

Watching a meteor is very weird if it's June. The Perseids and Leonids are the big yearly ones that come around, and they're in August and November. There are some other ones but they're not as spectacular and not in June.

Which means that Kristy's family is just sitting around that backyard in case a meteor happens by, which is odd. I watch for meteors when I have a decent chance of seeing them (and star gaze on other nights).

yankeedog said...

How could "The Summer Before" have not been a disappointment, after all the anticipation?

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