January 31, 2010
Summary: Stacey’s parents’ fighting has reached a boiling point, and they decide to get divorced. Her dad plans to stay in New York, but her mom is considering moving back to Stoneybrook. They tell Stacey that she can decide who she wants to live with, which also means she gets to decide whether to stay in New York or return to Connecticut. Despite feeling like New York is her real home, the lure of the BSC cannot be denied, and Stacey goes back to Stoneybrook.
Thoughts: I really liked this book as a kid, mostly because Stacey was my favorite sitter and I was so excited that she might go back to Stoneybrook. I remember when I first read the book, which would have been when I was seven, I was so impatient to find out what Stacey would decide. Well, seven-year-old me, the title of the book is Welcome Back, Stacey! The front caption is, “She’s home for good!” And the back cover even has Stacey listed as the club treasurer again. I’m sad that you couldn’t put the pieces together from those clues.
I love sarcastic Stacey. Whenever she leaves the house, her mom always tells her, “Have fun and be careful.” In one scene Stacey returns from a trip to Gristede’s to get cartons for the move, and she’s annoyed by the task and her parents’ constant fighting, so she calls out, “I was careful and I had a ton of fun.” Heh.
Why does Stacey’s mom even look at a four-bedroom house in Stoneybrook, let alone buy it? And how the heck can she afford it? Does she sell drugs on the side? I kind of want to start a rumor that she sells drugs on the side.
Stacey has a fantastic crazy outfit in this book: short red pants with purple suspenders over a bright yellow and black sweatshirt (suspenders over a sweatshirt? Really?), purple push-down socks, red hightops, a necklace of wooden bananas and oranges, earrings shaped like sunglasses, and a red scarf as a headbank. When did she get that scholarship to clown school?
January 30, 2010
Summary: Jessica and Elizabeth spend spring break in Cannes, because no one thought of the possibility of Jessica causing an international incident. They stay with a woman whose son, René, is a jerk to the twins because he hates Americans (it’s his daddy issues – his father, who ditched his family, is American). Elizabeth meets a guy named Jean-Claude, whose grandmother is a countess (not that that ever really matters in the story), and when Jessica decides to ditch the guy who’s been trying to get closer to her, Marc, she glom onto Jean-Claude and tells him she’s Elizabeth.
Jessica hangs out with Jean-Claude and they start to fall in love (of course) while Elizabeth tries to make René see that not all Americans are annoying. Jessica is no help in that department. Elizabeth finds out that Jessica has been pretending to be her, but before she can confront her sister, Jessica and Jean-Claude almost drown in a boating accident. When Elizabeth sees that the two Js are in love, she pretends she’s Jessica to save Jessica’s relationship with Jean-Claude. And then Jessica tells Jean-Claude the truth anyway, and he doesn’t care, so whatever. Also, René’s best friend drowned, so now he doesn’t like water, but he gets over it when he has to help Elizabeth save Jessica and Jean-Claude, and then he decides that Americans aren’t so bad after all, so there’s a happy ending, blah blah blah.
The B plot is completely stupid: René’s sister Ferney is staying with the Wakefields, and she looks exactly like Tricia (I’m so sure), so Steven’s all in love with her. This means he’s neglecting Cara. Instead of actually discussing this with each other, they basically just break up, because that’s normal. Then Steven finds out that Ferney is nothing like Tricia, and he realizes that he loves Cara, so there’s a happy ending for them, too. Fantastic.
Thoughts: 13+ hours on a plane to France with Jessica? Elizabeth really is a saint.
Elizabeth wants to write in her diary about everything that’s happened so far on the trip…16 pages into the story. And all she’s done is fly from California to New York, go to duty-free, and get back on the plane. I bet she fills six pages on that junk.
Jessica lets Jean-Claude think she’s Elizabeth (for no real reason – why not just introduce yourself instead of trying to pick up where Elizabeth left off?), then decides she’ll tell him the truth after he’s fall in love so deeply that he doesn’t care who she is. Yeah, waiting until he loves you before you tell him you’ve been lying to him the whole time is a brilliant idea. As Jessica tells Elizabeth later, she’s fine basing her relationship on a lie because she’d rather have Jean-Claude than not. What a normal outlook to have!
Speaking of normal, at 16, Jessica still crosses her fingers when she lies. her fingers are probably stuck like that.
Clearly, any time Jessica screws someone over, she just needs to have a near-death experience to distract the person she screwed over.
Elizabeth goes along with Jessica’s lie after seeing how much she and Jean-Claude care about each other (after, like six days). ENABLER!
Jessica’s attempt to apologize, or something, to Elizabeth: “It was for a really good reason. I had to do it.” She really thinkgs Elizabeth falls for crap like that?
January 25, 2010
Summary: Jessi learns that a kid named Derek Masters, who stars on a TV show, used to live in Stoneybrook. Then, coincidentally, he comes back to town! Wow, who could have seen that coming? Also coincidentally, Jessi winds up sitting for him and learning all sorts of stuff about Hollywood. Derek encourages Jessi to move out to L.A. and become a model or actress or something, despite the fact that she’s a dancer and those things don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. Jessi’s in the midst of auditioning for a community production of Swan Lake, and she uses the idea of going to L.A. to distract herself, or something. I don’t know.
Basically the only other stuff that happens in the book involves Derek and people’s reactions to him. The “superbrat” refers to a kid Derek talks about who’s mean to him, but – shocker! – Derek is actually the superbrat. Yeah, who cares? We want Hollywood dirt, kid!
Thoughts: You can tell this book is from the ’80s because Derek is bullied and doesn’t bring a gun to school to exact revenge.
I love how the shows the Stoneybrook Civic Center puts on are this big deal, like Stoneybrook isn’t a nothing town so small kids can bike across it. Actually, I love how there’s an actual Stoneybrook Civic Center. And how Stamford is apparently the equivalent of New York. Nice fake geography in your fake town, Ann M. Martin.
Karen, who’s obsessed with being a star, makes up a little play about…well, wanting to be a star. And as annoying as Karen usually is, the play is exactly something a six-year-old would come up with. For once, the ghostwriter got something completely right.
The BSC girls throw a breakfast party for Derek and his classmates before he returns to L.A., since the morning is the only time they can find to have a party, and Kristy makes the girls wear robes so the kids know they’re the ones in charge. Because they can’t tell the difference between eight-year-olds and teenagers? Give the kids a little credit, Kristy.
January 24, 2010
Summary: Ken Matthews is dating this really annoying, pretentious, snobby girl named Suzanne Hanlon (not to be confused with Suzanne Devlin – someone get the ghostwriter a book of baby names). She’s all into artsy movies and stuff that Ken couldn’t care less about. She also thinks sports are dumb, so it makes complete sense that she would hook up with the school’s star quarterback. Shut up, Suzanne.
Ken’s on the verge of failing English, and when Elizabeth offers to help him (of course), he takes one of her short stories and turns it in as his own so he can pass the course. When she finds out, she tries to help him figure out what to do, but amazingly enough, he actually solves the problem on his own by pulling the story before it can be published in the Oracle and replacing it with a confessional story of his own. Suzanne’s embarrassed by his actions, because it’s all about her (she and Jessica would get along really well, I think), but even when she apologizes, Ken doesn’t take her back. All she wants to do is “grown-up” stuff that Ken isn’t into. I have no idea why he was attracted to her in the first place.
The stupid B plot is about Sweet Valley’s centennial celebration, which has been discussed in the past few books and which finally occurs, which means we get to stop talking about it now, right? Jessica is somehow in charge of a picnic, and she screws everything up, of course. That seemed inevitable. Just like Ken, she solves the problem on her own, mostly, so maybe Elizabeth will finally get the hint that she’s not actually needed anymore.
Thoughts: When Ken considers turning in one of Elizabeth’s stories as his own, he tries to talk himself out of it by noting that Elizabeth would be mad. Yeah, better to worry bout Elizabeth’s feelings than about plagiarism.
Who’s the idiot who put Jessica in charge of the picnic? That person deserves peanut butter and jelly for trusting her with anything. That’s how Jessica handles her problem, by the way – she didn’t confirm the food order, so she makes sandwiches and buys chips for everone. Bruce spins the situation to make her look good by telling everyone that she did it to cut down on the food budget. When did Bruce get so nice? Especially to Jessica. This can’t last, can it?
January 22, 2010
Summary: Claudia’s grandmother, Mimi, who’s been sick for some time, is getting worse. Just as she seems to be improving, she dies suddenly, traumatizing everyone (including the readers – seriously, did Ann M. Martin have to kill off the nicest character?). Claudia tries to come to grips with what happen and her feelings of abandonment, making this one of the deeper books in the series. Her family also tries to move on without one of its most important members.
The B plot also involves Claudia – she’s teaching art classes for a bunch of kids the club sits for. One of the students is Corrie Addison, a girl whose parents seem to spend no time with their kids. Claudia is actually the person who brings this up to Corrie’s mom, making her realize that she needs to, you know, be a mom.
Thoughts: Seriously, too sad. I never liked this book. But it deals with death in a way that young readers can grasp, reminding them that death is a part of life and everyone has to deal with it sooner or later. It’s also realistic, in that teenagers lose their grandparents all the time, and though Mimi’s death isn’t exactly enjoyable, it’s almost inevitable.
There’s some foreshadowing of Stacey’s parents’ split and her and her mom’s return to Stoneybrook, which reminds me how much I always liked Welcome Home, Stacey! It also cut the sadness a little for me.
I don’t have much snark for this book, but I have to mention one spectacular Claudia outfit: Lavender plaid cuffed pants with suspenders over a green buttoned shirt, a lavender beret, fleece-lined sneakers, and blinking Christmas-tree-light earrings. Purple and green? Bad call, Claud. I could totally go for some fleece-lined sneakers, though.
January 20, 2010
Summary: Regina Morrow has been spotted in town, but no one knew she was coming back from Switzerland, or why she hasn’t told anyone she’s in Sweet Valley. After some sleuthing, Jessica, Elizabeth, and Bruce figure out that she’s being held hostage in her own home. They use a magazine to sneak a note in to her, and she sends them back a note detailing the situation – her parents are also being held hostage so that one of her father’s ex-employees can get a computer chip and sell it for millions of dollars.
Jessica turns on the charm to flirt with the son of one of the kidnappers, and with the information she gleans from him and what Regina has told them, she, Elizabeth, Bruce, and Nicholas Morrow come up with a plan to rescue all three Morrows (which they have to do at the same time and without the police, of course). It’s an overly convoluted plan, but it does work, and there’s even some tension, especially when Nicholas almost gets shot.
Oh, and Regina’s hearing has almost been completely restored, thanks to the treatments in Switzerland, so she’s staying in Sweet Valley. And there’s a tiny bit in the book about Ken Matthews failing English, but who cares about Ken Matthews?
Thoughts: This book was actually…not bad! Kind of good, even. It had an actual plot with actual tension. It was completely unrealistic, of course, but still interesting.
The kidnappers are completely inept, though. One answers the door at the hostages’ house, lets Regina wander around and be seen by visitors, and uses her real name. The other keeps the Morrows in full view of a window. Who, exactly, is the brains behind this operation?
Jessica’s smarter than Elizabeth in this book, which is really scary.
Nicholas pulls the look-innocent-by-kissing-me ploy on Elizabeth. What a coincidence that he would pull that on the girl he once declared his love for. Oh, and when they meet up with Bruce and Jessica, Bruce asks, “How’d you make out?” HA! Oh, Bruce, I kind of love you.
January 18, 2010
Summary: The BSC girls all go to summer camp to serve as counselors in training (CITs), except for Mallory and Jessi, who are too young. All of the obligatory kids-at-summer-camp plots are included: Someone falls in luv, someone gets poison ivy, someone goes on a camping trip, there’s a food fight and a dance, and there’s a whole subplot about…racism? Geez, let’s make things extra-serious, why don’t we?
Since it’s a Super Special, that means everyone gets a plot:
Stacey becomes a hypochondriac and thinks she has Lyme disease, when she really has poison ivy, a ton of mosquito bites, and a couple other minor ailments. She lands in the infirmary for a few days and then recovers. Thrilling, huh?
Dawn deals with a girl in her cabin who’s quiet and doesn’t want to hang out with the other girls. When the group goes on an overnight camping trip with an inept counselor and they all get lost, the quiet girl takes charge and gets everyone back to camp safely.
Jessi and Mallory are taunted by their cabinmates for, basically, being new and not both being white. They also are put in charge of teaching a group of eight-year-olds a dance for a talent show. They transform their foes through THE POWER OF DANCE, and everything’s good in the end, except one girl still won’t talk to them, but who wants to be friends with a racist anyway?
Claudia falls in luv at first sight with a guy named Will from the boys’ camp, and spends the book either trying to find out who he is or hanging out with him. This is pretty much because every BSC book involving a trip has to involve a love connection of some kind.
Kristy deals with problems similar to Mary Anne’s, in that her co-CITs want to change her. She also has to put up with Charlotte Johannsen, who spends pretty much the entire book crying because she’s homesick.
Mary Anne tries to prove to her co-CITs that she’s cool and sophisticated (and also that Logan, who’s at the boys’ camp across the lake, actually exists). She tries to sneak around the lake to deliver a hideous love letter to Logan (more on that below) and even tells her co-CITs they can pierce her ears so they’ll see her as cool. Everyone chills out when they realize that Logan isn’t a figment of Mary Anne’s imagination after all.
Logan puts up with his annoying co-CITs who tease him about Mary Anne’s love letter (trust me – you would, too) until they meet her and see that she’s not a complete wreck. Sort of.
Thoughts: I think I enjoyed this book so much as a kid because I never went to overnight camp. (If I had, I would have been the Charlotte of the group.) Taken separately, the individual plots are pretty dull, but together, they’re not horrible. They’re still pretty predictable and generic, though.
It always bugged me that in this book, we’re told that Jessi’s father’s name is Alex when it should be John, since Squirt’s real name, as we’re told in every book, is John Philip Ramsey, Jr. Oops!
Dawn says of a camper, “She reminded me an awful lot of Mallory. Only in a good way.” I think if I were Mallory, I’d be insulted. Doesn’t that imply that you can be like Mallory in a bad way?
What kind of 11-year-old calls another 11-year-old an Oreo? Kindly remove yourself from civilization until you can actually be civil, Maureen.
The exchange between Kristy and Tansy, her co-CIT, upon their first meeting cracks me up:
Tansy: “My name’s Tansy. I know it’s a weird name. It means someone who’s tenacious. In Middle Latin. I mean, it’s the Middle Latin word for tenacious. So I don’t mind the name at all. It’s an important one.”
Kristy: “I looked my name up in a book once and I couldn’t find it.”
Tansy: “I need new nail polish.”
Once again, Claudia’s the funniest girl in the club. Boys unexpectedly show up at her cabin and people freak out.
Leann: “I’m changing!”
Vanessa: “I’m naked!”
Claudia: “I’m Claudia.”
She also puts an inchworm on her co-CIT’s pillow “to see how she’d react.” Four pages later, we get this: “‘There’s a worm on my bed!’ she cried, and darted across the cabin, out of worm’s way. (Oh, so that’s what would happen if Sally found an inchworm on her pillow.)” Hee.
So here’s Mary Anne’s letter to Logan in its entirety. She actually writes it as a joke, hoping her co-CIT will find it and see how sophisticated she is. Yeah, tell me if this sounds sophisticated:
I miss you so much! I am counting the days until next Wednesday. This next week will seem like a year. I think of you and want to swon swoon. Oh, to feel your arms around me at the dance! It has been too long since our last kiss.
I will be wearing the formal teepee wear, of course, and a yellow ribbon in my hair. What of you, my love? Will you wear your after-shave? If you were to bring me a yellow flower to match my ribbon, I would melt in your arms.
Love forever, kisses and hugs,
Mary Anne XXOO
The love-bunny also calls Lake Dekanawida, which no one can pronounce or spell correctly, Lake Dukakis. Heh.
Is getting your ears pierced at camp, like, a thing? It happens in The Parent Trap, too. And why does Mary Anne’s co-CIT have a big needle with her at camp? Just in case this sort of situation arose?
January 16, 2010
Summary: Emily Mayer has a wicked stepmother, Karen, who thinks Emily’s bound to become a tramp like her mom (even though there’s no indication that her mom ever did anything trampy). Her father keeps giving in to Karen when she makes demands, so Emily can’t play her drums because her baby sister apparently needs peace and quiet 24 hours a day, and she receives a curfew for the first time in her life. Whenever Emily tries to reason with her father, he tells her that Karen needs all the help she can get.
Emily keeps going to Elizabeth for help and hanging out at the Wakefields’ so she doesn’t have to be at home. She’s afraid that Karen is going to talk her father into sending her to boarding school, which she thinks would kill her, because she can’t leave Sweet Valley! It’s a magical land of perfection! No one would ever want to leave there! Emily saves her sister from choking, but her father thinks she hurt the baby, so Emily runs off and plans to track down her mother and move in with her. Before she can, Karen finally starts talking, telling Mr. Mayer that Emily saved the baby and that she’s been annoying because she was jealous of all the attention Emily got from her father before. It’s a huge anticlimax, but whatever, happy ending, blah.
In the B plot, Ned’s parents are visiting and spending a ton of time with Jessica and Elizabeth, since they don’t get to see them a lot. Alice is jealous because she thinks her daughters don’t need her anymore. Uh, Alice, they’re 16. That means you’ve done what you were supposed to do. The conflict, if you want to call it that, ends when Ned tells the twins to get their mother involved in something so she feels needed, and they do.
There’s also a brief mention of Regina Morrow being back in town with her aunt…but she doesn’t have an aunt. The tease makes me excited for the next book, Hostage!, which kind of sounds awesome, so it better be.
Thoughts: Dear Emily, your stepmother’s daughter with your father is your half sister, not your stepsister. Pay more attention in biology.
Grandma Wakefield is getting her Ph.D. in American history. Rock on, Grandma.
Emily thinks a curfew of 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends is unreasonable. What is she, a vampire?
Dan, Emily’s crush, wants to buy her drums for $200. Where does a high schooler get $200?
Emily’s father says that Karen is having a hrd time adjusting to having a baby and a teenage stepdaughter. Oh, sure. It takes everyone eight months to get used to taking care of a baby and two years to get used to a stepdaughter. Um, is everyone in this family clueless?
Bruce’s father has a cordless phone, which Bruce thinks is for lazy people. Wait till cell phones come out and blow his mind.
Summary: Mary Anne’s kitten, Tigger, goes missing, so she and the BSC girls freak out and go on a manhunt. Er, kittenhunt. Logan is acting weird but won’t talk about it, so that puts Mary Anne even more on edge. And then things get even worse when Mary Anne finds out that Logan’s little sister Kerry has been keeping Tigger in her closet – she thinks Logan knew and didn’t tell her. But he didn’t, and he’s just acting weird because of baseball stuff, and then everything works out. Because Stoneybrook is a magical place where every problem is solved in 150 pages.
Thoughts: This book is kind of traumatizing – and not just for the preteens in its target audience. I’m kind of traumatized having just reread it, and I’m 27. I mean, a kitten disappears, a kid asks for ransom for him (though the kid is just being a jerk and doesn’t have Tigger), and the BSC girls start to think Tigger’s dead. Hello! Not cool! Kitten murder is not an appropriate topic for a children’s book!
Kristy’s reaction to hearing about Tigger’s disappearance is to call an emergency BSC meeting. Something tells me that would be her reaction to pretty much anything. “I sprained my ankle.” “I’m calling an emergency meeting!” “My house burned down.” “We’d better hold an emergency meeting.” “Terrorists took all of the Supreme Court justices hostage!” “Be at Claudia’s in ten minutes.”
I’m disappointed in the recent lack of wacky Claudia outfits. Since everyone always makes such a big deal over her bizarre outfits, they should be required to describe what she’s wearing at all times.
Mary Anne considers borrowing money from her father to pay Tigger’s fake ransom, reasoning, “He must have seventy dollars in the bank.” Mary Anne, unless you’re currenly wearing a potato sack as a dress, he has at least that much money in the bank. Unless you’re Claudia.
There’s more foreshadowing of Mimi’s death. Soooooo not looking forward to that.
Kerry thinks leaving a kitten in a box in a closet is more responsible than letting him play outside by himself. Shut up, Kerry.
January 13, 2010
Summary: It’s Christmas, if you couldn’t tell from the title, and Suzanne Devlin has decided to spend it in Sweet Valley, even though everyone there hates her. The twins and Steven want revenge for everything that happened during Suzanne’s last visit, but only Jessica goes through with it, getting Winston and Aaron Dallas to play along. But alas! Suzanne is sick! She needs sympathy! Except she’s not really sick, as her doctor misdiagnosed her with MS even though she just has lingering effects from mono. (Just go with it.)
Of course, Suzanne needs to be a victim, so before the big it’s-not-MS reveal, she takes some new medication, drinks champagne, and drives to a place where there’s supposedly a party but there really isn’t. She wrecks the car and makes everyone realize how mean they’ve been, or something. I don’t know. I maintain that she brought the car accident on herself.
The B plot also involves Suzanne – she ran into Todd in Vermont, and they’re basically in love, but neither of them wants to talk about it because they don’t want Elizabeth to know. But then she finds out, and Todd and Elizabeth break up (!), so whatever. Neither of them lives in Sweet Valley, so who cares?
The C plot involves a schoolwide Secret Santa thing, and it’s dumb and predictable, so I don’t even want to talk about it. The D plot was promising – Lila tricks Jessica into missing her chance to be Miss Christmastime, so Jessica makes her wear an elf costume, somehow – but it gets dropped halfway through, only to be hastily wrapped up, so I don’t think the ghostwriter really thought that one through.
Thoughts: Jessica draws Bruce’s name for Secret Santa. I can’t be the only person who thinks they should just make out already.
Jessica says 137 again! It’s been a while. I kind of missed it.
Aaron and Winston’s idea of cruelty is an anonymous note telling Suzanne to go home. It’s as if they don’t realize they have Jessica and Lila at their disposal. Though Jessica’s idea of cruelty is making Suzanne think she’s going to meet Aaron at a party that isn’t really happening, so everyone here is equally lame.
Ned and Alice leave a bottle of champagne for their 16-year-olds to drink. First of all, where’s CPS? Second of all, why would you give Jessica something to further impede her ability to make good decisions?
Speaking of bad decisions, not only does Suzanne drink champagne after taking prescription drugs, she drinks more after planning to drive a car, which she knows she’s bad at. She’s dumber than Jessica!