I totally loved this book as a kid, because it includes kids living in a mall, and as a kid I always thought it would be cool to spend the night in one. Not because I loved shopping. I just thought it would be really fun to roller blade up and down the aisles and wonder around with no one there. I also had a fantasy of putting in a rope swing and riding from level to level. I’m weird, I know.
In terms of specifics, I mainly remember the girls running through the mall at the end trying to find the kids who were living out my fantasy. Then after the BSC finds them, the girls take the kids to a restaurant while one of them calls the cops. Then the oldest of the kid looks at them all betrayed because of it.
The BSC has a class/project where they have to take part time jobs after school three days a week to learn about being in the workplace. They don’t actually earn any money, it’s just for school credit. The BSC all gets jobs at Washington Mall, although they could have chosen different locations. Stacey ends up with a job at the toy store, probably because it worked kids into the better than if she was at some fashion boutique.
All the girls (and Logan) find out right away that there’s a lot of shoplifting at the mall. And a week or so into the project, mall security catches a bunch of teenagers supposedly behind it. But after that, stealing continues. There are some big things being taken (TVs, treadmills, etc.) and smaller things (towels, childrens clothes, etc.). Someone’s also sneaking into a kitchen in the food court and cooking at night. At one point, Stacey comes face to ski-mask-covered face with one of the thieves in the storeroom of the toy store.
Because these girls are goody-goody, they can’t stop at just working at the mall. They also notice that their bosses sometimes need to bring their kids to work, and that parents sometime leave their kids at the toy store/bookstore/whatever while they do other shopping. So, the BSC decides that the mall needs a day care center. Because of this they meet the mall manager, who’s excited about the idea and gives them (or the daycare) a space at half the normal rent (without a second thought) and they get to help make the thing happen.
The girls start talking about the thefts and decide there must be two sets of people stealing. Their impressive library research skills tell them the mall’s been having financial trouble since the new manager took over (who has been having new community-building events). They decide the mall manager must be stealing because his new policies have been losing money for the mall. They also put together the fact that a bunch of kids that always seem to be around are living at the mall and behind the rest of the thefts.
There’s a fire alarm at the mall one day, and when reviewing security tapes (which Kristy has access to for her job), the girls realize these kids must have done it. They think that maybe they pulled it when they caught the mall manager stealing. Now because this is the BSC, the conclusions they jumped to are actually right…..the manager had threatened them, so they pulled the alarm to find good hiding places.
But anyway, the girls go back to the mall and run all over to find out where these kids are hiding. They think they are in danger now that they now about the mall manager. The BSC finally finds the kids, and get the sob story about how their mom’s in the hospital, their aunt never showed up to take care of them, and their electricity was turned off. So, these kids moved into the mall. The BSC does realize this is a problem they can’t solve themselves and call the police, who bring in social services. The kids tell the cops about the mall manager, and before they have to worry about social services splitting them up, the mother’s magically out of the hospital and ready to go home. And she won’t have any trouble getting back into the apartment the kids had abandoned weeks ago, or paying rent on top of hospital bills, when she likely doesn’t have great insurance or even a job.
- You’ll never believe the stores these girls picked to work at. Claudia worked at an art store, Mallory worked at the book store, and Mary Anne worked at a pet store. Aren’t those the most original places for those characters to get jobs?
- Kristy works for mall security. I’m sure the ghostwriters wanted her to work at a sporting goods store, but they needed someone in security to give the girls the inside info on all the shoplifting. And Kristy made the most sense.
- Logan works at the Mexican restaurant in the food court. I can’t imagine how this taught him anything he didn’t already know from working in the Rosebud Café in Stoneybrook.
- Jessi gets stuck working at the movie theater. She says it isn’t her first choice, which I’m guessing means there was no ballet store at the mall.
- During story hour at the book store, Mallory reads the books Stone Soup and Tikki Tikki Tembo, both of which are real books I remember reading as a kid.
- I can buy a bunch of kids living in the mall for a few days, or even a couple weeks. But these kids were apparently living there for (at least) the entire six weeks that the project lasts. And no one noticed?
- Speaking of these kids….they don’t say what their mother’s sick with, but apparently she was hospitalized several weeks before the kids were living in the mall (long enough for their electricity to get turned off). But suddenly, she’s going to go back to being a full time single parent?
- The kids’ aunt was supposed to stay with them, but she never showed up. Now, they had just moved to town so they hadn’t enrolled in school or gotten a phone hooked up. But, are we really supposed to believe their mother didn’t realize what was going on? Especially since the kids only visited a couple of times without any aunt. The mother never wanted to speak to her?
- Also, what’s the deal with this Aunt who never shows up?
- I can’t believe how much I want to rant about a book I liked so much originally.
- I wish I went to SMS. Not only do they have awesome vacations, they have all sorts of cool projects. Going to zoos, meeting famous authors, writing school plays, etc.
- When the girls first hear about the project, Kristy’s worried about the affect it will have on the club. But then they all decide to take jobs at the mall, which means all seven of them (including Logan, Dawn's in California) will always be busy on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Wouldn’t it have made more sense if some of them took jobs in downtown Stoneybrook and worked on different days?
- Stacey’s teacher says that he and the other teachers split up all the jobs and are now assigning their group of jobs to their students. But this seems like a weird way to assign jobs. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to split the kids into classes based on the jobs they wanted? Otherwise, it’s hard to believe that most of these girls all got their dream jobs.
- Shannon says she can take extra sitting jobs while the rest of the club’s working at the mall. But if these girls get so many sitting jobs, how can Shannon cover them all herself.
- Right before the mall project started, Stacey had a class called “Math for Real Life.” As part of this, Stacey got to play the stock market with an imaginary $5,000, and apparently did crazy-well. Re-reading the books now makes me realize that Stacey wasn’t just supposed to be pretty good at math, she’s written as being exceptional at math and great with money in general.
- The way this day care center comes together makes no sense. The girls all mention the idea to their managers and get a list of store owners who want to help run the place. Because these people have enough spare time to do something like that. Then a few weeks later the BSC’s helping to paint the empty storefront where the center's going to exist? I’ll admit I don’t know everything that would be involved in such a venture, but I’m sure it’s more complicated than that.
- They make a big deal about telling us how nervous the entire BSC is about asking the mall manager about a day care. This is because they were told the old mall manager was really mean. But I still don’t buy that Kristy would be so terrified about it.
- The girls all get dressed up so that they can go ask the mall manager about the day care. But why are they the ones asking about? Just because it was their idea doesn’t mean they should be the one talking to him.
- How’s stealing a treadmill and a couple of TVs going to solve a mall’s financial issues?
- Jessi’s working at the movie theater, and is helping at a kid’s birthday party when a fire alarm goes off. Her manager shows up and leads them down a hallway to the exit. But they previously said that the theater was on the 4th floor, so why is there no mention of steps?
- The thief Stacey sees is supposedly the one working for the mall manager. But why would he be stealing from the toy store? That’s not really on the same level as big screen TVs.
- They’d also been making a big deal out of the fact that the thefts have been happening at night and when security cameras were pointed elsewhere. So, why would this guy be going around in his ski mask in the middle of the day.
- The only real outfit we get is what Claudia wore to the painting party. She “had wrapped a neon-pink bandana around her head, and she was wearing a humongous pair of overalls over an ancient striped T-shirt.” That seems like a pretty appropriate outfit for such work, which is much less fun than usual.
- When Stacey and her manager are helping set up the day care, another employee covers at the toy store. Supposedly, she’s a part time employee who only works weekends. That’s the only person we ever hear about working in the store, other than Stacey and her manager. Does this store have no other employees?
- Stacey doesn’t tell her mom about seeing the thief in a ski mask in the store, because she doesn’t want to have to quit working at the store. Nice to see she has such an open relationship with her parents.
- Charlie drives the BSC to the mall when they decide to look for the kids living there, and the girls actually tell him what’s going on. He says they have to call the police in two hours if they haven’t found anyone. That may be the most authority these girls ever deal with in the mysteries.
- When the girls call the police, they show up with someone from “Stoneybrook Social Serves,” but it’s been established Washington Mall isn’t in Stoneybrook.
- On the cover, you can see that Zingys is in the background, which is that store they always talk about as having “wild” clothes. But it looks like there’s a pink jumper on display in the window, which is anything but wild.