I missed this one as a kid.
This is one of the ones with a sort of convoluted plot: Mary Anne’s father lends her his credit card to do her Christmas shopping, provided she doesn’t charge more than she can pay him back. Using the card makes her not pay attention to how much money she spends, despite of the fact that she’s the organized and responsible one. And the fact that Kristy warns her about it out at every single store. But Mary Anne also figures that she’s saved up, and she’ll have six weeks of baby-sitting to earn any extra money. But, then she finds out that her father’s anal and always pays his bill the second he gets it, as opposed to waiting until it’s actually due, a month later. Which means she has to pay him back in two weeks, or he’ll make her pay the interest. You’d think he would have told her this earlier, but then we wouldn’t have a story.
At this point, Mary Anne totals up her spending and realizes she went way overboard, and knows she can’t make the money baby-sitting in the next two weeks. She’s too embarrassed to return any of the gifts, because she’d already wrapped them and put them under the tree. She decides to get a second job, and ends up working at the mall as an elf in the Santa village display they have. She’s too embarrassed to tell anyone, so they don’t understand why she’s suddenly so busy and tired. And she lies to her dad about why she’s going to the mall so often, telling him it’s to get donations for an event the BSC’s having.
Meanwhile, Dawn’s visiting, and Mary Anne feels like she’s being distant and acting like she’s too sophisticated for the BSC. The reason for this is that she’s now in the California Diaries series, which I guess are meant to appeal to a slightly older crowd. But Mary Anne’s crazy-busy, so she doesn’t get to hang around long enough to talk to Dawn about it. Eventually, she does confront her, and Dawn says she was feeling a bit disconnected at first, but started feeling more like her old self a couple days later. But since Mary Anne was working, she wasn’t around to realize this. So, Mary Anne admits everything to Dawn, who convinces her to tell everyone else. They all think it was a silly thing to lie about, and her dad’s a little pissed she went behind his back, but she’s not in any trouble.
While working, Mary Anne befriends a girl named Angela. Angela’s 17 and living at the Stoneybrook Women’s Shelter because her parents threw her out. We don’t get too many details about why, but it seems like they’re snobs and don’t like who Angela associates with. Because it’s a Christmas theme, Mary Anne invites her to stay with them on Christmas and it’s all very sappy. And Angela earned enough money for a plane ticket to California, where she has friends who want her to stay with them. It’s really a whitewashed story, but it’s the holidays, so whatever.
I guess the ghostwriter was feeling overly Christmas-y because we get another subplot that’s about giving back during the holidays. The hospital Dr. Johanssen works at usually has a program where they give kids in the hospital toys, but the budget was cut. The BSC decides to “save the program.” They organize a fair to raise money. It’s a huge success, but I’m not sure why they had to do something so complicated. Or why the BSC had to get involved in the first place. I’m sure the workers at the hospital would have made donations. Or people could have just gone door-to-door. Regardless, they help out sick kids, so I probably shouldn’t be too hard on them.
- Do they just let 13-year-olds use credit cards because their last name’s the same as the one on the card?
- Apparently, Mary Anne’s hair is long on her student ID. I guess this makes sense, since it was long when she first started 8th grade, but she’s also started 8th grade a bunch of times since she got the makeover.
- This book starts two weeks before Christmas. Now, I can buy that they’re still hiring people to work at the mall at this point. But, I can’t believe that the reason for this is that the mall’s Santa display is starting then. I know it didn’t always start as early as it does now, but it was never THAT late
- Mary Anne doesn’t seem like the type to not pay attention to how much she’s spending, but maybe that’s the point?
- I like Mary Anne, but she has the most boring “secret life” in the world.
- Mary Anne gets to the mall every day by taking the bus. In the early books, someone had to drive them to Washington Mall, that’s why it was a bigger deal to get there. They should have had her get a job at the department store in town.
- Also, it takes Kristy and Mary Anne 45 minutes to get home for the mall due to holiday traffic. So, why didn’t Mary Anne ever have trouble getting there/home on time. She was going after school some days, so if it really took that long, she couldn’t have been working many hours.
- I think saying she’s going to the mall to get donations is a pretty stupid lie to tell her dad. How many donations could she be getting? And, she says she’s going with other people in the BSC, which makes me think she’ll get caught when another BSCer doesn’t know about it. But it never happened.
- Since when does Stoneybrook have a women’s shelter?
- Richard makes stew for dinner and says he made it with meat and tofu. My first thought was that he made two pots, because that’s how I’ve seen other people handle that. But it turns out, he made one pot and put meat AND tofu in. Apparently, everyone’s okay with picking out what they don’t eat? But I’m a vegetarian and wouldn’t be okay with that…neither would most other vegetarians I know. If the meat simmers with the rest of the dish, it gets into everything else.
- Mary Anne refers to “her parents” letting her stay home from school so she can go to the airport when they pick up Dawn. It’s sweet that she thinks of Sharon that way. Or maybe the ghostwriter just forgot which girl they were writing about.
- I think it’s good that they’re portraying Dawn changing when she’s in California, but I don’t get why Mary Anne’s acting like it’s such a major change. Supposedly, Dawn was home for Thanksgiving (less than a month ago), so did Mary Anne not notice the difference then?
- Angela meets Mary Anne when they are both applying for the job and advises her to say she’s 16. Apparently, the place just took her word for it. She was getting paid in checks, so it seems like a pretty legitimate business.
- Mary Anne has to wear a big elf mask, which makes it easy for her to not get spotted by anyone she knows. The closest call is when Logan and Dawn end up there with Logan’s siblings (they took them to see Santa) and they’re standing right next to Mary Anne. Only Hunter (the younger brother) recognizes her, but he agrees to keep it secret.
- I don’t get how Hunter recognized her. I think it’s supposed to be one of those things where kids are innocent and can see the truth. Kind of like how little kids could see ghosts on Ghost Whisperer or Al on Quantum Leap.
- The fundraiser the BSC has is called “Santa-Hanukah-Kwanzaa Town.” Those girls are so multicultural and politically correct, aren’t they?
- The fundraiser they have seems like a weird way of making money. They get donations of old toys (to use for games at a fair), food (for refreshments at the fair), and new toys (to actually give to the kids in the hospital). But it still seems like a lot of un-needed work. But I guess we needed an excuse for kids to be around.
- Mary Anne sees Angela try to call her parents collect and hears that they won’t accept the charges. So, she decides to get Angela phone cards as a Christmas gift. She thinks this will be good for someone moving away. But it seems kind of mean, since it won’t solve the problem of her parents not wanting to talk to her.
- Mary Anne got the gift for Angela so she wouldn’t feel left out at her house on Christmas, when the rest of the family is exchanging presents. But then she gives it to her on Christmas Eve, when no one else is around. How does that make her not feel left out?
- It’s actually kind of funny when Mary Anne “confesses”? Dawn asks what wrong, and Mary Anne comes out with, “I’m an elf!” And Dawn’s all WTF? But then sort of laughs when she hears the truth.