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.
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.
- 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.