September 9, 2014
SVT #16, Second Best: The Lesser Dylan McKay
Summary: What happens when Elizabeth tries to help someone so irritating that the reader doesn’t care what happens to him? Let’s find out!
There are three big things going on in the twins’ lives. First, the sixth- and seventh-graders are about to start a big group project where they start their own businesses. Second, there’s a national essay contest Elizabeth wants to enter. (The prize is $100. For a national contest. Really? That’s it?) Third, Unicorn Kimberly Haver is throwing a huge birthday party; she’s inviting all the seventh-graders and some select sixth-graders. Jessica’s worried that her parents won’t unground her in time.
Alice and Ned agree that Jessica can go to the party if her grades improve. This means Jess needs to do a super-duper good job on the big group project. She already has an idea – a boutique, selling the group members’ old clothes – and she’s sure that she’ll be allowed to work with some of her fellow Unicorns. Ahh, middle school, when working on a group project with people you weren’t friends with was a fate worse than death. I don’t miss that time of my life at all.
Jessica’s hoping that there will be one specific non-Unicorn in her group: Tom McKay. The McKays are new in town, and all the girls think Tom is super-cute. His older brother Dylan (hee, Dylan McKay), however, is a big geek, and no one likes him. He’s sullen, doesn’t think he’s good at anything, and jealous of all the attention Tom gets. I want to feel sorry for him, because it’s hard to be overshadowed by someone, but Dylan is so annoying that I just want him to go away. Also, for the record, Tom tries to really hard to be a good brother, so it’s even more irritating when Dylan gets mad at him, because Tom hasn’t really done anything wrong.
Because Elizabeth is always nice to everyone, no matter how annoying, she tries to befriend Dylan. Even Amy thinks he’s a lost cause, so I guess she’s not drinking the Liz Kool-Aid in this book. The two girls are put in the same group for the big project, while Jessica, a bunch of Unicorns, and Tom are placed together. Elizabeth tries to reach out to Dylan again, but he’s still a grumpy jerk.
He’s further upset that Tom is entering the essay contest, when Dylan was hoping to make that his shining moment. Waaah, waaah, sibling rivalry, waaah. Tom and Dylan get in a fight in the cafeteria, and Tom ends up with a bloody nose. He covers for his brother so Dylan doesn’t get in trouble, and I only hope he tells his parents what happened so Dylan can get some much-needed therapy.
Elizabeth’s project (compiling a journal of students’ writing) is going well, despite the presence of Dylan in her group. She and Amy come across some papers he left with the students’ writings, and Elizabeth gets snoopy, realizing that one of them is the essay Dylan was going to submit for the contest. She calls him to let him know, but he doesn’t want to submit it anymore. Of course, Elizabeth submits it for him. Stop meddling, you meddler!
While Elizabeth’s company is coming along well, Jessica struggles to get anything done. This is her own fault, though – she’s elected president of her “company,” and she uses her position to appoint a bunch of Unicorns as vice presidents. Then they use THEIR positions as excuses not to do any work. Smart girls. Ned lets Jessica know that as the leader, she needs to, you know, lead. And also do work. Fortunately, Jess listens, and she whips everyone into shape.
Kimberly distributes invitations to her party, and everyone in the seventh grade gets one except Dylan. I don’t think he would have gone to the party even if he’d gotten an invitation, but this is one more excuse for him to justify his feelings. Add that to another compliment his mom pays Tom, and Dylan has had it. He’s going to run away. Too bad he’ll have to wait until he has some money. Jessica runs into him at the bus station (with the tissue-paper-thin reason that she needs transportation schedules for her project), and he tells her he’s getting ready to visit his aunt in San Francisco.
Somehow, the national essay contest gathers all its submissions, evaluates them, and announces a winner all within a few days: It’s Dylan. But for some reason, no one contacts him directly to tell him he won. This $100-prize national contest is sounding shadier by the minute. Word spreads that a McKay won, and Dylan thinks it was Tom, since he doesn’t know Elizabeth submitted his essay. So now he’s more determined than ever to run away.
When Elizabeth hears that Dylan won, she goes looking for him, but he’s already left for the bus station. Kimberly admits that she forgot to give him his invitation, though it sounds more like she didn’t want to give it to him. Why didn’t she just give his to Tom? Whatever, no one cares about Kimberly. Jessica mentions that Dylan said he was going to San Francisco, and when Tom reveals that they don’t have an aunt there, he and Elizabeth go to the bus station to stop Dylan from running away.
Dylan realizes that not everyone hates him, that his brother’s a pretty good guy, and that he needs to be a little more likable for people to actually like him. And they do like him now, since they’re impressed that he won the essay contest. I’m sure no one’s going to pretend to like him just because he’s recently come into some money, right? Anyway, everyone goes to the party, which Jessica’s allowed to attend because she did so well on the project. That storyline pretty much died.
By the way, this book was extremely short and there was barely any story. I think the ghostwriter came up with the idea and realized too late that there wasn’t enough to flesh it out. It took me longer to write this recap than it did to read the book.
Thoughts: Amy to Elizabeth: “Do you have to be nice to everybody?” Get used to it, girl.
But honestly, even though Elizabeth can be frustrating, I like that she looks out for other people. Kids who are nice to other kids without being asked are awesome.
Dylan doesn’t know how to use a hammer? Okay, that boy is hopeless.
All the girls with crushes on Tom are in for a big surprise in four years.