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.