Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I can be a real pain sometimes; or, BSC #7: Claudia and Mean Janine

I think this book should actually be called “Claudia’s a mega-bitch; an exploration of sibling rivalry gone wrong, while several 13-year-olds care for a large number of children during their summer vacation instead of loafing like any sane person.” Or maybe “Hi, I’m Ann M. Martin, and this is one of the last few books I wrote in this series that acknowledged the passage of time in any sort of realistic or logical way.” Or maybe “What kind of public library doesn’t hold Nancy Drew books (or whatever current YA series is popular? Seriously? They’re not trashy or dumb or even dumbing down or whatever…” How about “It’s a good thing Janine wants to be a physicist, cause she and the words don’t work well together.”

Okay, plot goes:

Claudia and Janine are SOOOOO DIFFERENT. They don’t get along.

Mimi has a stroke.

Claudia blames herself, so throws herself—voluntarily—into caring for Mimi, then gets all bitter and lashing-out-y towards sis.

They finally come together and realize that they need to cut each other some slack (ESPECIALLY CLAUDIA, because, contrary to the title of the book, Claudia is a super-duper hag to Janine, especially when Janine is trying, albeit ineffectually, to be nice).

Subplot=BSC are INSANE, cause they choose to spend their mornings caring for many children in a play group rather than sleeping late. Dumbasses.

Other subplot=Jamie Newton’s crazy jealous, cause his baby sister Lucy is getting baptized, and she gets presents and a party.

Claudia’s fashion highlight?

“It was a big, loose white shirt with black splotches all over it, and white pants that came to just below my knees. My shoes (and I might point out that I’d had a fight with Mom over permission to buy them) were dainty gold sandals that laced partway up my legs. Then I put on my pink flaming earrings and a pink bracelet that said CLAUDIA in heart shaped beads [both mature and wild]. Finally I braided my hair into four long braids, tied a ribbon around the top of each, and fastened the ends with butterfly clips.” Classy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It isn’t safe to have a friend do it with a needle and ice cube; or, BSC #21: Mallory and the Trouble with Twins

Two true things: One, at the shelter where I got my cat, they were calling her Mallory, and two, a friend of mine in high school pierced her boyfriend’s guy parts with a needle and ice cube. And now this book is forever ruined for you. Mwa ha ha!

So, this is one of the books where the main plot deals with sitting, while the subplot deals with the BSCers’ personal lives. Mallory gets a standing job sitting for the twins, Marilyn and Carolyn Arnold, two afternoons a week. All starts off well, until she tells them they look like bookends, wearing identical outfits with identical haircuts on identical halves of their mirror-image of a room. Then, they start speaking in tongues and take off their identity bracelets, which are the only way anyone can tell them apart. [Sidebar, your honor. What kind of fucked up parent pulls this shit? If they’re so identical that it takes a bracelet to tell them apart, maybe you shouldn’t dress them EXACTLY THE SAME! Seriously? Are they trying to torture/damn them to eternity in therapy?] So, Mal’s miserable, cause the girls are awful. Finally, though, she figures them out. They don’t want to be treated like the same person. They want to be individuals, like Dawn (I shit you not, that is the comparison she makes). So, she helps them talk to their mother about dressing differently and looking a little less like dolls. Well, mainly, they want to pick out their own clothes, but I’m suggesting that Mommie dearest was playing a little too much dress up with them.

Subplot: Mal is sick of looking “like a baby” and “babyish” (and needs to learn some new adjectives if she really wants to be a writer). She wants a haircut and pierced ears. So, after her success in dealing with Mrs. Arnold, she decides to talk to her parents. And they cave! (Of course they do. Mal’s constant bitching about her parents has always driven me batty, cause of all the Stoneybrook parents, I like the Pikes the best. Except for that whole not using birth control thing.) And she can spend some of her money on clothes (what parent will say no to that? “No, I won’t let you pay for your own clothes”). So, she gets to buy some new clothes when she takes the Arnold’s shopping for new clothes. And then comes the least realistic part of the whole book. The BSC all go to the mall where Mal and Jessy each get their ears pierced once, Claudia gets a second hole in one ear, and Dawn gets two holes in each ear. AND NONE OF THEIR PARENTS ARE THERE! My mom had to go with me, or you at least had to have written permission or something (This was 15, 16 years ago, so my memory isn’t that clear, but still…). They all had permission, but I have a hard time believing a piercing place would just let anyone get a hole punched. Think of the insurance! (That makes me sound so old.) And, help me out on this one, can you even get two holes at the same time with the piercing gun? I know you can at a real piercer’s, but I don’t think that would be too safe with the crazy gun.

It always cracks me up when they describe Kristy as “businesslike” cause she wears a visor. Heh.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

So much red meat and white rice and disgusting stuff; or, BSC #15: Little Miss Stoneybrook…and Dawn.

I’m still not sure why there are ellipses in the title of this one. Is it meant to be ominous? Unexpected? What? I don’t get it!!!!

So, as the title makes pretty damn obvious, this one is all about the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant, for girls ages 5-8. Here’s the deal: the drama starts when Charlotte Johanssen asks specifically for Claudia to sit for her. The explanation is that she misses Stacey (who left in the last book), and Claudia is the next best thing, being Stacey’s best friend. Of course, the girls freak out, cause they’re all “What? I’m an excellent sitter! Why wouldn’t she want me?” Talk about insecure. So, when Mrs. Pike asks Dawn (who, of all the BSC except Mallory [duh], lives closest to the Pikes) to help prepare Claire and Margo for the pageant, she sees is as the chance to prove herself as a sitter. And Mary Anne convinces Myriah Perkins to compete, with her help. And Kristy is going to help Karen. And, in a decision that makes no sense whatsoever, Claudia cons Charlotte—the shyest girl that ever existed—into competing. So the BSC gets all competitive and petty over the pageant. Except for Mallory and Jessi, who in a rare BSC moment, are the voices of sanity, pointing out the sexism and jackassery of the pageants in general. (Who ever thought I’d think that Mallory was the most, um, least lame member of the BSC? Well, tied for the honor, anyway.) Of course all the girls are horrible and completely fuck it up EXCEPT the uber-talented and over-booked Myriah, who comes in second behind JonBenet Ramsey. Oops, I mean Sabrina Bouvier. Seriously, if you’ve seen that documentary Living Dolls (highly recommended, incidentally), you know all you need to know about the winner.

The subplot in this book actually takes up almost as much time as the “real” plot. Jeff decides he wants to go back to California, and their mom agrees that it’s for the best. So, Dawn is “dealing” with this the whole book. And has the STUPIDEST fights and tantrums about the situation…

“You little twerp!...You are a rotten spoiled baby.”

“You won’t be homesick for us? You mean that when you’re in California you won’t miss us anymore? That’s nice, Jeff. That’s real nice. You are so, so thoughtful.”

No thirteen-year-old girl reacts so…I guess properly is the closest word. Where are the “I HATE YOU! FINE! GO! I DON’T CARE IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN!” or “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, MOM!” or any of the really, really mean things girls say when they’re upset?

Oh, and the other absolutely ridiculous thing: the book ends with Claire deciding to be in a “Beautiful Child” contest and Dawn agreeing to help her, again. My ass.

I’ve never understood why the BSC put so much value on the pageant. After all, what does baby-sitting really have to do with being a miniature stage mother? Speaking of stage mothers, what’s up with the multi-talented Myriah Perkins? She takes dance and acting and music and I think someone’s trying to relive her childhood dreams of superstardom…

Okay, so I finally figured out what it is I can’t stand about Dawn:

1. She is whiny and self-righteous. Preachy, one could argue. She has no sense of compromise or persuasion. She’s just right, and you should follow along without any reason or any attempt on her part to acknowledge that you have a right to an opinion. That said…

2. For being such an “individual” and “not caring what anyone thinks,” she cares waaaaaay too much what other people think, She’s crazy insecure. Yet every thinks she’s such an individual, but she never even comes close to stepping outside any boundaries. The closest she comes is when she changes into “cool Dawn” FOR A BOY! How is that being so laid back and confident? Most of the other girls attempt to define themselves outside the BSC in some way or another, but the closest Dawn comes is moving back to CA. None of which would really be a problem if everyone weren’t always saying how much of an INDIVIDUAL she is…She’s got everyone snowed apparently. Shut up, Dawn.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sushi, elk meat, and rice paper; or, BSC #30: Mary Anne and the Great Romance

So, the plot of this book is…Mary Anne’s dad (Richard) and Dawn’s mom (Sharon) get hitched. Short engagement, small wedding, Mary Anne gets upset about having to move into Dawn’s house.

Subplot, aka THE CLUNKIEST AND MOST OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING EVER, Marilyn and Carolyn, the twins from Mallory and the Trouble with Twins, aren’t getting along. They’re becoming their own girls, but they’re fighting and competing for their parents affections. And Marilyn has no friends while Carolyn is all popular. So Marilyn makes up an exotic and exciting friend named…Gozzie Kunka. And not one of the BSC even suspects that this person is made up. So, they finally start getting along when they ask to have their own bedrooms. Voila, problem solved. And this is going on the entire time Dawn and Mary Anne are deciding to share a room after the wedding. And no one connects the two. Of course, as not complete idiots, we can see where this is going in book 31, Dawn’s Wicked Stepsister.

This one wasn’t very exciting. Lots of stupid little fights, none of which I wanted to read about. Waaaaaaaay too much unsubtle foreshadowing (which really makes me miss Joss Whedon),

There were a few weird little things, though.

  1. Apparently, because of her diabetes, Stacey has to check her urine every day. I’m pretty sure this is only time that the word urine was ever uttered in the entire series. I could be wrong, but this totally made me double take. (And made me glad I read chapter 2.)

  2. Oh, and if Stacey visits her dad soooo much, why is she always in town? Why doesn’t she ever miss anything? Just curious.

  3. I’m totally blaming Stacey’s “body wave in her short blond hair” for all my bad perms in the 80s.

  4. I never had Mary Anne pegged as a school nerd. Sure, quite the goody goody, but not particularly attached to school. In this one, however, she made up “The Game of School,” a complete rip-off of the Game of Life. She’s all proud, and she gives the game to the twins to play, not even imagining the fight that it’s going to cause. I guess that comes from being an only child, cause anyone with siblings knows that the Game of Life is second only to Monopoly in terms of guaranteed ways to start a screaming match. Oh well. She’ll learn soon enough.

  5. Okay, so, Sharon is always “scatterbrained,” but it DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE! Scatterbrained is constantly misplacing thing, sure, but I sincerely doubt leaving ONE HIGH HEELED SHOE IN THE VEGETABLE CRISPER is scatterbrained. What was she even doing with the shoe in the fridge? Every time ANM gives us an example of how scatterbrained she is, my head explodes from sheer bafflement. None of it makes any sense!

  6. Oh, and I had totally forgotten how the only real brand ANM mentions in the earlier books is Laura Ashley.