February 28, 2017
Summary: We pick up right where Steven’s Enemy left off, with Amy’s parents about to tell her what they’ve been keeping from her. Amy’s been worried that they’re getting divorced, but she’s hit with something completely unexpected: Mr. Sutton has another daughter. The story is that Mr. Sutton got married right out of high school, they split up when he moved overseas for work, and his never bothered to tell him when she got pregnant. Over the next nine months (since Amy’s sister is only 18 months older than she is), Mr. Sutton met Mrs. Sutton, fell in love, got married, and conceived Amy. (…Yeah.)
Mr. Sutton learned about his other daughter when she was around six, and he and Mrs. Sutton never told Amy. But now the elder Sutton girl, Ashley, is coming to visit her father, stepmother, and half sister for two weeks. Wow, that’ll totally make up for 13 years of nothing. Amy’s parents weren’t fighting because they’re unhappy in their marriage; they’ve been trying to convince Ashley’s mother to let her come visit in the middle of the school year. Part of me thinks Ashley’s mom has a point, but the rest of me thinks she can bite me for not telling her father she existed for six years and not letting her see her father at all for 13.
Amy is thrilled to have a sister, even though most people in her situation would be in shock, and probably mad at their parents for never saying anything. Seriously, there’s “Amy’s only five so it would be confusing to tell her she has a sister we never knew about,” and there’s “let’s see how long we can keep this a secret.” Amy does feel a little weird when Ashley calls their father “Dad” right away, but Ashley is so awesome that Amy immediately feels a connection with her, and she’s too happy about having a sister to let anything else bother her.
Elsewhere in the Sweet Valley-verse, the Unicorns have decided they need some new blood, but not permanent new blood. Just entertain-us-for-a-while-and-then-get-out blood. I’m going to stop saying “blood” now. They decide to let someone join the club temporarily. Amy confides in Elizabeth that she’s interested, which is partly in line with Amy’s character, as she seems to need validation a lot, but also ridiculous because she never shows any interest in the things the Unicorns like.
Since Ashley is now in town and is, as established, awesome, the Unicorns want her to hang out with them until she goes home. Ashley has experience with this sort of elitism, as she’s in a similar club back home, the Butterflies. (Yes, really.) Though the Butterflies do some volunteer work, so they’re at least more respectable than the Unicorns. Ashley would rather hang out with Amy than the prettiest, most popular girls in school, but Amy’s starting to feel a little overshadows by her sister and all the attention she’s getting. It gets worse when Ashley decides the subject of a school essay about someone you admire will be Mr. Sutton. Amy decides to do the same.
Janet asks Amy for her phone number, making Amy think the Unicorns are going to invite her into the club. Wrong! The want her sister. On top of attention from the Unicorns and lots of boys, Ashley is asked to fill in for a sick dancer in Jessica’s ballet class, dancing the lead in Sleeping Beauty. Everything’s coming up Ashley!
Showing that she is, in fact, pretty awesome, Ashley’s more concerned about Amy’s feelings than she is about being popular and adored. She doesn’t want to take her sister’s spot in the Unicorns (not that it was ever going to be Amy’s spot anyway). When she’s invited to a gathering at Lila’s, she asks if Amy and Elizabeth can come along, too. Amy thinks the Unicorns came up with the idea, so she’s happy again. The sleepover is a disaster for Amy, though, since everyone fawns over Ashley and treats Amy like a redheaded stepchild.
The one thing Ashley isn’t good at is writing, so Amy helps her work on an article for the Sixers about the differences between Sweet Valley and New York. Amy’s pleased that she’s better at something than her sister. Her happiness doesn’t last long, though, as Ashley is still the preferred Sutton at school. Amy is basically a six-year-old in this book, with the jealousy and the inability to be happy about anything for her sister.
The day of Ashley’s big recital, the location is changed at the last minute. Ashley leaves a note for Amy and Mr. Sutton, then calls to make sure Amy saw it. Mr. Sutton isn’t home, and Amy gets so frustrated answering calls from others about the recital that she throws away the note, then takes an angry nap (TM Arrested Development). When she wakes up, she goes looking for a sweater she thinks Ashley borrowed and instead finds Ashley’s “person I most admire” essay. It’s not about Mr. Sutton, it’s about Amy. Ashley thinks Amy is amazing and loves her to pieces.
Amy finally realizes that her jealousy over Ashley is ridiculous, and she needs to be a better sister. She goes to tell her father about the location change, but he’s already left. She rides her bike all over town, looking for him, then goes to Elizabeth for help. Liz sends Amy to the recital and continues the search, managing to get Mr. Sutton to the recital on time. He learns about the note but doesn’t say anything until later, apologizing for not making sure Amy was really okay with everything that was going on. Whatever, he’s still a better parent than either of the Wakefields. Amy and Ashley make up, and the Suttons are all happy.
In the B-plot, Jessica tries a bunch of new hairstyles. No, really, that’s it.
Thoughts: The ghostwriter clearly wanted to give Amy a sister close to her age without a scandal, so they gloss over the details, but…it’s just not normal. None of this is normal. It would have been one thing if Mr. Sutton had never told his wife about Ashley, but to have both of them lie to Amy? No.
I bet the other girls in the ballet class really appreciated having some random girl come in and take a role one of them could have had.
I don’t get why Amy doesn’t just look for her father at the place where the recital was originally going to be. Did she think he was going to run errands beforehand?
July 26, 2016
Summary: The twins’ social studies class has been given a new project: Pair with another classmate to interview and write about each other’s families. Jessica is paired with Lila, which makes her happy since Lila only has one family member to interview. Elizabeth is paired with a girl named Melissa McCormick, who’s shy but nice. Elizabeth is happy to have a chance to get to know Melissa better. Melissa, however, is worried about having to reveal that her father abandoned the family years ago and has no contact with her or her brother Andy, a senior at SVH.
But Melissa has bigger things to worry about: A long-time heart problem has landed her mother in the hospital. Melissa and Andy are pulled out of school to see her, and minutes later, she’s dead. What a fun book! Andy decides that no one can find out that their father is out of the picture, because he and Melissa could be sent to separate foster homes. They lie to a social worker and their neighbors, saying their father is traveling but will be home soon. The social worker allows the kids to stay with the neighbors until Mr. McCormick gets back.
This works for a week. Andy even gets a guy named Sam to pretend to be Mr. McCormick and talk to the neighbors on the phone. This is, at best, a short-term solution, because I think the neighbors will notice when a few weeks pass and they don’t see any fathers at the house. Plus, the neighbors are heading off on a long European vacation soon, so Andy and Melissa can only stay with them for a few days. But the adults all fall for the ploy, so the McCormicks are in the clear for now.
Lest any impressionable preteens reading this book think the kids are living the dream, we learn that reality makes the situation pretty bleak. Though the house is paid for (which makes no sense to me; Melissa says they’ve moved around a lot because her mother was always looking for better work, so why buy a house when you might not stay in that town?), the kids still have to deal with things like utility bills. Andy decides to get an after-school job, but he refuses to let Melissa get one. He wants her to focus on school instead.
This seems like a fine solution until Andy realizes that two people can’t live on money from a part-time job. He quits the basketball team so he can work longer hours. Melissa’s finding it harder and harder to keep up the lies she and Andy have told people about their dad, and she finally tells Elizabeth the truth – they don’t know where he is or how to reach him, and she and Andy are living on their own. Elizabeth agrees not to tell anyone, though she knows this is a Bad Situation for grownups to take care of.
Liz helps Melissa clean up around the house, and they find a bunch of letters Mr. McCormick sent Mrs. McCormick over the years. Even though he left the family and doesn’t keep in touch with his kids, he clearly loves them and has sent money to help take care of them. Hey, if they move around so much, how does he know where they are? Wait, this book doesn’t care about being realistic. Never mind. Andy worries that Elizabeth will spill the secret and he and Melissa will be separated.
Andy skips school to work, so the principal announces she’s going to call his father. Andy enlists Sam again to pretend to be Mr. McCormick, and the principal is completely fooled. At first Sam says he’s doing this as a favor to Andy, but then he says he’ll find a way for Andy to repay him. Andy admits to Melissa that Sam wants him to do something illegal. Melissa tries not to worry too much, since Andy’s generally a good guy.
Not long after, Melissa’s home alone when she sees a couple of people breaking into the neighbor’s house. She calls the police, who easily nab the robbers. Unfortunately, one of them is Andy. Sam blackmailed him into breaking in, threatening to tell social services the truth if Andy didn’t do it. The McCormicks’ worst fears are realized, and they’re sent to separate foster homes. Elizabeth tells Ned what’s been going on, and he’s nice enough to pay Andy’s bail and work on his case.
Now that she’s broken her promise to keep Andy and Melissa’s secret, Liz figures she might as well keep meddling. She finds the last return address Mr. McCormick wrote from and sends a letter to it. It’s a motel in Texas, and he was there a year ago, but somehow, her letter gets to Mr. McCormick. (The details are never mentioned. I assume the ghostwriter didn’t plan to think them up.) Mr. McCormick comes to Sweet Valley and reunites with his kids, who are suddenly forgiving of him for not talking to them in years. Andy doesn’t go to jail, so that’s good. I hope Mr. McCormick has enough money for his legal fees.
In the dumb B-plot, Jessica’s mad at Steven for some reason she doesn’t even remember, and she WILL NOT SHUT UP about how annoying he is. She’s especially mad that he keeps hogging the phone, so she makes a phone schedule, giving him slots in the middle of the night. Ned and Alice can’t be bothered to parent their kids, as usual, and leave them to work things out themselves, which really means they just ignore all the fighting. Jessica also creates a jerk-o-meter to keep track of how annoying Steven is, but I’m not sure what happens when he gets more than a certain number of points.
Just as Jessica’s only a few seconds away from splitting the house down the middle with masking tape, Melissa’s home situation makes her realize how dumb she’s being. She’s grateful that her family is so normal (relatively speaking) and drops her vendetta against Steven. She also admits that she can’t remember how their battle started. Thanks for wasting my time, B-plot!
Thoughts: Dear whoever named this book: They’re not orphans.
Lila is really nice to Melissa, since they’re both motherless, so someone should probably check on her and make sure she’s feeling okay.
Sam’s watch has diamonds on it. I’m afraid to ask how he got it or why hangs out with teenagers.
“They had another big electricity bill and he was hoping his overtime pay would be enough to cover it.” Either the McCormicks’ electricity bills aren’t really that big or supermarket jobs pay a lot in overtime.
“Maybe if I’d been a better friend, none of this would have happened.” IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, LIZ.
August 17, 2014
Summary: Kelly has amnesia, and Brandon thinks he can help jog her memory by showing her the engagement ring he once offered her. She asks if they were engaged, and he says, “Yes and no.” Really? Really, Brandon? Noah shows up, and Kelly’s happy to meet the guy who donated blood that helped save her. Brandon then talks to Jackie and Kelly’s doctor, who’s not satisfied with Kelly’s mental progress. And then the recording jumps, so I miss the rest of the scene.
When we pick up, Brandon, Steve, David, and Valerie are at the Walshes’, discussing how Kelly’s both lost the past couple years of her life and is having trouble retaining new information. They’re supposed to bombard her with information to help her remember. Valerie’s like, “I’ll help by reminding her how horrible I am!” Steve plans to visit Kelly after he tries to convince some of CU’s female basketball players to let him be their agent.
Brandon gets a job offer from the Seattle Times and tries to delay making a decision so he can stay with Kelly. He’s allowed an extra week to make up his mind. Noah visits Kelly again, and she asks him to bring Winston when he comes back (apparently Jackie will know what that means). Donna gets instructions from her new boss for errands, and offers to take her dog, Goliath, to the vet. Steve meets up with Charlotte, his basketball buddy, and gives her tickets to a Chemical Brothers concert to try to remind her how great he is.
As soon as Goliath learns that he’s going to the vet, he runs away. Yay, more dog wackiness for Donna! Kelly tells Brandon he shouldn’t give up the job in Seattle on her account. He doesn’t want to be miles away if she starts to recover her memory. He shows her pictures from Hawaii, but she doesn’t remember anything. The detective from the previous episode returns and tells Brandon that he needs to look at more pictures – his ID of the possible shooter hasn’t been confirmed 100%. After he leaves, Kelly turns her focus to a picture of Noah.
At the Peach Pit, Steve invites Carly to join him in celebration of his inroads in being a sports agent. She doesn’t want to hang out with him if it means she’ll be pursued romantically. Next door at the After Dark, David complains to Noah that he’s still having trouble getting the place popular again. Noah’s like, “Yeah, that sucks. Talk to me about Valerie.” David warns that she only goes after guys with money. Noah offers to help him find some new bands.
Donna runs in to get David to help her find Goliath (ha ha, David and Goliath). David tells her to tell her boss that Goliath has to stay overnight at the vet’s, which will at least buy her some time. Valerie brings Kelly some yearbooks, then quizzes her on her feelings for Brandon. She tells Kelly not to believe everything people tell her about their relationship; after all, despite the fact that Kelly kept her ring, they weren’t engaged. Kelly’s more interested in talking about Noah anyway.
Steve meets up with some supposedly popular sports agent, talking up Charlotte as a possible major catch for his agency. The agent admits that he only agreed to meet with Steve because he knows Rush. He gives back the concert tickets, warning Steve to deny giving them to Charlotte if anyone asks. It’s a big no-no to offer an athlete presents, something Steve should know if he plans to become a real sports agent.
Donna continues her list of errands for her boss at a boutique where Valerie was supposed to have a job interview. Donna’s having some trouble juggling all the phone calls her job entails, and keeping straight which client wants what. Val helps her sort everything out. Noah delivers Winston (a teddy bear) to Kelly, then convinces her doctor to let her leave the hospital for a few hours.
Steve complains to Rush about his latest screw-up, but Rush is, as usual, unsympathetic. But he does think Steve would do better with his own business, because he would have no choice but to succeed, since he’d be the only one responsible for his success. He has a little newspaper, the Beverly Hills Shopper, that he’s willing to let Steve run.
David’s stunned to hear that Donna’s willing to take Valerie on as a partner. Of course, if she doesn’t find Goliath, Donna won’t have a job she needs a partner for. She considers telling her boss the truth and offering to pay her, but David thinks that’s crazy. Steve has a job offer for Brandon: Brandon’s the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Steve’s the publisher, and they split everything 50/50. Brandon, like David, thinks his conversational partner is nuts.
Noah takes Kelly for a walk on the beach, and somehow the conversation turns to Kierkegaard. Kelly remembers reading him in college, and that memory leads to a few more, like living in the beach apartment with Donna and Clare. She’s not sure she wants to remember everything, though, since forgetting has allowed her to have a new start. When Kelly and Noah return to the hospital, Brandon throws a fit, then mopes because Kelly still doesn’t have any memories of him.
Donna still can’t find Goliath, so she again decides to call her boss and tell the truth. It’s too late at night, though, so David tells her to wait. The next morning, Brandon visits Noah to yell at him about taking Kelly to the beach. Someone’s feeling territorial. He’s mad that Noah was supposedly just involved with Valerie and is now spending time with Kelly. Noah promises that he didn’t mean to cause any problems for Brandon and Kelly, and he’ll back off if that’s what Brandon wants.
Donna goes to her boss’ house for her big confession, but just as she knocks on the door, someone (he looks like a gardener) brings Goliath to the house. Donna’s job is saved! Noah takes Brandon, Steve, and David to a bar to listen a band; a waitress recognizes him, but Noah doesn’t want the guys to know how they know each other. Steve asks about Noah’s background, which Noah’s tightlipped about.
I guess Brandon doesn’t hate Noah that much, because he confides that he feels stuck: He wants the job in Seattle, but he doesn’t want to leave Kelly. He’d rather have her than the job. Noah tells him to seize the day because he’ll lose the chances he’s being given. “Without Kelly, you’re still Brandon,” he says. If he wants to wait for Kelly, that’s fine, but he needs to keep the passion. I’m still not sure what he’s advising.
But apparently Brandon gets it, because he wants to work on Steve’s newspaper. His conditions: Steve does all the business stuff, and Brandon gets complete editorial authority. Also, no ads for massage parlors. Later, Brandon goes to see Kelly, telling her he misses her and won’t be going to Seattle. She’s wearing the engagement ring on a chain around her neck, but after he leaves, she takes it off.
Thoughts: What a stupid plot with the dog. Donna didn’t even do anything to fix it. It was just luck.
If I called to offer someone a job and he said his girlfriend had been shot, I wouldn’t believe him, so Brandon is lucky, too.
Steve: “What do I have to do to get you to go out with me?” Carly: “Uh…be someone else?” Nice!
Color me impressed that Valerie doesn’t use Kelly’s amnesia to try to swoop in on Brandon.
Kelly and Noah have more chemistry than Kelly and Brandon. Just saying.
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.
July 24, 2013
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.
June 26, 2013
Summary: Stacey and Robert haven’t been close since they broke up, but she’s noticed (and heard from his friends) that something’s wrong with him. He’s alienated himself from his friends, not paying much attention in class, and uninterested in baseball. She decides to check up on him, and he’s appreciative of the fact that she still cares about him, but he just says he’s bored with his friends and life in general.
Things are worse than he lets on, though: Robert’s having trouble in school and shocks everyone by quitting the baseball team. He gets grounded because of his grades, so Stacey offers to tutor him in math. They start spending time together, leading everyone to think they’re back together. Stacey’s a little concerned because she thinks Robert does want to get back together, and she hasn’t mentioned to him that she’s dating Ethan. Fortunately, he just wants to stay friends.
Unfortunately, all the time Stacey’s spending with Robert hasn’t made much of a difference. And the BSC girls are kind of rude about how she keeps hanging out with him. I forgot that there’s a contract they sign when they join the club, saying they’ll spend all their free time with each other, even if one of their outside friends is having a tough time and needs help. Stacey tries to compromise by inviting Robert to hang out with the BSC girls, but it doesn’t go well. She then convinces Robert to rejoin the baseball team, but he skips the first practice and ticks off the coach.
Out of ideas, Stacey calls a radio show to ask advice from a psychologist. The doctor thinks she needs to ask an adult for help – Robert’s problem is too big for a teenager to handle. Stacey tells Robert about this, but he’s mad that she talked to someone about his problems. Stacey then talks to her mom, who thinks they should tell Robert’s parents what’s going on. Stacey balks, since Robert’s already mad enough.
That night, Robert shows up at the McGills’, really upset. He’s crying and tells Stacey that he doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. (This part really got to me.) She encourages him to call an adult he can talk to, so he calls his coach. From there, the adults take over, making sure Robert will get help. Stacey realizes that all the stress of the situation has made her physically sick, and she was right to ask for help.
Stupid B-plot: Stoneybrook has another popular small business, Strawberry Fields Forever, where you can pick your own strawberries. Everyone in town goes, picks tons of berries, and gets sick of them. Kristy throws a strawberry festival, because of course she does.
Thoughts: Claudia’s lost her mind – she wears a zebra-print leotard, leopard-print overall shorts (which would be awful enough on their own), a tiger-stripe scarf, a lizard-print scrunchie, and giraffe earrings.
Stacey buys jelly sandals with heels. Ew.
The strawberry plot means two things: 1) The writers have run out of ideas, and 2) Kristy has finally exhausted every kind of festival she could possibly organize.
At the festival, Mary Anne and Logan run a game where people have to guess how many strawberries are in a basket, and the winner gets all the berries. No one guesses because they already have too many berries at home and don’t want any more. Hee.
The Kilbournes make strawberry shortcake – “parents had to ask Shannon and her sisters to set a two-cake limit so that their kids wouldn’t make themselves sick eating so many.” Uh, how about you actually parent your kids so Shannon doesn’t have to be the bad guy?
May 15, 2013
Summary: Claudia starts sitting a lot for Nate and Joey Nicholls, and immediately realizes that there is something Very Wrong. Their father is very strict, going off about the slightest things and obsessing about cleanliness and organization. The boys are terrified to do anything that might make him mad. They’re also not allowed to have any stuffed animals, which is really depressing. Claudia thinks Mr. Nicholls is just strict, and since she’s just the sitter, she can’t really say anything about his behavior.
…Until one day when Mr. Nicholls, thinking Claudia has left, yells at the boys and possibly slaps one of them. Claudia calls an emergency BSC meeting (one of the few times that’s actually a good idea) and tells the other girls what happened. They agree that since she didn’t see the slap, she can’t accuse Mr. Nicholls of anything, but it doesn’t sit well with them. Claudia’s mom works with Mrs. Nicholls, so Claudia tells her what happened, and Mrs. Kishi agrees to talk to her.
Mrs. Nicholls tells Mrs. Kishi that nothing happened; her husband just has a temper, but he’s not dangerous. However, the BSC girls become even more suspicious when Mrs. Nicholls calls to cancel all the sitting jobs she’s lined up with them. A few days later, recurring character Erica Blumberg calls Claudia, knowing she’s sat for the Nicholls boys before. She’s sitting for them right now, and one boy has bruises on his arm while the other has a black eye.
Claudia immediately calls her mom, who takes Mrs. Nicholls home to get the boys. Claudia gets restless waiting to hear back and decides to go over as well, to at least give Erica some support. Just as she, Mrs. Kishi, and Mrs. Nicholls get there, Mr. Nicholls also shows up. There’s some yelling in the house, but everyone except Mr. Nicholls leaves in Mrs. Kishi’s car. They take Erica home, and the rest of them go to Mr. Kishi’s office in Stamford, knowing Mr. Nicholls won’t think to look for them there.
Mr. and Mrs. Kishi help Mrs. Nicholls arrange to stay with her sister in New York, then buy her everything she’ll need for a car trip there. Once everyone is safe for at least the night, Claudia and her mom both break down, emotionally worn out. Late that night, Claudia gets a call from Mr. Nicholls demanding his kids back. She’s understandably shaken. The Nichollses end up leaving town, with nothing completely resolved, and though Claudia’s sad that she might never see the boys again, she’s glad they’re safe. She also buys them stuffed animals.
The B plot is about the BSC girls organizing a bunch of kids for a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Top o’ the boring to ya.
Thoughts: Is everyone sufficiently depressed? I need to go look at some pictures of puppies now.
Claudia is completely awesome in this book, though. When she sees something, she says something. She would make a good New Yorker. My only problem is that when the girls are discussing the events at the end, they agree that Claudia was right to tell someone, and agree to tell each other if something like this happens again. I think they should have been encouraged to tell an adult instead.
Mrs. Kishi is also awesome here. She gives Claudia good advice, immediately takes control when she finds out what’s going on, and comes across as someone you don’t want to tick off.
For a small town, Stoneybrook sure has a lot of parades.
Erica gets invited to a BSC meeting. Wow, she breached the inner sanctum! Oh, the things she must have seen.
February 19, 2013
Summary: Remember when Claudia was bumped back to seventh grade? Apparently she’s done really well there. But instead of having her continue to repeat the year, her teachers and guidance counselor decide to give her the option of going back to eighth grade. She can either continue to thrive in classes she actually understands, or she can go back to struggling to pass her classes. Yes, this seems like a great idea.
Claudia, to her credit, takes her time considering her options. And because she’s a teenager, her schoolwork isn’t the only thing she thinks about. There are her friends, which she has in both grades. There’s the fact that she’s queen of the seventh grade. And there’s her boyfriend, Mark. Even when he keeps flaking out on her and proves to be a typical immature 13-year-old boy, Claudia wants to keep dating him.
That is, until she finds out that her friend Josh has a massive crush on her. (This is the guy she friendzoned in the past.) Their seventh-grade friends are pretty shocked that Claudia hasn’t picked up on his obsession with her, but she has her head in the clouds 95 percent of the time, so they should have expected that. Just like a 13-year-old girl, Claudia doesn’t have any interest in Josh past friendship until she finds out he likes her. Then all of a sudden she has another decision to make: Mark or Josh?
Long story short: She picks Josh and eighth grade. And everyone’s all, “Oh, you’ll do great, we’ll help you, you’ve come so far.” Yeah, we’ll see.
The kids at SMS are doing a color war, so the B-plot is them putting on a color war with their sitting charges. It’s dumb and boring.
Thoughts: If the school will give Claudia tutors when she goes back to eighth grade, why didn’t they provide them before, when she was failing eighth grade? And really, they shouldn’t have sent her back to seventh grade. They should have waited until the end of the year and had her repeat eighth grade, since that’s the year she had trouble with. But of course, that never would have happened, since the girls are trapped in eighth grade for all eternity.
Though I don’t agree with her, I like Janine’s logic: Claudia should go back to eighth grade so she doesn’t have to spend an extra year in middle school.
Abby completes a three-legged race by dragging her partner over the finish line on his back. And that’s why I love Abby.
July 17, 2012
Summary: A family named the Hatts stay with the Kishis when they return to Stoneybrook after being away for a few years. There was some sort of scandal surrounding their departure, but the BSC girls don’t know much about it. It seems like it had something to do with Stoneybrook’s lighthouse (yes, really), which the Hatts own. Some digging around nets the girls the information that a teenage boy named Adrian Langley died after falling out of the lighthouse. Mr. Hatt tried to save him, but Adrian’s father still blames him for Adrian’s death.
The BSC girls help with the Hatts’ lighthouse clean-up, and Claudia finds a note saying something about the reader being “one of us” if he/she can last a night in the lighthouse. It also has a drawing of a gargoyle on it. Janine sees the note and says the gargoyle looks like the one over the door to Stoneybrook High School. The girls learn that there was a gang (yeah, I bet – Stoneybrook doesn’t know what a gang is) that adopted the gargoyle as a mascot, so the note was probably part of an initiation ritual.
Meanwhile, the Hatts are receiving threatening notes (mostly playing on their last name) telling them to leave Stoneybrook. The girls suspect two of the Hatt kids, Laura and Steve, might be sending the notes. The lighthouse is also smoke-bombed. No one seriously thinks a ghost is involved, contrary to the book’s title; the girls alternately suspect Mr. Langley, Adrian’s brother Paul, Steve, and Janine’s boyfriend Jerry, who’s been kind of a jerk lately.
Paul lets the girls see Adrian’s room, where Claudia snags a photo of some of his friends. She finds out later that Adrian isn’t in the picture. She thinks that the photo is of the gang members, and that one of them is trying to keep everyone away from the lighthouse. At a party Steve throws in the lighthouse, Claudia learns she’s right. One of the guys in the photo sneaks in, turns out the lights, and falls, because he’s a moron. He explains that he wanted to get back into the lighthouse and retrieve the note the gang left for Adrian before the Hatts could find it. (Why he waited almost ten years to do this isn’t explained.) Now everyone likes the Hatts, including Mr. Langley, and Jerry and Janine are okay again, even though she kind of had her eye on Steve.
Also there’s a comet, and the kids in town think it’ll make bad things happen, but Kristy lets them know they’re idiots. It’s dumb.
Thoughts: Suddenly there’s a lighthouse in Stoneybrook? To go along with the coastline we’ve heard so much about?
A party for a comet viewing is proof that Kristy has lost all control.
Claudia: “Sunday? That’s in two days!” Janine: “Your math is improving.” I love you, Janine.
Ben Hobart scares some kids with comet stories, and Abby says that if they can’t sleep that night, she’ll have their parents call them. But three of the kids he scares are his own brothers, so that makes no sense.
Charlie: “Steve Hatt!” Me: “Steve Holt!”
Hey, Adam, “you’re still ugly” only works as an insult if it’s NOT directed at your identical triplet.
February 20, 2012
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?