November 26, 2013

BSC #127, Abby’s Un-Valentine: Living Single

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 9:03 pm by Jenn

Apparently Abby REALLY hates tokens of affection

Apparently Abby REALLY hates tokens of affection

Summary: Valentine’s Day is coming! Abby is crabby! She hates all that hearts/flowers/candy/pink/red stuff, and how everyone gets so excited about romance. Love, yuck! So when a guy named Ross starts to show an interest in Abby, and she thinks he’s going to ask her to SMS’s Valentine’s Day dance, she tries to let him know that she doesn’t want to be more than friends. Unfortunately, Abby’s not clear enough and Ross is a little obsessed, so he doesn’t get the hint.

The other BSC girls don’t get the hint either. They think Abby’s being ridiculous for not wanting to get to know Ross better. She points out that there’s nothing wrong with being single, but Stacey, Claudia, and Mary Anne won’t let it go. Ross also won’t let it go, giving Abby flowers and trying to hang out with her all the time. Abby doesn’t want to be mean, so she doesn’t just tell him that she’s not interested.

Eventually Abby realizes that Ross would be a better match for Anna. She invites Ross over so they can talk, but when the twins are getting ready, they inadvertently make themselves look like each other. Abby puts on her glasses, though she usually wears contacts, and loans Anna one of her shirts. When Ross arrives, he thinks Anna is Abby. The girls decide to just go with it, but their mother accidentally busts them. Ross is ticked, thinking they planned this.

Abby and Anna talk things over, and Anna admits that she likes Ross, who definitely has more in common with her than he does with Abby. The twins ambush him and apologize, then successfully transfer Ross’ affections to Anna. Everyone ends up happy.

In the B-plot, the Thomas/Brewer family is about to say goodbye to Scout, who’s almost done training to be a seeing-eye dog. Andrew wants to keep her, since he doesn’t have a pet of his own, so Kristy has to convince him that there’s a blind person out there who needs Scout more than Andrew does.

Thoughts: Anna doesn’t know wh Mia Hamm is. Get it together, Anna.

Karen gets a kitten but Andrew gets nothing? Nice, Watson.

Charlie gives the best advice. That’s why he’s my fictional future husband.

I can’t believe Kristy and Abby go to a movie instead of a school dance. I was led to believe that school dances were the most fun thing you could experience in Stoneybrook.

August 21, 2013

BSC #121, Abby in Wonderland: Hey, Kids! Let’s Learn About Breast Cancer and Sadness!

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:09 pm by Jenn

You may think the middle-aged-looking woman dressed as the Mad Hatter is Abby's mom. It's not. It's Kristy. Kristy, you look old

You may think the middle-aged-looking woman dressed as the Mad Hatter is Abby’s mom. It’s not. It’s Kristy. Kristy, you look old

Summary: In case you didn’t get enough grandparent-related sadness from Claudia and the Sad Good-bye, the hottest book in the BSC series right now is Abby in Wonderland. This book has everything: costumes. A fake beach. Family feuds. Janine’s long-lost nerd soulmate. (Sorry, guys. I miss Stefon.)

So anyway, Abby, Anna, and their mother go to the Hamptons for a vacation with Mrs. Stevenson’s parents. Abby quickly senses that something is going on with her grandmother, who’s more tired than usual and insists that a big anniversary party she and her husband are throwing is more important than it’s been in the past. Then Abby finds a pamphlet on breast cancer in her grandmother’s room and thinks she’s sick.

Everyone else is clueless, but Abby worries that this will be the last anniversary party her grandparents have, so she contacts the people who can’t come and gets them to change their minds. There’s a dumb thing about her grandmother not speaking to her sister because of a long-ago fight over a spilled secret, so Abby gets the sister to come. She also doesn’t want to say anything about her grandmother possibly being sick because she doesn’t want her to get mad about another spilled secret.

The party happens, everyone dresses up (the theme is Alice in Wonderland), and the family is all together. But knowing her grandmother might be sick gets to be too much for Abby, and she finally asks if it’s true. Her grandmother admits that she had a biopsy and is waiting for results. Of course, this mean she might not be sick, which Abby never considered, so now everything’s okay. Her grandmother will never die! The family will never have to be sad again! Everything is wonderful and no one has a possibly life-threatening illness and everything is rainbows and puppies!

In the B-plot, the Pikes can’t go to Sea City for their usual summer vacation because they had to spend their vacation money fixing Mr. Pike’s car. The BSC girls help them set up a fake beach at their house. It’s one of those things that sounds like more fun to do than to read about.

Thoughts: Anna’s Janine-alike friend is named Corley. Parents, please don’t do that to your children.

More proof that Mrs. Pike is awesome: Instead of getting mad when the triplets accidentally spray her with a hose, she soaks them with a water gun.

Abby learns that people with Jewish and Eastern European ancestry are at high risk for breast cancer. Well, crap. Thanks for giving me something to worry about, Abby.

“[Mallory] likes Ben Hobart a lot – if you know what I mean.” Yeah, it’s pretty obvious what you mean.

July 24, 2013

BSC Mystery #35, Abby and the Notorious Neighbor: Stoneybrook’s Most Wanted

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 8:17 pm by Jenn

I don't think you need binoculars if he's standing that close

I don’t think you need binoculars if he’s standing that close

Summary: Abby gets bronchitis and has to stay home from school for a few days. She watches a TV show called Mystery Trackers (think America’s Most Wanted) and realizes that one of the profiled criminals looks like her neighbor, Mr. Finch. (Mr. F!) The guy on the show is wanted for embezzlement, and he ditched his family in Iowa and went on the run with his wife’s life savings.

Abby’s so convinced that Mr. Finch is the guy from the show that she starts spying on him with binoculars. She gets a little too Harriet the Spy for everyone’s tastes, and the other BSC girls tell her she’s crazy. But there’s so much evidence! Mr. Finch receives mail from Iowa, he has kids’ drawings in his house despite not having children, and Abby sees him burning something in his house. She tries to convince Sgt. Johnson that something’s going on, but Johnson points out that Mr. Finch hasn’t actually done anything illegal.

Kristy starts drinking the Kool-Aid, and Abby gets her to help snoop while Mr. Finch is out of the house. Kristy finds out that the kids’ drawings are signed by kids with the same names as the embezzlers’ children. Also, the thing he was burning was a photo of said kids. Sgt. Johnson has realized that Abby is on to something, so he gets in touch with the police in Iowa who’ve been looking for Mr. Finch.

In a complete anticlimax, Abby and Kristy see Mr. Finch putting a bunch of stuff in his car as if he’s planning to flee. They call the police again, and this time they actually come. Mr. Finch gets arrested and Abby’s snooping habit is rewarded.

B-plot: The kids in Stoneybrook make go-karts. The Kormans build the best one. Try to contain your excitement.

Thoughts: I don’t know if I screwed up the order or the series did, but this book should have come before Mary Anne and the Playground Fight. Oh, well.

I don’t dislike Anna, but she’s the most one-dimensional character in the BSC-verse. Stop talking about music already!

For the first time, the BSC girls use the Internet to try to get information.

Maybe Abby and Kristy’s signal while Kristy’s snooping shouldn’t be a harmonica when they’re depending on a player who has asthma?

So you see, kids, spying is okay as long as the person you’re spying on is bad.

April 17, 2013

BSC #116, Abby and the Best Kid Ever: The Kids Aren’t All Right

Posted in books tagged , , at 6:24 pm by Jenn

The cover artist couldn't pick ONE scene from this book to illustrate? This one makes no sense!

The cover artist couldn’t pick ONE scene from this book to illustrate? This one makes no sense!

Summary: Lou from Kristy and the Worst Kid Ever is back in town, having been adopted (along with her older brother) by her aunt and uncle. And she’s completely different. Not only is she not bratty, whiny, grouchy, or rude, but she’s the exact opposite. Take the most well-behaved, polite child you can think of, then double it, and you have Lou.

Unfortunately, she’s not as great as she sounds. She goes so overboard with trying to please people that she gets on their nerves instead. Abby’s working on a big project for Black History Month, with a bunch of kids helping, and Lou’s desire to please actually has the opposite effect. She ends up screwing things up, and Abby’s so annoyed that she snaps at her.

Lou’s behavior continues like this until one day she accidentally breaks one of her aunt and uncle’s plates. She panics and admits that she’s worried they’ll send her away. As has been clear from the first page she appeared on in this book, Lou is overdoing the niceness because she’s afraid of being taken back to foster care. (And if that doesn’t break your heart, then I’d like to know what shade of black your heart is.) Her aunt and uncle assure her that they love her and want her around no matter how she acts.

The B-plot involves a very un-Lou-like kid, Sean Addison. The Addisons are moving to Seattle, and Sean is grumpy because he doesn’t think anyone will miss him. Which they probably won’t, because he’s a brat. Part of this stems from the whole library thing with Mary Anne. Some of the BSC girls try to spend the day with him, letting him do whatever he wants, but he gets the impression that they only hung out with him because they felt obligated. The whole thing doesn’t really get resolved, but it’s not like it matters, since the family’s moving across the country. Then we meet the Nichollses, the family moving into the Addisons’ house, and the BSC girls get a weird vibe from the father. But that’s for another book.

The C-plot (I guess) is about Abby’s project, which she stresses about because she needs a good grade. She can’t decide what to focus on until Nicky Pike suggests the Underground Railroad, since the Spiers’/Schafers’ house was supposedly a stop. (I thought this was nice continuity from past books where we were told he likes to hang out in Dawn’s secret passageway.) Eventually Abby makes a fake news report about an escaped slave and includes some behind-the-scenes footage. It sounds like she did a ton of work and wound up with a great result.

Thoughts: Mallory does her Black History Month project on “deconstruction of Uncle Tom’s Cabin from 1852 until now.” Um, NO. She’s in sixth grade. There’s no way she knows what deconstruction is. (Also, after all the lit theory discussions I had in college, that word makes me cringe. But not as much as “post-modern” makes me cringe.)

Claudia and Corrie work on a project that’s actually pretty cool. They make a big mural of Stoneybrook and put in people and places Corrie will want to remember after she moves. I also love that they draw Kristy’s grandmother’s car, the Pink Clinker, speeding down the street with the police chasing her.

“I wasn’t the new kid anymore.” No kidding, Abby. You’ve been in the series for two years and you’ve had more books than Mallory and Jessi combined during that time.

December 11, 2012

BSC #110, Abby the Bad Sport: Soccer Hooligans

Posted in books tagged , at 8:29 pm by Jenn

Erin, we need to talk about your hair

Erin, we need to talk about your hair

Summary: Abby’s invited to play on a soccer team for both “regular” teen girls and Special Olympics players. And it turns out Abby thinks she’s really awesome at soccer because that’s what she was always told when she lived on Long Island. But the team, Stoneybrook United, is about working together, not spotlighting any one player, so she has to play defense, which means she most likely won’t be making any goals. She’s ticked about that, as well as the fact that Erin, the Special Olympics player who gets Abby’s old position, is so good.

Abby and Erin quickly develop a rivalry, and it goes too far when Abby calls Erin stupid. The girls get benched for fighting, and Abby’s so embarrassed that she doesn’t tell anyone. Even the BSC girls! Who are supposed to tell each other everything! She also hasn’t told them how upset she is about an upcoming trip back to Long Island to visit her father’s grave, which Abby winds up bailing on because she’s still struggling with his death and her mother hasn’t heard of counseling, I guess.

Kristy finds out about Abby being benched (from Karen, who found out from Erin) and gets mad because she didn’t say anything. I don’t know, it’s a stupid fight. Why does Kristy even care? Abby takes forever to learn anything from the experience, continually reminding her coach how good she is in offense and showing off to her teammates. Her coach is amazingly patient, because I would have told her to cut that out right away.

Slowly Abby begins to realize they point of the team. She also starts to see the game differently now that she’s playing a different position. She and Erin are still competitive, but they eventually apologize to each other and recognize the good things about each other. There’s also some connection there to Abby and her father’s death, but it’s kind of flimsy.

The B-plot is sweet: The BSC girls and some of their charges learn that Stoneybrook United doesn’t have a sponsor or money for uniforms, so they form a Booster Club and raise the money. They also come to all the games, and the Krushers’ cheerleaders cheer for the players. It’s pretty cute.

Thoughts: This book explains soccer as if the readers are the ones with mental delays.

However, I do like how the characters with mental delays are written. Other than talking and acting a little younger than their ages, they’re not much different from the “regular” characters. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between them. And I like how the “regular” players treat them like they’re all “regular.”

So Abby’s in therapy, right? Because she really, really needs it.

August 26, 2012

BSC Mystery #28, Abby and the Mystery Baby: Teen Not-Mom

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:12 pm by Jenn

I want Abby’s jacket. (Okay, and the baby)

Summary: Someone leaves a baby on the Stevensons’ porch, which is a much better idea than leaving one on the Thomas/Brewers’ porch, because that baby would never get any attention. Abby, Anna, and their mom call the BSC’s favorite police officer, Sgt. Johnson, who agrees to let them look after the baby until his parents can be found. Since babies are adorable and totally not hard at all to take care of, Abby turns into a little teen mom, spending all her free time with the kid, who they call Eli. The girls are holding a writing month (their own little NaNoWriMo, I guess), and a bunch of the kids write about the baby.

On the mystery front, there isn’t much to go on. Shannon’s sister Maria’s story about Eli mentions a green car she saw around the time he was left, but no one follows up on that. In fact, it seems like the police aren’t doing much at all in the way of looking for clues. Mallory and Jessi are taking a writing class, and when one of their classmates writes a story about a woman giving up her baby, they get suspicious of her. The nanny the Stevensons hire to watch Eli also acts a little fishy. And Mrs. Stevenson seems to be hiding something.

While Mrs. Stevenson is out one day, having suddenly taken off to tend to something, Abby goes through her office looking for whatever she might be keeping from her daughters. She finds a name, Miriam, written on a Post-It and remembers that her mother has a sister named Miriam who’s estranged from the family. Abby and Anna look at some old pictures and find one of Miriam as a child, with the blanket Eli had over him when he was left on the porch.

Abby discovers that her mother went to a hospital in New York, and she figures out that she must have gone to visit Miriam. Rather than just be patient and wait for Mrs. Stevenson to come back and explain everything, Abby decides to follow her to New York. There, she learns that Miriam was involved with a guy her parents didn’t like, and who left soon after she had his baby, Eli (whose real name is Daniel). So the baby wasn’t just some random kid left with a random family: He’s Abby’s cousin.

Mrs. Stevenson had always complained that Miriam relied on her too much, so Miriam didn’t tell her she had a baby, no baby daddy, no job, and poor health. Instead, she left the baby on the porch, then wound up in the hospital in a diabetic coma. Mrs. Stevenson figured out that the baby was Miriam’s (thanks to the blanket) and told the police, which is why they didn’t investigate and they agreed to let the Stevensons look after Daniel. But Mrs. Stevenson didn’t tell her daughters the truth about the baby because she didn’t want them to have to lie to their grandparents, who didn’t know they had a grandson. (I know it’s dumb. Just go with it.) So Miriam’s better now, and Abby gets to keep Eli in her life since he’s her cousin. I don’t remember him ever being mentioned again, though.

Thoughts: This plot may be the most ridiculously contrived of all the BSC books. Including Baby-sitters’ Island Adventure. The problem is that the ghostwriter really bends over backwards to make it clear that Miriam isn’t a bad person. She didn’t really abandon her baby! She was sick! She didn’t tell her family she had a baby or that the baby’s father (who I’m 99 percent sure wasn’t her husband – SCANDAL!) had left because she didn’t want to burden them! She can’t be a villain because she doesn’t smoke and she doesn’t have a mustache or a pitbull!

Abby’s grandparents could not be more stereotypically Jewish if they were playing the klezmer and urging people to eat more rugelach.

Mallory and Jessi think that since the woman from their writing class doesn’t do anything baby-related, she’s acting like she gave up a baby. Girls, please don’t ever become detectives. You suck at it.

Kristy, re: the nanny: “Even though she doesn’t have her own car, I’ll bet anything she knows someone with a green one.” I’ll bet everyone knows someone with a green car, Kristy. Please stop talking.

It cracks me up that Anna tries to talk Abby out of going to New York, but when Abby says she’s going no matter what, Anna offers to go with her. Because…you’ll get in less trouble that way?

July 29, 2012

BSC #104, Abby’s Twin: Hey, Kids! Let’s Learn About Scoliosis!

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:17 pm by Jenn

Abby, we need to have a talk about your pants

Summary: A school health check reveals that Abby and Anna may have scoliosis. The girls see an orthopedist who tells them that the curvature of Abby’s spine isn’t enough to worry about, but Anna needs to wear a back brace. Both girls freak out, and Abby goes overboard trying to make her sister feel better. She buys her a bunch of new clothes (which Anna hates), cuts her hair like Anna’s, and tries to spend more time with her. Clearly Anna just wants to do her own thing, but Abby’s not very good with taking a hint.

Anna finally tells Abby to leave her alone since she’s the one with scoliosis, not Abby. Then, because they’re 13, they stop talking to each other. Abby finally admits to her mom that she’s worried she and Anna won’t be twins anymore. The girls both wind up at a BSC winter carnival, and Abby gets overprotective again when Anna wants to go sledding. She realizes that sledding isn’t going to hurt Anna, and Anna realizes that her sister just wants to help, so they make up.

Re: the winter carnival, it’s the special BSC activity du jour. The girls spend a lot of money and put in a lot of planning, then worry that it won’t snow. It doesn’t, and the girls plan to cancel, but then it snows, so everything goes off fine. I know, I was worried, too!

Thoughts: I would understand Abby’s whole “we won’t be twins anymore!” panic if she were, like, eight. But she’s 13, and it seems a little histrionic for someone who’s usually so laid-back.

Abby talks about how cool the other BSC girls are, and she mentions that though she thinks it’s great that Mary Anne has a boyfriend, being single is also cool. I like seeing that in a book for girls who are starting to get interested in dating.

Mary Anne and Jessi buy $20 worth of hot chocolate. Holy crap, that’s a lot.

At the carnival, the girls charge people a quarter to go sledding. Yeah, thanks, I think I’ll go home and sled for free.

February 20, 2012

BSC #96, Abby’s Lucky Thirteen: Today I Am a Woman

Posted in books tagged , , , at 8:52 pm by Jenn

Abby's much cuter in her picture on the left

Summary: Abby’s busy getting ready for her and Anna’s joint Bat Mitzvah, which makes her forget about a big math test – a huge problem since she’s already struggling in math. Just before the test, she buys what a guy tells her is a study guide. It’s pretty specific, but it helps her, so she feels pretty confident going into the test.

Unfortunately, one of the answers on the study guide was wrong, so Abby gets it wrong on the test – as do four other students. The teacher figures out that something strange is going on and suspends all of the students for cheating. Abby tries to plead her case about the study guide, since she didn’t realize it was fishy until she took the test. The teacher already has it out for her, though, thanks to Mrs. Stevenson coming in to read her the riot act about another test. The teacher, Ms. Frost, doesn’t believe Abby’s claims of innocence.

Abby doesn’t want to admit her suspension to her mother, so she pretends to go to school for the three days she’s off, then heads to the library. This gives her time to prepare for her Bat Mitzvah, but she still doesn’t know what to say in her speech. Her mom catches her at the mall and Abby spills the truth. She winds up grounded for a month, but fortunately, her mother believes her about the study guide and decides to talk to Ms. Frost again.

Back at school, Abby sees Mary Anne buying a “study guide” from the same guy who sold one to her. She takes Mary Anne and the fake guide to Ms. Frost, and now that she has a reliable witness with her, Ms. Frost believes her. She also apologizes for not giving Abby the benefit of the doubt before and allows her to retake the test. So Abby has a chance to improve her grade, and now she has a topic for her speech. At her Bat Mitzvah, she talks about how even small decisions can make big waves, and how she feels more adult now.

The twins’ family comes to Stoneybrook for the Bat Mitzvah, and all the BSC members attend. There’s a very sweet scene where Abby and Anna light the candles on their cake and dedicate each one to their family members and friends. They’re sad because their father isn’t there, but they hear their family members reminiscing about him and sharing happy memories.

In the B-plot, a bunch of parents in town ban TV in their houses, or at least drastically reduce the amount their kids can watch. The kids are angry but wind up making their own “episodes” of one of their favorite shows.

Thoughts: We get it, ghostwriter: We shouldn’t watch too much TV. I’m already reading your books – what more do you want?

The Arnold twins wear pinkie rings. Are they in the mafia?

Abby’s mom tops my list of awesome BSC parents. You do NOT want to mess with her.

Would eight-year-olds know about the old melodramas with villains tying women to train tracks? I don’t think I knew about those when I was that age.

Abby says her mother doesn’t have any siblings, but doesn’t she have a sister in a later book?

January 29, 2012

BSC Mystery #23, Abby and the Secret Society: The A-maze-ing Racists

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:40 pm by Jenn

Men in tuxes worry me, too, Jessi

Summary: Stoneybrook used to be home to a country club, and a woman named Nikki Stanton-Cha wants to fix it up and reopen it. The original club was very elite and racist; Nikki’s father was a member, and she’s ashamed of the way the club treated people. As a child, she brought a Jewish friend to the club and was horrified by people’s reactions. Nikki is now married to a Korean man and wants to run a club open to everyone who wants to join.

Abby reads about Nikki needing teens to help fix the club up, so she gets the BSC girls to agree to help out. They learn about the club’s history, as well as about Mr. Armstrong, a grumpy old man who used to be Stoneybrook’s mayor and who was responsible for a lot of the racist attitudes. The girls also get a little worried because Nikki’s father is hanging around and they know he disapproves of her having married an Asian man. He’s so bigoted that he’s never met his grandson, Stephen.

Sgt. Johnson, the only cop in town who listens to teenagers, tells the BSC girls that his friend David, a reporter, was investigating some nastiness at the club years ago when he died in a car accident. There was some blackmailing going on in some secret society, and Sgt. Johnson thinks David was killed so he couldn’t spill what he knew. The only thing Sgt. Johnson knows about what David uncovered is a warning to watch his step. They also find a clue telling them to think about penguins, and they spend a day checking that out until they realize that Cary Retlin sent them on a “wild-penguin chase.”

Abby figures out that the clue refers to a corner of a carpet that pulls up to reveal another clue written in wine. It gives a year, and the girls figure out it means a certain vintage in the wine cellar. The bottle they find contains a golf tee that reads “OPEN WWII.” Thanks to a little spat with Alan, in which he sarcastically asks Abby if she wants a trophy for something, she checks out golf trophies from tournaments held during World War II. The only one from that period was won by Armstrong, and it contains two silver keys.

The girls are at a dead end, so they write Armstrong a letter telling him that David was on to him, giving him the clue about the trophy. They get Nikki to invite Armstrong to the club for a tour, then follow him as he finds the keys, since they think he’ll know what they open. He unknowingly leads them to a hedge maze they’ve never been allowed into. At the center of the maze is a bomb shelter, and as Armstrong starts to enter it, Sgt. Johnson tries to stop him. Armstrong grabs Stephen and threatens to hurt him. Nikki’s father pops up and saves his grandson, and Sgt. Johnson arrests Armstrong, who admits to tampering with David’s brakes, leading to his death.

Sgt. Johnson and the BSC girls head into the bomb shelter and find all of David’s notes on the blackmailings in the secret society. Not that it does much good, as, according to Sgt. Johnson, the statue of limitations is up on most of the crimes, and Armstrong is old so no one cares if he goes to jail or not. But at least Nikki’s father isn’t a racist after all, or something. And the club opens and is never mentioned again.

The child-related plot is about the BSC girls sitting for Stephen and trying to help him find friends. He thinks people don’t like him because he’s multiracial, but of course, it’s Stoneybrook, and other than the racists who hated Jessi’s family, everyone there loves everyone. Also, some kids open their own club but won’t let other kids in, so Stephen starts his own club, but his is so awesome that everyone wants to join, and whatever, it’s all a commentary on racism.

Thoughts: I just watched The Shining on New Year’s Eve, so the mentions of the hedge maze in this book kind of freaked me out.

Cary works at the club because he needs money. To take my 13-year-old self on a date, right?

Stacey plays Wiffle ball with Stephen, and the BSC girls know he needs friends, so why don’t they invite him to join the Krushers?

Trivia: Sgt. Johnson’s first name is Jim.

November 28, 2011

BSC #90, Welcome to the BSC, Abby: Thanks for Depressing Us All

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 10:18 pm by Jenn

If Abby's Jewish, why is she dressed like Santa?

Summary: Abby, who joined the club in the last book, jumps right into club activities, going on sitting jobs and helping out with the cause of the month, a carnival to raise money so school arts and music programs don’t have to be cut. While sitting for the Papadakises, Abby has an asthma attack that gets worse when Hannie runs into the street and almost gets hit by a car. She winds up going to the ER, but she’s fine after that. Kristy, however, thinks she’s a liability as a sitter.

Abby has bigger problems to deal with, as she feels like her family is disjointed. Her mom is working a lot, Anna doesn’t really have any friends in Stoneybrook yet, and they don’t spend a lot of time together. It all stems from Abby’s father’s death three years ago. Abby and Anna find a box of their father’s things while they’re unpacking, and they think their mother put it aside and forgot about it, which makes them mad.

During the carnival, which the Stevensons planned to work at together (selling cake and cupcakes with arts and music themes), Abby hears about a train that derailed in New York. She’s pretty sure her mom was on it, and when she and Anna don’t hear from her for hours, they think something horrible has happened to her. Fortunately, their mom was on a different train, but the experience gets them all to talk about their sadness over losing their father/husband and how they don’t want to forget him. But it’s all bittersweet because, you know…he’s still dead.

By the end of the book, Abby feels more at home in the club, Kristy has calmed down about her asthma, the Stevensons are making more of an effort to spend time together, and Anna has become friends with Shannon. So at least things are looking up there. And I guess they saved the arts and music programs because no one mentions that again.

Thoughts: Abby really is a bit of a tragic character. Her father’s dead, her mother’s not around much, and she feels like a seventh wheel, I guess you’d say, in the club because the other six girls are three pairs of best friends. Her humor is obviously a defense mechanism because she’s rarely serious. …Okay, I’ll stop psychoanalyzing.

What is with the series’ obsession with Elvira the goat?

Carnivals are fun. Reading about people getting ready to put on a carnival? Not so much. But now I really want a cupcake.

Mrs. Stevenson has a cell phone in 1995. I hope it’s Zack Morris-sized.

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