January 7, 2014

BSC #130, Stacey’s Movie: The Real World: Stoneybrook

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 9:08 pm by Jenn

Stacey's outfit is actually really cute

Stacey’s outfit is actually really cute

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.

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.

August 18, 2010

BSC #53, Kristy for President: Kristy is Too Busy to Tell You What Your Problem Is

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 9:55 pm by Jenn

I bet Emily Michelle's delayed in sitting and smiling, too

Summary: Kristy runs for class president against Alan Gray, Pete Black, and Cokie’s main minion Grace Blume. The campaign wreaks havoc with Kristy’s already-busy schedule, but she feels like it’s her responsibility to lead the class because none of the other candidates is qualified. (I’ll give her Alan and Grace, but Pete doesn’t sound too bad.) After having to juggle too many things, including studying for a test (which she fails twice), Kristy realizes that she doesn’t have time to be president, so she gracefully bows out of the race.

In the B plot, Jamie Newton wants to ride a bike. It’s boring.

Thoughts: Karen declares herself chief leaf collector and David Michael executive president in charge of choosing colors. What are you on, Karen?

Stacey says absolutely nothing when the other girls trash Mary Poppins as the upcoming school play. Pay attention, ghostwriter! Also, they think Mary Poppins is babyish but have no problem doing Peter Pan not too much later in the series?

Dawn wants to do A Raisin in the Sun. Dawn, honey, there are three black kids in your school. Not gonna happen. She probably only wants to do it because it has a fruit in the title anyway.

Janine: “I believe you would be glad to know that a pizza delivery has just been effected.” Janine for president – of the U.S.

Kristy calls Pete a nerd. How dare she!

Speaking of Pete, his slogan is, “Vote for Pete, for SMS’s sake!” Dude, not “for Pete’s sake”? It’s right there!

July 31, 2010

BSC #51, Stacey’s Ex-Best Friend: Laine is Too Punk Rock for This

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:37 pm by Jenn

I always liked how colorful this cover is

Summary: Laine comes to visit Stoneybrook and Stacey quickly sees that she’s a completely different person than she used to be. She’s dating a 15-year-old (named King, of all things), she thinks the BSC girls are babyish, and she’s basically just an all-around snob. Things come to a head at a Valentine’s Day dance at school, when Laine snubs her date, Pete Black, and Stacey finally calls her on all her crap. Laine decides she wants to go back to New York immediately, and no one’s sad to see her go. Stacey realizes that they’re too different to be friends anymore, but fortunately, she still has an awesome best friend in Claudia.

In the B plot, the BSC girls plan a Valentine’s Day party for some of their sitting charges. They think Nicky Pike and Carolyn Arnold have crushes on each other, but he actually (unknowingly) likes Marilyn Arnold. It works out, though, because she likes him, too, and Carolyn really likes James Hobart. The seven- and eight-year-olds in Stoneybrook are luckier in love than the teenagers.

Thoughts: This book starts with the series’ second reference to snow and global warming. The ghostwriters need to stick to writing about sitting jobs and sleepovers.

Annoying thing Laine does (ATLD) #1: Calls Stacey Anastasia because it’s more grown-up than Stacey.

Weird how Stacey thinks it’s a big deal for Laine to date a 15-year-old, but when she dates (spoiler!) Sam later in the series, it’s perfectly fine.

ATLD #2: Mocks Dawn for using the word “dude.”

Laine asks what everyone would be doing on a Friday night if they weren’t going to a dance, and Mallory says homework. Mal, try thinking before you speak next time. If we let you speak again.

Everyone gets really excited about watching To Kill a Mockingbird. Yeah, that sounds perfectly normal for 11- and 13-year-olds.

Bart tells Kristy he’ll take her to the dance, then says he might stay home to watch a game on TV. Kristy sure knows how to pick ’em, doesn’t she?

ANOTHER mention of global warming? Is this a Dawn book in disguise?

Pete tells Laine, “You have hair like gossamer.” Aw, Pete. She’s going to get so much mileage out of that. Also, what 13-year-old guy knows the word “gossamer”?

ATLD #3: Calls her boyfriend Heart (he calls her Babe).

ATLD #4: Is sarcastic to Mary Anne. (Only I’m allowed to do that!)

ATLD #5: Tells the BSC girls to grow up.

How, as a 13-year-old, did Laine get a job at a boutique? And just how trendy can this boutique be if it’s called Flowers and Bows?

Stacey says “sartorial.” 13-year-olds don’t talk like that, ghoswriter!

ATLD #6: Goes on a diet to lose five pounds she doesn’t need to lose, then tells Stacey to do the same.

Nice thing Laine does (NTLD) #1: Wears earrings Claudia made for her a lot.

Stacey proves to be more mature than Laine: When she gets to the dance, she tells herself she has the choice between acting mature and being a brat, and she chooses to be mature. Rock on, Stace.

ATLD #7: Says sixth-graders have no muscle control.

ATLD #8: Tells Pete she’s tired and doesn’t want to dance, then dances with another guy.

NTLD #2: Leaves the BSC-verse FOREVER.

June 20, 2010

BSC #46, Mary Anne Misses Logan: Our Little Girl is All Grown Up

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 3:15 pm by Jenn

This never happened! The cover illustrator lied!

Summary: The SMS eighth-graders are assigned a big English project about authors, and Mary Anne is placed in a group with Logan, who she pretty much hasn’t spoken to at all since their breakup. Cokie is also in their group, which makes Mary Anne even more anxious about the project (and she’s already plenty anxious since it’ll require her to give a presentation to a bunch of people). It doesn’t help that Cokie is all over Logan and the two of them having been spending a lot of time together, or that Mary Anne has realized how much she misses Logan and their relationship.

Logan and Cokie’s portions of the project kind of fall by the wayside, so Mary Anne and the fourth group member, Pete Black, decide to complete everything on their own. Then Logan comes to Mary Anne looking for help to finish his portion, so she meets with him a couple times to make sure everything will go well. This makes her realize even more that she wants to get back together with Logan.

Mary Anne survives working with her ex, working with her nemesis, and giving the presentation, which means our little girl is…well, no longer a little girl. Logan asks her to dinner to thank her for her help, and things are a lot more relaxed between them, mostly since Logan knows now how controlling he can be. By the end of the book, the two are basically back together, and Logan is already showing signs of not being a clingy mess.

In the B plot, Bill and Melody, two kids the BSC girls have started sitting for recently, are afraid of their toilet. No, really. They create the Toilet Monster and keep freaking out about it. Instead of just letting the parents deal with it, like they should, the girls try to help them get over the fear. Basically, this plot could have been done better almost any different way, and it never comes up again, so it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Thoughts: Suddenly the Delaneys are gone and the Kormans have moved into their mansion. On the plus side, the kids are much less annoying than Amanda. On the minus side, no $400 cat.

Dawn knows how to pronounce “bourguignon” but she’s not sure of the correct use of “obsessed”? Come on!

Cokie reports that when she was ten, she read four Beatrix Potter books, and “it only took [her] a week.” Suddenly I’m picturing Cokie as Brittany from Glee.

Either this project was too intensive for eighth-graders or Mary Anne’s group did more work than necessary.

Skylar Korman, who’s 18 months, “happens to be very fond of the song ‘Breaking Up is Hard to Do.'” How random.

Ann M. Martin must actually know someone who was afraid of a red mitten that snores (or she was herself) because she’s used that anecdote in two books, this and Missing Since Monday. By the way, that book really freaked me out when I was younger. There’s a part where they find a girl’s body and describe her face as having been slashed, and that’s always stuck with me.