I never read this one during the original series. I do remember seeing it in a bookstore and being surprised that they would actually have Mary Anne’s house burn down….that’s more serious than the BSC usually got. I read the author’s note in the end, so I knew they were relaunching the series and feeling a bit sad about it. This must have been after it was out a while though, because the store also had the first Friends Forever book, which I flipped through and thought was very un-BSC like.
The title of this book pretty much tells the plot. There’s a fire at Mary Anne’s house. It’s a major one that hits in the middle of the night. Everyone (including Tigger) gets out okay, but the house is destroyed and they lose pretty much everything they own. In the days that follow, Mary Anne, her dad, and Sharon stay with Kristy’s family and start going through the remains of the house to try and find anything salvageable. Dawn also comes to town, because obviously that’s the thing to do when your mother’s home burns down, she’s forced to stay at someone else’s house, and she’s dealing with a ton of crap.
Anyway, Mary Anne doesn’t cry after the fire. Everyone else is all teary, but Mary Anne just can’t cry and she feels weird about it. Since, you know, she cries at TV commercials and everything. But she’s pretty numb about the whole thing. After a couple days the Spier/Schafers have a family meeting. We find out that Richard was offered a job in Philadelphia recently, which he wasn’t even thinking of taking. But it’s a great offer and he thinks that with the fire it may be a reason to start over in a new city. Also, Sharon hates her job and thinks she’d like to become either an architect or an interior designer. If they moved, she’d be able to take classes to do that.
At the end, Mary Anne can’t sleep one night and goes back to the site of her old house. She’s in the barn looking at what little they’ve managed to save and Dawn shows up looking for her. And this is when Mary Anne finally cries and they have a whole long talk about things. Ultimately, we don’t hear whether they’re going to move or not.
Back before the fire, Mary Anne had seen an ad in some teen magazine about a contest for “Baby Sitter of the Year.” Instead of fighting/competing about it, the club decides to enter as a group, and split up the various parts of the application. But after the fire, Mary Anne and everyone else is a bit distracted. They mention this to some of their charges, who voluteer to write up the actual history of the club and some testimonials in order to finish the application. Kristy writes the last part – an essay about why she likes to baby-sit. She has some trouble getting started, but eventually writes a piece about how much she loves the kids she sits for and how rewarding it can be. She even talks about the fire and how all the kids came together to help with the application. We don’t find out if they win, but we aren’t supposed to care, since Kristy wrote about how it doesn’t matter if they win, since the fact that the kids cared so much was the most important thing.
- So, I may not be as snarky as usual, because this is the last book and it’s making me feel kind of sentimental. But I’ll try.
- In the backstory chapter, Mary Anne calls Dawn relaxed, and claims she never judges anyone. I kind of disagree. She judges people who eat meat, who eat junk food, who don’t care obsessively about the environment, and even who have school spirit.
- Mary Anne says that she once found one of Sharon’s socks in the lettuce crisper in the refrigerator. Now….really? That’s beyond scatterbrained, IMO. I can buy socks in the linen closet (another place mentioned) cause you could have been putting laundry away or something. But the refrigerator? How does that even happen?
- Mary Anne says she hates reading those embarrassing moments in teen magazines, because she always feels so badly for the person. I feel the same way about people having embarrassing moments on TV shows or movies. I have to look away from the screen sometimes. But I didn’t have an issue with the magazine ones, I actually loved reading them when I was 13. My friend and I once sent a made up one in to Seventeen, but it never got printed.
- The winner of the baby-sitter contest will be featured in the magazine’s back-to-school issue (this takes place right after school let out). Which is ridiculous because most magazines would have their back-to-school issue final by June/July. Possibly even in print. They tend to work in advance.
- Have we ever heard what Dawn’s mom does for a living? She works for a woman who has her own accounting firm. She kind of hates it and/or her boss, and she feels unappreciated. I would feel bad for her, but if she’s half as scatterbrained at work as she’s at home, her boss shouldn’t appreciate her.
- Mary Anne doesn’t salvage much from the fire, but she does find the pearl necklace that used to be her mother. Her dad had given this to her when he got married.
- The house was pretty much all destroyed and most of the second floor collapsed. The part with the least damage was Dawn’s (old) room. This annoyed me in two ways. First, Mary Anne mentions that some of the secret passage might be intact, but then we never hear if it actually is. It’s not super important, but details like that bother me. Second, why does Dawn’s room get the least damage? That sucks for the people who live there all the time. Granted, she did lose pretty much everything she kept there. But still.
- When she’s describing Kristy’s family, Mary Anne says how it sounds crazy and living in it would be overwhelming to her. Then she ends up staying at Kristy’s and is totally overwhelmed. Foreshadowing or coincidence (since I’m pretty sure they say something like that in every book)?
- The day before the fire, Mary Anne and Logan have a picnic in her barn (because it was raining). After they eat, they jump from that rope in the hay loft that we haven’t heard about in ages. She claims it’s the first time she’s done it in “years.” A statement like that makes the timeline issues jump out at you, doesn’t it? If she just finished 8th grade, it’s only been a year-and-a-half since she met Dawn. That’s without even getting into the fact that once upon a time Mary Anne was too scared to jump from the loft.
- Mary Anne references Titanic as one of the saddest movies. It’s really weird to read that, because I was obsessed with that movie when it came out, but it was way after I stopped reading the BSC books. Pop culture references like that always seem out of place in these later books.
- The only outfits we get in this, are the ones Mary Anne and her family had on when they ran out of the house during the fire. Mary Anne had on “a pink nightgown printed with 50s-style illustrations of kittens playing with a ball of string.” Sharon just had on shorts and a T-shirt and Richard had on matching plaid flannel pajamas (not surprising, I guess).
- The Pike kids are all worried about fires after hearing about the one at Mary Anne’s, so Abby and Claudia arrange to take them on a tour of the firehouse. I don’t know if that’s realistic, do they just give tours to random people like that?
- Also, at the firehouse they give Claud and Abby a pamphlet called “Fire Safety Tips for Baby-sitters.” Really? There are enough dedicated baby-sitters that someone makes a pamphlet just for them? Why not just have one for kids/families?
- I thought it was weird that Dawn comes to Stoneybrook as soon as she can after the fire, but Jeff’s told to stay home. Mary Anne claims he’s too young (at 10) to see something this upsetting. But apparently 13’s totally mature and adult and Dawn can handle it. Never mind the practicality of coming to see people who are basically homeless. I think they just wanted Dawn in the last book.
- They didn’t find a way to get Mallory in the book, but I think every single character made a point of saying how she would have been the perfect person to write up the history of the club. Which is what I was thinking as soon as they mentioned it.
- So, Sharon wants to be either an interior decorator or an architect. Those seemed like pretty different things to me at first, but I guess they’re related if you think about it. They both involve creating spaces where people would live/work.
- I would recommend interior design for Sharon though. Architecture takes a lot of school. Not that she couldn’t go back to school, but that would be a lot of time and effort. Also, would you want someone who can’t keep track of ANYTHING planning your house? I mean, they claim the fire was from old wiring, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear about Sharon leaving the stove on overnight or candles burning or something.
- The Spier/Schafers can’t find anyplace alone to talk at the Brewers, so they go outside and into the new playhouse in the back. This sounds really familiar to me, but I can’t think of which book it would have been in. I just know that Karen always wanted to make playhouses for her and her friends.
- One of the firefighters we meet’s a woman, which is clearly Ann M. Martin getting in her feminist message for the book. I always approve of that.
- The day after the fire, Richard and Sharon both call their bosses. Which I thought made sense at first. But then I remembered the fire was on a Friday night. It isn’t like they were expected to show up at work. Why make that one of your first calls? And would they even know their bosses’ home numbers?
- Richard also calls Mary Anne’s grandmother, who he’s apparently gotten closer to. That’s nice for them, I think.
- The neighbors all come out during the fire to see what’s going on. Which is only natural. But I was surprised that Stacey was the first BSC member to show up. I didn’t think her house was that close to Mary Anne’s, but according to this map, I guess she is. (Mallory was in boarding school, so she doesn’t count).
- The girls are surprised that Matt Braddock (a 7-year-old) is so good with a computer. Which is kind of dated, because now everyone assumes that kids are better at computers than adults.
- I’m wondering how big Kristy’s house really is. I remember an early book where she said it had ten bedrooms. But they have at least two guest rooms in this book (one for Sharon/Richard and one for Mary Anne/Dawn). This means there are at least 11 (Watson/Mrs. Brewer, Nannie, Charlie, Sam, Kristy, David Michael, Karen, Andrew, Emily, and 2+ guestrooms). And I think that’s without expanding to the third floor.
- Apparently, Karen’s not just allowed to have a pet rat, she’s allowed to take him out of his cage and let him run around in the house for exercise. She keeps him confined to one room, but that seems a bit freaky to me.
- A bunch of the kids the girls sit for gather at the Braddocks to work on the history of the club, and Haley says they can use their computer. But then Mrs. Braddock offers to type up the final version. If they’re writing it on the computer, what’s left to type? Maybe she’s just editing for them?
- David Michael, Karen, and Andrew say they’re going to build a Lego house large enough for Mary Anne’s family to live in. Which I would normally think’s a silly idea, except recently I read about this, which I think’s kind of cool.
- When Mary Anne bikes to the site of their house, she mentions passing various peoples’ houses and thinks about how well she knows this town. The only weird part’s when she mentions the Hobarts’ house. Because I’m pretty sure that’s where Mary Anne lived for 13 years. If you’re reminiscing, wouldn’t you call it your old house.
- I’m sure it’s unrealistic to have a contest about baby-sitters in a teen magazine, I would think one for kids/parents would be more likely, if anyone was going to do it. But I love the concept because it lets us get all sorts of references to past books. If it was a TV show we’d be getting clips, but it’s a book, so the closest we get are snippets from the BSC notebook. It looks like they’re actually taken word-for-word from the original books. We get one about Jackie Rodowski being a walking disaster, one about the Barrett/DeWitt kids making up instruments, and one about Buddy Barrett making baskets for one of their Thanksgiving charity projects.
- We also get references to Fire Safety/Prevention Day, Charlotte spying, Mary Anne taking Jenny to the hospital, and Jake Kuhn going missing.
- If I didn’t know there was a Friends Forever series after this, I probably wouldn’t have liked that we didn’t find out if Mary Anne moved away. I like closure. But I definitely wouldn’t have liked finding out she was leaving. I always hate when TV shows end with all the characters are separating. Even if it’s done for a happy reason, or is about starting a new path or whatever, it still seems sad to me.
- In the final essay Kristy writes about how much they get back from baby-sitting, and how she doesn’t care if they win because they already have so much. It’s totally cheesy and sappy. But I kind of like that.
So, I was originally saving this to be the last entry in the blog. But, like I said last time I'm now going to do the Friends Forever books. I can't not read them after I've gone back and read everything else I missed as a kid. Look for that soon, I am going to try and go in order with them.