September 18, 2013

BSC #122, Kristy in Charge: Isn’t She Always?

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:09 pm by Jenn

Cary, we need to talk about your shorts

Cary, we need to talk about your shorts

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.

September 4, 2013

BSC Mystery #36, Kristy and the Cat Burglar: One Last Case

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 8:10 pm by Jenn

Who picked these colors? What drugs was that person on?

Who picked these colors? What drugs was that person on?

Summary: Kristy’s out for a walk with her younger siblings when they run into Cary, who’s bird-watching. (What? 13-year-old boys don’t do that? You liar!) They check out a nearby mansion, and they’re near it when they hear what sounds like a gunshot. Sgt. Johnson is on the case and tells the kids that there may have been a break-in. The security guard on duty was called away because his wife was taken to the hospital, and while he was gone, someone broke in and stole some diamonds. Sgt. Johnson was tipped off beforehand that there was going to be a crime.

Sgt. Johnson is joined by a couple of other officers, one of whom is a jerk because he wants to be the chief but Sgt. Johnson is the more likely candidate. The cops investigate, and but it’s Kristy who finds a drawing of a cat on the mailbox, which indicates that the robber was the uncreatively named Cat Burglar who’s been committing break-ins on the East Coast.

The BSC girls start their own investigation and come across the marker used to draw the cat, plus a bullet casing. They also meet the mansion’s owner, whose name is – and I am totally telling the truth here – Reinhardt Golem. He thinks they’re awesome for being little detectives and encourages them to solve the case. He suggests that a business rival, Ben Birch, may have robbed him for revenge.

Things aren’t looking so great for Sgt. Johnson, though. He investigated Golem in the past, after another burglary, and the marker found at the crime scene belonged to him. The call that got the security guard away from his post was about a fake emergency, and Sgt. Johnson was on the scene before anyone else, so he could have easily been there without being spotted. Plus, there are diamonds in his desk, so that’s probably not good. Sgt. Johnson gets arrested, and though the BSC girls find it strange that someone they know as a good guy would commit a crime, they have to admit that the evidence against him is pretty strong. Sgt. Johnson, however, swears that he was framed, and that the marker and bullet casing were planted at the crime scene after it was searched.

Kristy still thinks something’s fishy, so the girls (and Cary, who at this point is practically an associate member of the club) dig a little deeper and find an indication that the cop who hates Sgt. Johnson may have framed him. Kristy, Cary, Abby and Mary Anne head to Golem’s house to give him the news while the other girls go to a restaurant where he eats whenever he’s in town. At Golem’s, Kristy spots a lamp that was supposedly stolen during a previous burglary at one of Golem’s houses, and she realizes that he’s been pretending to be robbed so he can collect the insurance money.

Golem figures out that Kristy figured it out and decides to lock the kids in his house while he jets off to Paris. But the club members who went to the restaurant learned that Golem was there when he was supposedly in Paris, which means he was in town during the burglary. They send the police over to Golem’s, and the almost-kidnapped four are rescued.

Cary goes to a BSC meeting, where the girls lament being snowed by Golem, who really didn’t seem suspicious, which made this a good twist. Also, it turns out Ben Birch was one of his aliases, another good twist. The girls decide that they need to stop playing detective, at least for now, since this mystery almost put them in danger. And that’s why this is the last mystery.

In the B-plot, Charlotte goes all Harriet the Spy on everyone and almost loses some friends.

Thoughts: I can’t believe we don’t get any explanation of the name Reinhardt Golem.

The police don’t put up crime-scene tape. Way to go, guys.

“There’s just something about [Cary] that makes you think he’s up to no good. For example, the fact that he’s often up to no good.” Heh.

Golem seems like a smart criminal until you realize he was dumb enough to display “stolen” goods in his house. And that even if he’d gotten out of the house before the police arrived, he told Kristy and the others where he was going, so it’s a pretty good bet that the police would have tracked him down.

May 1, 2013

BSC Mystery #33, Stacey and the Stolen Hearts: The Usual Suspects

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 6:36 pm by Jenn

Stacey looks frighteningly like my childhood best friend

Stacey looks frighteningly like my childhood best friend

Summary: For Valentine’s Day, Stacey and Pete Black organize a fundraiser for the eighth-grade class involving valentine-grams. A bunch of the middle schoolers buy valentines for their boyfriends and girlfriends, some write them for crushes, and some send joke valentines to get people’s hopes up, because that’s what middle schoolers do. Then the valentines disappear, and notes surface commenting on what people wrote.

There are a number of suspects: Alan, Cokie, Cary, Stacey’s ex Robert, and even Pete. Their motives aren’t known, so the BSC girls start investigating. They find out that Pete has a crush on Emily Bernstein and sent her a valentine, but it’s possible he stole them all back so she wouldn’t see it. (Though why wouldn’t he just take his own back?) Cokie and her boyfriend are having trouble; she sent him a bunch of valentines but he didn’t send her any. Robert has been acting so weird that Andi, the girl he almost cheated on Stacey with, asks her to talk to him. (He’s not the thief, he’s just depressed.)

Cary looks more and more like the thief, especially after the girls see a striped sleeve photocopied with one of the valentine-grams, then see him wearing a striped shirt the next day. Stacey asks him if he had anything to do with the theft, but he has an alibi, since he was at the dentist. Then Stacey realizes that he gave his alibi before he knew the timeframe she was trying to nail down.

Cary says he isn’t the thief, but he knows who it is – someone who was about to receive a joke valentine from a girl he had a crush on. Stacey puts together that he’s talking about Alan. She questions him, but she feels so bad for him that she gives him the chance to return the valentines with no punishment. He does, and everyone’s satisfied.

In the B-plot, the BSC girls throw a “Valentine’s festival” for their charges. It’s not a festival, it’s a lame party. They just ask the kids what they want so everyone’s happy.

Thoughts: I wish Alan hadn’t been the culprit. The thief should have turned out to be someone completely unexpected, and Cary shouldn’t have been involved at all. It was too obvious.

Kristy wonders if the Hobarts know about Valentine’s Day. Kristy, they lived in Australia, not on the moon. Also, they’ve been in the series for, like, nine Valentine’s Days already.

Abby wants to “check out” Cary and “keep an eye on him.” That’s my girl.

Mary Anne calls Pete shy, but since when? He’s the class president, and they don’t tend to be shy.

The BSC runs a focus group for their Valentine’s party. Kristy has officially lost her mind.

I’ve never Xeroxed a sleeve, so I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure stripes wouldn’t show up on the copy.

When Stacey questions Cary, he’s in the school basement, chilling in an armchair. It’s like he’s in a secret lair. I love it.

May 28, 2012

BSC Super Mystery #3, Baby-sitters’ Fright Night: Which Witch is Which?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:17 pm by Jenn

Their outfits are the real fright here

Summary: Over Halloween, Abby, Stacey, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Mallory go to Salem, Massachusetts for a school trip. The trip is part history-project research, part excuse to do a lot of shopping (or at least that’s how Stacey sees it). Alan, Cokie, and Cary are also on the trip and being varying levels of annoying. Cokie and her minion Grace are huge mean girls to a sixth-grader named Eileen who rooms with Mallory and is supposedly decended from a witch.

A local museum is displaying a big diamond called the Witch’s Eye, which is like the poor man’s Hope Diamond, in that it’s allegedly cursed. It’s stolen while some of the students are at the museum. Mary Anne finds a wig that the girls guess was worn by the theif, and Stacey finds a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper. The girls think the person who stole the diamond is staying at the same inn as the students. At the same time, Abby buys a little ceramic pumpkin in a gift shop and starts taking it everywhere with her, calling it her pet pumpkin.

Anyway, the investigation begins, and Mallory gets really obsessed with documenting everything in the club’s mystery notebook. The notebook is back in Stoneybrook, but she has Jessi and Shannon send it to her. Girl needs help. There are a few suspects, including Mrs. Moorehouse, who owns the diamond but may not have insurance; Martha Kempner, a writer who’s in Salem to write about the diamond; Sean Knowles, whose reason for being in Salem isn’t exactly clear; and Harvey Hapgood, who tried to buy the diamond before it was stolen.

In between working on their projects and investigating the mystery, the girls do some sightseeing and various Halloween activities. They also try to avoid Alan and Cary, who are bugging Kristy. Cokie gets nastier and nastier to Eileen, and Mallory winds up sticking up for her and tearing into Cokie, which is both surprising and awesome of her. It also finally, finally gets Cokie to shut up.

Everyone goes to a Halloween parade, where Abby’s fanny pack is stolen, and she’s ticked but mostly just happy that her pumpkin wasn’t in it. Abby and Stacey’s room is broken into, as the theif took Abby’s room key, but nothing is stolen. Then Stacey realizes that the numbers she saw earlier are probably a safe combination, so she thinks the person who stole the Witch’s Eye stashed it in a safe.

Kristy thinks she’s uncovered a clue leading her to the museum, which is closed while the police investigate the diamond theft. She winds up locked inside and runs into Alan, who’s been torturing her the whole trip. But he has a clue, too, and they realize Cary set them both up. They arrange to scare the crap out of him, and the three seem to call a truce. It’s basically just a red herring.

While Kristy’s gone, there’s a storm and the electricity in the inn goes out. The other girls decide to snoop around in the suspects’ rooms and safes, but they don’t find anything. They do, however, see Mrs. Moorehouse and realize how frail she is, leading them to believe she didn’t steal the diamond since she wouldn’t have been able to make a clean getaway. The girls remember seeing Martha wear high heels for most of the trip, except for the day of the theft, when she wore sneakers. This means she may have been planning to move stealthily. The girls also use the combination Stacey found to open Martha’s safe, another strike against Martha.

It’s all dark and creepy in the inn, and the girls are freaked out when they run into Sean, since they still don’t know what he’s up to. He reveals that he’s an insurance agent and has been in Salem to keep an eye on the diamond. The girls head off to…I don’t know, call the police? Probably not. But Abby gets separated from them and runs into Martha, who grabs the pumpkin and breaks it, revealing the Witch’s Eye inside. It turns out she bought the pumpkin at one gift shop, put the diamond inside, and accidentally dropped it in another gift shop, where Abby bought it. She’s also been working with Harvey to get her hands on it.

Abby holds Martha off (yeah, I bet) until the police arrive and the girls are branded heroes yet again. Then they have cake with Mrs. Moorehouse, who tells them that she thought she didn’t have insurance because Harvey called her pretending to be from the insurance company and told her they couldn’t insure the diamond anymore. I don’t know, it’s a stupid wrap-up.

Also stupid: the B-plot involving Claudia, Jessi, Logan, and Shannon organizing a Halloween parade back in Stoneybrook. Jordan Pike is annoying and the sitters let him embarrass himself until he learns A Lesson.

Thoughts: Harvey Hapgood is not a name for a villain, or at least not a dangerous one. It’s a name for a Harold Hill wannabe.

If I were Jessi or Shannon and Mallory asked me to send the notebook, I’d say, “Sure, Mal, it’s on its way,” hang up, snicker, and go back to whatever I was doing. Otherwise I would be an enabler.

When Abby’s fanny pack is stolen, she yells out to the crowd that there’s a pickpocket in the crowd. I feel bad for any guy who ever tries to grope Abby in public.

Turns out Mallory is kind of awesome and Jordan is kind of a jerk. Who knew?

March 27, 2012

BSC Mystery #25, Kristy and the Middle School Vandal: “You Guys Need Me. I Keep You from Becoming Complacent”

Posted in books tagged , , at 9:05 pm by Jenn

Cary isn't cute enough. NOT CUTE ENOUGH

Summary: The school year is almost over (allegedly), but the teachers at SMS are talking about striking if they don’t get an acceptable contract in place for next year. On top of that, the BSC girls are also dealing with some vandalism around school, which seems to be the work of the Mischief Knights, specifically Cary. Except the Mischief Knights usually sign their work with a red MK, and the recent vandalism has been signed with a green MK. The girls think the Mischief Knights are either trying to throw the scent off of themselves or someone’s trying to frame them.

Cary and the BSC girls get into it about whether the girls are capable of figuring out who’s behind the vandalism, and Cary challenges them to a mystery war. He’ll plant eight clues and they’ll have six days to solve them all. If they do, he’ll leave them alone. If they don’t, Cary gets Kristy’s watch.

As the girls work on the mystery (clues below), the vandalism continues, so they really have two mysteries to solve. At various times they suspect a school board member who’s really angry about the strike; Brad, the guy who sold Abby her “study guide” and got in trouble for it; and a guy named Troy who was mysteriously suspended for two weeks but keeps turning up on campus. Cary looks less and less like the culprit as time goes on, though at one point Kristy thinks he’s guilty and trying to set them up.

Cary’s last clue instructs the girls to figure out who the vandal is, which is kind of weird, because they were trying to do that anyway. Mary Anne figures out that since the vandal has been using green instead of red and mistook a green car for the vice principal’s red car (which he keyed), the culprit must be colorblind. Claudia’s knowledge of fashion helps her realize that it’s Troy, as his clothes never match.

The girls want to break into Troy’s locker to see if he has any green paint or chalk in it, but this requires asking Cary for help, which requires them to forfeit the war (and Kristy’s watch). But it’s worth it, as they prove Troy was the vandal and somehow get the strike called off. Cary will still be allowed to bug them, but for me, that’s a plus.

The B-plot involves BSC sitting charges doing scavenger hunts. It’s dull.

Thoughts: This is my favorite BSC book. It reminds me a tiny bit of another awesome book, The Westing Game.

Cary has nice handwriting and is sarcastic. Just two more reasons I adore him.

Claudia has mint chocolate M&Ms. Do those really exist? If so, I need some.

During a scavenger hunt, one of the Hobart boys sees a garden gnome “among the bushes at one side of Kristy’s old house.” The ghostwriter says that Claudia doesn’t know who it belongs to. Okay, I know Claudia isn’t the brightest, but she would know that the Perkinses live there, especially since she lives right across the street.

Here are Cary’s clues, which are mostly pretty clever:

  1. “Get Your Mother (understands).” GYM, under the bleachers.
  2. “a drop of golden sun = re (as in the song from The Sound of Music)
    just short of failing
    = D (the grade before F)
    a skater’s figure
    = 8
    not him, you see, but
    = her
    (where does it all come from?)”
    Re + D + 8 + her = radiator. “It all” (heat) comes from the boiler room.
  3. “Toasted gloves or barbecued bats, anyone?” This refers to the supply shack Kristy thought she burned down in Kristy and the Copycat.
  4. “Cafeteria hamburger + A Theory of Man and Woman – SMS on Street = a fly on the wall of…”
     A cafeteria hamburger costs $1.69. A Theory of Man and Womanis a book with the library call number 305. The school’s street address is 358 Elm Street. 169 + 305 – 358 = 116, a biology classroom with a giant picture of a fly on the wall.
  5. “Nothing personal, Claudia, but check your spelling.” Claudia has to take a spelling test on a computer she used when she wrote her personals column.
  6. “B2 or not B2…that is the question. (Are you sitting down?)” The next clue is under seat B2 in the auditorium.
  7. “Hey Abby. IPA2tFotUSoAand2tR [picture of four witches] (look up)” The letters and numbers are an abbreviation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Four witches stand = “for which it stands.” Abby is instructed to look up at the flag in her and Cary’s homeroom.
  8. “Bring me the head of the False Mischief Knights!”

March 5, 2012

BSC Mystery #24, Mary Anne and the Silent Witness: He Didn’t Start the Fire

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:19 pm by Jenn

Mary Anne, you can't wear a fall outfit in April. Who do you think you are, Claudia?

Summary: The club starts sitting for a new family, the Martinezes, whose previous sitter quit unexpectedly. The kids are mostly great, but the boy, Luke, who’s eight, acts like he doesn’t trust his sitters. That may or may not be connected to the recent fire that took place at the house. The BSC girls suspect that the fire may have something to do with a developer named Reginald Fowler who wants to tear down some houses to build an office complex. The Martinezes won’t budge, so Fowler may have set the fire to scare them.

Luke seems to know something, but he’s not talking. One day when Mary Anne’s at the house, someone writes “don’t tell” on a window, which freaks Luke out. He’s also keeping some secret with his best friend, Steig, who happens to be Cary Retlin’s little brother.

Mary Anne goes looking for Luke in the woods while she’s sitting one day, and instead sees a teenage boy with a brick with green paint on it. He’s talking to Fowler, but Mary Anne doesn’t hear much of the conversation. A cop sees her when she picks up the brick, and Mary Anne is taken to the police station for vandalism. The only reason this plot point is important is that it allows her to learn from the police that Fowler isn’t even in Stoneybrook.

Time for reasearch – to the library! The BSC girls discover that Fowler was born the same day as twins named Samuel and John Wolfer, and decide that he’s actually one of them (since Wolfer is an anagram of Fowler). Him being a twin would explain why Mary Anne saw him in Stoneybrook while the police said he was away. They think Fowler started the fire at the Martinezes’ house, believes Luke knows it was him, and is threatening Luke to keep him quiet about it.

In their attempts to find out the truth, the girls get in touch with Allie, the Martinezes’ former babysitter. She’s with her boyfriend, Beau, when they find her, and Mary Anne recognizes him as the boy she saw talking to Fowler. The two teens come clean: Beau accidentally set the fire at the house with a cigarette, and Allie kept quiet to protect him, then quit because she felt guilty. But the two mysteries are connected: Fowler was blackmailing Beau, making him commit vandalism to threaten people so they’d sell their houses. Beau was also the person threatening Luke to keep quiet.

Beau feels bad, so he agrees to help the BSC girls with a sting operation. They send him to meet Fowler and arrange for his twin to show up. The truth comes out and the ever-helpful Sgt. Johnson hears it all. The final nail in Fowler’s coffin is Luke’s other secret: He found a map of Fowler’s plans for the town, which shows more industrialization than he claimed he wanted. This sinks Fowler’s plans and makes Luke and the BSC girls heroes. More Luke, really, but it’s not his series, is it?

Thoughts: Fowler and Beau are both stupid villains. Luke isn’t actually threatened with anything. I mean, if you’re going to scare a kid, you have to tell him you’ll get him in trouble with his parents or hurt them or something. Just saying “don’t tell” won’t accomplish anything.

And while I appreciate that the twist in the story is that most of the plot is a red herring, all the town-development stuff is boring.

Cary has two brothers, Steig and Benson. Okay, two things: 1) Steig? I didn’t think there were any Americans named Steig. 2) Benson Retlin? Do his parents hate him?

How has Kristy not run Allie out of town?

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.

December 10, 2011

BSC Mystery #22, Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade: Will You Still Love Cary Retlin Tomorrow?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 12:46 pm by Jenn

Stacey actually looks kind of cool

Summary: SMS is holding a Halloween Masquerade on Mischief Night, the night before Halloween. It’s the first masquerade in 28 years because the last one held there ended with a stampede, and a teacher died of a heart attack. Stacey’s really excited about the dance, so she joins the planning committee, which is headed by a teacher named Mr. Rothman. Cokie and Grace are also on the committee, and Grace hates everything the others come up with, while Grace is at least brave enough to have her own opinion.

Someone has been pulling off pranks at school, and the pranks lead to vandalism against the dance decorations and posters, plus graffiti that reads, “Will you still love me tomorrow?” The BSC girls suspect that someone doesn’t want the dance to go forward. They really only have two suspects: Mr. Wetzler, a school board member who was very vocal about his anti-dance stance (say that five times fast), and a group of students called the Mischief Knights, who were responsible for the original pranks. For some reason, no one suspects new student Cary Retlin, though his attitude indicates that pranks would be right up his alley.

The BSC girls decide to look into the last masquerade and learn that a girl was somehow involved. They also discover that Mr. Wetzler and Mr. Rothman were both students at the time. Stacey talks to Mr. Wetzler, pretending to be writing about the budget for the school paper, and he tells her there was a girl involved somehow. More research, this time in the off-limits school basement, leads the girls to the name Elizabeth Connor. It turns out she lived in the Johanssens’ house, so Stacey and Mary Anne make sure they’re looking after kids there together, then search the house. The only thing interesting they find is a heart drawn in the cement that says LC + MR – Liz Connor + Michael Rothman.

The next time Stacey sees Mr. Rothman, she decides to throw her cards on the table and tells him she needs information about Liz. He tells her everything: He was popular and Liz wasn’t, and his friends paid him $10 to take her to the masquerade as a joke. He felt bad about it but didn’t want to compromise his popularity. The last dance of the evening was to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” and afterward Liz found out what was really going on. She ran off, and moments later the fire alarm went off and the lights went out, causing the stampede. After that, Liz left school and no one heard from her again. Mr. Rothman thinks Liz could be back in Stoneybrook.

Fast-forward to the masquerade (which isn’t really a masquerade since everyone knows who everyone else is). In the bathroom, Stacey runs into a teacher who was dancing with Mr. Rothman and has had her cloak stolen. Stacey figures out that Liz took the cloak and is now wearing it while dancing with Mr. Rothman. She reveals herself, and…we cut to the BSC girls telling Shannon what happened. (LAME!) Though nothing really happened, as Mr. Rothman just took Liz out of the gym and I guess got her help. Apparently Liz had some mental problems that accelerated after the original masquerade, and she’s spent 28 years obsessing over what happened. And that’s pretty much how the book ends.

The B plots involve Grace telling people she’s coming to the dance with a guy no one thinks exists, but who actually does, and the kids the club sits for all being obsessed with Ghostbusters.

Thoughts: The Mischief Knights are kind of lame, but I’m mainly impressed a bunch of middle schoolers can spell “mischief.”

There’s a big deal made about this being the first Halloween masquerade at SMS in almost 30 years, but there were Halloween dances in Mary Anne’s Bad-Luck Mystery and Kristy’s Mystery Admirer. So is there some difference here between a masquerade and a regular dance? A masquerade usually involves a mask, but at least some of the students don’t wear them.

I think I had a little crush on Cary when I was younger. Good girls do like bad boys after all. And I’m with Kristy: He makes things interesting.

The structure of this plot doesn’t really work for me. No one knows who Liz is until the last third of the book, so there’s no way for the reader to figure out what’s going on. They should have made the culprit the son or daughter of the teacher who died at the original masquerade.