the best friends you’ll never have

No, the title does not refer to the fact that Jessi has probably yet to reach puberty. The title instead refers to the fact that while Jessi Ramsey started out with such promise, she was soon turned into a mere Token Character, with no real characterizations beyond dancing and being black. Remember when Jessi wondered, “Who ever heard of a black robot?” (For that matter, young Jessica, who ever heard of white robot? Aren’t all robots made out of metal, or at least silicone-covered metal?) Well, there is one black dancing robot, and its name is Jessi Ramsey.

When we first meet Jessi, she’s funny, and super good at languages. She seems to be a long-lost member of the Glass family, what with her going to Mexico for a week and becoming “practically fluent” in Spanish and all. (For the record, I hate romance languages. That, however, is a story for another blog.)

She also tells corny jokes about penguins. This is an aspect of Jessi’s character that when it disappeared, I did not really miss about Jessi. Then Abby came and reclaimed the corny joke role for the BSC.

Jessi is also introduced as a dancer, but it is not her whole life and she does not want to be a professional. Jessi is also a nice counterbalance to neurotic Mallory. She can always calm Mal down. This, at least, she retains, until Mal decides she wants to go to boarding school and Jessi turns into a megabitch. And that time she thought Mal, her BEST FRIEND, was racist because she was shy when visiting Jessi’s grandparents house.

After Jessi Ramsey, Pet Sitter, Jessi pretty much lost most of her characterizations. Her sitting job with Matt Braddock basically faded away with no explanation, and the other girls become pretty good at sign language as well. So what were we left with? Basically Jessi dances and is black, and everything else she has common with Mallory: she thinks her parents treat her like a baby because she can’t sit at night unless for her own family and can’t wear sophisticated (read: ugly) clothes like Claudia and Stacey. Not much else can be said about her.

Ergo, Black Dancing Robot.

I think the loss of Jessi’s more subtle characterizations is even worse than Dawn’s assassination by the ghostwriters. At least Dawn redeemed herself in the CA Diaries, of which I am a huge fan. But Jessi just dropped out of the Club to dance more, and did not narrate a book after Jessi’s Big Break. It’s saddening, because if you go back to Hello, Mallory!/Jessi’s Secret Language, it’s obvious that so much more could have been done with her. I would like to see some high-quality Jessi fanfic, to give her the chance to succeed that Scholastic didn’t.

4 Responses To This Post

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cpennylane said, September 23rd, 2007 at 8:05 pm

I agree – I like Jessi in her first few books. I hate that they decided she needed to turn into nothing more then the black ballerina.

Also – I love the Glass Family. It seems like so few people these days have read anything by Salinger beyond “Catcher in the Rye”.

And I’d like to know about your distaste for Romance Languages.

bbb said, September 23rd, 2007 at 11:20 pm

More love for the Glass family!
I think I’ve seen a fic entitled “Jessi’s Wedding”. I haven’t read it but the title caught my eye.
That is sad that she didn’t have another book after “Big Break”(which I think is a really good Jessi book, BTW. So is “Happy Holidays, Jessi”).
I also enjoy reading about the entire Ramsey family.

greer said, September 23rd, 2007 at 11:32 pm

I also really like the last two jessi books. maybe i should add an addendum to the post.

KlM14 said, January 15th, 2009 at 4:53 am

i think jessi is great. i haven’t read jessi big break but i will now.

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