April 11, 2010

BSC, The Summer Before: Growing Up is Awfuller Than All the Awful Things That Ever Were

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 4:51 pm by Jenn

Should Kristy be offended that her bracelet has a dog bone?

Summary: In the months before the series begins, Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey struggle through the summer, dealing with tons of issues that all pretty much come down to one thing – growing up is really, really tough.

Kristy is about to turn 12, and all she wants for her birthday is some sort of contact from her estranged father. She also really doesn’t want her mom’s boyfriend Watson around, partly because she likes her family the way it is and partly because she doesn’t want Watson to replace her father. Kristy gets her hopes up way too much, and when her father doesn’t show, she beats herself up for putting so much faith in him. Mary Anne creates Kristy Day to cheer her up.

Claudia has fallen in looooove with an older boy named Frankie, effectively stealing him right out from under Janine. She’s spending so much time with her new boyfriend that she has less and less time for Kristy and Mary Anne, but she feels like they’re growing apart anyway, since Kristy and Mary Anne haven’t quite matured to Claudia’s level yet. Frankie winds up dumping Claudia when the age difference proves to be too much, and as Claudia realizes that she doesn’t have many friends to turn to (a point she brings up early in the series, when she says Stacey’s her first real best friend), she discovers that even though she, Mary Anne, and Kristy are different now, they still have a friendship.

Stacey is preparing to move from New York to Stoneybrook and leave behind the only life she’s ever known. She’s more excited than nervous, as her friends have become total witches and she wants a new start. She finds Stoneybrook much more comfortable than she expected, and as the book ends, she’s starting to form a friendship with Claudia.

Mary Anne is stuck between childhood and adolescence, but mostly because her father has stuck her there. She wants to babysit like Claudia and Kristy, but her father only lets her sit with another person. Meek, mousy little Mary Anne takes her first stand in this book, letting her father know that she’s growing up and, though she still respects his rules, they’re going to have to start changing.

Thoughts: This book has quite a different tone than the others in the series – it’s very bittersweet. But even in my 20s, I find it relatable. Things are changing for all four of the girls, and they don’t know how to handle the new things they’re dealing with. They’re all growing up, in their different ways, and some faster than others. And that’s what adolescence is like. Some people mature faster than others, some people fit in more than others, and some people handle change better than others. But everyone has to deal with new experiences and feeling out of control. It’s all part of growing up.

I find it hard to snark on most of this book. There are a lot of moments that feel very real – like Stacey realizing that her relationships with her old friends are never going to be the same, or Claudia realizing that she doesn’t have anyone she can really talk to, or Mary Anne being frustrated over her the way her father treats her, or Kristy feeling devastated over the fact that her own father hasn’t taken the time to acknowledge her birthday. I think every woman can relate to this book. We were all teenagers once, and it wasn’t easy. No one has a perfect life. These girls just find a way to make it work.

Okay, so there is some snark here. Why does Stacey’s mom tell her to “have fun and be careful” in Connecticut but not in New York? Because Connecticut is such a dangerous place?

Janine wears jeans. Does that seem out of character to anyone else?

Possibly the best line ever in a BSC book, from Stacey, re: Laine, who has seemingly turned everyone against Stacey so that Laine won’t turn on them: “Her Royal Meanness had evil superpowers.” Laine is a complete bitca in this book, and I’m kind of surprised Stacey agrees to be friends with her again in The Truth About Stacey.

Should I be concerned that Stacey asks her parents for a dog after seeing a sign for a taxidermist?

Yeah, I bet there’s a synagogue in Stoneybrook.

2 Comments »

  1. Devo said,

    Hey, I just stumbled over your blog last week and I love it! I thought this book was terrific, as were the early BSC books. The girls were real, and they actually had a balance between babysitting and life. You can just about tell where Ann M. stops writing and the ghostwriters take over.

  2. Rocky said,

    I just found this blog and am reading it from start to finish. It’s AMAZING. And my love for you grew when you called Laine a “bitca”. Let me get this straight: you’re a child of the 90’s, you love SV and BSC books, and now you profess your love for Buffy in a clever, subtle way? I wish I had a matching set of lavalieres that you and I could wear around.


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