the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Cary Retlin

This question isn’t hard in terms of choosing a character, but I’m having trouble discerning what “minor” really means here. Does “minor” simply mean “non-BSC member”? Or is limited to those who truly just didn’t show up much in series, MAYBE played a major role in one book, but was mostly limited to the background?

If we are going with the first definition, I have to go with CARY RETLIN. Cary was introduced fairly late in the series, but made quite an impression. Once Alan Gray and Cokie Mason had basically worn out their usefulness–Cokie can only try to steal Logan so many times before it got stale, and immaturity isn’t all that interesting, really–Cary was brought in to play the antagonist. He and Kristy have an especially acerbic relationship, and he seems to really know how to push the exact buttons to make “Kristin” lose her cool and lose the sense of control that is central to Kristy’s emotional stability. He can get her to get herself in trouble (Kristy in Charge), reveal the more unsavory parts of her personality (Kristy Power!), and just plain frustrate her (Kristy and the Middle School Vandal.)

Plus, he’s just so plain mysterious. He can pick locks. He apparently enjoys birdwatching. He is highly intelligent, and seems equally inclined to use his powers for good or for evil, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. Take Stacey and the Stolen Hearts–he just wanted to help his good friend Alan Gray.

What also makes Cary an intriguing character is, despite his Mischief-Knighting and Kristy-Frustrating, you still believe that he’s a genuinely good guy. I love the other Cary that reveals itself in Mary Anne’s Revenge and Claudia and the Disaster Date. He’s just a little bit too smart for middle school, and instead of revelling in his big vocabulary or taking extra classes, he uses his excess brain power to make some Complications. Complications, after all, as Cary is fond of reminding Kristy, make life more interesting, and Cary certainly makes the last third or so of the series more interesting.

But since Cary played such a major role in so many books, and we get an awful lot of his characterization and background–how many other non-BSC member/non-BSC client houses and family life did we get a glimpse of?–I’m hesitant to write him off as a “minor” character. If we are going with someone I’d really call minor, I’m going to pick Emily Bernstein.

Emily is arguably the smartest girl in the eighth grade, the editor of the SMS Express, and, while she plays a major role in Claudia and the Perfect Boy and Stacey’s Movie, we don’t really know all that much about her, even though she’s been at SMS since the beginning of the series. I like Emily for her smarts and journalistic skills, but also I have this weird idea that she and Trevor Sandbourne (from The Literary Voice) get together and have this really cerebral, writerly relationship, where they have arguments about literature and the merits of their respective preferred forms of writing. Poetry vs Prose: A Sexual Tension Showdown.

Play along here, in the comments, or on your own blog!

OK, this one is actually difficult for me, because I happen to like a lot of the mysteries. Yes, they are unrealistic for the most part, and I am always like, “Why haven’t I ever come upon a mystery in my own life?”, but I find them quite enjoyable. Good job, Ellen Miles. Actually, as I write this, I am looking at the list on wikipedia, trying to decide.

I like Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall, despite its ridiculousness, because it takes place at a MALL and I love malls. I live across the street from an awesome one now, and it’s great. H&M and TopShop all day, every day. Plus a food court. But I digress. I like The Mystery at Claudia’s House, because, spoiler alert, Janine gets a boyfriend! Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade is DEFINITELY the creepiest! I also always had a little crush on Thrash from Dawn and the Surfer Ghost.

I think, though, that it’s a tie between Claudia the Mystery at the Museum and Stacey and the Stolen Hearts. I like Museum because the descriptions of the Stoneybrook Museum make it sound really cool, like if you combined an art museum with the Franklin Institute. Stolen Hearts is very gossipy, which I enjoy. You get to see a lot of the minor SMS characters in that, and I like to have more information about the minor characters. Cary Retlin, too, is a particular favorite of mine.

So yeah, I guess this a cop-out, because I couldn’t really decide. It’s honestly easier for me to talk about which mysteries I DON’T like, but that’s tomorrow.

EDIT: I just realized I skipped Day Four, least favorite regular book! I’ll do THAT one tomorrow. Also, Donica reminded me that Masquerade is the book where Cary moves to Stoneybrook, so I may need to just rethink this whole thing. Deciding which Mystery is your favorite is SERIOUS BUSINESS, guys.

It’s relatively well-known that Cary Retlin is named after a real person, and so are his brothers Ben and Steig. Some may also know that Steig Retlin did Amalia’s sketches in California Diaries.

So I googled him, to see what he’s up to these days, and he has a website called Plastic Flesh with a ton of his recent work on it. Awesome! And if you go on myspace you can find his and Cary’s profiles, which I won’t link to but they’re there nonetheless. Cary in real life is pretty cute, although a bit too outdoorsy for my taste. He definitely doesn’t look like a Mischief Knight, but maybe it was different when he was thirteen.

Anyway, it seems as if Cary in real life is friends with David Leviathan, who was an editor of the BSC. I think that’s the connection there, rather than Ann.

If you haven’t already, go to wiki and start editing! I haven’t had time to do much editing myself–lots of stuff before graduation–but everyone working on it has been doing a really awesome job.

So it seems from the comments that everyone disagrees with me on the Cary front. Pffft.

Let’s start from the beginning. Cary Retlin is quite interesting, as he did not appear in the series until very late (Stacey’s Haunted Masquerade, I believe), yet he seems to leave a lasting impression. Reviewing what we know about Cary, we know that he is hot (according to Stacey, so how much does that really mean?); he hails from Oak Hill, Illinois; his dad used to be a policeman but is now a locksmith; and he is the purported ringleader of the Mischief Knights, who cause a lot of trouble around SMS. Cary shows up often in Mystery books, and seems be quite the detective himself. He also wishes to become J.D. Salinger and enjoys surrealist art. He hangs out with Alan Gray.

Kristy and Cary do not appear to like each other. In Kristy In Charge, this hatred sends several seventh graders to the hospital. In Kristy and the Middle School Vandal, Cary challenges Kristy to a mystery contest, wherein a loss results in the loss of Kristy’s fancy watch. In Kristy Power!, Cary and Kristy have a huge fight. I am sure that there are other Kristy/Cary hatefests which I can’t think of at the moment.

This brings me to my point. Kristy does indeed have a history of having hate-to-love evolutions in her relatioonships. But the transformation happens quickly. Alan Gray went to a dance with Kristy in the second book of the series. Michel and Kristy were making out in the Eiffel Tower by the end of European Vacation. But between Cary and Kristy the closest they got to any sort of reconciliation was a grudging respect for one another. If they were OTP, they would have gone to a dance or kissed or exchanged friendship shoulder punches (the Kristy Hug!) if you want to really stretch it.

Kristy and Cary have the opposite of a mutual adoration society. I think Cary really is just annoyed by Kristy, by her gigantic ego, by her confidence that she is smarter than the entire Stoneybrook Police Department. Kristy is annoyed by Cary because he does not revere her, nor is he frightened by her. He even questions her detective skills! He is one of the only people, besides Cokie Mason, who is willing to say to Kristy, “You’re wrong.” And as we all know from some book which i can’t recall now where Logan writes in huge letters KRISTY WAS RIGHT in the notebook, and the narrator said that Kristy lives to be told she is right and probably blew up that entry and hung it on the wall above her bed, well, this does not bode well for Kristy and Cary even being friends. To be Kristy’s friend, you must suffer through her mistaken “great” ideas and cheer her on when she really does have a great one. You must treat her as someone who is Much Better At Problem Solving Than You, regardless of whether that is true. I do think she has a softer side to her, but this is the face that she likes to show to the public.

So no, I do not believe in Kristy/Cary at all.

Instead I believe in Mary Anne/Cary.

The issue with Mary Anne/Cary, sadly, is that it takes place pretty much only in FF. This is because for the entire time that Cary is a part of the BSC world while the regular series is being written, MA and Logan are still together. I believe I have mentioned many times on this blog that I can’t stand Logan Bruno, except in his own books where he’s a huge dork, but it bears saying again: I can’t stand that Logan Bruno.

There are many in the fandom who take a “If I don’t open my eyes and see it, it doesn’t exist” approach to FF. They would prefer the Club to be fully functional, for Stacey and Claud to not be fighting over a boy, for the farmhouse to still be standing. I happen to enjoy FF, however, although I know those of us who enjoy FF are certainly a small group. Anyway, most Mary Anne/Cary action happens in FF so that is why it is kind of an ignored ship.

Most of the MA/Cary stuff happens in Mary Anne’s Revenge. Mary Anne’s Revenge is a great book, even if you hate FF on principle. Cary helps MA get revenge on Cokie. I don’t think Cary’s hatred for Kristy really carried on to the other BSCers. Cary seems to work very hard on this plan, claiming that he hates Cokie, but I think it is because he wants to make out with Mary Anne. Interpret it as you wish. Also, in Claudia and the Disaster Date, Cary totally asks to be MA’s partner during miniature golf, and she does so, happily. Awwww. I think that if FF had not ended after that, MA and Cary would have dated. Claudia with Alan, MA with Cary… Kristy’s head would have exploded. That would have been terribly gross, so that is why they had to let the BSCers graduate. The head-explosion scene would have been way too gross.

As for those who ship MA and Pete… I ask, why? Sure, Pete asks her out, but Pete is the character equivalent of wet clay. He was molded into whatever shape was needed for that particular book. Sometimes he’s cool, sometimes he’s geeky, sometimes he snaps bra straps, sometimes Stacey dates him. People enjoyed MA/Pete in MA Misses Logan, but I think their teamwork was based more off of hatred for Cokie/Logan than anything else.

So that’s my stance.

Are you…

a) A Cary/Kristy Shipper

b) A Cary/Mary Anne Shipper

c) A Cary Hater?

My answer tomorrow, plus a review of Main Street #3, Tis The Season.