Sunday, December 29, 2013

“He hasn’t worn underwear on his head in school since second grade”…….BSC FF # 12: Claudia and the Disaster Date

After going to a dance with Alan Gray in her last book, Claudia has decided to go out on an actual date with him.  But she’s too embarrassed to tell her friends about it, so she’s nervous about being seen with him the whole time.  Also, when Kristy and Alan run into each other they argue and make Claudia more uncomfortable about things.  But she finally tells the BSC about it.  Alan also realizes that Claudia’s awkward because of her friends, and suggests they go on a group date…the BSC (including Dawn who’s in town) along with Pete Black and Cary Retlin.  But Alan spends the whole time on his best behavior and even lets Kristy win at miniature golf.  Claudia finally tells him she wants him to be himself, and says they will figure out what will happen together.   And the book ends with the two of them hanging out with the BSC and Alan’s friends.

Since it’s summer, Claudia and her friend Erica are working in the children’s room at the library.  Claudia says they got the job fair and square and it has nothing to do with her mom.  I’m sure.  Anyway, Claudia had told her mom she wanted to update the mural in the children’s room, but her mom said she wanted Claudia to just do the job she was hired for.  Claudia’s really excited about it though, and tells Ms. Feld (the children’s librarian/her boss) the idea.  Ms. Feld gets really excited too, and tells Mrs. Kishi she wants Claudia to do it.  So, Mrs. Kishi’s annoyed that Claudia went to Ms. Feld behind her back and Claudia doesn’t understand why her mom’s mad.  It gets worse when Ms. Feld tries to get the kids at the library to help with the mural and they make a huge mess of it. 

Meanwhile, Erica’s also dealing with stuff, because she really wants to find her birth parents.  Her parents want to wait a few years before they tell her about them.  So Erica gets Claudia’s help to open the safe in her parents’ office and find her birth certificate.  But Erica can’t really handle the information and starts to cry.  Claudia tells her she needs to tell her parents she found their names, which Erica does.  This inspires Claudia to apologize to her mom.  They make up, and Claudia figures out a way to update the mural and let the kids be part of it (without making a mess).

  • I totally don’t get the thing where Alan puts yellow M&M’s in his eyes and pretends to be Little Orphan Annie.  He doesn’t do it in this book, Claudia just references him doing it back at Mary Anne’s surprise birthday party
  • BTW, why is there an apostrophe in “M&M’s”?  It’s not possessive, like that’s the name of the people who make it, is it?  Because each individual candy is called an “M.” It’s not a typo in the book though, it’s that way on the candy packaging and appears to be part of the trademark.
  • Alan and Claudia go to see The Tsunami Monster’s Revenge.  That sounds like a fun bad movie.
  • I find it weird that Claudia’s only just now going on a date with Alan, when the dance was 4 books ago. 
  • Claudia describes the children’s room at the library, but honestly, whenever I picture it I’m really picturing the children’s room in the library in my town as a kid.  I do the same thing with picturing my middle school for SMS.
  • Claudia tells Alan that she thinks Janine just uses big words just to mess with other people.  She used to think Janine couldn’t help it.  I like the new theory, it makes Janine seem more fun.  I would totally do the same thing if I was a genius.
  • I kind of like how they portray Dawn in this book.  She’s actually pretty laid back (as opposed to only being called laid back in other books).  She keeps laughing and making sarcastic comments about how Kristy’s handling the Claudia/Alan thing.
  • Claudia tells Erica to read the book, Find a Stranger, SayGoodbye.  Which I sort of think I read, but can’t actually remember anything about it.  Maybe I just remember them talking about it in the BSC?  I read a ton of Lois Lowry’s other books though.
  • When Kristy’s ranting about Claudia going out with Alan, Claudia reminds her that she went to a dance with Alan. Kristy claims she only did that once and learned never to go out with him again.  But that first dance was in the phantom phonecaller book, and I think she also went to a dance with him later on.  It was briefly mentioned in either in the book with her mom’s wedding or the one where Logan first shows up.   And she definitely invited him as her date to Mary Anne’s surprise party in book 10.  That’s why he was there and putting M&M’s in his eyes.
  • Claudia’s kind of in an awkward spot with the mural.  Her mom’s mad about the kids all being involved, but that was really Ms. Feld’s doing.  And I can see why she wouldn’t want to badmouth her boss to her boss’s boss. 
  • One of the things Claudia wants to change about the library mural is make the kids look more diverse.  These girls were always so politically correct. 
  • Claudia outfit: “Beige linen shorts, an enormous red, blue, and purple tie-dyed T-shirt that [she] had made earlier in the summer, a pair of earrings [she’d] made from bottle caps and glitter, and purple high-tops with blue socks folder over the top.” 
  • Alan’s dad jokes about how they are driving in a minivan to go to miniature golf and Alan rolls his eyes.  It surprised Claudia since that seems like Alan’s type of humor.  But it actually makes sense.  That could be where Alan got his sense of humor, but it also doesn’t mean he’s not embarrassed by his parents.
  • When Claudia’s talking to her mom about being an artist, she says she likes art because she can just create what she sees.  And Mrs. Kishi says how she always wanted to be a writer for similar reasons, but wasn’t good at it.  So, she likes to find books that are saying things she’d like to say herself.  That’s kind of sad.
  • Claudia’s all impressed that Erica thought to look in her parents’ safe to find her birth certificate/parents’ names.  She claims she wouldn’t have thought of something like that.  Except she DID think of something like that back when she thought she was adopted.  She wanted to get into her parents’ lockbox to find her adoption papers.  She just didn’t have a key, whereas Erica knew the combination.  Claudia may be dumb in school, but she was always pretty smart with mystery stuff.  She needs to give herself more credit.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

“It was as if I’d finally found the ruby slippers and clicked my heels”…..BSC FF # 11: Welcome Home, Mary Anne

Mary Anne’s family’s all set to move into their new house, which is really their old barn.  When I heard they were renovating the barn, I thought they were using it as a base and adding sections to it.  I always pictured the barn to be the size of a 2-4 car garage.  But apparently, the barn was always big enough to just be turned into a 4-bedroom house.  The downstairs is an open-space floor plan, with bedrooms added upstairs (in what used to be the hayloft I guess).  It actually sounds like a pretty decent place, if we accept that it was always supposed to be that big.  Their property must be pretty big too, if it fit their original house and a barn as big as a house..  They kept the old barn door that slides off the wall as a sliding door, so basically the whole kitchen wall can just be opened up.  It sounds like it could get drafty in the winter, but there are only two more books in these series, so I guess we’ll never see winter.  That’s kind of sad.

Anyway, they move into the house and Mary Anne feels kind of weird about it and isn’t sure if it feels like home.   But luckily, Dawn and Jeff are coming home for the summer to distract her.  Sunny’s coming with them for a month, since her mom just died and she’s having trouble adjusting.  Sunny’s method of dealing is basically to avoid talking about the whole thing, and she doesn’t stop moving/doing things so she doesn’t have to think about her mom.  This includes trying to hook Mary Anne up with a high school guy (but abandoning the plan when the friends he brings for Sunny and Dawn are dorks), going overboard trying to decorate Dawn, Jeff, and Mary Anne’s bedrooms, and making Mary Anne and Dawn take her to NYC (alone, without parental approval) to walk around the Village all day. On this trip to New York, Sunny decides she wants to go to some club, but Dawn and Mary Anne say they have to get home to avoid getting killed by their parents.  Dawn tells her she’s been getting her way since her mom died and it has to stop.  Sunny doesn’t take this well, but she listens.  So, they go home and don’t get caught or in any trouble for the little adventure. But Sunny and Dawn aren’t talking to each other.

Mary Anne and Sunny talk about what it’s like to lose a parent (even though Mary Anne admits she doesn’t remember the losing part) and Sunny seems to make a break through with things.  She also decides she misses her dad and should go back to LA.  She and Dawn talk and make up for their argument in New York.  Then they have a housewarming/going away party and we briefly get to see the rest of the BSC members….even the ones no longer in the club.  By the end, Mary Anne’s feeling more at home in the new house.

There’s a subplot that involves Jeff being miserable because the one thing he liked about Connecticut was the old house.  He also thinks his friends have moved on without him, but of course the triplets and Nicky are still happy to see Jeff.  With their help, Mary Anne gets Jeff excited about redecorating his new room, and doing wild things like painting it to look like a race track or hanging a basketball hoop inside. When Sunny gets onboard the ideas get even wilder, like making it into a haunted house or a jungle with vines to climb on.  Ultimately, they make it into a superhero themed room, so Jeff’s fairly happy by the end.  Considering he’s in lowly Connecticut and all.

  • Mary Anne claims she broke up with Logan “not long ago.”  Well, it’s summer and she broke up with him back in early fall….that’s almost the full school year.  Practically a lifetime for teenagers.  Although, admittedly not a lifetime for someone who was 13 for a decade.  But still.  Stop whining about it.  I mean, she said she wanted her own identity, but she’s still basically describing herself as “Logan’s ex.”
  • Mary Anne mentions how she didn’t have many clothes to fill her new closet.  But shouldn’t she have gathered some in the year since the fire?  She’s gone through all 4 seasons since the fire. What has she been wearing all this time?
  • When they get their luggage at the airport, we hear that Sunny has a large duffel and Dawn has a backback.  That’s supposed to get them through an entire month/ summer?  It’s not like Dawn could claim to have left stuff in Connecticut.
  • Awkward moment….Sunny tells Mary Anne to take off the hat when they’re in the sun, and Mary Anne says, “Haven’t you ever heard of skin cancer?”  And of course, Sunny’s mom just died of cancer.  Oops.
  • To try and stay busy, Sunny decides to do all these chores, vacuuming/dusting/etc.  I’m not sure how dirty the house could have been after a few days of anyone living there.  But I guess it doesn’t matter if she’s just trying to stay busy.
  • Since when is Nicky Pike friends with Jeff?  The triplets were always his friends, but not Nicky.  The triplets tried to avoid talking to him, why would they let him hang out with their friends?
  • The girls ride their bikes to the pool.  Sunny rides Jeff’s.  I guess the bikes were in the barn during the fire, huh?  We never heard about whether they had a garage or anything, so I guess the barn actually made sense for that stuff.
  • Mallory’s conveniently at a two-week writing camp so we can have Kristy and Mary Anne take a joint sitting job at the Pikes, but still be able to make an appearance at the party at the end.  Too bad, I kind of miss Mallory.
  • Another suggestion Sunny makes for Jeff’s room….make it look like a surf shop.  Because we can’t not mention surfing in a book that features Dawn and Sunny.
  • Dawn calls Stacey to tell them about their sneaking to NYC so someone will know what happened if they get kidnapped or something.  That’s actually a good idea.  And Stacey tells them she’s jealous.  Ha.
  • Hey, what happened to Dawn being scared of the city?  She relaxed a bit by the end of that SuperSpecial, but she still didn’t seem super eager to spend much time there.
  • Also, what happened to Mary Anne being a tour guide for everyplace she went?  She keeps asking all these questions about how they’ll get around in NYC.   Then Sunny keeps talking about this article she read about the Village and Soho, and Mary Anne doesn’t seem to know any of it.
  • In New York, the girls see a stall selling mini-backpacks. Those were super popular back when I was in middle school. I wonder if I still have mine somewhere.  I take forever to get rid of stuff, there’s boxes of it at my mother’s house.
  • Mary Anne mentions that the DJ on the local radio station’s annoying, but he plays decent music.  She also says there’s no real alternative.  But aren’t they only an hour or so away from NYC?  Why wouldn’t they get New York radio stations?
  • I feel like I’m reading spoilers for the California Diaries books (which I’m going to TRY and recap), because we hear all about how Dawn and Sunny were fighting in California, but made up before her mom died.
  • There’s this whole thing where Mary Anne tells us how lucky they were to get away with the NYC trip and that nothing bad happened.   It’s like a disclaimer or something….telling kids not to “try this at home.”
  • Abby makes some really nice comments to Sunny about what she must be dealing with. She also says she wishes they’d gotten a chance to hang out, which makes sense cause she knows what Sunny’s going through more than anyone.  It’s just too bad it happens at her going away party.  I’m surprised that Sunny wouldn’t have spent any time with the BSC while she was in town.  Wouldn’t Dawn want to see them too?
  • Also, it kind of sucks that in one of the last books of the series we don’t get a lot of the actual BSC members hanging out together.  Even the 4 who are still in the club.  I like the girls interacting.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

“Trust me. My mother would not want to date him”…… BSC FF # 10: Stacey’s Problem

Stacey visits her dad in New York and they spend a lot of time with his girlfriend Samantha.  Towards the end of the weekend, her dad tells her that he and Samantha are getting married.  Stacey likes her, so she’s really happy about this news.  The one thing that she feels a bit awkward about is telling her mom.  Her dad actually agrees to call and tell her so that Stacey doesn’t have to.  Only when Stacey gets home, her mom can tell there’s something she’s not saying, so Stacey ends up telling her.   Mrs. McGill’s kind of upset about the news and actually cries after Stacey tells her.  She tells Stacey she doesn’t know why she’s upset since she certainly didn’t expect to get back together.  But it’s definitely a weird position to be in.   Anyway, Mrs. McGill takes the high road and calls Mr. McGill and Samantha to congratulate them.

Afterwards, Stacey’s worried about her mom and offers to stay home from the welcome home party the BSC’s having for Mallory.  But her mom insists she’s fine and that Stacey should go and have fun. Later Stacey and Claudia decide to try and find a guy for Mrs. McGill to date.  Claudia gets some video dating tapes from the company that runs a service by pretending she’s writing an article for a student newspaper (a college paper, since this happens over the phone).  Stacey, Claudia, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Mallory watch all the tapes, but can’t agree on any guy as a suitable match for Mrs. McGill.  Fortunately for them, this doesn’t matter because Mrs. McGill managed to find a guy on her own who invites her to a country club party.   Stacey wants to stay home from her weekend in NYC to help her mom get ready, but Mrs. McGill insists she go and says that she’s capable to getting herself ready.  However, the date doesn’t go that well and Mrs. McGill says she won’t be seeing the guy again. 

Of course, Stacey’s still worried about how her mom seems distracted.  But then her mom makes two announcements.  First, that she’s going back to her maiden name (Spencer) and second, that she’s opening her own clothing store in downtown Stoneybrook.  Stacey thinks this is great and offers to help as much as she can.

Meanwhile, Mallory’s back in Stoneybrook for the summer, even though the rest of the BSC isn’t out of school yet.  She feels kind of weird because she sees her siblings going to Byron for help with things and referring to him as the oldest siblings.  Plus, since Jessi and all her other friends are still busy with school and various activities, she feels left out.  But she manages to still help out the BSC with some new computer skills she picked up, and she shows them how they can use websites to plan activities for their charges.  As if the BSC hasn’t managed to plan tons of activities without the internet?  I mean, I love seeing how technology can make life easier, but I’m not sure what it can add to the BSC, unless they are making a digital calendar or something.

  • Claudia’s having dinner at the McGills’ and they decide to play a game while they wait for the food to be ready. Stacey suggests Monopoly, but Claudia and Mrs. McGill tell Stacey they don’t want to play with her because she’s too good at math.  But are math skills really necessary for playing monopoly?  I know it involves money, but you don’t need to know calculus or anything.
  • When Claudia’s there for dinner, they’re making homemade pizza.  Mrs. McGill starts on the dough while the girls are at a BSC meeting, then they come  and join her.   Stacey says they spend two hours making the pizza.  So, are we supposed to think that Stacey, who needs to eat at regular intervals, has dinner at almost 8 pm?
  • Mr. McGill tries to get out of telling Mrs. McGill he’s getting married by saying he thinks it should come from Stacey.  But Samantha tells him, no, it should come from him.  I agree, just because it’s an awkward position to put Stacey in.   If there was no child involved it might be different.
  • Mallory’s the president of the Internet club at her boarding school.  The point of the club is to teach people how to “get on websites” and do research.  Which sounds more like an additional class than a club. But whatever.
  • Hearing the girls talk about the video dating tapes was rather amusing.  They have this whole conversation about how bald men aren’t appealing, but that older people may not mind.   It’s more entertaining when you read it than my description.
  • We also hear that while Kristy’s mom doesn’t seem to mind that Watson’s bald, Kristy thinks Watson does mind because she sees him checking his baldness in the mirror a lot.   I’m kind of surprised Kristy would notice that.
  • Also, is it really surprising that 13-year-olds aren’t going to find any middle aged appealing?
  • Stacey owns a cell phone.  That seems weird.  Even weirder than hearing Mallory talk about the internet.
  • Samantha offers to drive Stacey home from the city so she doesn’t have to take the train.  This seems super nice of her, but I guess she wants to bond with Stacey.  Anyway, on the drive we find out that Samantha’s a fashion photographer.  Obviously Stacey finds this cool, but I’m surprised she wouldn’t have already known this.  Her dad’s been dating Samantha since that book where they went to Fire Island and it’s never come up?  I mean, I would think it’s something Mr. McGill would tell Stacey early on, to give her and Samantha something to talk about.  Or to give Stacey a reason to like her.
  • Also, does this mean that Mr. McGill’s marrying a second person with ties to the fashion industry?  Interesting.
  • In terms of Stacey’s love life, she meets up with Ethan each time we see her visit NYC, but she claims they’re just friends.
  • When Mallory’s whining about how she’s bored because her friends don’t have time for her, she mentions she’s been watching soap operas and knows the plot lines of every show on every channel.  Now, I know soaps aren’t the most intelligent things on the air, but I would think it would take more than a week (which is how long she’s been home) to be up to speed on shows on multiple channels.
  • Regarding Mallory’s siblings considering Byron the new “oldest” – they go to him because he’s nicer than the other triplets.
  • Stacey doesn’t think very highly of her mom, does she?  First she thinks she wants to stay home from a party to comfort her, then she needs to find a guy for her, then she keeps calling her from New York to make sure she isn’t having trouble with hair/clothes getting ready.
  • Kristy suggests naming the new store “Serious Clothing,” and Claudia says she’d never go in a store called that.  I kind of like it though, not in a “these are clothes for serious occasions,” way but in a “we’re not messing around” way.  And really, I wouldn’t go in stores that Claudia thought sold stylish clothes, so maybe her disliking a name’s a good thing.
  • In NY, Stacey runs into Laine, who acts like nothing ever happened between them.  But then when Stacey mentions having a fight with Claudia, Laine’s all, “yeah, well she was always a loser.”  Stacey decides it was for the best that they went their separate ways.  She also thinks it’s a little sad since they used to be such good friends. She realizes this must be how her mom felt about hearing Mr. McGill was getting remarried.
  • Claudia offers to work at Mrs. McGill’s new store, only to be told that she can’t because of child labor laws.  Which is interesting because Stacey worked at Bellairs.  And Logan worked at that restaurant in town.
  • Mrs. McGill does offer to sell some of Claudia’s handmade jewelry or her painted shirts in the store.  The jewelry idea I understand.  But I hope Mrs. McGill has better fashion sense than to think the majority of Claudia’s clothes are good.  Otherwise her store will not go well.
  • I love that Stacey thinks her mom is distracted because of her dad getting remarried, but it turns out to be because she’s planning a huge career move.
  • There’s an ad in the back of this book for a dating handbook called “The Rules for Teens.”  At first I was horrified such a book exists/existed, but then I realized the sample rules we see are things like not eating like a bird on a date and to expecting a guy to pay for everything.  So, maybe it’s not so bad.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

“And that’s how I ended up with my own Secret Service agent”…..BSC FF # 9: Kristy and the Kidnapper

This book starts with Kristy and Abby packing for a school trip to Washington DC.  The trip’s to some national debate competition for middle schools. Even though SMS didn’t have a debate team, some teachers decided to start one for the competition.  Kristy and Abby were both picked for the team because they’d done well with some debate unit they did in English. After this I was totally prepared to hate the book because we were going to have to watch Kristy completely isolated from the rest of the BSC (again).  But I ended up liking it because it was so ridiculous.
Anyway, Kristy’s rooming with Abby and this girl Melissa, who annoyed Claudia and Abby on a trip to Philadelphia.  I totally remember that happening, but I’m not sure which book it was.  When they get to the hotel they “run into” this guy Melissa dated at summer camp, and they’re all lovey-dovey with each other. And by run into, I mean got on the debate team specifically so she could see him on this trip. That parts annoying.  But the interesting part is that the guy’s friend is Terry Hoyt.  Only he tells Kristy that his name’s David Hawthorne and he never lived in Stoneybrook.  Which makes sense, because his dad’s in the Secret Service and they were using aliases back then.  But Kristy doesn’t know this, so she’s confused and weirded out at how much they look alike.
Amazingly, Kristy ends up assigned to the same debate team as David/Terry.  They are walking through the hotel together when David notices someone following them.  They start to run and this guy runs after them.  He tells David how he’s going to get payback for something his father did, grabs him, and starts dragging him to the parking garage.  Kristy manages to run and get a security guard to help and they get David back (but don’t catch the guy).  David tells Kristy that he really is/was Terry and explains why he lied.  He also asks her not to tell the police about the kidnapper’s payback comment.  Kristy agrees, because she always trusts people who just admitted to lying to her.   David’s living in DC now, so his father does show up and he hears the whole story about the kidnapping.  He wants David to come home, but David refuses to abandon his debate team. His dad agrees to let him stay, but assigns a Secret Service agent to keep an eye on him AND one to watch Kristy (since she was a witness).

Kristy and David’s team does well in the debate and their team moves on to the final round (coincidentally against Abby’s team).  The finals are at the Lincoln Memorial so it’s open to the public.  After the debate, but before the winners are announced, the kidnapper shows up and seems to go after David again.   Mr. Hawthorne’s there and he and this other Secret Service guy catch him.  Then we find out Kristy’s team won the debate.  Before they leave DC, David takes Kristy and Abby on a tour of his father’s office, which is….the White House.  They don’t meet the president or anything though, so it’s not totally ridiculous. 

There’s sort of a subplot about Kristy and Abby fighting the whole time, because they were assigned opposite sides of the debate topic (even though they didn’t actually debate each other officially until the end).  The topic is the beginning level, so it’s whether cats are better than dogs.  In their off time, they keep bickering about it and annoying everyone around them.  When they have to debate each other, they each get a bit personal/emotional in their arguments, but get talked down by their teammates between rounds.  After that, they talk and Abby admits she’d been feeling left out because Kristy was hanging out with David and their other debate teammate.  She had been hoping to spend more time with Kristy.  And Kristy apologizes.  Then they laugh because they realize even though they’d been arguing pretty passionately about the cats vs. dog thing, they both thought the other person had the better side. For the record Kristy was assigned cats, and Abby was assigned dogs.

  • Terry’s one of Stacey’s exes who I totally forgot about when I said almost all her exes were at the party a couple books ago.
  • Kristy says that Stacey was closer to Terry than she was and that she thought she had a crush on him.  But they were actually dating, so that seems like a weird thing to say.
  • Terry gets to use his real name these days because his father has a “regular” post.  But he’s still supposed to keep all their family’s’ past identities a secret. And Terry/David tells Kristy his father may not want people knowing some dude is out to get revenge on him.  But having the Secret Service watch David after the kidnapping attempt kind of ruins any secrecy there.
  • Also, his dad is in the Secret Service, not the CIA.  And if it’s now public knowledge that he’s Secret Service, saying someone is looking for revenge isn’t going to give anything away.  David wouldn’t have to reveal any past identities.
  • The cop who interviews Kristy and David is Officer Michaels.  What’s with using that name for cops in these books?  That was the same last name as their cop friend in all the mystery books.
  • The advanced debate topic is: “U.S. immigration policies contradict American ideals,” and the intermediate is: “Journalists have a right to protect confidential sources of information.”  Kristy thinks they both sound hard, but I think they’re a lot easier to debate than whether cats are better than dogs, there’s so much more to say about each side.  But I’m not 13.  And I don’t like either animal.
  • Kristy calls Stacey to ask if she remembers Terry, and Stacey’s all, “oh, yeah, I remember Terry.  No idea where he moved to though….”  Because she did end up knowing the truth about Terry, but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.
  • So, on this trip the girls are allowed to have boys their hotel room as long as it was before lights out (10:00).  It seems like an odd rule, since they could fool around in the day time just as easily as they could in the night time.  I would think they wouldn’t allow that at all.  But maybe I’m getting old and strict.
  • Kristy offers David a drink out of their room’s mini-fridge and makes a comment about how Watson warned her to not eat stuff out of the fridge cause it’s so expensive.  Which is like what he said on their trip to Disney World.  But I guess this means Watson gets the bill for the school trip?  Aren’t those things usually pre-paid? My school never had overnight field trips like that so I don’t know how it works.  I’m assuming they at least removed the alcohol from all the kids’ fridges though.
  • So, Melissa’s in a debate category called “extemporaneous speaking,” where the kids are given a statement and have to defend it by speaking for ten minutes on the spot.  Kristy and Abby are both surprised that she’s really good, because they previously thought she was the type of person who said anything to go along with a crowd.  I actually think that would make her a good debater, she can go with the flow.  Kristy thinks that she and Abby are good debaters because they’re opinionated, but I think that’s only part of being good at debate.  In a competition like this, they’re assigned things to argue.  Being opinionated can hurt you if your opinion doesn’t line up with what you’re assigned.
  • The statement Melissa has to defend is “The chicken came first” (as in, did they chicken or the egg come first).  Which made me think of a comic similar to this one that I first saw when I was in college. 
  • Also, dinosaurs were laying eggs millions of years before chickens existed, so I don't know how anyone could argue that chickens were first.  But whatever.
  • Kristy and Abby both assume Melissa’s going to throw her debate when she has to go up against her boyfriend, and when they say something to her she’s all offended that they would think that.  And she wins, so good for her. 
  • One night Melissa sneaks her boyfriend in to their hotel room after hours and they all play Scrabble.   When their teacher knocks on the door, he hides in a closet and they get away with it.  Kristy’s relieved and a little surprised that the Secret Service guy watching her doesn’t tell on them.  But hey, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from movies/TV it’s that Secret Service agents cover for Presidents’ affairs.  So, I wasn’t really surprised.
  • A bunch of middle school kids compete in a debate at the Lincoln Memorial?  And tourists stop to watch? Really?
  • I can’t believe that an incident happens that leads to Kristy having a Secret Service person watch her and no one bothers to call her parents.  They barely take time to tell her teacher. WTF?
  • The guy who’s out to get Mr. Hawthorne was caught for computer hacking, but supposedly was freed on a technicality and never did time.  So, why the hell is he out for revenge?
  • At one point, Kristy, Melissa, and Abby get back from some museum and an agent comes up to them asking if they know where David was.  Kristy says she has no idea.  But if David’s missing, why wouldn’t they radio the agent watching Kristy and get him to ask her.  It’s not the kind of thing that you should wait for.
  • Kristy ends up finding David in the hotel lobby.  Apparently he just went for a walk and wanted to be alone.  Which seems incredibly stupid.  Also, kind of mean, since the agent watching him got pulled off duty (and maybe worse) after he lost David.  Of course, if a 13-year-old can outsmart a Secret Service guy, he probably SHOULD be taken off duty.  Supposedly David said he was taking a nap, and when he looked out the door he saw that the agent had stepped away. 
  • As part of the trip they all go to some dance performance that gets us a mention of Jessi.  It’s a tap dancing performance that Kristy thinks is interesting because it’s athletic dancing and she talks about how Jessi would have loved it. It’s nice to hear her mentioned.  It’s also nice to see so much of Abby in this book.  I would have preferred more of the other girls too though.
  • If the winner of each preliminary debate moves forward, how do they guarantee that the final debate will have one team from each side?  They should make the teams switch from one side to another.  It’s more challenging.
  • I think one reason I enjoyed this book was that even though it has kidnappers in it, we don’t have Kristy actively trying to solve any mystery.  The only thing she does is try and look for David when he’s missing.  But even then, she’s not looking for the bad guy, she thinks David may have wandered all on his own.
  • When they announce the debate winners, the moderator says how they were disappointed to see that Kristy/Abby were showing personal conflict in the debate, but was pleased to see they both calmed down.  But he also says this influenced their decision.  If both teams did it, how did that influence who won?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

“You just got the sweetest revenge of all”…….BSC FF # 8: Mary Anne’s Revenge

So, this book’s a lot of fun. 
Mary Anne’s on the yearbook staff, which means Cokie Mason is her editor.  (Technically, she’s a co-editor with Rick Chow, but he’s pretty irrelevant to the story).  Cokie wants to have “class bests” in the yearbook (most likely to succeed, funniest, etc.).  Mary Anne thinks they could use the space for something more original, but she gets out-voted.  Cokie makes some crack that Mary Anne must just be upset she and Logan won’t be able to get best couple.  Mary Anne can’t think of a good comeback at the time, and is annoyed at herself for that later. 
Cokie continues to be her bitchy self, and Mary Anne gets more upset about the whole thing and about feeling so meek.  Then Cokie starts a rumor that Mary Anne begged Logan to take her back and left so many messages on his answering machine his parents were thinking of changing their number.  And that he’s dating someone new.   Logan, makes a point of telling Mary Anne that he’s telling everyone it’s not true, but admits to Mary Anne that he’s sort of seeing someone new, Dorianne Wallingford.  We’ve heard her name before, but I can’t remember anything about her. 
Mary Anne and Kristy both are annoyed with Cokie and make lists of things to do for revenge.  Before they can implement any ideas, Cokie makes another crack at Mary Anne and tells her how she looks totally awful.  Mary Anne snaps at her and says how she must know what that’s like since she’s such an awful person.  Cokie just walks out of the room, cause she’s not used to people standing up to her.
Anyway, Mary Anne, Abby, and Austin Bentley are in charge of counting the votes for all the class bests.  They’re surprised when Cokie comes out the winner in multiple categories, but then Mary Anne realizes that her ballot isn’t in the pile.  Abby says the same thing, and they don’t see any ballots with Kristy or Claudia’s handwriting (which they both would recognize).  The teachers who collected the ballots recorded how many people were in class during the vote, and they count up the votes and discover they’re short over 20 ballots.  They tell their advisor who decides they need to have a revote.  Cokie’s obviously pissed off.
Mary Anne decides not to let Cokie walk all over her, so when people ask why there’s a revote she tells them the truth, that someone messed with the ballots and it was probably Cokie.  Everyone believes her over Cokie (who was telling people Mary Anne tried to fix the election).  Because clearly, the students at SMS have brains. Kristy suggests they consult Cary Retlin for advice on how to get revenge, since they still hadn’t gotten around to implementing their lists. 
The Cokie throws a party and invites the whole grade, even Mary Anne.  She obviously expects Mary Anne not to show, but Mary Anne says she’ll be there.  She starts revising her revenge plan to do something at the party.   She has dinner at Kristy’s house while they are plotting and forgets about her curfew.  She gets home late and then argues with her dad when he yells at her, so he grounds her for two weeks.  This sounds extreme, but Mary Anne had been acting moody lately and argued with him when they went on some house tour thing to get decorating ideas for their new place.  So, I think he was reacting to that.
Mary Anne decides to sneak out to go to the party because she can’t let Cokie think she won.  At the party her friends are suggesting they start one of their schemes, but Mary Anne says no.  But Cokie continues to be her pleasant self, so finally Mary Anne tells her off.  She says she’s a mean and petty person and everyone knows that, and she’ll never succeed because of that.  Kristy and Abby start to clap, as does Logan (and his new girlfriend), then the whole room.  And Cokie just yells at everyone that it’s her party so they can’t act like this.  Then stomps out of the room.  It made me wish this was a TV show cause I would love to see that.
Oh, and Mary Anne’s dad’s really angry when she gets home, but Sharon comes in and says the two of them have actually been fighting because they’re both still traumatized by the fire (Mary Anne had been having nightmares throughout the book).  And so they have a big talk about it.  And Mary Anne totally gets away with sneaking out. Richard says instead of being grounded for a full two weeks it’s just for one more day.  I think the two weeks was originally too harsh, but he basically rewards her for sneaking out.  I guess if your house burns down you can get away with crap like that.

  • I was surprised that Abby was on yearbook, considering she quit the BSC to have more time for sports, but Mary Anne said she was surprised about it too. Apparently, Abby did it to make sure sports got enough coverage.  Sports were one thing that never had to worry about getting coverage in my yearbook, but at least they addressed it not seeming like Abby’s thing. And it was nice to see Abby.
  • Mary Anne gets annoyed at her dad when he orders furniture for their new house without consulting her, but then gets annoyed again when he wants them to go on a house tour for decorating ideas.  Richard’s seemingly baffled by it, and Sharon tells him that she’s 13…of course she’s going to be moody.  You’d think Richard would have picked this up in the first few years he’s had a teenager, but I guess Mary Anne has usually been pretty good.
  • This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen hints of Mary Anne not wanting to be so easy-going and meek.  I think it’s realistic, but wish we’d gotten to see some long term change in her after those books.
  • When talking about movies and how they shouldn’t remake TV series as movies, they mention the Brady Bunch movies.  Kristy and Mary Anne liked them….me too.  But those were good because they weren’t remakes, they were spoofs.
  • An old school Claudia outfit: “She was wearing wide-legged purple pants cut off at the ankle, flat black shoes, striped socks (purple and white), and a white cropped top over a purple camisole. She’d pulled her hair back with papier-mâché decorated combs that she’d created herself: two little figures were holding onto the combs as if they were being blown backward.”  Papier-mâché in her hair?  And she didn’t win Style Setter? 
  • I do admire Logan for telling people Cokie was a liar and for giving Mary Anne a heads up about dating Dorianne, especially since Mary Anne’s the one who ended things.
  • Why the hell do they keep using a cover picture of Mary Anne that looks nothing like how her hair is supposed to look?  Seriously, how hard is it to get right?
  • Mary Anne’s votes: Claudia – Best Artist, Stacey – Class Style Setter, Abby and Logan as Best Athletes (female and male),  Cary Retlin as Most Likely to Travel to the Moon, Kristy as Most Likely to Succeed.  I don’t think that’s all the categories, because when we hear the winners later they don’t all line up.  Which is kind of annoying.
  • Here’s the full text of Mary Anne’s first comeback to Cokie (after being told she looks awful): “Well, it takes one to know one, doesn’t it, Cokie? And you of all people ought to know about awful, because in my opinion, when they were handing out awful, you were first in line.”
  • Ha, Abby knows her ballot isn’t there because she voted for herself six times.
  • I bet the reason they would recognize Kristy and Claudia’s handwriting is the BSC notebook.  I guess it’s good for something.
  • Cokie’s an idiot.  If the teachers record how many votes there were, why not replace ballots instead of stealing them?  Maybe she did both, but she really should have made sure the total worked out.  OR not replaced the votes of two people counting the votes.  They’re anonymous, but surely Cokie knows Mary Anne’s handwriting and could guess the only person who would vote for Abby six times is Abby.
  • Mary Anne’s list of revenge ideas: Put glue in her locker lock, glue her books to her locker, put glue in her gym shoes, put a dead rat (or 2) in her pack, and give her laxative gum.  That last one is just about the only decent one.
  • Kristy’s list for revenge: Convince her she’s won the lottery then let her make a fool out of herself, drop a snail in her drink at lunch, write fake letters to the love advice column of the paper signing her name, write fake letters from Logan to her, and hide her homework.  (As if Cokie ever does her homework). A little more complex than Mary Anne’s but none of them are really things she could accomplish.  These girls need to call Emily Thorne to get some real advice in this matter.
  • Cary’s first idea for revenge? Signing Cokie up for multiple subscriptions to a ton of magazines.  He and Mary Anne fill in all these subscription cards. Then he says not to send them yet, just to hold onto them so she has confidence knowing that she can drop them in the mail whenever she wants.  I sort of get the confidence thing, but that’s not exactly a major prank.  Plus, they spent ages filling out the cards.
  • Can you really subscribe to magazines like that?  After they send one or two they’ll send a bill and when Cokie doesn’t pay they won’t keep sending the magazines and it won’t affect her.  Although, they’ll probably send her weekly letters encouraging her to subscribe or saying they miss her or something.
  • Kristy talks about sneaking out of the house when she did her softball initiation, but I thought she just lied about where she was going for that.  That’s not quite the same as sneaking out when your parents think you’re upstairs asleep.  Lying about where you’re going is WAY easier.
  • All we hear about Alan and Claudia’s that they went to a dance together and the girls don’t know what will happen with them next.  But Claud does defend him when Kristy insults his prank style.
  • It’s interesting that Kristy keeps suggesting Cary help them out with things.  In the last book it was about getting into Alan’s locker and this one it was to get revenge on Cokie.
  • The back of the book says that even though Cokie’s never been nice, Mary Anne has always tried to be nice to Cokie.  But she wasn’t nice in books 17 or 46.  She set Cokie up to look like an idiot in agraveyard, and let Cokie look dumb giving a major presentation that didn’t match the group.  I’m not saying she didn’t deserve it, but it definitely wasn’t nice.
  • Actually, Mary Anne can be quite bitchy when pushed.  She would get mean when she was mad at the other girls in the BSC too.
  • The girls refer to the ORIGNAL Parent Trap.  Which means this is after the new one came out, which makes me feel old.  But it figures they would still talk about prank ideas from the original one, these girls loved old movies.  It’s clearly a plot device so Ann M. Martin could work in all HER favorite movies.
  • Mary Anne’s awesome speech to Cokie at her party (this is right after Mary Anne hears Cokie referring to her as pathetic): “I’ll tell you the truth. You are mean. Why? Why do you work so hard at being nasty and saying horrible things about people? There’s no reason for it. Making fun of people and spreading rumors about them doesn’t make you look cool.  Do you think it does?….It doesn’t make people like you. It makes you look stupid and petty and mean.  And you know what? If you keep acting like this you will never be Most Likely to Succeed. You won’t be likely to succeed at all…because people will see the read Cokie. They’ll know you for what you really are.” 
  • I don’t know if 13-year-olds would really applaud a speech like that, but I thought it was still pretty awesome.
  • Cokie’s parents were around for the party, I’m surprised they wouldn’t step in when Mary Anne was talking to Cokie and everyone clapped.  But apparently everyone left after that.
  • The actual winners of the vote.  Again, it’s annoying that we don’t get to hear all of them: Claudia – Best Artist, Abby/Logan – Best Athletes, Emily Bernstein – Most Likely to Succeed AND Most Intelligent,, Kristy – Most Likely to Get Elected President, Cary and Alan (tie) – Wittiest, and Stacey – Most Likely to be Seen in Beverly Hills.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

“Claudia and Alan Gray? Is she crazy?”……BSC FF # 7: Claudia Gets Her Guy

So, this starts right after Stacey and Jeremy break up.  Actually, it starts at the same time, with Claudia baby-sitting while all her friends are at Mr. Zizmore’s good-bye party.  The next morning Mary Anne tells Claud the news, and she’s nervous/excited about what this means for her and Jeremy.  However, the next morning, Jeremy totally ignores her in the hall.  This goes on for days, so she finally decides to make a move herself and invite him to the upcoming dance.  She’s scared to do it in person, so she writes him a note and slips it in his locker.
The only problem is, she had typed the note so she could spell check it, then rewrote it by hand.  But spell-checker couldn’t figure out what she meant by “Jaramy,” so she addresses it with “To a good friend.”  (For the record, Microsoft Word does suggest Jeremy as a correction for that).  But spell check may not have been so advanced back then.  Anyway, Claudia accidently puts this note in the wrong locker.  And since she used that neutral greeting, the person who gets it thinks it’s intended for him.  That person?  Alan Gray.
Claudia’s horrified when she realizes Alan has the letter, but she doesn’t realize he thinks it’s for him.  She thinks he’s going to tell the whole school she likes Jeremy. But he actually tells her how the note’s the nicest thing anyone has ever written to him and that he knows he can be a pain, but he liked that she saw the real him.  AND he tells her how much he’s always liked her. So, he wants to go to the dance and Claudia feels like she can’t turn him down. 
After that, Kristy keeps telling Claudia she’s crazy, and Stacey keeps asking about Jeremy.  But Alan’s being super sweet – he asks what color corsage to get, he brings flowers to her in school, he leaves all sorts of other gifts for her, he brings a tablecloth and candle in so they can have a “romantic lunch” at school, etc.  Claudia tells him she meant they should go as friends, but Alan says he knows but thinks they could be more in the future.
Anyway, Jeremy hears that Claudia’s going with Alan and gets all upset.  Even though he spent days avoiding her.  Claudia tells him she really wanted to go with him, but says she can’t not go with Alan now.  At the dance, Jeremy cuts in to dance with her.  While dancing, Claudia realizes that she really isn’t that into him after all.  She’s just not feeling it and keeps thinking how she wishes she were still dancing with Alan.  So, Claudia and Jeremy briefly talk about how they weren’t meant to be a couple and will stay just friends, and Claudia goes back to dancing with Alan.
While all this is going on, Claudia and Stacey continue to mend their friendship.  Early on, Claudia says she can’t talk about Jeremy with her.  But eventually, she decides that if they are going to be friends they need to be able to do that, and she and Stacey talk all about it.  They both apologize for the things they said.  Stacey even tells her Jeremy’s feelings for her were part of the reason behind their break up.  Anyway, by the end things are all good with them.

  • On Sunday morning, Mr. Kishi’s making blueberry pancakes for breakfast and Claudia asks for 5 pancakes.  Now….I know pancakes aren’t totally junk food, but that’s not exactly a healthy balanced breakfast, especially once you load them with syrup.  What’s up with her parents only wanting her to eat healthy foods, but serving a huge stack of pancakes?
  • Also, these books were always showing the parents cooking big breakfasts for their kids on weekend mornings (pancakes, omelets, etc.)  Was I deprived as a kid?  That was a pretty rare occurrence in my house, if we were lucky it was frozen waffles that we toasted ourselves (and added ice cream to if it was before my parents woke up).  But I wasn’t served anything, especially not when I was in middle school.
  • The day after Claudia finds out about Jeremy and Stacey splitting up, she decides she needs to look really good and spends ages picking out her outfit.  Janine actually picks out the final outfit – a blouse she made out of a kimono that belonged to Mimi and a skirt, with a black chopstick in her hair.  I don’t really have anything bad to say about that, but we don’t really get much detail. 
  • When Mary Anne told Claudia about the break up, she forgot the part about Ethan and Toby being at the party.  That…..seems like an important detail.
  • Claudia actually starts her letter to Jeremy several times.  She spells his name differently each time – Jermy, Jermery, Jerymy, Jermie, and Jaramy.  Spell check knows I mean Jeremy for every single iteration.  At least in Word.  Blogger only knows about half of them.
  • I know Claudia’s a crappy speller, but you’d think she’d have learned the name of the guy she’s been obsessing over for months.
  • Seriously, Jeremy’s kind of annoying.  When he was with Stacey he would stop and chat with Claudia in the halls all the time.  But he’s newly single and suddenly can barely wave before turning and walking away?  He was never presented as shy and he knows how Claudia feels about him, so what’s the problem?   And then he’s mad at her?  Even after she explains the note was meant for him?  I mean, what did he expect when he stopped talking to her?
  • So, after Claud realizes she put the letter in the wrong locker, Kristy suggests that they get Cary Retlin to open the locker and take the letter back.  Since apparently Cary can get into anyone’s locker.  Of course, by the time they do this the letter’s gone.  But Cary does figure out that the letter wasn’t meant for Alan and threatens to tell him.  But Claudia tells him she doesn’t want to hurt Alan.
  • I think Cary does eventually tell Alan about the letter, while Claudia’s dancing with Jeremy at the dance.  But, I guess he gets over it when Claudia comes by and says she really wants to be dancing with him.
  • Kristy keeps going on about how awful Alan is.  Are we supposed to forget that Kristy went out with him?  Several times actually.  That doesn’t mean she can’t dislike him, but maybe she should mention that or something.
  • I can’t believe they got away with a “romantic” lunch at school.  When I was in school we weren’t allowed to be in classrooms if no teacher was there.  It was a liability thing. And we certainly wouldn’t have been able to light a candle.
  • Cary’s actually a pretty smart guy to figure out what’s going on.  I think most boys that age would be clueless.
  • Claudia’s dance outfit: “a short retro dress [she’d] found in a thrift shop.  It had white trim and white heart-shaped buttons…..[she] also wore clunky black shows with a stacked heel and a square toe.  [She] had a wristful of hot-pink bangles.”  Again….not really anything bad to say.  Either she’s getting saner or I am losing brain cells from reading books that are meant for 8-year-olds.
  • Janine (of all people) tells Claudia and Alan they look good together.  But then she clarifies that she meant his red shirt went good with her pink dress.  But since pink and red kinda clash I’m going to take that is confirmation Janine still doesn’t get fashion and her earlier suggestion was a fluke.
  • Claudia’s still friends with Erica Blumberg, who apparently has been fighting with her parents because she wants to find her biological parents.  She even was looking at websites about it, but hasn’t done anything because she doesn’t want to go behind her parents back.  I wonder if this will lead anywhere.  Although, I can’t imagine too much can happen with it since she’s not a main character.
  • So, Claudia and Alan seems kind of random....but I can see sort of see it.  We are always seeing Alan at his most annoying because that's when he's been relevant, but it makes sense that he can be sweet too.  I'm not sure if it will last though, he'll be sure to regress at some point.
  • There’s this annoying subplot where Claudia and Erica volunteer to help recent immigrants to the US learn English and about living in the US.  We get like three whole chapters devoted to it, but it felt like more.   And the woman Claudia’s helping has little kids, so we have to hear about them too.  And there’s even an acknowledgement in the dedication that mentions some organization that I guess is a real life version of where Claudia was volunteering.  I didn’t look it up because I really don’t care.
  • Not that it’s not good to help other people or anything.

Friday, October 11, 2013

“I’ve never had trouble finding a boy who liked me”……BSC FF # 6: Stacey and the Boyfriend Trap

This book starts on New Year’s Eve.  Stacey’s in NYC with her dad and makes a resolution to be a better friend.  So, she calls Ethan, since they said when they broke up they said they wanted to be friends but haven’t stayed in touch.  Ethan mentions he may be going to some art exhibit at the Stoneybrook Museum, and suggests Stacey go with him as a friend.  Stacey says sure, just let her know when it’s definite.
When she gets home she finds a letter from Toby (from Sea City) saying he’s traveling with his family to look at colleges for his brother and will be near Stoneybrook.  He wants to stop by to see Stacey.  She’s unsure what to do, since he was kind of a jerk the last couple of times she saw him, but he was her first kiss so I guess she’s sentimental or something.
The next day at school, Stacey finds out that her favorite teacher, Mr. Zizmore, is moving to Texas because his wife got a job working for NASA.  Stacey’s sad he’s leaving, so when Pete Black approaches her to suggest they plan a going away party, she’s happy to help out.  She also reminds us that she and Pete used to date back in 7th grade (since this book’s all about the boys Stacey used to date). They end up talking to the principal about the party, who says students should join the staff party he was planning and asks if she and Pete can organize any student involvement.  On the way out they run into Wes, that student teacher that Stacey had a crush on.  He’s interviewing to replace Mr. Zizmore, and Stacey invites him to the party.
Then Robert talks to her and says he wants to help with the party too, as long as she’s okay with it.  Stacey says okay.  Then Kristy says that Sam loved Mr. Zizmore when he was in middle school and wants to help with the party too.  Again, Stacey agrees. She also asks Jeremy (her current boyfriend) to help, but he feels weird about it since he never had Mr. Zizmore.  This is one of many things that makes Stacey think something’s off with Jeremy.  Cause what 13-year-old wouldn’t want to plan a party for a teacher he never had? They also have different reactions to some movie they went to.  What serious problems those two have.  And okay, she also doesn’t like him hanging out with Claudia so much.  That one may be a more reasonable complaint.
Meanwhile, Stacey emails Toby.  Apparently, the BSC lives in a world with email now.  She doesn’t say whether he can visit her or not at first, but they start talking and she eventually agrees to it.  Then she realizes he’ll be visiting the same day as the party and has a mini-freak-out, but her mother tells her to just tell Toby that she can only see him in the day. Which she does. 
When the day comes, Toby proves to still be kind of a jerk.  He asks her to confirm how obvious it is that he works out. And kind of pressures her to kiss him. Right when Toby’s family’s supposed to pick him up, the doorbell rings and it’s Ethan.  He came up for that art exhibit, but I guess decided to surprise Stacey and he wants to hang out until the art thing starts. Then Toby’s dad calls and says he got delayed because the brother got a “last minute interview” at Yale and they can’t pick Toby up until later.  Stacey asks her mom to entertain the boys while she goes to the party, and her mom actually agrees, but the guys decided they want to just go to the party with Stacey (which is at the school).
The party goes well, and Mr. Zizmore’s all surprised and honored and all that.  But the more interesting stuff that happens: Jeremy sees Stacey with Ethan and Toby and decides she has more in common with them then he does and they break up.  He also admits he may be into Claudia. Stacey’s barely upset about it.  Toby leaves and Stacey gives him a quick kiss good-bye but knows she won’t stay in touch.   Ethan comes back after his art exhibit and he and Stacey have a nice moment and make plans to see each other again.  And Wes got the teaching job.
Oh, and Stacey asks Claudia to help decorate for the party since she’s an artist, and they sort of make up. There’s no big discussion, Stacey just says how she misses being friends and Claud says she does too, and they smile at each other.  We don’t see a huge amount of interaction after that, so who knows if it will last.

  • So, the total ex-boyfriend list is: Pete, Toby, Sam, Robert, and Ethan.  That’s not counting Wes, since he was a crush, not a boyfriend.  I think the only guys not mentioned are that guy she met in Super Special 3 and the guy she went on one date with right when she met Robert. 
  • Stacey begs her dad to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  The most ridiculous part’s this is at 6:00 at night and her dad says he doesn’t want to stand out there for six hours.  Stacey says they’ll go to dinner first, which they do, and Stacey mentions getting there an hour before the ball drops.  And yet not only do they manage to get fairly close, Stacey gets interviewed by a TV reporter.  That everyone she knows sees.  Of course.
  • Now I’ve never gone to Time Square on New Year’s Eve.  But I know a lot of people who have and said it was a completely miserable experience.  You have to get there hours before midnight to even get within site of the ball, and once you get there you can’t leave, can’t go buy food, can’t walk around, can’t use a bathroom, anything.  And when I say hours I don’t mean 2-3, I mean 10-12.  You just stand there all day.  So, Stacey’s little adventure was annoyingly unrealistic.
  • Even if they’re friends, it’s kind of ballsy of Ethan to show up at Stacey’s house un-announced when he knows she has a boyfriend. 
  • Stacey’s first thought for a New Year’s resolution was to pick better colored clothes.  But she decides she’s not that shallow.  At least she acknowledges it.
  • I have a hard time believing Stacey would agree to let Toby come see her.  She gave Mallory such a hard time for wanting to go out with him, and kept saying how he couldn’t have changed, but as soon as he gives HER attention, she changes her mind.  It’s not like she’s hard up for a guy’s attention.
  • Stacey tells us when she and Ethan “go out for coffee” they don’t actually drink coffee cause they’re too young.  Which I kind of like, because in a past book where she talked about them going for coffee I complained about her being too young for that.  If this wasn’t written 13 years ago, I could pretend I influenced the ghostwriters.
  • In this book Stacey says that she and Claudia still sit at the same lunch table they always sat at, but this contradicts what Claudia said in her last book.  Maybe it changed since then?
  • Stacey never told her mom about Toby.  I guess it makes sense she wouldn’t have at the time, but since the divorce Stacey and her mom are supposedly close, and they talk about boys sometimes, so I’m surprised she wouldn’t have mentioned a guy in Sea City.
  • It’s kind of random that Stacey and Claudia just make up with almost no preamble. Stacey just says she misses being friends and Claudia’s all, “me too!”  And…it’s over just like that?  An apology didn’t really work before.  Granted, it was a really, really, crappy apology, but this was too.
  • Toby’s email address is “tobythegreat” – that should tell Stacey everything she needs to know.
  • When Mr. Zizmore says he’s moving to Houston, Pete makes a “Houston we have a problem” joke.  As always, it feels super weird to see pop-culture references to things that happened after I stopped reading the books.
  • Stacey says that Wes substituted for Mr. Zizmore after student teaching.  I don’t remember this at all.
  • Wasn’t Stacey really embarrassed about what happened with Wes?  Why is she excited at him coming back as a teacher?  And why is the teacher who knows this girl had a crush on him giving her his email address.  It’s so she can let him know the party details, but it’s also a little inappropriate, right?
  • Pete’s talking to Stacey about Wes and says he didn’t think he was “such a hot teacher.” And I was like, well most 13-year-old guys wouldn’t call another guy good looking. But then I realized he just meant Wes was a bad teacher, not that he wasn’t good looking.
  • When Stacey polls her friends, Kristy says she shouldn’t let Toby visit and Mary Anne says she should.  I’m very surprised about that from Mary Anne.  But maybe she was nostalgic for Alex or something.  Who, BTW, does get mentioned.  Toby says he also broke up with his girlfriend and that he and Mary Anne could have a chance.  If you know, they lived in the same state.
  • Stacey and Pete get called to the office (about the party planning).  They call Pete as “Peter,” which makes me wonder why they don’t call Stacey “Anastasia.”  It’s her full name, so that’s what should be on school paperwork and all that.  If they don’t use a nickname for Pete, why do they do it for her?
  • Stacey wonders if it’s normal to have so many ex-boyfriends at 13.  No.  It is not.  But to be fair, most people aren’t 13 for like ten years.   Most of her relationships lasted a while.
  • The first time they mention baby-sitting’s on page 74.  And we just hear how Norman and Sarah Hill went to bed early so Stacey had time to herself.  What’s interesting is I didn’t even think about sitting until then either.
  • The principal tells Stacey and Pete one of them should give a speech.  Pete tells Stacey to do it since he can’t talk in front of people.  Isn’t he like….the president of the 8th grade?
  • Toby refers to his parents as “the rents” and Stacey has no idea what he means.  He also talks about using “the cellular.” And refers to a computer as “the emailer.”  Did people ever use those terms?  Like, in real life?
  • The party’s after Mr. Zizmore’s last day, on a Saturday night.  And it’s a surprise.  So you would have thought they’d have a say goodbye scene on this last day of teaching.  If I was a teacher and no one did anything on my last day, I’d be kind of insulted. 
  • Actually, the whole party’s weird if you ask me.  It’s great that they want to do something for the guy, but I would expect to do it in class or something.  Or right after school if old students (like Sam) are showing up. 
  • When Stacey says her friend Toby’s visiting, Jeremy assumes he’s a girl.  Isn’t it mainly a guy’s name?  Stacey doesn’t correct him, but it’s not like he can complain either way, considering all the time he spends with Claudia.
  • Would Toby’s parents really just drop Toby off at Stacey’s house for a few hours and not even want to come in to meet her mom/make sure it’s okay?  Toby was a mother’s helper in Sea City too, right?  So I don’t think his parents even met her.  And they just leave him there?
  • Toby’s kind of obnoxious when he meets Ethan, saying how he and Stacey had a “summer vacation thing.”  Stacey’s much more impressed that Ethan just tells Toby he knows Stacey from the city.  She’s easy to impress.
  • Jeremy thinks Stacey has more in common with the other guys he was seeing her with, which means Ethan and Toby.  But I don’t think she has anything in common with Toby, and the only thing she has in common with Ethan’s NYC.
  • I kind of love that Mr. Zizmore is leaving because his wife is smart enough to get a job at NASA. 
  • So it’s sort of implied that Stacey and Ethan will get back together.  The girl could really afford taking some time to herself.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

“My parents don’t tell me what to read and what not to read”…………BSC FF # 5: Kristy Power

The back of the book tries to make it sound like it’s about Kristy and Cary Retlin bickering with each other, but it’s really a PSA about why banning books is bad.  Which is really annoying, because I ALREADY think it’s bad and don’t need convoluted plots to convince me. 
Anyway, Kristy’s English teacher had a baby and while she’s on maternity leave her class has a new teacher, Mr. Morely.  Mr. Morley’s young and encourages everyone to call him “Ted.”  He gives the class two assignments.  The first is to pick a novel from a list he gives out and do a report on how it makes them feel, and the second is to write a biography on someone else in the class.  He assigns pairs for the biography part and Kristy and Cary get partnered up.  They try and say they can’t work together because it worked out badly last time, but Ted insists.
Now, it turns out that list of books Ted gave out was questioned by some parent who thinks the books on it contain filth and violence and all sorts of crap like that.  It also turns out that because Ted was new, he didn’t know he was supposed to run all assignments past the head of the English department.  I think this is to make it seem like Ted did something wrong even if you don’t care about banning books, and make the whole situation more dire. The head later says she would have approved the list, so I don’t know why they bother with that whole point.  But whatever.  
I guess the parents are putting a lot of pressure on the school, because Ted’s suspended, his job’s in danger, there’s a big meeting about it the whole town goes to, etc.  It seems like it should be the B plot, but it felt like we spent more time on it.   That may just be because it annoyed me so much.  Kristy ends up encouraging her class to support Ted, and she speaks at the meeting about it.  And ultimately he gets reinstated.  Obviously.
As for the Cary stuff: Kristy’s at his house to interview his siblings for the biography project and walks by his room after using the bathroom. She can’t resist taking a peak and looking around his room.  She sees a notebook that she thinks is his homework, but then she realizes it’s a journal.  (At least she thinks it’s a journal).  It’s talking about getting kicked out of school and loading things on a computer and hating people for being “phonies.”   Now, the use of the word “phony” made me think of Catcher in the Rye, because I remember Holden Caulfield using the word a lot.  I may only have thought of it because that was one of the first books mentioned on Ted’s list.  I thought Cary was doing his project on Catcher in the Rye and that we were going to find out the “journal” was just his version of notes about the book.  I figured Kristy would keep thinking it was his journal and somehow embarrass herself about the whole thing, but ultimately find out she was wrong.  I was only partially right. 
So, Kristy feels super guilty about it, and tries to forget what she saw/pretend it never happened.  But she lets it slip to Cary that she read it. Cary’s super pissed and barely talks to Kristy for days.  He supports her when she says they should defend Ted, but totally shuts down after that.  Then, at a meeting with Ted (after his job’s reinstated), Ted asks Cary how his novel’s coming and says how great it must be to be able to write by hand instead of needing a computer (like he does).  Kristy realizes it wasn’t a journal and is mad at Cary for letting her think she did something so wrong.  But Cary tells her it’s just as personal because he puts a lot of himself into his stories.  Kristy ultimately apologizes to him and they sorta make up.

  • The two projects are each 50% of Kristy’s grade.  So, if this teacher came in the middle of the semester, how can his two projects be their entire grade? It’s kind of disrespectful to the teacher who started the year.
  • Books on the offending list: Catcher and the Rye, A Separate Peace, Homecoming, The Outsiders, The Red Pony, and probably others.
  • Kristy has a Christmas party that she describes as a “real party” not just girls sleeping over but with dancing and music and guys and all that. I guess it’s a sign she’s maturing, from her immature days years ago back in 8th grade when she had sleepovers.
  • We get a reference to another BSC book that talked about how much banning books suck.  I get the point already BSC!
  • Kristy’s disappointed that Mary Anne isn’t excited about her party, but then she realizes it must be because she “just” broke up with her boyfriend.  But I think that’s about two months ago by this point.  Mary Anne needs to get over it.  She’s the one that ended it, and I get it would still be hard, but really.
  • Kristy sees kids talking excitedly in the halls and wonders if it’s about the space shuttle or something.  Which just seems like a really random thing to reference.  But it turns out everyone is just talking about Ted.
  • 8th Grade seems kind of young to have kids calling the teacher by their first name.  Maybe I’m just getting old.
  • Okay, Cary cracks me up.  Kristy asks what state he was born in and he says “a state of innocence.”  Then she asks about his first memory and he says he “can’t recall.”  I can see how that would annoy her, but I think it’s funny.  Especially the second one.
  • Claudia and Jeremy were partners in the biography thing.  So, this causes a bit of angst with Stacey and Claudia.  I wish we’d seen more of it.  It causes tension because Claudia mentions a story that Jeremy hadn’t told Stacey yet, and says how Jeremy told her about his most meaningful experience.  That one scene alone was more interesting than the rest of the book put together.
  • Logan’s partner in the biography thing is that Rachel girl.  It would have been really interesting to hear some of what went on between them, but sadly we don’t hear a thing.  This makes sense, since the book is from Kristy’s POV, but still.  Anytime we got to hear Logan’s voice over the course of the series it was with him and Mary Anne together and happy.
  • We meet some girl named Merrie, whose mother’s the driving force behind the whole protest thing.  So the kids aren’t super nice to her, but she ends up defending Ted at the big meeting in front of her mother.  Brave move, but she’s going to have a hard time when she gets home after that. 
  • The one issue I had with this book… takes place in Connecticut.  It’s a pretty liberal area.  So, while I believe that there may be a couple parents who would freak out about certain books, I don’t believe it would be enough to get a teacher to get suspended and cause a huge crowd at a school board meeting.  Especially if the teacher had the support of the head of his department and the principal.  AND if the books are all pretty much classics. They’d probably just talk to the teacher and make a new rule or something. That’s what they did in my school when someone’s parent complained that they showed us Heaven and Earth, which has a rape scene in it.  After that we had to get permission slips for any movie a teacher showed that wasn’t rated G.
  • Cary has MC Escher drawings and Salvador Dali paintings (prints, I’m assuming) in his room.  And a bulletin board full of weird newspaper headlines.  I think he must be a really interesting guy.
  • In class, Cokie Mason asks about their assignments and gets ready to take super-detailed notes about them.  But since when does Cokie even think about schoolwork?
  • Kristy hears teachers in the hallway talking about how they support Ted because of the 1st Amendment.  So, Kristy goes to the library to look up what that is.  And while I appreciate that she puts the effort in to do this, and that Ann M Martin’s trying to teach kids about free speech, it is really annoying to read about when I am very familiar with all that information.
  • This thing about not turning in the list for approval is silly.  Ted says how his old school was a private school and lesson plans were at his discretion.  But if he came in the middle of the year, he would probably have notes from the teacher he was replacing about what she was teaching.  And I would expect him to do his own thing, but it shouldn’t seem like he was going totally from scratch.
  • Plus, again, the head ends up saying she would have approved the list.  So it’s pointless.
  • When Cary interviews Sam about Kristy, Sam tells him about the “Spaghetti Episode.”  Kristy’s all horrified that Sam would do this but then tells us she isn’t going to explain.  Totally unfair.  If they’re going to give us a super-boring book, they could at least give us an embarrassing story or two.
  • So, Watson calls the school to give his support for Ted and Claudia’s mom speaks at the school board meeting (being a librarian and all).  The BSC parents sure are activist-y.  It must be where the girls get it.
  • Kristy’s elected to speak on behalf of her class at the big school board meeting for Ted.  And she talks about being nervous about it.  Really?  Since when is Kristy nervous about speaking in public?
  • Mallory, Jessi, Abby, and Shannon all show up for Kristy’s party. As does Dawn, who’s there for Christmas.  They barely get any screen time, but we see them all mentioned, which I think is a good thing.
  • I can’t believe Kristy was my favorite character at one point, and I've liked her Friends Forever books the least.

  • If Cary's writing a novel, he sort of sucks since what we saw was really a lot like Catcher in the Rye.  Just with the word computer thrown in.
  • Ted shows up at Kristy's party. Which seems really inappropriate to me.  Even if her parents were home.
  • At the party, Mary Anne keeps avoiding Logan.   Like, if she walks into a room and sees him she goes into another room.  I can understand how she’d feel, but it’s kind of annoying to hear about her being so awkward about the whole thing.
  • Speaking of Logan at the party, he ends up chatting with Emily Bernstein.  Kristy doesn’t know if that means anything, but it’s mentioned like it could be. I don’t think they’d actually work as a couple.  Logan didn’t seem to like when Mary Anne managed to be a little assertive, and Emily’s much more assertive than Mary Anne.
  • Kristy DOES ask Mary Anne if it’s okay to invite Logan to the party.  She thinks it would be weird not to ask him since all his friends would be there.  And Mary Anne says okay.   But like I said, she gets all awkward about it.
  • What I like about Ted’s first assignment is that he tells them to do the report on a book they are passionate about.  So, if they don’t like the first one they start, pick another until they do.  Which seems like an interesting approach to get kids into reading.
  • The problem with the biography part of the assignment is all the 8th graders in this school already wrote their autobiographies, so the kids should just swap those as source material.
  • Back when Kristy’s dog Louie died, didn’t we hear that he was named after the song Louie Louie?  Or did David Michael just like the song because of the name.  Cause Cary asks Kristy why they named him that she says, “it just came to us.”  I don’t have a copy of that book to check.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

“For the first time in weeks I felt I had someone I could really talk to”…..BSC FF # 4: Claudia and the Friendship Feud

To set the scene for this book - Claudia and Stacey are still fighting, and Claudia’s still upset about her dating Jeremy.  These Friends Forever books are pretty soapy so far, I’m a fan.
A sitting job comes up for the Pikes and Stacey and Claudia are the only ones free.  Stacey claims she can’t do it and suggests they call Erica Blumberg and see if she can help out.  She can, and agrees to sit.  Claudia and Erica get along great, and Claudia feels like she has a new friend.  They start hanging out and spending more time together.  Even though Erica hates shopping, she goes along with Claud and seems to have fun.  But Claudia can’t stop talking about Stacey and even calls Erica, “Stace.”  Eventually Erica snaps about it and tells her off.
Claudia keeps running into Jeremy in the hall at school and he keeps chatting with her and saying he wants to be friends.  Stacey’s obviously not happy with this, and ends up confronting Claudia at school and telling her to “stay away.”  This makes Claudia even madder, which I think is what happens whenever someone’s told to stay away from someone.  She ignores the order, of course.  At one point, Jeremy talks about how it’s hard to be friends with Claud because Stacey’s definitely still his girlfriend and he wants to be loyal to her.  But he also says how he still does want to be friends.  And he gets switched into Claudia’s English class at the end, which suggests they’ll still be talking.  Or that he’s really dumb and needs to be in the slower class.
Then Claudia and Stacey both end up having to sit for the Pikes together and the kids try and get them to make up.  Stacey gives Claudia this whole talk about how she misses Claud and forgives her for telling Jeremy about Ethan, and she’s happy Claudia has taken her order about not talking to Jeremy.  Claudia says she misses her too, but she can’t get past the boyfriend stealing and the mean things Stacey said.  Later, she decides Erica’s a better friend and apologizes to her.
Meanwhile, Thanksgiving’s coming up and Claudia has been spending time with her Aunt Peaches who has an old friend coming to town.  Peaches tells her how she and this woman were best friends, even though they haven’t seen each other in years.  But she says that in college they fought over a guy before and got past it, so Claudia and Stacey might be able to as well.  Peaches is still nervous about seeing the friend because she’s so successful in her career, but it ends up going fine.  And of course the woman’s all impressed that Peaches has a great family and all that.  I think the point’s to get Claudia thinking about friendship.  And maybe to say that women having kids is just as valid a choice as choosing a career?  (Although that seems slightly less feminist than what Ann M. Martin usually goes with).

  • It’s kind of random how when they need an extra sitter they just randomly decide to call Erica. Claudia makes a comment that she’s not a “regular dues paying member,” which I think is weird cause it suggests she’s connected to them somehow.  I would think that’s how they’d describe Abby or Jessi or someone who used to be in the club. 
  • Claudia says that she overslept one day, and didn’t realize until she got to school that she was wearing one orange sock and one brown one.  I am pretty confident that Claudia wore mismatched socks on purpose many times so I’m not sure what the issue is.
  • Janine keeps making fun of Claudia’s clothes.  I didn’t think she was fashionable enough to know when someone looked ridiculous.  I guess she really is a genius though.
  • Of course, Janine did once ask Claudia for fashionadvice.  But that was due to the influence of a guy, and I guess even geniuses make mistakes when it’s a matter of teenage love. 
  • Claudia says she didn’t always love shopping, it was only Stacey who got her so into it.  I guess we can’t prove that false because we didn’t know Claudia before she knew Stacey, but it seemed like Claudia was already into fashion and buying crazy outfits back in book 1.  That suggests she would have been into shopping.
  • When Claudia keeps babbling about Stacey, she mentions that Stacey likes pigs.  Which I like, because I love mentions of random facts from old books.
  • When Claudia and Erica go shopping we get a mention of Macy’s and Old Navy.  Don’t they usually use non-real store names when the girls are shopping?  Unless they’re talking about Stacey shopping in fancy NYC stores. You know Claudia didn’t buy Ms. Frizzle clothes at Old Navy.
  • Erica tells Claudia that she’s adopted, and Claudia tells her all about her own adoption paranoia.    Which again, I like because of the old book reference.
  • Since Mallory’s in town for Thanksgiving, the girls have a BSC reunion with her, Abby, and Jessi.  Only they have two separate ones, one with Stacey and one with Claud.  But we only see the one with Claudia, since she’s narrating this book.  It’s rather tame.
  • Claudia starts sitting with Erica at lunch, and Stacey has apparently been sitting with Jeremy.  And Claud mentions that she hasn’t seen Abby in a while, so I guess she has been sitting elsewhere too.  It feels a little sad to see the girls splitting up like that, but it’s certainly realistic. 
  • The Peaches plotline’s kind of boring, but we do get to hear about her meet cute story with Russ.  In college, she had a crush on some guy but hadn’t told anyone.  The guy ends up hitting on Molly (her friend) who was pretty happy about it.  By the time Molly finds out that Peaches liked him, she’s already into the guy and doesn’t want to give him up.  They get in a fight at the library and when the student librarian comes to tell them to shut up, Molly leaves, and Peaches starts to cry. The librarian takes her out for coffee and turns out to be Russ, her future husband. 
  • The Molly/Peaches fight about the guy doesn’t really work as a comparison, since there’s a difference between going out with a guy you had no idea your friend liked and encouraging a friend to go after a guy, then turning around and going out with him yourself.
  • Peaches makes some comment about how she gave up a successful career to have children, but didn’t she have a baby within the last year?  It’s not like she has been away from the work world forever and couldn’t go back.
  • Erica seems pretty creative and has a lot of fun in an art store with Claudia (a lot more than in the clothing/accessory stores).  So she and Claudia do make a good pair.   We never really get to see Claudia working with others on art projects, unless you count when Ashley first showed up.
  • Also, ages ago I read a fan fiction story that took place when the girls were in 12th grade.  It had Claudia being BFFs with Erica, which makes so much more sense now.  It was actually a really good story that focused on Mary Anne and Stacey as BFFs, but Claudia made some appearances.
  • Stacey’s really pretty self-involved and bitchy if she thinks she should be the one forgiving Claudia and not the other way around.  They both said mean things, but Stacey made the first offense.  AND what she said was a lot meaner, at least IMO.
  • Jordan Pike gets a crush on Erica, so after the initial sitting job, Mrs. Pike requests her and Claudia come back to sit.  And Claudia just says okay, without even talking to the other club members.  I get that they decided to be more laid back about the club, but it’s weird to see them just randomly change behavior and not have any issues with the new way of doing things.
  • Claudia mentions how on Thanksgiving the TV stays on all day because of the parade and football, but that she usually doesn’t watch TV.  Which, I never really thought about, but none of the girls seem to.  Which seems strange to me, cause I’ve always watched a ton of TV.  But I guess they didn’t want to have pop culture references that were dated by mentioning specific shows.  As if anything in a BSC book could be dated.