Tuesday, October 18, 2011

“Had they all bought the bogus study guides too?”…..BSC # 96: Abby’s Lucky Thirteen

Memory Reaction

I remember a scene in this one where Abby’s mom catches her eating at a pizza place during school hours, by seeing her through the window. Only, her mom’s not catching her cutting school, she’s finding out that Abby was suspended. I think it stuck in my head so much because these girls were usually pretty “good,” and Abby getting suspended seemed like a big deal. That may also be because I was a total goody-goody as a kid…..I was always fascinated to hear exactly what happened to people who were tough enough to break the rules.

Revisited Reaction

Abby’s Bat Mitzvah’s coming up, so she’s busy studying to get ready for it. Or, she should be studying for it, but has been procrastinating. She also somehow forgot about a math test that will be 25% of her grade, until the day before. She’s freaking out about it, then is relieved when some guy offers to sell her a “study guide.” She’s a bit desperate, so she buys it without thinking that this guide may not be on the up-and-up.

Anyway, the next day Abby comes in prepared to take the test and is shocked to see that the test has the exact same questions as her study guide. Imagine that! But she isn’t sure what to do about it, so she takes the test and gets a 98. The two points off were something that was wrong on the study guide, and when five students make this same mistake (and only that mistake), the teacher realizes something’s up. She suspends all of them for three days. Abby tries to explain what happened, but when Abby says she doesn’t know the name of the guy who sold her the test, the teacher doesn’t buy it.

Abby manages to keep this from her mother by deleting the voicemail and taking the letter out of the mail. It’s especially hard though, because her mom took off from work to get ready for the Bat Mitvah party. She ends up hanging out in the town library all day, trying to catch up on school and study the Torah passage she needs to read at the Bat Mitzvah. But on the last day, she decides to go shopping and her mother sees her through the window of the pizza place. The whole story comes out and her mom’s pissed, but lets her off relatively easy.

When she’s back in school, Abby sees the same guy selling a study guide to Mary Anne….Abby goes over and tells Mary Anne what happened. Then they go to talk to the teacher, who believes them this time because Mary Anne can give the guys name. I’m sure the fact that Mary Anne’s a good student played a role as well. The teacher offers to give Abby a re-take of the test, so the whole thing’s settled before Mrs. Stevenson can talk to the teacher herself. And the whole thing inspires Abby for the speech she needs to give for her Bat Mitzvah.

The subplot’s that the parents in Stoneybrook have decided that their kids are watching too much TV, so they institute a ban. The kids are all complaining when the girls go to sit for them. But, when the kids are venting to each other, they start putting on a show that’s their version of some TV show they like. Kind of like a pre-internet fan fiction. They’re having so much fun that when the parents tell them they can watch more TV, the kids don’t watch as much as before.


  • Claudia outfit: “Leopard-print tights, black ankle boots with fuzzy yellow slouch socks, black bicycle shorts, a yellow leotard, and this teeny, tiny fuzzy sweater with cap sleeves that was black with big yellow buttons. Her earrings were leopards: on one side a leopard looked as if it was coming through her earlobe toward you. On the other side, you could see only the back of the leopard, disappearing into her earlobe, as if her earlobes were these weird leopard cat doors. She’d crinkle-braided strands of her black hair, and tied the crinkled parts at the top with knots of yellow ribbon.” Is it weird that after that whole description, all I can think about is what earring she wore in her third hole?
  • Abby tells us that in the BSC record book Mary Anne had blocked out the entire day of her Bat Mitzvah, so everyone could attend. It’s weird….it seems like Kristy usually freaks out if one person isn’t going to be available to sit, but they never bring the issue up when they all go on vacation together.
  • It’s a pretty big deal to forget a test that counts as 25% of your grade. When I was in middle school, our teachers would remind us about something like that constantly. Are we supposed to believe Abby was spacing out THAT much in class?
  • Abby thinks that Leave it to Beaver was one of the weirdest TV shows there is, which I think is supposed to be showing Ann Martin’s feminism.
  • The guy sells his study guides for $3. That seems crazy low.
  • Also, we’re supposed to believe that neither Abby nor Mary Anne realized what they were buying? This isn’t Claudia we’re talking about.
  • At least the other kids in Abby’s class who bought the study guide seemed to know they were actually buying the test.
  • It may seem like the teacher is a bit of a bitch to not believe Abby, or to not even consider giving her a yearbook and telling her to point to the guy who sold the study guide. Because, really, why would Abby make that up after she was “caught.” But there’s backstory about Mrs. Stevenson yelling at the teacher for not giving Abby an extension on a quiz when she was sick (based on what Abby says), but Abby also tells us she wasn’t being completely honest with her mom. So, I don’t totally blame the teacher for being annoyed.
  • I can’t believe that the school doesn’t insist on talking to a parent about a suspension. Abby just deleted the voicemail and took the letter from the mailbox (which is the same thing Mallory did in the book about hating volleyball). I would think a suspension would warrant confirmation.
  • One afternoon, a bunch of the sitters get together with their charges. We’re told that Kristy and Shannon are there with Karen and others, because they’d come to that side of town to play. No reason’s actually given.
  • Abby hides out at the library during her suspension, and talks about seeing college students. Wouldn’t they have their own library on campus? Because doesn’t Janine sometimes talk about going to the college library?
  • Abby gets grounded for lying, but is still allowed to baby-sit and go to all after-school activities. That seems…lenient.
  • Stacey’s surprised on a sitting job to see that kids have put togethera show, and Kristy’s all, “didn’t you read the notebook?” So, I liked them showing that these girls sometimes slacked off about annoying stuff like that.
  • Another Claudia outfit: “A long skirt, lace socks peeking out above her black Doc Martens, and a tunic top with a belt she’d made herself out of twists of lace and a silver buckle.”
  • So at the Bat Mitzvah, the twins are supposed to give a speech. Anna plays her violin, because she’s better at playing music than words, but it seems a bit unfair. Especially since she and Abby each had their own topic to speak about.
  • Because we need to cram in as much baby-sitting as possible, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Kristy take a job sitting for some of Abby’s relatives that are in town for the Bat Mitzvah.
  • The “show” the kids put on, is like five minutes long. At first it seems like they’re making the story up as they go along, and are just doing it for each other. But when they invite parents to come see it, they only do a little bit, and say it’s continued. If you’re going to the trouble of inviting people to watch, I’d think you’d do more than a few minutes.

Monday, October 3, 2011

“I know you love to solve mysteries, but this time you’re going to have to keep working”……. BSC Mystery 33: Stacey and the Stolen Hearts

Memory Reaction

I missed this one as a kid, but I’m kind of sad I did.

Revisited Reaction

This is one mystery that I actually believe could happen to a bunch of 8th grade girls. Pete Black gets Stacey to agree to help him with a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. They’re selling “valentine-grams” where kids write messages that will be delivered with candy on Valentine’s Day. The kids at SMS are all into it, and write all sorts of messages. But one day after school the bag that holds all the cards is stolen. Whoever took them starts making the more embarrassing cards public, by doing things like posting that Cokie wrote 12 cards to her current boyfriend and he sent her none, that one of the girls from Stacey and the Bad Girls sent one to Robert and he’s not into her, and putting photo copies of cards all over the hall, etc.

Of course, the BSC helps Stacey investigate. Their suspects are the people who were in the hall at the time the cards were stolen, including Cary Retlin, Pete, Robert (who Stacey is no longer dating), and a couple Claudia got together when she ran her personals column. They finally get a break when one of the copied valentines also shows the sleeve of the person copying it….someone wearing stripes. They look all over school and finally see that Cary’s wearing a striped shirt. Claudia also remembers that Cary told them he had an alibi for “after school” before he even knew when the bag was taken. When Stacey confronts him, he reminds her he has an alibi (he was at the dentist), but admits that he helped the person who did it, after the fact. He tells her it’s a guy who heard girls talking about sending him “prank” valentines, including a girl he had sent a real one to. The people who were in on these pranks are the ones who were getting embarrassed.

Stacey figures out that this is Alan Gray, and tells him if he returns the cards “anonymously” she won’t turn him in. He does, and they get all the cards delivered to the right people. Then Stacey heads to NY to see her current boyfriend for V-Day.

Meanwhile, the BSC’s working with the local library to plan a Valentine’s Day party for kids. At a bunch of sitting jobs they hear how kids don’t like the holiday because they have to worry about getting cards/not getting cards etc. But they have a “focus group” to find out what the kids do like about it, and plan the party accordingly. It’s kind of ridiculous. Like they need a focus group to tell them that kids like getting cards and having sweets, but don’t like not getting cards from people.


  • This girl named Andi, who Stacey was friends with when she left the BSC, and who apparently hooked up with Robert before he Stacey broke up, approaches Stacey to talk about Robert. They’ve both noticed how he’s acting a little off and disinterested. It seems really out-of-place, but I think it’s a set up for a later book.
  • I feel like the books are really inconsistent about which of the girls bring lunch and which of them buy it. Sometimes Kristy’s always getting the hot lunch, talking about how gross it is, but saying she likes to buy it to be able to talk about it being gross. But then sometimes (like here), she brings it from home.
  • Apparently, Stacey recently cut her hair to shoulder length, and seems to have gotten rid of the perm. I wonder if it led to a fight with her friends.
  • Pete’s president of the 8th grade, which is why he’s running the fundraiser. The other class officers are going to help actually deliver the cards, but he and Stacey are the only ones selling them. I guess this makes the mystery a bit simpler, but I think it’s weird for them not to have more helpers.
  • Stacey and Pete get permission to miss a couple classes so they can sell them during the 6th and 7th grade lunch periods. This makes it even weirder that they wouldn’t get more people to help. I can see letting kids miss one or two classes, but with the system in place here, Pete and Stacey would be missing at least one class a day (or two classes every other day).
  • Alan comes up to Stacey and asks if he can get back a valentine that he had bought, and she tells him no. But, I think that’s a bit harsh…it isn’t the postal service, it’s a school fundraiser. Alan probably should have tried Pete first though.
  • They also don’t really explain why Stacey’s the one person Pete wants help from. He tries to say it’s because she helped plan a Halloween dance, and was on the Pep Squad (which I guess is different than Cheerleading?). But that seems like more of a justification for Stacey playing this role than a reason to ask her.
  • Girls sending Alan fake valentines is kind of mean, but totally a realistic thing for 13-year-olds to do. Plus, Alan probably deserved it.
  • Robert teases Stacey for not knowing the difference between a robin and a sparrow, and says how her being a “city-girl” was always hard on him. Which is consistent with another Stacey book, but honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two kinds of birds, and I’ve always lived in the suburbs.
  • Pete’s on the suspect list because he made a comment about it not being bad to have the cards all gone. Later Mary Anne overhears him tell his friend that he was worried about a poem he’d sent to Emily Bernstein. But why would Pete have to steal all the cards to take back one he sent? He’s running the fundraiser and could have gotten his back whenever he wanted.
  • Stacey calls Cary’s dentist to check out his alibi, and the receptionist tells her that he had an appointment the day the cards were taken. But don’t dentists have the same confidentiality rules as doctors?
  • I have a hard time believing that Cary would be dumb enough to let his sleeve show in the photocopy of a valentine he was posting all over school. Also, why would his hand even have to be there? Why not just close the lid?
  • Awe…Mathew Hobart has a crush on Mary Anne and asks if she’ll be his valentine. She says yes, but that Logan’s her valentine too. Mathew’s still happy about it.
  • James Hobart likes Margo Pike, but just as friends (since, you know, they’re kids). And guess what? Margo likes him! Amazing coincidence. It’s kind of annoying to have this whole subplot about what can be bad about Valentine’s Day (kids feeling rejected), but still make all the kids who like someone be liked in return.
  • I’m not sure why the party they have for kids is the day before Valentines Day. Except for the fact that they couldn’t have the subplot end after the main plot.