October 20, 2015
SVT #40, Danny Means Trouble: Why Help When You Can…Not Help?
Summary: New book, new random classmate for Elizabeth to help. This time it’s Danny, a fairly new student at SVMS who’s quickly become a track star. He’s also developed a reputation as a troublemaker. For instance, he cuts off some of Julie’s hair in class. Amazingly, he doesn’t get suspended for that. But he does get a warning from the principal, Mr. Clark: If he doesn’t shape up, he’ll be off the track team.
As Danny’s schedule gets rearranged and he’s suddenly in a bunch of the twins’ classes, everyone watches him closely to make sure he doesn’t in trouble. There’s a big track meet coming up, and without Danny, SVMS doesn’t stand a chance. Even though Danny loves track and knows Mr. Clark is serious about his threat, Danny’s behavior doesn’t improve. He acts up in social studies and fights with Ken in science. With his spot on the team up in the air, Danny still manages to set a school record for the 800-meter race.
Elizabeth interviews Danny for the Sixers and learns that his parents aren’t that interested in his extracurricular activities. They’re both scientists and would prefer it if their son got good grades. Elizabeth is confused – Danny’s clearly smart, as he’s able to answer questions in class, but when it’s time to read, he causes trouble. At this point it’s pretty obvious to the reader what’s going on, but no one in the book has paid enough attention to Danny to figure it out.
On parents’ evening, Danny’s folks talk to Mr. Bowman about his work. They want him to quit the track team so he has more time to study. Mr. Bowman disagrees, not wanting Danny to drop an activity he loves so much. Danny barely manages to keep his parents from talking to Mr. Clark, since they might find out that he forged their signatures on a letter Mr. Clark sent home.
Elizabeth talks to Danny again about her article, and realizes that he’s having trouble reading it. She becomes the first person in the book to realize that he might have a learning disability. Danny flips out about having his secret discovered and trashes a room in the library. As a result, he’s officially off the track team. Elizabeth tries to downplay everything and even take responsibility, but Mr. Clark won’t budge.
Elizabeth tries to talk things over with Jessica, which is a horrible idea, even after Liz gets her to promise in writing that she won’t tell anyone about Danny. Jess is surprised that Danny’s teachers have never noticed his problems, not realizing that many students get passed to the next grade just so their teachers don’t have to deal with them anymore, and because the teachers don’t see how severe their problems are. Next, Liz talks to Ned, which is a disaster, since he thinks it’s Danny’s problem to work out on his own.
While cleaning up her room (after guilting Elizabeth into helping), Jessica finds a magazine article about an Olympic runner named Greg Voynow. Greg was unable to read until he was 19, thanks to an undiagnosed learning disability. He asked for help and has overcome his problems. The twins think that Danny will be able to connect with Greg, so Elizabeth writes him a letter and asks him to pay a visit. Greg agrees to drop by SVMS, pretending he read about Danny’s awesomeness in track and wanted to meet him.
Elizabeth has to miss the meeting, so Jessica greets Greg (who’s hot) and points Danny out to him. Greg and Danny chat about running before Greg brings up his own struggles with reading. Danny admits that he has trouble and causes distractions so no one will notice. Greg urges him to talk to someone so he can get help. Danny easily agrees, and the next day he talks to Mr. Bowman. He quickly starts receiving extra help with reading, and is allowed back on the track team.
After a few days working with a tutor, Danny asks Mr. Bowman to tell the class what’s been going on. We get a PSA about dyslexia, which is probably good for kids to see, though I don’t think a lot of kids with dyslexia were reading SVT books. Danny wins a big track meet for the school, and there’s an assembly in the team’s honor, with a special appearance by Greg. He gives a nice speech about how you should ask for help if you have a problem. But really, most of the kids are only listening because he’s hot. Danny apologizes to Elizabeth for his tantrum, which is nice, and he thanks her for helping him out. Take that, Ned!
The B plot tries to give us a lesson on positive body image, but it doesn’t work. Jessica’s jealous of the attention guys like Bruce and Jake Hamilton (Janet’s future boyfriend, I believe) give other girls, and she thinks it’s because she’s not thin enough. After all, a magazine told her she was “half fit, half fat.” Jessica starts working out, even though she hates it. It doesn’t give her any extra attention from guys, either – in fact, Jake only pays attention to her when she gets a blister and needs a ride home. Jess discovers that, after all that work, she’s actually gained weight, so she decides to quit working out. I’m not going to even begin to mention all the problems with including this storyline in a book aimed at preteen girls, because I’ll be here all day.
There’s also a lot of talk about how Jessica wants to get her ears pierced, because Lila’s getting hers done. Ned and Alice decide that the twins can’t get their ears pierced until they’re 14. Lila keeps bugging Jessica about it, so Jess says her parents said she could do it “soon.” Eventually she admits that she has to wait until she’s in high school, which she gets teased about. I’m not sure why this was a plot.
Thoughts: I actually don’t get making girls wait until they’re a certain age before they get their ears pierced. What makes less sense to me is piercing a baby’s ears.
Elizabeth tells Ned that Danny has trouble reading and she thinks his teachers should know. Ned tells her not to do anything, since she told Danny she wouldn’t. Sooner or later, Danny will make a move on his own. So she shouldn’t even tell his parents or a guidance counselor or anyone in a position to help. Ned also says that Danny will eventually confide in someone he trusts, and that person will help. So to summarize: Elizabeth told her father that she wants to help someone with a problem, and he told her to do nothing and let someone else deal with it. A+ parenting, Mr. Wakefield.
Greg introduces himself to Danny and then takes him out for ice cream. Um, excuse me? Stranger danger! Celebrities are not immune!