the best friends you’ll never have

Last night I read Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic. This is an significant Baby-sitters Club book, as it introduces a very important part of Mary Anne’s biography. After her mother’s death, Mary Anne was sent to Maynard, Iowa to live with her grandparents for a while, until Richard fought to get her back. Future BSC books would occasionally list the state as Nebraska, rather than Iowa, but it was definitely Iowa.

Obviously, in terms of Mary Anne character development, this is a pivotal book. Sadly, it is full of glaring holes and mistakes and just plain sloppy writing. Perhaps most confusing is Mary Anne’s trip to Iowa, which we learn about through her correspondence with her family and friends back in Stoneybrook. The last line before this chapter-of-handwriting is “It was time for me to make plans to go to Maynard, Iowa.” Then we turn the page and with no transition, MA is having a great time in Maynard. Mary Anne, however, was in school throughout the whole book and she seems to spend a long time in Iowa. At the end, Richard writes a letter about how Mary Anne would like to visit her again next summer. This leads to the conclusion that the last chapter of the book takes place the summer after the other events of the book, but again, this passage of time is not clear. Richard also invites Verna Baker (MA’s grandmother) to come for Christmas. That never happens.

The story of MA’s visit to Iowa is told fully in Mary Anne’s Book. It paints a much less rosy portrait of her visit than this book. For most of the time MA and Verna are not getting along and it is only at the end that they begin to like and relate to one another. I suppose that the story about her trip told by Mary Anne in the mystery book is much less interesting than in the Portrait, and in 1992 they perhaps had not planned the Portrait Collection series yet, so this is something I’m willing to overlook.

What I cannot overlook is what is truly the most WTF?! moment in the book. Mary Anne, supposedly a loyal girlfriend, continues her Sea City tradition in Iowa and goes on a date with a cute Farmer Bob. She does not say, oh well my Grandma made me go, or anything to that effect. She just says he’s cute. I can understand being bored after only hanging out with your grandma all the time, but if you have a steady boyfriend back home, you should not paint your activity as a date. Mary Anne was then disappointed that Bob, who took her to the Dairy Queen, was only interested in cars and cows. What does it matter, Mary Anne? You have a BOYFRIEND! God. MA is worse than Stacey sometimes.

Another problem with this book is this big paint fight they have while painting their cardboard cutouts for Heritage Day. While Mary Anne and Dawn’s house has a freaking BARN, they decide that the logical place to undertake a messy project would be… the den. This makes absolutely no sense. In a choice between a room which the family uses often and probably has expensive electronic equipment and perhaps important things like uber-romantic high school yearbooks and things like that, and a barn that no one cares whether you get it messy or not, they choose… the den. Well, anyway, they have this big paint fight. It is so messy that Logan has to take off his shirt. While they mention covering the floors with newspapers, they don’t mention the furniture or the other stuff in the room that I assume includes a television set. Also, it is specifically stated in several books that unlike Stacey’s mom, who allows boyfriends in the kitchen when she is not home, Richard and Sharon have an explicitly-stated “no boys in the house when we’re not home” rule. Mary Anne’s dad doesn’t even flinch when she relays this event to him, even when she mentions the “no shirt” thing. (Sexy!)

This last annoying, sloppy writing mistake is not terribly important but might be the most annoying and stupid. Charlotte Johanssen’s great-grandmother, Berit Marie Hjielholt Johanssen, emigrated from Denmark to the US. Her diary, which details her life starting from her voyage to America. Now, since it has never been mentioned before, I doubt that Charlotte reads Danish fluently. I doubt even more that Berit would have written her diary in English, given that she was Danish. But Charlotte can read this diary. My grandparents immigrated and even after years and years and living here they still wrote personal things in their native tongue. Has Ellen Miles mistakenly thought that Denmark was a part of England, like a Scotland with lax marijuana laws and more herring? It is hard to tell. Perhaps she is one of the one-fifth of Americans who cannot locate even the United States on a world map. Such as.

2 Responses To This Post

Subscribe to this post comment rss or trackback url
bbb said, September 2nd, 2007 at 6:03 pm

I always doubted that those cardboard cutouts looked as realistic as they said they were…c’mon.
And after reading about Charlotte I always hoped I’d find a cool old locket or diary that belonged to my ancestor (likewise with Mallory when she found that mystery diary). Sadly, I never did. Sigh…

wanderingfrog said, September 5th, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Although I’d noticed all the other things before, the diary-in-Danish thing slipped right past me when I read the book. I laughed so hard when I read your paragraph about it!

Response To This Topic

Please Note: The comment moderation may be active so there is no need to resubmit your comment