Sunday, December 16, 2012

“I’m sure some people think I’m strange because of the way I dress”…..BSC # 111: Stacey’s Secret Friend

Memory Reaction

Revisited Reaction
There’s a new girl in school named Tess Swinhart.  Stacey meets her when Tess accidentally ruins a paper-mache jaguar that the School Pep Squad was making (and Stacey is apparently on the squad now).  Anyway, Tess is a bit awkward, wears dark rimmed glasses and tons of pink clothes.  Stacey thinks she totally lacks style.  Tess is apparently a bit of a klutz too, because she also spills some of the paper-mache on Alan Gray.  He decides to get revenge by calling her “swine-heart” behind her back.  In addition to her name and the all-pink thing, Tess’s nose is slightly upturned, so the whole thing picks up steam. Alan gets the whole school to start calling her a pig, makes “oink” noises around her, and starts a comic strip about a character that looks like Tess and is called “Swine-Heart the Destroyer.”  Lots of kids pass this around and add to it in various classes.  But Tess, seems to be oblivious to all of it.
Meanwhile, Stacey’s spending a lot of time with Tess because she’s helping the Pep Squad rebuild the jaguar and the two are working together on a school project.  Stacey decides to “help” Tess stop being made fun of.  She “casually” tries to drop hints about places to buy contacts, different clothes, etc.  She even offers to give Tess a makeover.  It’s pretty obvious what she’s doing, but since Tess doesn’t take any advice, Stacey thinks that she’s totally clueless.
At a football game, the Pep Squad is running a vote on whether they should switch to a new mascot.  This involves holding up signs with various suggested mascots, and seeing which one people cheer for the most.  Someone switched out a sign that Stacey holds up for a pig with a picture of Tess and the label “Swine-Heart the Destroyer.”  Tess sees it, hears everyone laughing, and finally realizes she’s been a joke.  While trying to leave, she falls off the bleachers and breaks her ankle and sprains her wrist.  When the ambulance comes, Stacey tries to talk to Tess, but Tess tells her she isn’t her friend and asks her to leave.  Stacey’s too nervous to call Tess herself for couple days, even after another girl on the Pep Squad told Stacey that Tess knows she wasn’t involved in the stunt. 
Eventually, Stacey does go to Tess’s house so they can talk about their school project.  She finds out that Tess is from Paris, which explains the way she dresses and talks, and why she misses a lot of pop culture references.  Stacey also sees pictures of Tess’s friends also wearing a lot of pink, and sees similar outfits in a French style magazine.  She expresses surprise, and Tess is all…..”you would have known I was French if you actually bothered to talk to me.”  Afterwards Stacey feels bad about the whole situation…as she should, because she was a bit of a bitch to Tess.
Other kids in school are still making fun of Tess, and Clarence King and Alan Gray are planning to play a prank on her.  The plan’s for Clarence to ask her out, take to her to a restaurant called “Hog Heaven,” then put pictures of her with mean captions into the school newspaper.  They think they can get these past Emily Bernstein (the editor), but she finds out about it and tells Stacey.  Stacey tells Tess, and she and the BSC help make Clarence and Alan look like idiots (they dump food on them and take pictures, but don’t publish them anywhere). And Tess becomes friends with another girl, so even though she and Stacey aren’t really friends, the fence is a bit mended and she’s happy.

  • Has the SMS mascot always been a jaguar?
  • My main question from this one is, when the hell did Stacey join the Pep Squad?  And how’s that different than the cheerleading squad, which we know she wouldn’t be on?
  • Claudia tries to defend Tess’s clothing, by saying some people say she dresses strange (if by some she means everyone in the world).  But then Abby says she looks like she knows what she’s doing.  That’s gotta be one of her weird jokes, right?
  • Apparently, Mallory has said that when she’s a famous writer she won’t put her picture on the books, because she doesn’t like how she looks.  That’s….really sad, actually.
  • But we do get to hear Stacey talk about how great Mal will look once she gets contacts and her braces off.  Then Barbara calls Mallory cute.  So, I think we’re supposed to be seeing Mal as someone who really has very little self-esteem in regards to her looks, not actually someone who’s ugly.
  • People also call Tess, “Petunia,” which is apparently Porkey Pig’s girlfriend.  That’s a reference I would not have gotten, I didn’t even know Porky had a girlfriend.  The things you learn in these books are endless.
  • That reminds me……didn’t Stacey have a stuffed pig collection at one point?
  • At a sitting job for the Pikes, Jessi and Mallory are sitting for Claire, Margo, Nicky, and Vanessa.  They say the rule’s 2 sitters for 4 kids or more, but the way I remember it is 2 sitters when it’s OVER 4 kids.  I know there’s a book where Claudia sits for the triplets and Claire.  And jobs for Kristy’s 4 younger siblings never have more than one sitter.  I’m sure there are other examples too.  I think they just wanted to give both girls some screen time, since they had nothing else to do in this book.
  • Emily tells Stacey about the prank when Stacey arrives in the cafeteria for lunch.  Stacey says she told all her friends about it…at the club meeting that evening.  Wouldn’t the natural thing to do be go right to their lunch table and tell them right away?  So what if not everyone in the club is there?
  • In order to play their prank, Alan and Clarence would have had to switch out the copy of the paper that Emily approved with their own.  Which, Emily says wouldn’t have worked, and I’m sure she’s right.  It sure was tough to be an asshole before Facebook.
  • Stacey also tries to get Tess to join the Pep Squad, even after Tess says it’s not her think.  She’s really pushy about it, actually.
  • The thing that’s bothering me after reading this book is that we never find out if the students picked a new mascot or not.
  • The girl Tess does becomes friends with is this girl Barbara, whose previous BFF was the girl who got killed in a car accident.  So, this was a bit of closure on that storyline, which is nice.
  • Tess does try wearing makeup once after the makeover Stacey gave her, but says she doesn’t like how mascara feels.  Stacey thinks this is weird because she doesn’t think it’s possible to feel mascara.  I would have to disagree with her.  But I rarely wear mascara.
  • So, Clarence King keeps talking to Tess and calling her “Babe.”  Tess doesn’t get the pig reference and thinks that Clarence likes her.  Stacey tries to tell her not to get involved, and Tess thinks that Stacey’s the one that likes him.  Stacey’s horrified, but the more she denies it, the more Tess is convinced.  It really made me laugh for some reason.  And if Stacey really wanted to help Tess she’d tell her the truth.
  • There’s a subplot where Jackie Rodowsky and Nicky Pike are hanging out a lot acting secretive.  The BSC doesn’t know what’s going on, but we find out that some kid was bullying Jackie, so he asked Nicky to be his bodyguard.  But Abby convinces Jackie to talk out the problem.  And of course, that totally solves the problem.  I’d say mor.e, but writing about it would put me to sleep
  • There’s a reference to the BSC notebook, because Abby figures out Jackie is hiding in the same place as when another sitter was there.  It’s minor, but I do like that they pointed out that can help.
  • Stacey’s definitely bitchy in this one, but Tess does say things like, “I adore the middle ages.”  So, it’s realistic that 13-year-olds would find her strange.
  • So, I love the color pink.  But I wouldn’t wear it every day.  Even if it is THE color of the year in the fashion world, wearing the same color every day seems a bit much.
  • Maybe the all-pink thing is supposed to be like Stephanie Green wearing red, white, and black?
  • Stacey kind of annoys me at the end.  Because after she finds out Tess lived in Paris, she thinks how some of what Tess wore may end up stylish soon.  Except, if Stacey didn’t like her outfits, she should really not like her outfits.  The fact that people in Paris wear pink doesn’t mean Stacey has to like that color too. 
  • Here’s all of Tess’s “horrible” outfits….I’d bet anything that if Claudia wore one of these everyone would say she looked amazing:
  • “She wore a short, pale pink cardigan buttoned up to the top.  It covered a white blouse with a lace-trimmed Peter Pan collar, which peaked over the cardigan. Her pants were loose-fitting brown corduroys.  And…she was wearing black boots.”
  • “She was wearing a hot pink sweat outfit with frilly lace around the collar and sleeves.”
  • “Her outfit that day might have been the worst one yet. She wore baggy pink overalls and a long-sleeved, satin shirt with a bright (and I mean bright) pattern of pink and green daisies all over it.”  She had also clipped a small (but bright) pink plastic barrette in her hair.”
  • “Nice jeans and a dusty-blue sweater” but, she’d “spiked her hair and even put on pale, icy pink lipstick.”  I can’t really tell is the spikes are good or bad (according to Stacey), but this is what she wore after trying Stacey’s suggestion.
  • “The outfit was the brightest pink yet, and the worst. Bright pink corduroy pants with a boxy, nubby, bright pink sweater. The pink plastic barrette was in her hair and she wasn’t wearing any makeup.”  I like how Stacey keeps calling them the worst one yet.
  • “She was wearing a bright pink blouse with big puffed sleeves over a short black skirt.  The skirt was okay.  But the blouse!”
  • What do you think would happen if I tried to send in the form for joining the BSC Fan Club that’s in the back of this book?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

“Isn’t she supposed to pass it now?”……BSC # 110: Abby the Bad Sport

Memory Reaction

This is another one I first read as an adult, before doing this review.  And I thought it was the worst BSC book I’d ever read.  Abby drove me crazy though the whole thing.  But, I set out to do every book, so I am making a sacrifice for it.

Revisited Reaction

The copy of this book that I have goes from page 1 - 26, then repeats pages 1 – 26, then jumps to page 59.  And I no longer have access to the library I got the full book from the other time I read it. So, I missed a couple chapters, but since BSC books don’t exactly have a Lost-level of complexity, I think I got most of the plot.  But if the details seem light, that’s why.

Abby’s taking part in a Special Olympics soccer program, where kids with intellectual disabilities (“athletes”) play on a team alongside kids who don’t (“partners”).  Abby assumes she’ll be the star of the team, because she apparently has a super-high opinion of herself.  Or maybe she’s picked up on the rule about BSC members always being fabulous with their hobbies.  So, she’s surprised to find out that one of the athletes, Erin, is a really good player.  She’s also annoyed that her coach wants her to play a different position than she usually does.  This all makes Abby a bit competitive and she spends more time trying to make herself look good than helping the team win.  Erin ends up doing the same thing, and the team loses their first game.  Their coach benches them for the next two games. 

Meanwhile, the BSC and some of the kids they sit for start a booster club to support Abby and the team.  This means that not only do we see Abby acting like a total brat, we also have to hear the BSC sitting in the stands talking about how Abby’s hogging the ball and wondering why she isn’t passing.  Maybe this was to make it really obvious what Abby’s doing was wrong?   In case someone couldn’t tell from Abby’s inner monolouge?  They also have a car wash to raise money to surprise the team with uniforms or jerseys or something.  I don’t really get why the kids all care so much, but whatever.  There are worse ways to incorporate the kids into the book.

At the end of the second game where Abby’s benched, the coach puts her and Erin in the game for a few minutes.  Since she’s so happy to be playing, Abby manages to be a team player and the game ends in a tie. Afterwards, the rest of the team goes out for pizza, but Abby skips it to go for a run.  Because she’s a brat and doesn’t want to be around people when they have no reason to congratulate her.  Erin shows up to run as well, and after they sort of race, they talk and pretty much make up.  Abby also apologizes for acting like a “stupid jerk.”  In the next game, they both manage to work together and help the team win.  Thankfully, they don’t end up best friends or anything cliché like that.

The subplot’s that Abby’s mother’s planning to take her and Anna to Long Island to visit their grandparents and her father’s grave.  In the chapters I missed, we apparently hear about why this upsets Abby so much.  I’m going to assume it’s just her still dealing with grief over his death.  She convinces her mom to let her stay at Kristy’s, claiming she made a commitment to be on this team and needs to go to the game.  But when her mom and Anna come home, she’s upset about not being with them on the trip.  It makes her seem even more bratty, but I’ll give her some leeway here because a dead parent’s a bigger deal than not being a star soccer player.  But eventually, she tells her mom about how she’s feeling and they talk, blah, blah, blah.

  • So, the book’s called “Abby the Bad Sport,” but I think “brat” is a better way to describe her.  In case you couldn’t tell from my recap.
  • It seems weird for Abby to be giving us the club backstory, when she was hardly around for any of it.  How does she know the details of Dawn and Mary Anne’s parents getting married?  Or how hard it was for Claudia when her grandmother died?  Yeah, she’d hear about some of that stuff, but it comes off like too much of a checklist to be natural.  Unless all that stuff was in the wonderful club notebook.
  • Abby makes an aside about how people who won’t be pushed around or bullied are always called “pushy” themselves.  She’s talking about Kristy at the time.  I think her point’s really that it’s okay for a person to be assertive, but it doesn’t really work, because sometimes Kristy’s beyond that and actually pushy herself.
  • Claudia outfit:  “She was in a little crop-top muscle shirt that she had batikked green and blue.  She’d sewed a bunch of buttons up the front as if it were a vest. She also had on skinny black shorts, one blue sock and one green sock, and black Doc Martens with one blue shoelace (on the foot with the green sock) and one green shoelace (on the foot with the blue sock). Her long black hair had been gathered into a single braid.  A blue ribbon with more buttons attached to it was woven into the braid.  Her earrings? Buttons, naturally.” 
  • Is it sad that I knew Claudia was going to do the reverse sock/shoelace color thing before I finished reading that description?
  • Abby tells us that Karen’s a “stickler for the rules.”  Which is only sort of true.  Karen’s a stickler for everyone ELSE following the rules.  She likes to do whatever she wants.
  • Even the kids notice that Abby’s being an annoying brat.  While they’re watching the game some of them say, “I’m never going to act like a bad sport like that.”  Which is actually really annoying as well.  But maybe it’s realistic that kids would say something like that, even if it isn’t really true.
  • After seeing the soccer games, all the kids in town suddenly want to be soccer players too.  Kristy even jokes that they’ll need to make a soccer-version of the Krushers.  It just seems odd to me.  Have they never seen it played and now think it’s exciting? Or had they heard of it before but not realized how it could be fun? 
  • I have to say, I don’t see how watching a soccer game could make it seem exciting.  But I hate sports and spent my childhood reading the same books over and over, so I guess I shouldn’t judge. 
  • This must have been somewhere between pages 27 and 58, because I remember from the last time I read it and didn’t see it this time:  There’s an argument where Erin asks Abby if she doesn’t like her because she’s “retarded.”  (I use the quotes, cause I don’t really think that’s the politically correct term anymore, which made it seem jarring every time someone in this book used its.  The Special Olympics website uses “intellectual disabilities”).
  • Sadly, I can’t remember Abby’s answer, which means it probably wasn’t very interesting, in either a good or bad way.
  • This book seems like a PSA or something, but not about the existence of the Special Olympics, or intellectual disabilities in general.  It’s more about the importance of good sportsmanship behavior.  It made it really annoying to read as an adult.
  • There are at least three times in this book where Abby (or someone) uses the word stupid to describe someone, then we have to hear someone (including Karen) say how you should never call anyone stupid.  It gets more obnoxious each time.  Not because I disagree, it’s just annoying to be preached at.
  • For the trip to Long Island, Mrs. Stevenson drives home for her office (in NYC), picks up Anna, then drives out to Long Island.  That seems a bit crazy to me.  Why not have Anna take the train in to meet her mom there? 
  • Not taking the train could be a safety issue, if it was one of the other BSC members.  But, Stacey takes the train alone in all the time, and HER mother can be over protective.  Mrs. Stevenson seems more relaxed, so I don’t think she’d have a problem with it.  It’s also summer, so Anna could have gone to work with her mom or something.
  • I think I’m harping on this so much, because in the past couple of weeks I’ve had to deal with ridiculous traffic getting into NYC.
  • Abby doesn’t tell anyone she was benched, but at half time of the game, Karen comes over to tell Abby she’s sure she’ll play later on.  Abby just nods and smiles, but then Karen walks over to tell Erin the same thing, who tells her about the benching. Karen of course tells Kristy.
  • Kristy tells Abby she would probably have lied about being benched too….but then she proceeds to get into a fight with Abby for being such a “bad sport.”
  • The game that Abby says she has to stay home for is the game where she’s benched.  Again, I’ll cut her some slack here because of the whole dead father issue.  But still.  Abby’s annoying.
  • More proof that Abby’s a brat: Her team wins when she sits out….and all she thinks about is how they would have done even better if she’d been playing.
  • The jerseys the team gets are all colored purple. If they explain why, I didn’t see it.  It was probably just the color randomly assigned to them, but it made me curious about something – In the town I grew up in, most of the little kid teams wore blue, which was the same color of the high school teams.  So, I was wondering what colors SMS uses.  There were a couple spirit week type things, where each grade dressed in a different color but I can’t remember a team color.  And sadly, this is the type of think I actually wonder about sometimes.
  • So, maybe this did get an explanation and I missed it….but I really don’t get why anyone cares about Abby’s team enough to create a booster club supporting it.
  • I’m guessing that one of the BSCers mentioned the team on a sitting job (for the Pikes maybe), and the kids got excited about the idea of it? It sounds typical for the BSC, but still a little unrealistic for so many of the kids to show up at all the games.  Maybe they heard about the Special Olympics tie-in and thought supporting it was important? And Abby did mention early on that they didn’t have a sponsor.  But still.  It seems weird.
  • What’s really silly is that they seem to only get the uniforms in time for their last game.  Which seems like a bit of a waste.