Thursday, June 29, 2006

He’s sure our granddaughter will be a farmer’s wife someday; or, BSC Mystery #5: Mary Anne and the Secret of Attic

Okay, so I know I’m avoiding, in general, anything other than the regular BSC books and Super Specials, but after all the talk about Mary Anne’s mom, I decided to bend my rules a little and pick up this “mystery,” which really isn’t a mystery so much as Miss Mary Jane angsting about some letters rather than talk to her father about what she found. And it’s not like she does any digging or sleuthing or anything. She just waits for stuff to happen. What happened to the new more forceful M-A at the end of saving the day? Oh, yeah. She pussed out again.

So, yeah. In this book, Stoneybrook’s gone Heritage Day cray-zay! So, all the elementary school kids are working on history projects about the town and family trees and stuff like that. Which makes poor, motherless Mary Anne feel all left out. She can’t figure out her place in the world, cause she only has her dad and step family. So, she decides to look in the attic for family pictures. In the few albums she finds, she sees pictures of her as a baby with people she doesn’t recognize (cause that never happens to people with moms. Seriously, I don’t know half the people in my baby pictures); oh, I forgot, she’s also been having recurring dreams where she’s a little girl who’s lost and confused in a strange place with a kitten, and she keeps calling “Mama!” Then, she finds letters from her grandparents, Verna and Bill Baker in Iowa, that indicate she lived with them for some time after her mom died, and that they fought when her dad wanted her back. AND she overhears Verna calling to say Bill died and she wants MA to come to Iowa before it’s too late. So, in true BSC style, she moons about it for days and freaks out when a woman comes to the house (MA thinks she’s a social worker, but she’s a census taker, apparently) AND NEVER TALKS TO HER FATHER ABOUT IT. Because heaven forbid she actually takes action. Well, turns out grannie just wants MA to visit, and Dad just lost it when Alma died, so he sent girlie to Iowa, and they didn’t want to give her back, but then they agreed that MA would be better off with Daddy, and that it would be too difficult to see her because she’s too much like her dead mom. Convoluted? Yep. So, in the end, MA goes to visit Grannie on the farm. And goes on a date with a farm boy. And decides she likes civilization, a.k.a. Connecticut. And wants nothing to do with farm boys. But she likes her grandma. Ah, happy ending.

Claudia’s outfit of the week: an example of her being a “really sophisticated dresser.” Here we go: “a lacy white top over a solid white bodysuit [how can you tell it’s a bodysuit?], a black mini skirt with white polka dots on it, lacy white leggings [which you can currently get at your local Urban Outfitters], and red high-tops. Plus some really outrageous black-and-white jewelry (earrings and bracelets and necklaces) that she’d made herself out of papier mache.” Speaking of papier mache, there are a whole bunch of really insane p.m. sculptures all over my library, including a dinosaur/lizard type thing eating some sort of furry animal. It’s pretty rad. Oh, and did you know that “Stacey doesn’t exactly look like the stereotypical idea of a math whiz, however. She doesn’t have slicked-back hair, and she doesn’t wear black-framed glasses or carry pens and a slide rule in her pocket.” So, she’s not one of the guys in Revenge of the Nerds.

And my fave ridiculous overstatement of the book: “It’s lucky Watson is a millionaire (really, he is) and owns a mansion. That family just wouldn’t fit in any regular house.” But, if I’m not mistaken at it’s largest (i.e. when Karen and Andrew are there), it’s THE SAMING FUCKING SIZE AS THE PIKE HOUSEHOLD! Sure, fewer pets, but more, um, CHILDREN. FULL-TIME. Oh, and they always talk about how Dawn’s house was built in the 1790s, and built for shorter people. But they weren’t midgets, and I lived in a house build around 1800, and it had really high ceilings, so shut up about the historically short people, please. Especially since Mary Anne’s supposed to be “smaller” than the others.

And there’s this hilarious thing about Logan with his shirt off. Happy dreams of Logan’s chestal region, girls and boys.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

He asked God to watch over Alma; or, BSC #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day.

Ah, you gotta love character development that goes away in the next book. Yep, Mary Anne grows a pair, only to puss out for pretty much the rest of the series. And there’s a lot about Mary Anne in this book that goes absolutely nowhere. And there a bunch of characters that never get mentioned again, like the Shalibar twins. Who? The people that Kristy and Mary Anne have eaten lunch with since starting SMS? The ones who we never hear from again? Oh, yeah, Dawn shows up, too.

So, in this book, Mary Anne and her dad are way religious (or at least for the world of ANM): they say grace before every meal, during which they bless M-A’s dead mom (the titular Alma), as M-A does every night before bed. Yep, the dead mom has a name. I’m sure ANM mentions a few more times during the course of the series, but she doesn’t often. I would not have been able to tell you what it was, though.

Anyway, the plot: the BSC have a big dumb fight. They don’t have regular meetings, and they don’t eat together anymore. So, Mary Anne meets the new girl, Dawn, and tells Dawn that “all her friends are absent.” For like 4 weeks. And M-A’s sick of feeling like a baby, and she wants her Dad to treat her more like a teenager. She’s sick of her all pink room with the pictures of Humpty Dumpty and Alice in Wonderland. She wants to hang pictures of her friends. And a poster of New York or Paris. And a poster with kittens. Cause kitten posters are soooo grown up. [Now, don’t get me wrong. I have had my fair share of cute animal posters. But I have never ever thought of them as “grown-up” or even “not babyish.” Just sayin.]

Oh, and as Dawn and Mary Anne start hanging out more, they figure out that their parents *cough knew each other in high school. In fact, they start the scheming this early in the plot.

Anyhoo, in the midst of the fight, the girls keep babysitting, and Mary Anne sits for bratty, prissy Jenny Prezzioso a few times. And Jenny gets crazy sick, and Mary Anne does everything right and calls around for help, only able to find Dawn. But anyway, she handles everything well and gets a whole Hamilton for her trouble…Who knew the P.’s were cheapskates? What with the frilly party dresses for Jenny and the silk cocktail dresses for the mom? They could have dropped a 20 for each girl? For getting “their angel” to the hospital. And this little incident underscores the complete LACK OF ADULTS IN STONEYBROOK! M-A couldn’t find a single adult to help her the one time one of the BSC actually asked for help!

Yeah, so after almost ruining Jamie Newton’s birthday shindig, Mary Anne gets the BSC together and bullies them into making up. And inviting Dawn to join. And they make this big deal about how much M-A’s changed. But she’s back to her old ways after this, except on the rare occasion that she’s ostracized (Mary Anne’s Makeover) or feeling smothered (Mary Anne vs. Logan) etc.

So, Mary Anne constantly bitches about how her dad makes her dress. And while I understand her frustration (her dad buys her clothes and has to approve them? And she has to wear her hair in braids? Pain in the ass. Why not a ponytail? Or a head band?) And what does M-A have to wear? “Corduroy skirts and plain sweaters and blouses and penny loafers.” Yep, she’s the height of preppy style and doesn’t even know it. Aside from which, it kind of sounds like a modified version of my college uniform (band t-shirt instead of blouse, ratty cardigan instead of plain sweater, mary janes or docs instead of penny loafers, you get the gist). M-A wants to be like Stacey. (Oh yeah, funniest line in the book: “If you ask Stacey, she’ll tell you she’s plain, but that’s crazy.” Yep, modest Stacey.) M-A wants to wear tight pants and baggy tops and crazy earrings. Honestly, I’d pick dad-wear over Stacey or Claud wear anyday.

Oh, and congrats to “the real Claire and Margo, Claire DuBois Gordon and Margo Mendez-Penate, Class of 2006,” to whom this book is dedicated.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Twenty-eight crying babies that were supposed to go in my arms; or, BSC #13: Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye

Good riddance Stacey! Oh damn, you come back later. I thought we’d gotten rid of you.

So, Stacey’s dad gets transferred back to New York, and he won’t commute, so they’re moving back. Which I don’t get. They can’t be that far from New York, given that they’re near Stamford. So how come no one commutes into the city? I know commuting sucks, but still! Anyway, Stacey is torn between wanting to move back to the city and staying with all her friends in Stoneybrook. And how will she tell Charlotte? And how will they fit an entire house into an apartment? And what will the BSC do without her?

Well, they’re moving, so Stacey convinces her mom to let the BSC run a yard sale, which goes swimmingly. And the other girls, unbeknownst to Stacey, decide to use the money to throw a huge going away party with ALL THE KIDS THEY BABYSIT FOR. (I apologizes for the bad grammar, but the whole idea is just soooo appalling). And Dawn gets promoted to treasurer, and they invite Mallory to sort of audition for the BSC. And Stacey leaves, but has calling cards stating that she’s the New York branch of the BSC. And…curtain.

So, what’s to ridicule here? How about “Dawn Read Schafer?” Is that bad enough? How about the cover? There’s a SCARY sheet that says “See you soon Stacey,” and Stacey looks like a Stepford babysitter. And Claudia looks like Delta Burke. But freakiest of all? Dawn looks just like Snake from Degrassi (both the original and the next generation) but with long hair. It’s fuh-reaky.

Okay, the whole party thing? You’ve got to be kidding me. First, they spend all their profits from the yard sale on toys and prizes for the kids and a couple of cakes. And they all get messy and play little kid games. And that’s the most amazing party idea ever! According to all the girls anyway. Somehow I doubt that a group of 13-year-old are crazy psyched about a big party during which, they are essentially babysitting.

Also, this is the book that makes a big deal out of a classmate named Dorianne Wallingford. Yup. Classy.

Oh, and Stacey talks about how she and Claudia are “amazingly different, yet amazingly alike. For instance, Claudia is Japanese-American…I’m just American. Well, technically I guess I’m Scottish-American and French-American…Plus, Claudia is a terrible student but a great artist, and I’m a good student, but I don’t know a thing about art.” Oooh, what a list of similarities and differences.

Yes, Stacey thinks she’s old enough to get some charge cards. Oh, and the list of amazing stores in New York: Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Tiffany’s, Benetton, LAURA ASHLEY, Ann Taylor, Bonwit Teller, Bergdorf Goddman, and B. Altman’s. Yep, everyone’s favorite Laura, and what self-respecting 13-year-old shops at Ann Taylor. Isn’t a little, um, professional for the junior high set?

There’s actually a lot to bitch about in this one, but I have to go to bed. Stupid working early in the morning! Two more things, though.


2. Dawn actually says, “People in California don’t have yard sales.” MY ASS! Come on Cali readers, back me up on this one! I refuse to believe that nowhere in Southern California has there ever been a yard sale (or a more convoluted sentence).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mal has a hard time feeling glamorous; or, BSC # 42: Jessi and the Dance School Phantom

It never ceases to amaze me: these girls refuse to ask for help from adults. I know, they’re 13 (or 11) (or 12 in the early books), and they want to be grown ups, and they want to be independent, but they don’t even go to adults when something dangerous or potentially illegal might be going on. Instead, they go all girl-detective and try to solve the problems themselves.

The problem in this book? After Jessi wins the coveted role of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, she starts getting threatening notes and her shit gets stolen and mutilated. And someone pours water on the floor or something, and Jessi falls and twists her ankle. But no, she wont go to her teacher, cause she doesn’t want to be seen as a baby or something. I’m still not sure why she wouldn’t go for help when her (expensive) dance clothes and shoes get STOLEN. Instead, she sets up trap and “catches” the girl who’s been doing it, and it’s boring. And Claud’s all helpful with suggestions from reading too much Nancy Drew. Blah.

Subplot: The BSC decides to hold a pet show in which all the kids they sit for can show their respective pets. And then they’re surprised when all the kids get super competitive. Duh. So, Jessi to the rescue with an idea to give prizes to all the kids that enter. Which I’m surprised that no one thought of earlier.

Did you know that, apparently, “California casual” means wearing a denim shirt with jeans? Cause this is at least the second book I’ve seen with Dawn on the cover wearing exactly that. Speaking of Dawn, did you know that “bean sprouts are to Dawn what Ho-Ho’s are to Claudia?” So, how did you do on the analogy section BSC/SAT? I got a 740! (Well, that’s the old scoring system. I don’t know how many points are on the new fangled scoring system).

Your fashion fix for the week?

“Claudia looked extremely cool and exotic, as usual. Her hair was briaded with silver ribbons, and she wore a shimmery dark blue minidress [Is it just me, or does the phrase ‘shmmery dark blue minidress’ bring to mind disturbing notions of Brenda Walsh?]. On her feet were silver sandals with laces up the calves—kind of like toe shoes.

Stacey had on a tuxedo! That’s right, a tuxedo, just like one a boy would wear. But it was made to fit her perfectly, and she looked great. She must have gotten it in New York…Dawn and Mary Anne must have traded clothes—they do that a lot—because I recognized Mary Anne’s new Laura Ashley dress on Dawn, and Dawn’s pink jumpsuit on Mary Anne.”

Am I the only one that doesn’t buy Mary Anne and Dawn swapping clothes all the time? “California casual” doesn’t seem too compatible with “stuffy New England preppy,” but what do I know?