the best friends you’ll never have

There are books that have a universally bad reputation among BSC fans, such as Mallory Pike, #1 Fan. I actually like many of these books. As I’ve mentioned, the later books hold a more nostalgic place in my heart than the earlier ones, since I had a 90s childhood and not an 80s one. But there are books that I feel should get more shit than they do, and one of those books is Super Special #12, Here Come the Bridesmaids.

I remember very clearly when this book came out. As you can see on the cover image I found from Young Adult Revisted, not only were the names of the sitters written in various colors on the cover, but it also had an announcement for the contest to name the new baby-sitter:

Now, considering the fact that eleven still seemed ancient to me at the time that this book came out, I mostly just accepted the weirdness of the book at face value. But this book is very strange, and you really have to suspend your logic to get into it. (Although frankly, this applies to many, many BSC books.)

First up, there is Jessi’s plotline. Jessi is… Santa Claus. At Bellairs. Because literally, the only person in Stoneybrook available to play Santa is an eleven-year-old girl. Even Jessi knows it’s weird, and she tries to pawn the job off on her dad, who says he is way too busy, along with apparently every other adult male in Stoneybrook. They try to explain this away by saying that it is a volunteer position, so it’s hard to find people to do it. Well, duh. And why does Bellairs have a volunteer Santa anyway, when it is a business run for profit? Who does this volunteering benefit? If your store is doing too badly to pay for a Santa, then don’t have one. Don’t get someone to do it for free. If it were a last-minute charity thing, MAYBE I could buy it. But not a department store Santa. And the worst part is that it’s all Maureen’s fault. She is not even an incompetent BSC client parent who is used to relying on the BSC for everything! They could have at least gotten good old Charlie Thomas to do it.

Mrs. Barrett, on the other hand, is an incompetent client parent who can’t do anything without the BSC. Which is why Stacey is her bridesmaid, I guess. Mrs. Barrett couldn’t find anybody else except for a BSC member to share in this important day. They kind of justify it by pointing out that Stacey has gone on vacation with the Barretts and stuff, and has usurped Dawn’s position as the sitter closest the Barretts. It’s still weird to have your kids’ baby-sitter as an emergency bridesmaid instead of a distant cousin or a frenemy, but whatever. We can deal.

Dawn’s plot is a pivotal one in her story. After all of her tantrums and credit card fraud, Jack and Carol are finally getting married. (By the way, isn’t it strange when Carol is the person who you are probably closest in age/life stage to? Yes, yes it is.) The beach wedding is to be expected and seems beautiful. Dawn wanting as many BSC members there as possible, also expected within the context of the series. But as a “divorced kid” myself, as the series oddly puts it, Dawn assuming that Mary Anne would be a fellow bridesmaid is bizarre to me. She is the daughter of Jack’s ex-wife’s new husband. Why wouldn’t Dawn expect SUNNY to be the bridesmaid instead of Mary Anne, since Sunny is also Dawn’s best friend, and is much closer to Dawn’s California family? It’s weird enough that Mary Anne is coming to the wedding in the first place.

This is not weird, but a sad point for me. This book is one of the last appearances of Ben and Mallory as a couple. As I have noted before, at one point, Ben and Mallory’s relationship is just kind of forgotten about and sometimes he is even lumped in with the clients, and this is Mallory’s last plot that centers around Ben, I think. In this case, he is being a real asshole. Mallory has been asked to baby-sit during the Barrett-DeWitt wedding, on a day that she and Ben had tentatively agreed to go caroling. He is uncharacteristically very Mary Anne vs. Logan about it. I suppose this and the whole card catalog debacle was their undoing.

Are there any books you can think of that compare with this one for such logical issues, besides the obvious ones that involve child labor laws?

22 Responses To This Post

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sheyshey said, November 29th, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I think most of the Super Specials are pretty heavy on suspension of disbelief. I admit, that is what I liked about them. To be able to go on a vacation practically every month with all my friends (to Disneyland! to Europe! to a ski lodge! with friends!) seemed the height of dibbledom.

For me, the difficult one to deal with re: unbelievable premises was the BSC in the USA. From its cheesy metallic cover to the fact that Kristy does not, in fact, go with her family on their family RV trip was really weird.

There should be something written about us BSC fans aging and becoming closer in age to the parents than to the BSC girls. I had a significant!moment thinking about how I used to agree wholeheartedly with all BSC logic–and now I’m almost Carol’s age with a stepdaughter of my own–and crap. Poor Carol. And damn Dawn with her credit card fraud.

greer said, November 29th, 2014 at 2:26 pm

@sheyshey BSC in the USA basically feels like it makes sense to me, although I’d think that Kristy spending time with her family would be prioritized over, say, people getting to see the sights they picked. The actual events that occur don’t seem that weird to me, once you accept that a family vacation will inevitably involve six of your daughter’s closest friends and competition from Watson.

It’s weird, because even though I’m edging up on thirty, I still feel younger than the BSC when I read them, for the most part. So if I think about logically, there are probably client parents in their late 20s. I get the feeling Mrs. Barrett married young, so she’s probably around thirty or so when she’s in the series. But the adults will always seem like they’re my parents’ age to me.

sjsiff said, November 29th, 2014 at 7:22 pm

On a smaller scale, I hate Dawn and the School Spirit War. I refuse to believe that no one in the school’s administration would think of making it clear that things were voluntary. Plus, a whole month? Just nuts. I am a jock, and I still think it’s crazy that people would care as much as anyone did about anything in that plot.

Speaking of sports, I never got why the gym teachers didn’t just divide the class into competitive and non-competitive groups. We always did that at my small school (my graduating class was 69 kids). Depending on the sport I’d either be on the competitive side (e.g.; soccer) or the “just run around for fun and get some exercise” side (e.g.; baseball).

And BSC in the USA bugs me too. The part about Seattle specifically–no way you drive an RV in downtown Seattle and find parking! I wish they’d gone to Mt. Rainier or at least pointed it out from the freeway.

tintin lachance said, November 29th, 2014 at 10:39 pm

I loved this Super Special so much that I took my battered copy with me to have Ann M. Martin sign (I must have been eight or so), and then the bookstore people told me I could only have books purchased at the store signed.

Anyway, that’s maybe more e/n than anything, but you’re right that in retrospect, it’s a weird book. Who makes an eleven-year-old girl Santa Claus? Who hires Claudia for any kind of wedding planning…anything?

I feel like Claudia and the First Thanksgiving does the Dawn and the School Spirit War thing more effectively (even if I adored School Spirit War as a kid–and now, too, let’s be honest). I can totally see conservative parents being pissed off at some of the stuff in their play, and everything spiraling out of control is pretty believable.

greer said, November 30th, 2014 at 2:35 pm

@sjsiff Apparently, Ann based the plot of that one on a newspaper article.

That seems like a good way to handle things; I went to a small school, too, and we had to be on actual TEAMS in middle school, which was awful. Finally, in high school, we got non-competitive options like yoga and set design, which increased my quality of life greatly.

As far as BSC in the USA goes, I guess that the RV thing would hold true for all of the cities they visit. But the Duggars do it, so I guess the BSC can, too.

@tintin lachance, my only problem with Claudia and the First Thanksgiving is that I feel like the censorship plot is so overdone. Just in the BSC, you also have banned books in Library Mystery, and the plot of Kristy Power, and probably more than I can’t think of at the moment.

I actually saw Ann and she signed Aloha, Baby-Sitters for me, but I think it was destroyed in a flood.

sjsiff said, November 30th, 2014 at 5:17 pm

I didn’t know about the newspaper article. But like the censorship plots (I don’t support censorship of course!), things were so over-the-top. Most of the bad guys were such caricatures of real people that it was hard to imagine the same thing happening in real life. I actually really liked that in Mary Anne and the Library Mystery some of the book banners were otherwise normal people, because that brought things back to reality a little.

chocolatechip15 said, November 30th, 2014 at 11:20 pm

I never read this one, but the premises of all the stories sound pretty ridiculous. Really a shame, too, because the Super-Special right before this — # 11, The Baby Sitters Remember — is, I think, one of the best Super Specials and all-around best BSC books (written by ANM herself, interesting insights into pivotal moments in the girls’ earlier lives, and, at least by BSC-universe standards – much more realistic stuff. )

I turned 13 the summer SS # 11 came out (’94) and, finally being the same age as most of the BSC, I really was too old for the books. SS # 11 was the last BSC book I bought as a kid . reading this about # 12 makes me kind of glad I stopped there.

Eowyn said, December 1st, 2014 at 12:02 am

Off-topic but is Watson the only parent referred to by just his first name by the club? I remember really early in the books only Dawn of all people was the one that had reservations about not referring to him as Mr. Brewer like they did with ever other parent.

greer said, December 1st, 2014 at 2:41 pm

@Eowyn, do they refer to him as Watson to his face, or just among themselves? It may be because you tend to call your stepparents by their first name, so Kristy would naturally refer to him in Watson in conversation. Like if they were talking about Mrs. Kishi, they’d probably say “Claudia’s mom,” not “Mrs. Kishi,” but still call her “Mrs. Kishi” to her face. It could also be a part of Watson’s unassuming millionaire shtick.

@chocolatechip15 See, they “graduated” from eighth grade the year I did, so I got all of these later books. I do really enjoy them, but I’m not sure if I would coming to them for the first time as an adult. They do have a much different feeling that is a lot more unrealistic.

@sjsiff Definitely over the top, although I do remember a censorship battle or two at my school, and my next-door neighbor growing up was/is the Bertha Dow type.

Eowyn said, December 1st, 2014 at 4:20 pm

@greer I can’t remember either. However either Sharon nor Richard Spier was referred to by their first name by anyone other than their respective step-daughter.

greer said, December 1st, 2014 at 4:43 pm

@eowyn perhaps because everyone was acquainted with them before they became step parents, and they were already Dawn’s mom/Mary Anne’s dad.

Eowyn said, December 5th, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Speaking of names; it amused me to no end that we would always hear about how Squirt Ramsey was referred to by his (obvious) nickname and were reassured that his real name was not John, not John Phillip but John Phillip Ramsey Junior. Oh Chapter Two!

greer said, December 6th, 2014 at 3:14 pm

@Eowyn, well, I guess the Ramseys considered “John” and “John Philip” to be two very different names, since it’s revealed in BSC in the USA that Jessi has an uncle named John!

racergal12 said, December 6th, 2014 at 6:54 pm

I don’t find most of the things you mentioned weird at all. Why would Mary Anne coming to the wedding be weird? I can see it being kind of dumb of Dawn to assume she’d be a bridesmaid, but her just coming is not weird. This is one of my favorite super specials.

greer said, December 7th, 2014 at 8:10 am

@racergirl12, like I said, as someone with divorced parents, I can’t imagine going to a stepsibling’s parent’s wedding. Mary Anne and Jack’s canon relationship is even written as awkward and weird. Daughter of first wife’s new husband at the small beach wedding? Not the first person you’d put on a guest list at an intimate wedding. Only in BSC Land are a child’s friends invited when it’s a small wedding.

And you don’t find Jessi being a mall Santa weird?

racergal12 said, December 8th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

I guess I just don’t find it weird that Dawn’s best friends are part of the invites. As for the Jessie thing, yeah, it’s weird.

greer said, December 10th, 2014 at 1:36 pm

@racergal12 In BSC land, having your 13-year-old daughter’s BFFs and few other people in normal. Outside of BSC land, not really :)

racergal12 said, December 10th, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I guess I just like the friendlier aspect of divorce that can be shown in BSC land. My sister is going through a divorce and she has two kids. I hope that if she or her soon-to-be ex-husband get remarried or whatever, that it won’t be weird or awkward for their kids. Besides, Jack Schafer is an adult. Why should he or Carol be bothered by Mary Anne’s presence?

greer said, December 10th, 2014 at 6:34 pm

@racergal12, as depicted in the books, Sharon and Jack’s divorce was very unfriendly. The only couple in the books whose divorce I’d call “friendly” is Watson and Lisa’s.
I don’t think it’s that they’d be bothered; it’s just weird. The whole idea of having so many of your daughter’s friends at the wedding, especially ones from clear across the country, is strange, especially at what I remember as a small wedding. Plus Mary Anne and Jack have a weird, uncomfortable relationship in BSC in the USA.

Sadly, I think it is rare that post-divorce life and remarriages don’t come with drama. It’s just bound to be difficult at times. I’m 28 and my brother is almost 31, and there are still times when we have tread lightly regarding our mom and our stepmom. It gets very touchy, even when everyone is an adult. The way Stacey deals with her dad’s impending remarriage and thinking about her mom’s feelings in Friends Forever is actually a really good depiction of this situation. I can think of several times over the past year or so, even, that I have dealt with this issue, and my dad and stepmom have been married long enough to have kids in high school.

racergal12 said, December 11th, 2014 at 12:23 am

Being BSC land I think it would have been weirder if none of the BSC was at the wedding.

greer said, December 11th, 2014 at 1:27 pm

@racergal12 the marriage probably wouldn’t even be legal without their presence. :) But in real life, it’d be a different story.

racergal12 said, December 11th, 2014 at 6:56 pm

No can marry without prior BSC stamp of approval.

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