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