July 29, 2014
SVT #13, Stretching the Truth: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
Summary: Mary’s mother has been dating a guy named Tim, and Mary is annoyed that he’s spending so much time at their house. She feels like Tim’s taking her mother away from her. For some reason, she tells everyone that Tim is rich and building them a mansion, as if she needs that to be liked. I mean, she was liked when she was a foster kid. No one cares about her family situation or how much money she has. Also, if Mary just got some much-needed therapy, everything would be a whole lot better.
Anyway, Mary’s mom quickly marries Tim, and that definitely doesn’t make things better. Because Tim’s been around so much, Mary tries to grab any time she can with her mother, which means her grades and her friendships are suffering. In fact, she’s missed so many Unicorn meetings that she might get kicked out! A fate worse than death! Mary doesn’t like Tim, who acts like, as described by the person who recapped this book for 1bruce1, “a creepy youth minister.” This is completely accurate. He’s super-friendly and seems to walk around with a guitar, making up songs all the time. That’s annoying for anyone, especially a 13-year-old whose entire life has recently changed. Also, he has a tugboat. I don’t know.
There’s a dumb part where Janet calls a Unicorn meeting, announcing that Mary will be out if she doesn’t come, so Jessica rushes to warn her that she needs to be there. But she and Lila run into Bruce and a guy named Rick Hunter, and help them put up posters, because hanging out with older guys is more important than maintaining a friendship. Fortunately, Elizabeth saves the day (what a surprise) by making sure Mary gets to the meeting. I’m not sure why Elizabeth cares about anything involving the Unicorns. I guess she’s just doing things out of the goodness of her heart now.
The meeting’s at the Dairi Burger, and Tim and Mrs. Wallace happen to show up for milkshakes. All the Unicorns fawn over Tim, thinking he’s cute. I’ve never found any of my friends’ fathers cute, so this is weird to me. They also think Tim has a yacht, not a tugboat, thanks to some misleading comments by Mary. Mary pretends to be sick so she can escape, and her mom and Tim take her to the doctor, which is probably an overreaction, but whatever. The doctor’s like, “Your kid has psychological problems. Keep an eye on that.”
Tim and Mrs. Wallace decide that Mary needs a big surprise birthday party to help cheer her up. They invite all her friends to have a party on the tugboat (which everyone still thinks is a yacht). Mary freaks out because now her mom and stepdad are having secret planning sessions, and her friends keep having whispered conversations and are obviously excluding her from something. Apparently her friends have never been invited to a surprise party before and don’t know how to act around the person they’re supposed to be surprising.
Cue Elizabeth coming to the rescue again. She realizes that Mary’s falling apart and spills that everyone’s throwing her a big party because they love her so much. While Mary’s happy to hear it, this just creates another problem: Obviously her friends are going to find out that the yacht isn’t a yacht. She tries to play sick again so she has an excuse to miss the party, but her mom brushes it off. Then Mary decides to just run away, since her family doesn’t care about her. She’ll go looking for her biological father, who…obviously loves her so much that he’s had nothing to do with her for the past nine years. Yeah, that makes total sense.
Mary gets, like, five feet out the door before hurting her arm and realizing her plan isn’t going to work. Tim finds her and comforts her, promising that he’s not trying to come between her and her mom, and that he loves them both. This is all it takes for Mary to see that she has a great family. She even agrees to let Tim adopt her, and to take his last name. The party goes really well, since everyone thinks tugboats are awesome, apparently. I still think Mary needs therapy, though.
The underdeveloped B plot, if you want to even call it that, is that the Unicorns want to have a party but have no money, because they all bought matching purple sweatshirts. (I mean, of course.) Jessica invites a movie star named Tom Houston to come sing for them. He declines through a form letter. I don’t know why this was in the book at all. There’s also a lot of talk about an after-school jewelry-making class everyone wants to take, but nothing comes of that.
Thoughts: Mrs. Wallace: “Mary never acts like this.” But…how would you know? You’ve only known her for six books.
Mary tells the Unicorns that they only have $3.10 in their treasury. (Who knew they had a treasury?) Janet asks if she’s sure, and Mary says she “double-checked the figures.” So she…recounted? It’s $3.10. It doesn’t take a formula to figure out that’s what you have.
Jessica wants to make Mary a bracelet to let her know how much people love her. You guys, Jessica has a heart!
Tim, somehow trying to reassure Mary: “If anyone leaves, it’s going to be me.” That’s…not helpful at all, actually.