#37 – Dawn and the Older Boy
This book is weird. It has a Very Important Message about Not Changing Yourself For a Boy and Being True to Yourself – a good message, don’t get me wrong, but it’s very awkwardly handled.
Basically, Dawn gets a huge crush on Travis, a California boy (of course, because individuals have to stick together!) who is in high school and friends with Kristy’s older brothers. Travis immediately becomes really interested in telling Dawn what to do – what clothes to wear, what to eat, how to wear her hair, and she swallows all of this hook, line, and sinker. But Travis is really committed to changing Dawn into someone he likes more. Like, he’ll show up to her house just to flirt with her and tell her she needs a haircut. He’s an unintentional parody of a controlling guy archetype, not a realistic one.
It’s all so contrived, and while I make fun of Dawn for her “I’m an individual!” pride, I don’t find it believable that she would so quickly, so easily, fall for a controlling person. This plot would’ve made more sense with Mary Anne or one of the sixth-grade babysitters.
And to make it even less believable, Travis turns out to be dating another girl behind Dawn’s back! This is all so silly. Either he’s a controlling fixer-upper or he’s vain and quasi-cheating, but both in the same person makes no sense! At least not in the very limited space they have to develop this non-character. So very silly.
Also contrived is the plot where James Hobart is bullied by his “friend” Zach to stop playing with girls and do boy things. Dawn reflects on James’s inability to see that Zach is using him. It’s an utterly contrived parallel between the main plot and the baby-sitting plot, and it also makes Dawn look like an asshole. She’s watching the Hobarts, Zach comes over and just starts making fun of James, and Dawn…does nothing. She does not tell Zach to leave, nor does she take the Hobart kids inside to get away from Zach’s bullying, nor does she refuse permission for James to go off with the kid who’s bullying and manipulating him. For once, I can’t really blame Dawn herself, though – it’s contrived writing. Dawn is not that bad of a babysitter.
Actually, Dawn has a neat moment, where she hates Zach’s new girlfriend on sight but then thinks, “Then I stopped and reminded myself that it wasn’t her fault she was gorgeous. And it wasn’t her fault that Travis liked her.” Way to go, Dawn! Good for you for not being a Nice Girl.
Stacey gets faint in the first chapter and sits on Claudia’s bed again. We’re still several books away from her diabetes emergency! Damn, they are committing to this foreshadowing.
Dawn thinks that being the alternate officer gives her the most “interesting” job in the club. Oh, honey. No.
#38 – Kristy’s Mystery Admirer
Otherwise entitled, “Kristy Thomas is So Gay.”
I can’t take it, people. It’s too funny. Kristy gets a lot of love notes in the mail that are totally gushy and cavity-inducing, but then they turn threatening and stalkery. It turns out the gushy notes are from Bart Taylor and the nasty ones are from Cokie Mason and her crew, who are still smarting from the BSC humiliating them in the graveyard. (Girls, that was like, twenty books ago. Get over it.)
But seriously, Kristy is SO GAY. She goes for a whole long paragraph about how Shannon isn’t gorgeous like Dawn or Claudia, or not even attractive like Stacey, but just interesting-looking like Meryl Streep (um, Kristy, Streep is gorgeous, what is wrong with you?) Despite her insistence that Shannon is just “interesting-looking” and not that gorgeous, I swear she spends more time describing Shannon’s appearance than any male character’s appearance. Denial much?
Then, THEN, when Shannon shows Kristy the love notes, they have the following exchange:
KRISTY: Why are there hearts and flowers all over the envelope? Stacey McGill is the only person I know who dots “Is” with hearts. Boys don’t do that. This looks like it’s from a girl.
SHANNON: A girl who wants to go steady with you? Kristy, grow up.
LOL FOREVER. My new favorite theory: Bart is Kristy’s beard, Kristy is a little attracted to Stacey, but is secretly really attracted to Shannon, and Shannon is jealous of her comments about Bart and Stacey. Kristy/Shannon forever! Shannon is super-protective of Kristy in this book, too, and ignores Bart like a bawse. Yup, that’s love.
Bart tells Kristy that she is “as beautiful as a snow-covered mountain.” Oh, gag me.
Charlotte, Haley, and Vanessa want to be the Three Stooges for Halloween. Aww, that’s kind of cute.
One of the creepy stalker notes: “Violets are blue, blood is red, I’ll remember you when you are dead.” OMG Cokie WTF is wrong with you?
BSC slang alert: this is the first time I’ve noticed that “distant” is used in place of “cool.” Sigh.
#39 – Poor Mallory!
Or, as it’s alternately called, Mallory’s Poor! (Full disclosure: I stole that joke from Tiff.)
So Mal’s dad loses his job and the Pikes are temporarily poor for like, a month. Except not really, because it turns out that Mr. Pike got a severance package after he was laid off. The other kids are annoyed with Mallory for worrying them. I’m annoyed that Mr. and Mrs. Pike never tell their kids about the severance package until after Mal gives them all of her babysitting money and the other Pike kids give their money to their parents as well.
Seriously, am I odd for finding something really wrong with this? That the Pikes take their kids’ money? If they were destitute, I’d understand the attitude of having everyone pitch in and contribute, even the wee ones, but again – Mr. Pike got a severance package, they’re not dirt poor, Mal’s pitiful babysitting funds aren’t going to help much, and he gets another job in like, a month. The Pikes are grifters, folks. Those poor children.
Anyway, there’s a big message in the book about how to recognize who your true friends are. And apparently “dibble” is short for “incredible,” while the opposite of “dibble” and “distant” is “stale!” Lord help us. This one is fairly silly, but about 50% less boring than the previous Mallory book, so at least it’s an improvement.
Super Special #5 – California Girls
The baby-sitters win the lottery (not the jackpot, but a smaller prize, because Dawn’s ticket has five out of the six correct numbers). They all decide to spend the money on a two-week trip to California and stay with Dawn’s dad. They make this choice before actually asking Dawn’s dad if he wants seven girls sleeping in his house, but luckily for them, he’s totally cool with it.
For once, a Super Special doesn’t have a stupid and contrived conceit where every BSC number is recording her experience as a gift to Stacey or Logan or whomever. The chapters are split up when the BSC numbers write postcards home to their friends and family back in Stoneybrook. Finally!
Now, this super special doesn’t have the drama and excitement of the island adventure book, except that Stacey almost gets killed in a car accident after she hangs out with a bunch of reckless older teenagers. This will not be the first time in the BSC series where Stacey gets into trouble for spending time with reckless people. She calls Dawn’s dad’s girlfriend Carol instead of Dawn’s dad, thinking that Carol won’t tell her parents, but Carol surprises them all by acting like a responsible adult. Even though Carol absolutely does the right thing, I can’t help but feel bad for Stacey. In all of her postcards home to her parents, she writes, “Don’t worry, I’m being careful.” She probably wanted to be a little reckless and do something exciting for once.
I am less sympathetic to Mallory, who decides to go California blonde and put wash-out dye in her hair (which makes no sense because she’d have to bleach it before putting wash-out dye in, but whatever). Then she mopes because she has no money. It’s all very whiny.
As for the other girls, Jessi gets a bit of the fame bug and a retread of her plot from Jessi and the Superbrat. Mary Anne befriends a little girl with asthma who is usually a client of the We Heart Kids Club because GOD FORBID someone goes on a trip without baby-sitting. Kristy feels competitive against the We Heart Kids Club because she’s a jerk. Claudia is saddled with yet another boring romance subplot, where her thirteen-year-old date likes to talk politics and take her to fancy French restaurants because YEAH RIGHT. And Dawn doesn’t like Carol, but then she does, sort of.
#40 – Claudia and the Middle School Mystery
Claudia works very very hard in her remedial math class. She studies with Janine. Then she manages to get an A- on her latest math test! Except the girl who sits next to her, Shawna Riverson, gets the exact same problems wrong in the exact same ways, and the teacher recognizes that someone must have cheated. And that someone is obviously Claudia.
This leads to a plot with drama! where the baby-sitters try to prove that Claudia is the victim. They even break into Shawna’s locker, and only after they find evidence does Claudia realize that said evidence would be inadmissible, since they procured evidence through illegal means. (Why am I talking in pseudo-legalse? I don’t know. Just go with it.)
Eventually, Janine talks to the middle school principal and convinces them to give Claudia another chance. She does a re-test and kicks ass on it, and when Shawna is cornered, she finally confesses to having cheated and lied.
It’s all very dramatic and a little silly, but because it’s Claudia, I was all, like, invested in the story and stuff. She tried so hard! Math and school is HARD for her and she studied with Janine! How dare the teacher accuse her of cheating! How dare Shawna lie! ARGH! YOU MUST PAY FOR WHAT YOU DID TO MY CLAUDIA!
She triumphs at the end, though, and all works out. Her name is cleared and she gets to enjoy her A-minus. Janine is pretty awesome in this book, too – helping Claudia, standing up for her little sister, believing her immediately even when her parents don’t. That’s good big-sistering, Janine!
This book also has a rare moment when I really hate Mary Anne – she thinks Claudia might have cheated. Everyone shoots daggers at her, and she bursts into tears. Now the baby-sitters have to comfort her for making her cry, even though she’s the jerk for not believing her friend. So manipulative. I briefly love Kristy when she interrupts the sobbing and is all, “Okay, M.A., enough of that.” I also like Dawn’s silly plan to break into the locker, even though it’s ridiculous, because for once she’s living up to her “individual” and against-the-grain reputation.
And Claudia goes to school dressed like Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. It makes no sense. I love it. It also reminded me of one of my favorite XKCD comics: http://xkcd.com/911/
This is my favorite regular BSC book with the word mystery in the title. Probably because, um…it’s not an actual mystery. They know who cheated. They just have to prove it.
That’s all for now. Next month I will take a break from Stoneybrook Revisited, because March is Women’s History Month and I’ll be focusing on that. For April’s BSC update, Mary Anne and Logan BREAK UP OMG, Jessi’s involved in another dumb mystery plot, Stacey has a DIABETES EMERGENCY, Dawn has a big sleepover, and the girls go to New York.