Tuesday, November 9, 2010

“Me, the worst speller on the planet, work for the school newspaper?”…..BSC # 71: Claudia and the Perfect Boy

Memory Reaction

When I first read this book, I thought it was the most unrealistic thing ever. It had middle-school students placing personal ads and going on dates like they’re adults. I didn’t believe it would happen in an actual middle school, without it turning into an outlet for ridicule.

Now, today, I have multiple friends who have gotten engaged/married to someone they met on match.com. However, when this book came out, there was no Internet. It was much less socially acceptable to place personal ads. So, having 13-year-olds do it with no issue is ridiculous. And it certainly wouldn’t become the most popular thing in a school. Even if some kids were willing to do this, I’m sure there would be others who laughed at them or used it to play tricks on certain kids. I’m don’t know what it would be like in a middle school today, but back then, it was ridiculous. There’s really no other word for it.

Revisited Reaction

This book takes place right after Stacey met Robert, so it makes sense that Claudia suddenly feels bad about not having a boyfriend. She and Stacey are talking about it while reading magazines, and notice some personal ads. Claudia ends up asking Emily Bernstein (editor of the SMS paper) if they can add a personals section for kids to the school paper. Emily says yes, the rest of the newspaper board agrees, and Claudia’s placed in charge.

The personals column becomes a major hit. Claudia also adds a “suggestions” section, where she notes if two people placing ads would actually be a good match for each other. However, while Claudia’s being a great matchmaker for all her classmates, she doesn’t have any luck finding a guy of her own…the guys placing ads sound great on paper, but in actuality kind of suck. She tries placing an ad of her own, and has equally bad luck. She finally gets one letter that seems promising, but the person didn’t provide his real name or any contact info. Eventually, Stacey admits that she wrote the letter to try and make Claudia feel better, but realized it was making things worse. So, Claudia doesn’t end up with a boyfriend, but decides that she’s not quite as upset about it, since she still has her friends and gained a new talent/hobby in working on the column.

The subplot focuses on the Barretts. It seems that Marnie’s allergic to dogs, which means they need to get rid of Pow, the family pet. Buddy and Suzi are all upset about it, as one would expect. But eventually, the Pikes agree to take the dog in, which means the Barrett kids can still visit.

High/Lowlights
  • Claudia outfit: “Pink socks with gold stretch pants, and then…a gold turtle neck with a pink sweater and…blue jewelry.” She thought she looked like a “human sunset.”
  • When the BSC hears that Marnie’s going to the allergist, they wonder if Mrs. Barrett could be forgetting that Marnie’s allergic to chocolate. Do they really think that little of her? Forgetting to leave a phone number of where you’ll be is quite different than forgetting your child’s allergy.
  • Right after the news goes out that there’s going to be a personals section, Claudia starts getting letters for it. One of the first ones is from a guy upset about his parents divorce, saying he wants to talk to other kids with the same problem. Even in a world where middle-schoolers place personal ads, it seems a bit unrealistic that a kid would do that.
  • Claudia wonders if she should tell said kid to talk to a therapist. I feel like that’s a PSA the ghostwriters wanted to add in, starting about midpoint of the series. Like someone suddenly decided kids needed to know it was okay to see a therapist.
  • I think Claudia does mention doing this personals column in at least one other book, but it definitely doesn’t get mentioned much after that. I always hated that…Claudia spends so much time on it in this book, and then never seems to again.
  • Claudia loves spell check, as you would expect. But her misspellings are SO bad, I’m surprised it even knows what she means. I tested some of her misspellings in Word, and it didn’t come up with the right suggestion for “butey” (beauty) or “cule” (cool), and those are pretty basic words.
  • It seems weird that Emily has so much control over the paper. Yeah, she’s the editor, but this is middle school. There should be some teacher involvement.
  • After she finds out Marnie’s allergic to the dog, Mrs. Barrett removes the rug and all the stuffed animals from her room, to help keep it “dust free.” But, if it’s the dog she’s allergic to, does dust still matter? Pow’s sleeping out in the garage at this point.
  • I don’t think Suzi and Marnie have always shared a room, have they? I remember when Dawn first started sitting for them, and she helped the kids clean their bedrooms….there were three of them. I think they just made that up for this book, so that Suzi could complain about the lack of toys (which she does when Shannon’s baby-sitting her).
  • One of the guys who Claudia meets actually goes to another school, but had Alan Gray (his neighbor) submit the ad. And Claudia’s all, “Well, if he goes to private school, it must be the Paulson School.” But how would she know this? There are other private schools in Stoneybrook.
  • One of Claud’s date outfits is, “A long white shirt under a green tapestry vest, green corduroy pants, and low boots.” That’s pretty tame for a Claudia outfit. In fact, it seems too tame. Especially for a date.
  • Wow, this book’s dated. Claudia has to cut sections of her column at the last minute. And to do so, she literally cuts and pastes the text out of a layout board that’s going to the printer.
  • Mary Anne puts a note for Logan in the personals section, saying “You’re cuddly kitten will love you forever, call the Tig at…” It’s really just there as a way to add drama, because the ad gets switched around with someone else’s, and Logan thinks Mary Anne’s placing an ad for a new guy. But it makes no sense, cause no one else is using the personals for messages like that. Also, why would Logan be reading the personals in the first place?
  • Emily says that they need to start printing more copies of the paper, because before only some students bothered looking at it, and now every kid wants to get a copy. I’m pretty sure in my school they gave one to every student, regardless of who read it. I would think they’d make a point of doing that in most schools.
  • Actually, it was my high school that gave every student a copy. I don’t think we even HAD a paper in my middle school, and we most certainly didn’t have a weekly one. Emily says that they only recently became weekly, but it still seems unbelievable.
  • One of Claudia’s dates has an actual tattoo. He says he was grounded for a month because of it, but it’s the real thing. Now, I suppose he could be lying, but how does a thirteen-year-old get a tattoo without his parents’ permission. Ear piercings are one thing, but tattoos?
  • Claudia makes a list of things she wants for a guy, and at first it seems like she’s being picky…but she really has good reason for turning down the guys she does meet. One guy will only talk about things that are Asian and one doesn’t say a word except to answer her questions. Another turns out to be Alan Gray, who she doesn’t even bother meeting for a date.
  • The Pikes tell Buddy and Suzi that they can come over to see Pow any time, and Mallory just tells them to “call if it’s after midnight.” I’m not sure they should have been quite that generous.
  • It seems like a personals page would be a hit for a couple weeks, then die down. So all the talk about Claudia helping the paper seem premature.

12 comments:

The World of Lurlene Mcdaniel said...

Great Post.

I remember reading this book and becoming flat out discusted by this, because claudia was being really desperate and annoying, and i didn't like the way she treated alan in this book. I mean really claudia. So i was kinda glad her dates ended up in disaster.

Another thing i remember was that around the first chapter in this book it pictures claudia hugging herself which has me wondering like wtf, is this bitch that desperate to get a boyfriend. And at 13 too?

I wouldn't be surprised about Logan though. Logan's such a dork and a douchebag and Mary Anne should of been over Logan by now.

Melinda said...

A friend of mine got a tattoo in High School (I think we were maybe 15?). Someone's cousin did it in their basement, so it's possible to get one without parental consent.

Weird as it may sound, this book has always been one of my favorites and I can't even explain why. Probably because Claudia seems so desperate for a boyfriend it's laughable. :D

Polaris said...

I didn't read many Sweet Valley books but I remember reading the Sweet Valley Twins book where everyone ends up going to a dance with their new personal ad date and it was complete disaster.

When this book came out my first thought was "oh it's like the bsc version of the sweet valley book" Though it worked out more successfully her (except for Claudia!). Really wonder how any of the BSC had time for al these extra activities, other than the babysitting, claudia had her art classes, had to have extra help with her homework, now a paper column and later on she did that radio show for a while, where do they find the time/energy!

dolly said...

my middle school had one bitch yours probably had one too but you were too stupid too look for it

miserychick2602 said...

Is a reason ever given for Claudia's complete inability to spell? Or are we just meant to think it's quirky?

Do her parents ever consider anything other than putting her down a grade for a few months? Or maybe they figure 'Hey, we did uber well with Janine, we won't worry about this other one."

M said...

@ miserychick, I had a friend in high school who could not spell to save her life. (I can't either, but I'm not on Claudia's level by any means.) It took four people an absurdly long time to figure out her most creative spelling for "future" and even then we weren't positive until someone just called and asked. So while her spelling wasn't as bad as Claud's is later in the series (because that was just nonsense), at the start/middle? Yeah. It was that bad.

To the best of my knowledge she never had any reason given for her fun spelling. She just spelled things the way she thought they should be spelled.


And school papers: I think, technically, we had one in middle school, but no one ever saw it. And our high school one didn't print out enough for everyone to have one. You had to get lucky enough to either know someone on the paper or just find one that someone left behind if you wanted to read it.

Polaris said...

One of the things that annoyed me about Claudia's spelling, is that she couldn't even be consistent, she would spell the same words differently, you think she could stick to one version!

In like her first book she mentions that she while Janine is a genius, she actually has an above average iq as well. I think that was completely disregarded in later books.

Paigealicious! said...

We had a newspaper in my middle school...I think it came out once every two months or something (and I actually worked on it). We would sell them during lunch for a quarter each...no personals ads, though.

P.S. Dolly I still love you

Laura said...

With regard to the 'Claudia doesn't work on the paper anymore' issue, I always thought that once it'd been popular for a while that the kids that were willing to use the service would've done so and then the column wouldn't be as popular because no one was writing in anymore. So to me it made sense the Claud wouldn't have been as busy with/working at the SMS Express at all after a while. Also, there may have been more non-Claudia books between #71 and whatever the next Claud one is and, naturally, it would've been down-played or just not necessarily highlighted in the other books.

Jane Primrose said...

Claudia seems pretty textbook dyslexic, which is why it annoyed me when in one book she specifically says she was tested for dyslexia and doesn't have it.
Actually, using different spellings of the same word in one text isn't that unusual for bad spellers - I'm a teacher and I've seen a lot of kids do that. I think they try different combinations at random and hope at least one will be right.

Aisle Say! said...

" * The Pikes tell Buddy and Suzi that they can come over to see Pow any time, and Mallory just tells them to “call if it’s after midnight.” I’m not sure they should have been quite that generous. "

Now that you've mastered spelling and grammar, you might want to start working on understanding something called humor.

*Melanie Raye* said...

It's books like this that make me laugh, because Claudia ends up dating Alan in the Friends Forever series :)