the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Abby Stevenson

One thing that the series is seriously lacking is economic diversity. In Stoneybrook, Kristy’s “poor,” before-Watson life was distinguished by living in a four-bedroom house where the fourth bedroom was tiny. The Sitters’ parents all had very good, white-collar jobs, even the parents who were going back to work after a divorce or staying home with the kids, save Mal’s mom’s temp work. When they decided to add another sitter in 1995, while they did add some religious diversity, they did not add any economic diveristy. In fact, Abby moved into Kristy’s ritzy neighborhood. Abby’s mom bought a house and filled it with all-new furniture. Not exactly cheap.

Abby’s mom is an executive editor at a publishing house. Now, this nets her a pretty good salary–generally in the low six figures. It is also mentioned that the move to the ‘Brook coincided with a hefty promotion/raise. The odd thing about Mrs. Stevenson’s job, though, is that she only started working after the death of her husband, when the girls were nine. [ETA: I checked, and my memory was wrong. She started working when the girls were in first grade.] They turn thirteen in Abby’s Lucky Thirteen, so she’s been working for three years. This is a rapid rise to the top of her profession. The article linked above mentions that the road to executive editor is a long haul, and probably wouldn’t be possible in such a short time period. I suppose, however, that this could be accounted for by the BSC time warp. Two years before the start of the Club would be 1984. 11 years is realistic.

But even with a, say, $105,000 salary, would someone be able to afford to move to Watson’s neighborhood–an area with high property values and taxes (whether you look to Southwestern Connecticut or Princeton as Stoneybrook’s inspiration, you’re dealing with a high-value, high-property tax area) and comfortably support two children? Abby seems to have no problem going on a shopping spree for herself and her twin in Abby’s Twin. I also recall her automatically knowing that she would be allowed to go on the school trips, whereas even some of the other BSC parents needed convincing.

I think the answer to this lies in Abby’s extended family. Her grandparents throw lavish annual anniversary parties at their house in the Hamptons. That’s basically code for “look for us on Rich Grandparents of Instagram.” But again, like with Stacey and Dawn (her dad has a full-time housekeeper!), no one ever makes a note about how the Stevensons are extremely well-off. Watson is the King of Millionaires, and no one else is rich. Ahh, to live in Stoneybrook (or Ann’s NYC or Palo City).

There’s a lot of Abby haters out there. Maybe it’s because she has to deal with being the reason for the exile of Dawn to California, to only be allowed back in Stoneybrook for brief visits. (Although I have said many times what a big fan of CA Diaries I am, and these would not have been possible if Dawn had not been sent back.) Maybe it’s because she was funny (like Jessi was supposed to be), and athletic (like Kristy), and street smart (like Stacey), and a half-orphan (like Mary Anne). Maybe it’s because her humor was only as funny as the ghostwriter who was writing her and relied a lot on stupid puns. Maybe it’s simply because she only came on the scene in #89 and some fans have not even read that far in the series yet. Whatever the reason, she just seems to get a lot of flak.

I happen to like her. Sure, her jokes are not that funny. But I like it how she always sticks it to Kristy, and how she is sort of one step ahead of all the other BSC members, jarring the perfect harmony of the club a little bit. She doesn’t have a best friend. Sure, she has Anna, but her and Anna’s relationship always seemed a little tense to me. The concept of having a “best friend” is kind of confining. I have a bunch of friends who I am really close to, but don’t rely on any one of them as my “best” friend above all others. I like that Abby was more independent. By the way, for some reason Mary Anne having both Kristy and Dawn as her best friends makes me thinking of Hugh Hefner having all those girlfriends.

Another interesting point about Abby is that because she is less close to the other girls, we get more insight into her family life. The Stevenson family errs on the side of dysfunctional. Her mom is really cold, her sister is pretty uptight, her grandma hates her sister, Mrs. Stevenson hates her sister… you get the idea. I think we see the Stevenson extended family the most out of all the BSC members. Some people don’t like the book Abby in Wonderland, but I have always really liked it. The party sounds fun, the subplot (with the Pikes bringing Sea City to Stoneybrook) is cute, and also it touches on some heavy issues without being heavyhanded, as is often the case in this series. Abby and the Mystery Baby is pretty weird, what with the “baby-on-the-doorstep” plot and all, but it’s interesting at least.

A lot of people don’t like Abby because they didn’t really read the later books, and they see her as an intruder without anything that sets her apart from the other baby-sitters. I like her for this because she is flawed and doesn’t quite fit. She provides contrast which highlights the cliqueishness and provincialism of the other members. She is the most “real” out of all the girls.