January 21, 2014
Summary: It’s summer yet again, and Mary Anne is happy for some time to relax. It’s all sitting, sitting, sitting with the BSC girls, plus the possibility of entering a magazine contest looking for the best babysitter. The girls decide to enter as a group, which is good, because otherwise this book might be filled with fighting over which one of them is the best.
Then suddenly things go south. Mary Anne, Richard, and Sharon are woken up in the middle of the night by smoke alarms (and Tigger, who apparently is just as good at saving people as Lassie is). Their house is pretty well destroyed by a fire, and all their stuff is gone. Mary Anne is in so much shock that she can’t even cry. Now she has no idea what will come next in her life – she has no home or belongings, and just feels lost.
The BSC girls and tons of people in Stoneybrook pitch in to help the family. The Thomas/Brewers let them stay at their house, and they’re provided with clothes and other essentials. Everyone spends a lot of time going through the wreckage at the house to find anything that can be salvaged (there isn’t much). Then Richard drops a bomb on Mary Anne: He’s been offered a job in Philadelphia and is considering accepting it. Also, Sharon wants to go back to school so she can have a career change, and since there are more schools to choose from in Philly, she’s up for the move.
Now Mary Anne feels even more lost. She’s lived in Stoneybrook her whole life, and leaving would mean losing the BSC and all her friends. Dawn tries to sympathize, since she also lost one of her homes, but Mary Anne has a hard time connecting with her because Dawn does still have a house to go back to in California.
One night Mary Anne sneaks out and goes over to her old house, where everything catches up with her and she finally cries. Dawn finds her there and comforts her. Mary Anne realizes that her life might change completely, but she still has the people she loves.
In the B plot, the kids of Stoneybrook help the BSC girls put together their entry for the best-babysitter contest. Nothing comes of it, but obviously the BSC would win this.
Thoughts: Even though it’s summertime, Mallory’s still banished, with the explanation that her boarding school lets out later than SMS. The ghostwriters really hated her, didn’t they?
Little Archie Rodowsky is worried that the fire at Mary Anne’s is still going. Aw, poor Archie.
David Michael, Karen, and Andrew make a big Lego building and tell Mary Anne it’s her new house. That’s flipping adorable.
So here we are, at the end of the series. It feels weird. I can see why it ended – there wasn’t much left for the characters to do, and they wanted to take it in a bit of a different direction, with the Friends Forever series. So say goodbye to the BSC (at least until I can recap the movie), because it’s about to get a lot Sweet Valleyer up in here.
January 7, 2014
Summary: Time for another Short Takes class! Stacey’s in a film-making course, where she gets to learn about screenwriting, producing, directing, and using a video camera. She and her group mates – perennial BSC background characters Pete Black, Emily Bernstein, and Erica Blumberg – first decide to make a zombie movie, but realize it’s pretty cheesy without special effects. Then they decide to make a documentary about what it’s like to be a middle-schooler in suburban Connecticut. Wherever did they come up with that inspired idea?
Emily and Stacey conduct most of the interviews, and Emily quickly proves to be both a) a promising journalist and b) a bit of a bitca. She asks very personal questions, often using information she knows about the interviewees to dig deeper. She asks Jessi about being a minority in Stoneybrook, she asks Abby if she thinks she’s like her mother because they’re both so busy (apparently this is something Abby doesn’t want), and she asks Stacey herself if she has commitment problems because of her parents’ divorce. An interview with Cokie leads to Stacey realizing that the BSC is just as cliquey and exclusive as Cokie and her friends are.
But it’s Emily’s interview with Mary Anne that really causes problems. Mary Anne is upset because she had a fight with Sharon, and she later admits that sometimes she hates her birth mother for dying. She also says that she doesn’t consider Sharon her mother. She quickly regrets what she said and asks to have her interview removed from the movie. Stacey agrees to talk to her group about it, since she wants her interview removed, too. But her group members want everything to stay in.
What follows is a bunch of pages about artistic control and reality vs. art and editing something real vs. telling the truth. Stacey has a choice between honoring Mary Anne’s feelings and showing something dramatic and real in the movie. In the end, there’s something of a compromise: Stacey adds some footage allowing Mary Anne and herself to explain their words. And of course, the movie is good, even though it was made in two weeks by a bunch of 13-year-olds.
The B-plot is also about the class, and how Kristy and Alan are in a group together. Alan’s supposed to be the director, but Kristy can’t bring herself to let him take charge. Their group is filming kids in Stoneybrook when they do funny stuff, but thanks to Kristy and Alan’s power struggle, not much funny footage is actually getting filmed. Finally Kristy realizes that Alan has some good ideas, and that the process needs to be more democratic. I’m sure Kristy will promptly ditch that concept as soon as the class is over.
Thoughts: “Tombs and mummies are so cool.” I think Mary Anne broke.
“It never occurred to me that [Jessi] might think of us as white kids.” Uh-oh, someone forgot to tell Stacey she’s white. How awkward.
Cokie: “Boys are pretty much the most important thing in the life of a middle school girl.” And that might be the most middle school thing ever said.
If all students in a group are getting graded on a film, shouldn’t they all get a vote on the content and see the final product before it’s submitted? If I were getting graded on a group project, I would want to be involved in the whole project.
December 24, 2013
Summary: Kristy and Watson are off to spend spring break at Dream Camp, where they get to play baseball with other fathers and daughters. Dream Camp is the brainchild of former pro ball player Bill Bain, one of Watson’s heroes. Kristy’s been thinking a lot about her biological father lately, because she got her love of baseball from him, but she’s excited to spend some one-on-one time with Watson.
Unfortunately, just before she goes to camp, Kristy gets bumped down to second string on the school softball team. She was pretty confident (read: egotistical) in her skills before the tryouts, which led to her not giving it her all, and she suffered as a consequence. Now she’s worried about going to camp with a bunch of truly committed, truly talented players.
Camp turns out to be pretty awesome, though. The coaches are former pro players, with a couple of All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players thrown in. They’re really helpful and encouraging. Kristy just wishes they were more organized. And since Kristy can’t help but be over-organized and take charge, she jumps in to help. The coaches are a little surprised but don’t discourage her from taking a leadership role. Still, Kristy’s a little down because she feels bad about being second string back at home.
As the week goes on, it becomes clear that Bill Bain is connected to the camp in name only. He pops up a couple times but doesn’t do any coaching (which was supposed to be one of the perks of the week), and he even blows Watson off when Watson tries to get some stuff signed. Basically, the guy’s a jerk. Kristy winds up telling him off, which just makes Watson mad, since she’s being rude to one of his childhood heroes. Really, though, he’s mad that this guy he worships isn’t worth being seen as a hero.
Kristy keeps thinking about her dad all week, wishing he could see her play. She also feels a little guilty that she wants to be with him so much when Watson, who’s been an actual father to her, is right there. She eventually decides that there’s nothing to feel guilty about, and that Watson is a great guy who she’s glad to have spent more time with. He’s proud of her for being a leader and speaking her mind. Kristy also helps a fellow player admit to her father that she doesn’t want to play baseball, because Kristy is truly a hero for our time.
Bill Bain totally gets that, and realizes that he’s a jerk. He starts to participate in camp stuff, crediting Kristy with turning things around for him because she told him what he needed to hear. At the end of camp, Kristy gets an award for coaching, since she was so helpful all week. She comes to terms with not being first string, deciding that it’s enough that she’ll get to play softball every day. Plus, she got to meet a bunch of famous people, so that’s pretty cool.
The B-plot is super-boring. David Michael starts collecting baseball cards and trading them with other kids in Stoneybrook. One of the kids is a little con man who takes advantage of the other kids’ lack of knowledge about the cards’ worth to trade for more valuable ones. Abby schools everyone by telling them that the cards her father gave her are more valuable to her than the actual valuable cards because they have sentimental value. David Michael decides to keep his “lesser” cards because he likes those players.
Thoughts: I would have no use for baseball camp, but I would go just to talk to the female players. One of them was a Rockford Peach, just like in A League of Their Own.
“I hadn’t even considered the possibility that I might make a friend at camp.” Because Kristy didn’t come here to make friends.
“How could I stay at Dream Camp when David Michael needed me?” 1) You’re only gone for a week. 2) You’re not his mother. 3) He doesn’t need you. 4) Calm the frick down.
Of course Kristy hits a home run in the last game at camp. I’m just surprised it’s not the game-winning play.
Just two more BSC books left! Don’t worry, I have another series all lined up as soon as I’m done with this one.
December 10, 2013
Summary: While Claudia’s sitting for the Braddocks, Haley lies about a homework assignment and Claudia accidentally rats her out to her parents. Haley’s mad that Claudia got her in trouble, so she tries to turn all the kids she knows against the BSC girls, saying they’re all spies for the kids’ parents. After all, the parents are the ones who pay the sitters, so why wouldn’t the girls tell them what they want to hear? Haley tries to drum up some anti-spy sentiment, just like a little Joseph McCarthy.
This continues forever, with Haley telling lie after lie and getting in more and more trouble with her parents. The other kids side with her; apparently it makes more sense to them that their beloved sitters are the bad guys than that Haley is just a pathological liar. Claudia keeps sitting for the Braddocks, and things get so bad that the Braddocks decide Claud shouldn’t come over anymore until they figure things out with Haley.
Eventually Mary Anne comes up with the idea of role-playing: Haley and Claudia will act out one of the situations that led to lying so that the Braddocks can figure out what really happened. It doesn’t go well – Haley just lies some more. But then she gets upset and runs off, so Claudia follows to talk to her, and gets her to admit that she’s having trouble with her schoolwork. Since Claudia can sympathize, she’s not really mad anymore. And now that the truth is out, Haley can stop lying about freaking everything.
The B-plot is about Claudia’s relationship with Josh, her previously friendzoned boyfriend. Turns out he should have been left in the friendzone, because they don’t really like each other like that. Well, Claudia doesn’t like him like that. I’m not convinced that he doesn’t just pretend to say the same thing so they can stay friends.
The C-plot is about how Kristy is coaching a girls’ basketball team. I guess Kristy’s good at every sport?
Thoughts: Can there really be Nancy Drews that Claudia hasn’t read yet?
How did the Braddocks not notice that Haley was having problems with her schoolwork? I always thought they were pretty attentive parents.
I miss awesome Haley. Come back, awesome Haley!
November 26, 2013
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.
November 12, 2013
Summary: We’ve been hearing about it, and the day is finally here: Mallory’s off to boarding school. Riverbend is all girls, with an emphasis on fine arts. She’s nervous from the start, since it’s her first time away from home and she’s not sure she’ll fit in. In fact, she’s not sure the school will be any different from SMS – what if she has the same problems at Riverbend as she did back in Stoneybrook?
Mallory’s new roommate, Alexis, doesn’t help things. She is, in a word, crazy. She makes rules that Mal has to follow, and doesn’t make any room for Mallory’s stuff. We all know Mal is a little mouse, so of course she doesn’t say anything. She’s also pretty bad at reading people and doesn’t get that Alexis doesn’t like her, so she’d be better off keeping her distance instead of trying to become her friend.
Things get worse, and Alexis goes full-blown nuts. She’s like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction in teenage form. She gets mad that Mallory never spends time with her, not realizing that Mal is avoiding their room because she never gets any time alone, and because Alexis is annoying. Alexis also reads Mallory’s diary and borrows her earrings without asking. Mal’s new friends let her know that Alexis has already scared off two roommates (one of whom, Jen, is now friends with Mallory).
Mallory keeps trying to make things work, but doesn’t get anywhere. When she and Alexis discuss things with their dorm prefect, Alexis paints herself as the victim. Things keep getting worse, and finally Alexis snaps, actually trashing the room. Finally the prefect and the dean of students realize that this rooming situation isn’t going to work out, and that Alexis probably shouldn’t be around people, actually. They give her Jen’s single room and move Jen in with Mallory. So now Mal has friends, a non-psychotic roommate, and…eh, I don’t care enough to think of a third thing.
Back in Stoneybrook, the Pike kids are revolting because Vanessa’s now the only person in the house with her own room. Each of the kids tries to make a case for changing room arrangements, and Mr. and Mrs. Pike are all, “We’re so sick of parenting. We don’t even care anymore. Let the dog have the room.” Of course, the BSC girls help them work things out. Byron is fine with living with Nicky, and Vanessa admits to being lonely without a roommate, so the girls move into Nicky and the triplets’ room, Jordan and Adam room together, and Nicky and Byron room together. When Mal comes home for vacations, I guess she has to sleep on the couch.
Thoughts: So you see, kids, if you ever have problems at school, just run away and everything will be okay!
Mallory’s self-esteem issues are painful. I wish her parents had kept her in Stoneybrook and sent her to therapy.
If Alexis is so horrible to her roommates, they should stop making girls who don’t know her live with her. It’s a mean way to introduce them to the school. Riverbend’s administration is no better than SMS’s.
And that’s it for Mallory! I…won’t miss her.
October 29, 2013
Summary: Mallory can’t stand going to SMS anymore, so she’s strongly considering going to a boarding school in Massachusetts called Riverbend. Jessi’s ticked that she’s leaving, and the two of them stop talking. Instead, they talk to Mary Anne. Mary Anne is sympathetic to both of them, but she can see how miserable Mallory is, so she supports Mal’s decision to go to Riverbend.
Mallory learns that she was accepted at the school, and when announces that she’s going, everyone flips out. All of a sudden, everyone loves Mallory. Her siblings are especially upset, which is kind of funny since a) they never listen to her and b) you’d think they’d be happy to have one less sibling to have to deal with. Jessi’s furious that Mallory made up her mind without consulting her best friend, and especially mad that Mallory talked to Mary Anne instead.
So this fight goes on forever, until Mary Anne snaps and tells the two to come to her house. She makes them get their issues out in the open, which leads to them making up. Mallory’s still going away to school, but Jessi now understands why she made that decision and is a lot more supportive. Then everyone has We Love Mallory Day, because Mal’s self-esteem is so low, she has to be reminded constantly that people actually like her.
In the B-plot, the BSC girls organize a sort of Christmas ornament drive for the local nursing home. They also throw a party for the residents, which would be a lot sweeter if we weren’t constantly reminded how the girls are awesome do-gooders who are always working on some kind of charity project.
Thoughts: “I didn’t say you were fat. You just have a big face.” Thanks, Margo.
Interesting that Jessi acts the same way over Mallory leaving as Becca did when Jessi went to New York. And Jessi considered moving away, too! She’s an annoying hypocrite in this book.
Mary Anne sends Mallory and Jessi on the same sitting job while they’re fighting, because that’s worked out so well for the BSC girls in the past.
There’s a really sweet moment where a man at the nursing home is surprised that Kristy knows his name, and when Kristy says she remembers it from the last time the BSC girls were there, the man is so happy that he almost cries.
October 15, 2013
Summary: There’s a new family in Stoneybrook, the Brookes, and Stacey’s the first of the BSC girls to sit for them. The kids, Joni and Ewan, are sweet but sad; their mother has ditched them to become a reporter in Atlanta, so the kids are in Stoneybrook alone with their dad, John. He’s a writer and usually needs a sitter to watch the kids while he works. Stacey finds him nice and cute.
So does Stacey’s mother. When she and John meet, they quickly hit it off. Stacey’s thrilled, since her mom hasn’t dated since her divorce, and she likes that Mrs. McGill has fallen for such a great guy. Joni, however, is unhappy. She hasn’t come to terms with her parents’ divorce, so she doesn’t want her father to get involved with another woman. Totally understandable, right? Unfortunately, no one handles the situation well.
Joni is a brat to Stacey, since she’s the one who introduced their parents, and gets Ewan to be bratty to her, too. She’s also a little jerk to the other BSC girls, since they’re Stacey’s friends. Stacey lets John know how the kids are acting, and he talks to them about it, but Joni doesn’t listen and continues to be a little jerk. She also figures that if John can’t write during the day, he’ll have to skip dates with Mrs. McGill and write at night, so she messes with his computer to keep him from working.
The McGills and Brookes spend some time together, and Joni continues to be a brat, but John is almost as annoying. He just yells at her to get in line, punishing her in front of Stacey and Mrs. McGill. Mrs. McGill has started to cool on John, having learned more about him and realized that they have a lot of differences in ideologies. (I’d think she’s also a little turned off by his lack of sympathy for his daughter.) Stacey, however, still wants them to date.
John suggests that the two families have Thanksgiving together, and it’s a disaster. Joni is in full-on brat mode, and when her father yells at her yet again, she reaches her breaking point and runs off to hide in Stacey’s room. Stacey goes after her and finally shows the girl some compassion, assuring her that her parents love her and all that. Joni sobs heartbreakingly, unable to deal with her parents’ divorce. But Stacey helps her feel a little better, and Joni calms down.
Mrs. McGill decides to break up with John, which Stacey disapproves of. She plans to warn him, but when she goes to New York to visit her father and Ethan, she cools off about it. Ethan gets her to see that Mrs. McGill, as an adult, gets to make her own decisions. Stacey and her mom are also reading Pride and Prejudice, and the book helps Stacey realize that Mrs. McGill deserves a Mr. Darcy, not just any old guy.
There’s not really a B-plot, but there’s talk of how Mallory is still struggling at school after her disastrous student-teaching gig. She hates going to SMS so much that she’s considering going to boarding school in Massachusetts. The BSC girls are sad at the possibility of her leaving, and Jessi’s really upset. More on that in future books.
Thoughts: According to Stacey, people still use word processors in 1998. Poor dear. They have computers now. Smartphones are really going to blow your mind.
“I was never sure if Dad’s girlfriends liked me or if they were only pretending to like me because of Dad.” Richard had girlfriends before he married Sharon? Multiple girlfriends? Richard Spier? I call bull.
Okay, Mallory has officially been bullied out of SMS. WHY IS THE ADMINISTRATION NOT DOING ANYTHING? I can’t believe her parents haven’t gone down there and demanded that the school do something about the way Mal’s being treated.
Claudia: “Mrs. McGill loves kids who are a pain. She loves Stacey.” Nice best friend you got there, Stace.
October 2, 2013
Summary: In a nutshell, Claudia throws a party and gets caught.
In a larger nutshell, Mr. and Mrs. Kishi go out of town for a few days and let Claudia and Janine stay home by themselves. Claudia’s been having trouble finding time to hang out with all her friends – the BSC girls and the friends she made while she was in the seventh grade – and she decides that throwing a party is a good way for them all to get to know each other. Janine okays the idea, and they decide not to ask their parents’ permission.
The party gets off to a bad start when uninvited guests show up. Apparently someone (LOGAN) mentioned the party to a few non-BSC people and said it was okay if they came. This means there isn’t enough food for everyone. (I don’t know why they don’t just order another pizza.) Janine is supposed to be in charge, but she’s been feeling lonely thanks to her lack of boyfriend and being distant from her friends, so she just hangs out with her sister’s friends and doesn’t act like a chaperone.
Josh also gets more and more annoyed because things are getting out of control and he doesn’t get to spend any time with Claudia. (That’s an ongoing theme in the book. Josh is a tiny bit annoying.) It’s not like anything scandalous is going on, though. The kids are decorating cookies and listening to music and eating pizza. My friends and I had crazier parties, and trust me our parties were the exact opposite of crazy. But some of the kids do get a little rowdy, and a vase gets broken, and suddenly we’re supposed to think they’re in a war zone or something.
Then Russ and Peaches stop by and bust their nieces for throwing a party without their parents’ permission. All the party guests get kicked out, and Claudia and Janine dutifully clean up the house, dreading their parents’ return. When Mr. and Mrs. Kishi do come home, the girls rat themselves out before Russ and Peaches can, but their parents’ anger is soothed by the fact that the girls have cleaned everything up and cooked dinner. Oh, and their friends replaced the vase.
In the super-stupid B-plot, the Korman kids have been fighting, so Mary Anne pretends they’re locked out of the house to make them work together. No, that’s really it.
Thoughts: If I were the Kishis, I might actually be glad that Janine broke some rules. This is the most normal thing she’s ever done.
Mrs. Kishi, freaking out about leaving the girls alone at home: “If you do feel ill…” Janine: “I’ll call the pediatrician, Russ and Peaches, the Simpsons, the neighbors, and put an ad in the paper.” Heh.
Janine’s discovered the Internet, so now she’s unstoppable. And despite her high intelligence and academic leanings, I bet she still likes cat pictures.
Hi, girls? It’s not your job to fix sibling rivalries. Your job is to keep the kids alive until their parents come home. If you keep doing the parents’ job, they’ll never learn.
September 18, 2013
Summary: Stoneybrook Middle School has no shortage of special programs, and now there’s another one: Students get to spend three days teaching classes. Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Mallory all sign up, as does Cary Retlin. Kristy and Cary are both assigned gym classes, and find out that during this portion of the course, they’ll have to teach together. It goes badly. Very badly.
Cary goofs off all the time, while Kristy yells at the kids and forgets to let them enjoy themselves. She doesn’t think she needs to submit a lesson plan (even though that’s part of the assignment) since it’s a gym class, and you can’t really plan everything out. Plus, Kristy doesn’t like the teacher she’s filling in for and who’s supervising her, so she doesn’t want to do what that teacher advises her to do.
Things really go off the rails when Cary and Kristy split up into teams for a soccer game and the students end up rioting and pounding on each other. It’s technically not Kristy and Cary’s fault, but they’re put on probation and told that the school might not do the student-teaching program again if they can’t turn things around. Of course, Kristy and Cary learn to Work Together and Communicate and Take Things Seriously like the good little fictional ’90s children they are.
Meanwhile, Mallory has a horrible time: She’s student-teaching Kristy and Mary Anne’s English class, and the other students are awful to her. She’s incredibly nervous, and they just make things worse. They start calling her Spaz Girl and taunting her outside of class. It gets so bad that meek little Mary Anne actually yells at them to show some respect. In the end, the students do listen to her, but Mal is still called Spaz Girl, and she’s not happy that people think she’s a joke.
The B-plot is about Vanessa catching the teaching bug and forcing her younger siblings to attend poetry school. They overthrow her because she’s a horrible teacher and criticizes everything they do. Abby gets her to calm down and remember that she needs to make learning fun.
Thoughts: Some of the kids at SMS are terrible people. And the teachers really shouldn’t be blaming the student-teachers for the kids being out of control. Clearly these kids weren’t mature enough to handle this program, which isn’t the student-teachers’ fault. Mallory’s students are bullying her to her face in front of their teacher, and all she does is give them more homework. Come on!
I’m surprised Mary Anne wants to do the teaching program, since she doesn’t like speaking in front of groups.
Kristy wears plaid pleated shorts to teach her gym class. Somewhere, Claudia is shuddering. Later, she wears Umbros. Totally ’90s!
“You’d think a bunch of eighth-graders would give a break to a poor kid who was two years younger than they were.” You’d think a girl who’s been in middle school for a decade would know that’s not how middle-schoolers roll.