I remember having two reactions to this book, aside from the plot itself. The first is about Mary Anne going back to the therapist that was first mentioned back when Claudia did her radio show. I had been confused about why it was suddenly introduced as backstory in that book, so I liked getting a bit more background on the issue.
The second’s that I thought it was slightly out-of-character that Mary Anne was so friendly with Amelia, and other kids she was studying with. Not that Mary Anne’s unfriendly, but we’d never heard of Amelia before and Mary Anne’s famously shy.
Mary Anne gets assigned to a group project in English, and actually likes her group this time. It includes a girl named Amelia, her BFF Barbara, and a guy named Gordon. After a planning session at Mary Anne’s house, Amelia leaves to have dinner out with her family. The next morning at school, everyone finds out that there was a car accident the previous night, and Amelia was killed (a drunk driver slammed into her family’s car). Mary Anne, along with pretty much everyone else, is devastated.
After the funeral, Mary Anne’s worried about Kristy, who’s still pretty torn up, despite not knowing Amelia that well. But she organizes a chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving (S.A.D.D.), which channels Kristy’s anger/sadness. However, Mary Anne’s still feeling depressed, even as other people seem to get back to normal. She makes an appointment with this therapist she’d previously seen. Dr. Reese tells Mary Anne it’s okay to grieve and encourages her to do something to memorialize Amelia. Mary Anne gets the idea to have a garden set up at school that will be dedicated to Amelia. People in school help out and they have a dedication ceremony. Mary Anne still misses Amelia, but this helps her have closure.
The subplot’s about Dawn in California, which kind of takes you out of things. But I guess they thought the lighthearted stuff was needed to balance things out, and the other girls were supposed to be grieving, so they had to go to California for it. Anyway, Dawn and her friends decide this vacant lot in town’s a danger zone for kids because it’s full of garbage. They think they should clean it up, and with the help of the neighborhood kids, turn it into a garden. Dawn writes to the owner of the lot, but never hears back, so she and Sunny decide get started anyway. This is when the owner shows up, finally shows up. He’s a bit annoyed with the little annoyed with them, but he’s okay with the garden by the end.
- Claudia outfit: “A black derby hat with a red-and-white polka dot ribbon, which matched her “ruby slippers” (high-top sneakers with red sequins). Black-and-white striped trousers with red suspenders, and a black long-sleeved T-shirt completed the outfit.”
- Dawn’s sitting for those brats we met in the California super special, and one of them falls and cuts his hand. She cleans it, but thinks he needs to go to a doctor to get a tetanus shot, and asks a neighbor to drive them. Now, maybe I’m clueless because I don’t have kids, but I would think something like that could wait an hour or so until the parents got home. But I guess these girls have to be super-good sitters.
- Here’s a question: If a kid’s parent gives him a toy gun, is it really up to Dawn to tell them to play with them? Because while I don’t disagree with her in theory, isn’t she supposed to be following the parents instructions?
- Mary Anne refers to how the We Love Kids club doesn’t have rules or regular meetings like the BSC, but didn’t they start having regular meetings after they got news coverage? It was kind of a big deal at the time.
- Everyone in this series loves the Secret Garden. That isn’t a bad thing, I liked that book as a kid too, but it would be nice to mention other books sometimes. In this one Stephie’s the one who brings it up, with regards to the lot.
- Mary Anne says when she was little her father used to put their Christmas tree away before New Year’s, but now that Sharon’s loosened him up they keep it up longer. Now…do other people put away their X-mas decorations that early? We always left ours up until after, so that they were there for any New Year’s parties we had. But I don’t know if that’s normal.
- Dawn’s baby-sitting for Stephie, while Sunny’s sitting for Clover and Daffodil Austin, and based on this book they’re next-door to each other. But we were previously told that the Austin’s live next to Dawn, and Stephie lived further away. Maybe Stephie was supposed to be at Dawn’s, but it’s weird that they wouldn’t mention that.
- It’s hard to make fun of a book where a child dies, especially since the letter from Ann Martin in the back is about how she did it because she got letters from readers who had lost a classmate. I think she does a nice job showing different reactions to grief.
- Dawn, on the other hand, is always easy to make fun of.
- Dawn writes a letter to Mary Anne that starts with the sentence: “Great News! (Finally, after the sad news about Amelia)….” Followed by a recap of her adventures with the garden project. It’s nice to see that she’s being sensitive to her “sister” losing a friend.
- Dawn writes 3 letters in 3 weeks to the owner of the lot, gets no response, and assumes the guy doesn’t care. It must be her age, because 3 weeks seems like no time at all. I wouldn’t even write a second letter until then. But time did seem to go slower as a kid.
- Some good news does come from Stoneybrook…Peaches is pregnant, and they waited until she was almost six months along to tell people this time. Good for her, I guess.
- I remembering liking that when these books were coming out, they were more continuous/sequential….this book took place in early January, the one before it was Christmas-themed, the one before that was Thanksgiving-themed, etc. They were like that at the beginning of the series, but then they fell into an ambiguous time loop.
- Dawn writes letters to the owner of the lot in Tucson, where he lives. When the guy finally shows up, he tells her that he’d been out of town and came by as soon as he got the letters (that morning). But if he got “home” that day, he would have been in Arizona and anywhere near Dawn’s neighborhood.
- So, Dawn let all the neighborhood kids and parents think that she’d gotten the okay from the owner to turn his lot into a garden, and they all help out and donate supplies. When the owner shows up he tells her that he now owns everything they put into it, and points out he could sell it or bulldoze the lot, and Dawn has no control over that….but of course he doesn’t do either of those things.
- I don’t have an issue with them cleaning up the garbage without permission, but planting a garden and talking about a gazebo so seems over the top.
- The California plot does serve some purpose, because it’s what gives Mary Anne the idea to use a garden to memorialize Amelia. She wasn’t sure how to do it originally.