the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Little Sister

Last week I watched the movie Young Adult, which stars Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt and was made by the people behind Juno, which I’ve never seen. Besides feeling lots and lots of secondhand embarrassment for Charlize Theron’s character, Patton Oswalt’s excellent turn at dramatic acting, and this song from Teenage Fanclub, the movie has one very important thing going for it. In the movie, Charlize Theron’s character’s profession is… wait for it… YA series ghostwriter!!!

Now we can imagine how Nola Thacker looked while working on the BSC, amirite?

So Mavis, Theron’s character, is a ghostwriter for a YA series called Waverly Prep, which I imagine to be more in the Gossip Girl vein than the BSC or SVH, but whatever. The thing that stuck with me, besides the realization that ghostwriter for a YA/middle grade reader series is kind of a dream job for me, is that the fact that the series has just been CANCELLED is a plot point that’s kind of floating in the background the whole time, and, in my opinion, the thing that really sets off Mavis’s mid-30s crisis, even more than the fact that her long-ago boyfriend had a baby and is apparently happy.

This, of course, brought to mind the BSC and its end in 2000. The end of the BSC has always been spun as, “Ann decided it was time for the thing to end,” but it’s always struck me as more PR than truth. Let’s look at the facts:

  • Before the introduction of Friends Forever, they redesigned the Mystery series, only to use the new covers for, oh, three books. Now, it’s possible that the art department and the editorial department just didn’t communicate that well, but it says to me that Friends Forever was something that was moved along quickly and was somewhat of a surprise to those who worked on the series.
  • California Diaries and Little Sister ended without a satisfying, wrap-everything-up ending, whereas Friends Forever had Graduation Day. The Claudia/Alan, and yes I am just going to go with this fantasy of mine here, Mary Anne/Cary (or at least Mary Anne-on-her-own) plotlines were not resolved. Stacey/Ethan also didn’t really get a satisfying conclusion.

    It seems to me that the ending of the BSC, and perhaps even the transition to Friends Forever, was more sudden than Ann & Co. let on. It would have been fairly easy to put together Graduation Day, because it’s the obvious conclusion to the series. It would have been harder to decide a proper sendoff for Ducky and Karen. Perhaps the California Diaries team and the Little Sister team didn’t even know they were being axed alongside the BSC and figured that rumors about the end of the BSC wouldn’t affect them–maybe Little Sister had better sales than its big sister series, much like how the Full House “Michelle” books were being published long after ABC cancelled the show. I’m not sure how good California Diaries sales were, but I can see them attracting the audience that felt embarrassed to be buying the BSC, but still wanting to feel some connection to the characters.

    It’s entirely possible that only the FF editorial team was given enough notice to properly finish out the series. Maybe the LS and CD people had a whole bunch of books outlined that they never got to finish. I’d ask @PeterLerangis, but I’m sure Scholastic made him sign a blood oath to never tell the true story.

    One of the things that struck me about the plotline in the film is that they did in fact use the word “cancelled,” exactly as you would for a television series. I guess it makes sense for a book series as well; I had just never thought of that way. I had always seen the end of a book series as more as an agreement between the author and publisher, not the publisher deciding to no longer publish the books. Looking back on it, I think this is probably a naive attitude to have about how the publishing world works. Just like how many cancelled series have episodes in the can that will never air, I am sure that many book series had more plots outlined and new characters in the wings that never ended up on bookshelves.

  • Is this even a contest? Can you actually have an answer other than “Patrick Thomas” and not catch flack for it? He left and doesn’t send child support, does that weird thing where he secretly visits Kristy and won’t let her tell anyone, and doesn’t invite his youngest son to his wedding to Zoey, leading to fandom speculation that David Michael is not Patrick’s biological son.

    And then he talks about having kids with Zoey! Nooo! Why did Zoey marry him? She seemed like a cool lady. Big mistake, Zoey.

    An interesting thing that I have been noticing lately is that a lot of people seem to dislike Watson now, if you read BSC Snark. I haven’t read that many LS books, but he certainly seems to come off worse in those, especially in Karen’s Stepmother.

    Poor Kristy, I guess. Although I have to say that I enjoy the development of Kristy and Watson’s relationship over the course of the series.

    Today I was struck with a sudden thought. If you didn’t watch The Paper, go and watch the show on the site I just linked and then come back.

    OK. Amanda Lorber=Karen Brewer in high school, yes?


    edit: for non-USA readers, here’s a link to where you can watch the show.

    Yeah, I know, wrong holiday, but… it’s something which has been weighing on my mind. I posted about it on the boards, but i felt it was worth repeating here.

    In LS, there are several Easter-themed books. There’s Karen’s Bunny and Karen’s Easter Parade out of the ones I’ve read. In BSC, though, there is absolutely no mention of Easter. In none of the the springtime books is it ever mentioned.

    This is surprising for a couple of reasons. One, an Easter Egg Hunt seems like something that Kristy would love to organize. Two, they celebrate all of the other major holidays–Fourth of July, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s, Halloween, and yes, Christmas–several times. I suppose that you could argue that Christmas in the US is more secular than Easter in the US, but if you were going to use that argument, then why is Easter mentioned in LS?

    Is LS, for whatever reason, more religiously-focused than BSC?

    I’ve been reading a lot of LS recently, and I have to say, I really like Karen. I thought she was pretty annoying before I started reading LS, mostly because I found Ben Brewer/Let’s All Come In tiresome. I like Karen a lot now though, and feel that a lot of people in LS treat her pretty unfairly. Kristy, for example, is a lot nicer to Karen in BSC than in LS, and I find that Watson and Lisa are often not sympathetic to the fact that a divorce is pretty hard for a little kid to deal with.

    Why do so many people hate Karen? If you are a Karen-hater, have you ever read LS? I promise you, if you went and got a LS lot on ebay and read some Karen books, you’d like her a lot more. Trust. In her own books I find her funny and sassy and she recognizes and admits her own faults, or when she’s done something wrong. BSC fans tend to be really harsh toward her–she’s only seven years old, six in some books! Cut her some slack.

    In other news, this weekend a big project will begin. Or rebegin, to be more accurate. So watch this space, yo.

    A great tragedy befell me and my computer totally crashed. My hard drive ate itself and did not even understand that it was supposed to be a computer. It is fixed now, and everything was backed up, but it is still a pain in the ass.

    I spent a little bit of time at my mother’s house recently, and I read Karen’s Cartwheel and Karen’s Easter Parade. I have really been enjoying Little Sister as of late and am slowly working my way through a box of LS books I won off of ebay. By the way, this box contained plenty of doubles, so around Thanksgiving or Christmas I’ll putting some up for trade/sale.

    In Karen’s Cartwheel Karen is struggling with learning how to do a cartwheel. This I can relate to, as I have yet to turn a cartwheel. Karen, however, has a loftier goal than playground acrobatic supremacy–she wants to be on the invitational gymnastics team. Lo and behold, Karen is not a very good gymnast, and it takes a little talk with Morbidda Destiny to realize that just because she’s Karen Brewer doesn’t mean she has to be good at anything. This is really heartwarming and if you are PMSing you might cry a little. Plus Karen, Hannie, and Nancy are again earning money, because $14.95 is too much for Watson the Millionaire to cough up for a doll.

    Karen’s Easter Parade is the only LS book I have read where it is someone else fucking up and not Karen. This book reminds me a lot of The Secret Life of Mary Anne Spier when Dawn and Mary Anne’s chemistry is off, only instead of best friends/stepsisters Karen and Diana are best cousins. While Dawn moved to the high school, Diana has turned eight and is now distant from Karen and is acting “older.” Acting older means trying to steal something from a knick-knack store in front of KRISTY THOMAS. Karen really straightens out this insolent cousin of hers and Sam Thomas wears a bunny suit.

    This copy also had a charming cardpocket and handmade library book card in the back. I also did this to some of my books as a kid, because I liked to pretend I ran a library, even though I was its only patron.

    Karen Brewer is not a fan favorite. In fact, I would go so far as to call her a fan unfavorite. As I was working my way through my little sister ebay lot, however, my opinion on Karen began to change. It seems to me that it’s not only the fans who hate Karen and think she’s obnoxious, it’s everyone else around her too. While in the BSC books, Kristy seems like the perfect big sister, in the LS books she often seems impatient with Karen. It is interesting to contrast how characters are portrayed in LS v. BSC. Andrew is more bratty in LS, as is Hannie. You definitely feel sorrier for Karen in LS than in BSC.

    What are your opinions on character differences in BSC and LS?

    Karen’s Brothers is a really weird book. After making my post yesterday, I was inspired to dig into the box of LS books I won in an ebay auction and chose this one to read. Basically, Karen gets jealous that her pretend husband, Ricky Torres, was hanging out with Bobby Gianelli instead of her and wouldn’t allow her to play football with him and the guys. For this book, Karen is really good at football. Then, while at the big house, Sam and Charlie are going to go to the movies with their friends and they don’t let Karen come along. The fact that David Michael is also not invited to go the movies does not faze Karen and she starts a new project: The We Hate Boys Club. Karen refuses to speak to any boys, even boy animals, and she gets Hannie and Nancy to do the same. Pamela Harding, sensing the opportunity to steal Ricky, decides to start the We <3 Boys Club. Their activities include baking stuff for the boys and telling the boys they're great all the time.

    Karen does not understand why Ricky starts acting nicer toward Pamela than her. Which is stupid because Karen, if you’re not talking to your pretend husband anymore, how can you expect him to want to spend time with you, or not spend time with another girl while you’re treating him like crap? You are, after all, telling him you hate him. Stacey’s reverse psychology does not apply here. Stacey knew it well too–look at her success with men.

    So after basically just ignoring every boy, and being upset that Pamela is moving in on her man, Karen is invited to play football with her brothers and has a great time and forgives all boys and blah blah and throws a “brother” party and all is good. Karen is forgived for being annoying and all is well.

    But the book is really, really, really weird. First there is the emphasis on second grade marriage. Karen’s feelings for Ricky, and Ricky’s feelings for Karen, and Pamela’s plotting seem really advanced for seven year olds. Also at the end Karen watches happily as Nancy and Bobby Gianelli appear to be getting closer. Perhaps most disturbingly is the part where Ricky and Bobby play something called “Lip Tag.” Perhaps Karen’s jealousy of Bobby was not being melodramatic.

    Is this book essential? No, but it is certainly bizarre.

    Like many BSC fans, I can’t stand Karen Brewer. I also started with the BSC books, so in total I probably owned about five. Mostly my mom would pretty much refuse to buy them for me because they were too easy, and why read the little sister when you’re already reading about the big sister? But there are lots of things in the BSC world that are mentioned–such as the death of Boo-Boo and Karen/Andrew moving to Chicago–that happen in the LS series and are only mentioned in passing in the BSC series. I always felt like if I weren’t going to put in the effort to collect all the LS books–which I will probably end up doing anyway–I should at least have the books that are most important in the LS series, those which have an effect on the BSC series and those which are just really amazing for snark value, whatever. So I asked the amazing BSC fans at my favorite BSC messageboard (I won’t link it cause I’m selfish like that and want to keep it small and nice) for their suggestions. Here’s the list they came up with.

    Cat Stuff:
    #103, Karen’s Movie Star: Boo-Boo dies. The Brewers already have Pumpkin, acquired in #102, Karen’s Black Cat.

    Chicago Stuff:
    #94, Karen’s Snow Princess; #95, Karen’s Promise; #96, Karen’s Big Move; #99, Karen’s Big City Mystery. In #94 Karen and Andrew learn about the Chicago move, in #95 Karen decides whether to stay or go, and in #96 she goes but can’t hack it. In #99 she visits them in Chicago.

    Custody Changes:
    #48, Karen’s Two Families; #49, Karen’s Stepmother. In #48 the custody changes and #49 deals with Karen torturing everyone in the big house for the first full month.

    Random BSC Correlations:
    SS#1, Karen’s Wish: Nannie breaks up her hip.
    SS#3, Karen’s Mystery: Takes place during Snowbound. Goes into great detail about rat-napping.
    SS#4, Karen, Hannie, and Nancy: The Three Musketeers: Parallels very to nicely with BSC at Shadow Lake. If you’ve always wanted to know more about the cottage, this is your book.

    #6, Karen’s Little Sister: Deals with Karen’s reaction to Emily Michelle.
    #12, Karen’s Ghost: Takes place during Mystery Admirer.
    #15, Karen’s In Love: Deals with Karen and Ricky Torres’s relationship. This ties in with Logan vs Mary Anne where Karen is very mopey about the wedding being called off.
    #19, Karen’s Good-bye: Amanda Delaney moves away.
    #93, Karen’s Cooking Contest: We learn that Nannie’s name is Janet Taylor. Who knew that Nannie was a delinquent member of the Baby-sitters Agency??

    Just Funny:
    #8, Karen’s Haircut: Karen gets a mullet. Hannie says Karen is now too ugly to be a bridesmaid. The cover alone is worth the price of the book:


    What other books do you guys think are essential LS titles? And big thanks again to all the posters at my favorite bsc board. :)

    I remembered where the BSC references Bridgeport. It’s where Aunt Cecelia lived before she moved in with the Ramseys.