the best friends you’ll never have

In the past year or so, the Alice McKinley books have taken over the BSC as my “comfort” reading. I read recently that Phyllis Reynolds Naylor decided to have Alice grow up in the series (each book covers roughly four months of her life) because she wanted a challenge as a writer and didn’t want to be stuck in a sitcom.

Of course, this immediately brought the BSC to my mind, where they were, more or less, stuck in a middle school sitcom, only growing and changing as much as staying in eighth grade forever would allow. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I liked being able to grow up along with Alice, starting with the series in 1997 when she was still in middle school and I was ten and being able to read the last book as an adult in 2013. You can trace the evolution of Alice as a person, which I think makes her seem very real.

But one of the problems the Alice books have, which I think ruin the effect slightly, is that Naylor started the series in 1985, and then covered four months a year after that until the last one, so we only got to the summer after Alice’s senior year in high school in 2012. The world is going to change a lot in an almost thirty-year period. Like the rest of the world, Alice had to be introduced to computers and cell phones. Each book was written to be true to the year they were published, so even aging chronologically, you still have a time warp. For the new editions, which is what I read on my Kindle, they have edited some things that date the books, but the books would have to be rewritten completely to make them all 100% modern. I noticed this when I was reading the end of Now I’ll Tell You Everything, because although Alice entered college with Facebook and email, when they open the time capsule from Mr. Hensley’s class at the end, they open a capsule containing a Michael Jordan poster and newspaper articles about the Soviet Union. So even within this one book, there’s an acknowledgement that aging chronologically can’t work 100%, unless you can keep up a very grueling schedule to have someone age in real time, which is when you need a team of ghostwriters.

With that in mind, I don’t think I would have preferred for the BSC to age. You can suspend belief completely, and not really be distracted by time. Maybe aging in real time would have been possible for the BSC, though, since they published a book every month, instead of just every year. In the end, I find the time warp comforting, in a way. I think what the authors/editors chose for these different series works for what they are. The Alice series shows someone growing up. The Baby-Sitters Club shows a friendship and mysteries and fun. They are limited by never getting any closer to adulthood, and sometimes, that’s what we want to read.

Would you have preferred to see at least some aging in the series?

6 Responses To This Post

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sjsiff said, December 7th, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I think the big problem with the time warp is that Ann didn’t know how popular the series would be, so the first ten books cover a whole year, and then for the next 215 they’re in the same year. :D

greer said, December 7th, 2014 at 5:53 pm

@sjsiff, yeah, I think they realized after the early success that they couldn’t keep aging them without getting into California Diaries-type issues, and certainly no one imagined that the series would go until 2000!

chocolatechip15 said, December 8th, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I’m curious – for fans who read the later books as they came out — did you know then that they were just going to be in 8th grade forever, or did you think they’d move on during the series? I remember reading a book that came out in ’93 or ’94 — maybe Maid Mary Anne – that mentioned that it was summer vacation, and I thought “Now they HAVE to go on to 9th grade.” But I was wrong, of course, as they stayed in 8th for six more years :-)

greer said, December 10th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

@chocolatechip15, that is around when I started–I was in the Scholastic BSC book club, which sent me three books a month, starting with #1–and I don’t remember thinking that they were going to be aged once they stopped talking about things like birthdays.

mallorypike said, January 6th, 2016 at 10:36 pm

I personally think the BSC should’ve aged. Gradually. It would be neat to see the BSC go to high school and stuff like that. I do think AMM and scholastic didn’t think the bsc would last from 1986 to 2000. In #10, 1987, Mary Anne talks about being in 8th grade for the first time and thoughts of graduating middle school and heading to high school. Later on, AMM realized the BSC had grown wildly popular and she couldn’t really age the characters anymore??

greer said, January 8th, 2016 at 11:11 pm

I think that if Scholastic had chosen to age the characters, they would have grown out of the Apple Books imprint and would no longer be RL4. So if you kept aging them at the book a month rate, for instance, the series would have had to have ended in the 20s or they would have gone to high school and encountered a different set of problems. They actually did this in the CA Diaries while still keeping most of the characters in eighth grade.

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