the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Mary Anne

I think that my hatred of Logan is one of my strongest and most steadfast BSC opinions. Thus, I can’t help but look at this book through special Logan-hating goggles.

One of the biggest illusions that the BSC gives its young readers is that the mousy, shy girl who can barely speak to the opposite sex will end up with the cute Big Man On Campus, despite the fact that if Mary Anne were a Monopoly property, she’d be WaterWorks. But I think that all of middle school losers should be thankful the boys made fun of us instead of making out with us, because we could have ended up with boyfriends like Logan.

In this book, however, Logan seems pretty sweet, being very understanding when MA doesn’t want to dance after clocking Mr. Kingbridge in the head with her shoe, or when MA runs away from her own birthday party. He doesn’t really show signs of the Draculogan he will become in the future, the one who gives iron chain bracelets as presents after being dumped.

One of the essential questions that this book will ultimately raise in a reader is, “Why Mary Anne?” After all, sophisticated Stacey seemed interested. I have two answers for this. One comes from what we know about Ann. Mary Anne is an exaggerated version of Ann, and she wanted to give her doppelganger the chance of a dreamy junior high school romance that she never had. The other answer I have, from a very biased perspective that affects my analysis of Logan’s character, is that Logan wanted a girlfriend he can control. Looking at the character of Lyman Bruno, it’s not hard to see where that stems from.

Sorry for the long time between updates, but in the last couple of weeks I didn’t have time to sleep, let alone write a thoughtful and coherent blog post. Next on the agenda: my review of Best Friends and a look at Stacey and the Bad Girls.

I am busy with schoolwork, preparing for my future, and the launch of a Very Special Stoneybrookite project on Monday (hopefully). But for now, it’s time for Fun With Photoshop.

I saw this picture of Jennifer Missoni on GFY and thought, “Wow, Mary Anne with dyed blond hair.” To make the transformation complete, I gave her MA’s short brown hair. Apologies in advance for lack of mad skills:


I have a file on my computer where I paste funny quotes from the books. Here’s one from Mary Anne and Too Many Boys:

We all walked down to the water’s edge, and I noticed that Stacey and Toby never took their eyes off each other. Stacey seemed thrilled to see Toby again, but I reminded myself that she had acted exactly the same way around Pierre, a boy we met at a ski lodge. And there’d been Scott, the Sea City lifeguard, too. Toby was at the top of the list for the moment, but who knew if it would last?

Yes, MA basically calls Stacey a slut here, despite the fact that MA herself forgot she was going out with Logan when she saw Alex! Why are you so judgmental, Spier? Stacey’s a free agent and can ogle as many boys as she wants!

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.

Last night I read Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic. This is an significant Baby-sitters Club book, as it introduces a very important part of Mary Anne’s biography. After her mother’s death, Mary Anne was sent to Maynard, Iowa to live with her grandparents for a while, until Richard fought to get her back. Future BSC books would occasionally list the state as Nebraska, rather than Iowa, but it was definitely Iowa.

Obviously, in terms of Mary Anne character development, this is a pivotal book. Sadly, it is full of glaring holes and mistakes and just plain sloppy writing. Perhaps most confusing is Mary Anne’s trip to Iowa, which we learn about through her correspondence with her family and friends back in Stoneybrook. The last line before this chapter-of-handwriting is “It was time for me to make plans to go to Maynard, Iowa.” Then we turn the page and with no transition, MA is having a great time in Maynard. Mary Anne, however, was in school throughout the whole book and she seems to spend a long time in Iowa. At the end, Richard writes a letter about how Mary Anne would like to visit her again next summer. This leads to the conclusion that the last chapter of the book takes place the summer after the other events of the book, but again, this passage of time is not clear. Richard also invites Verna Baker (MA’s grandmother) to come for Christmas. That never happens.

The story of MA’s visit to Iowa is told fully in Mary Anne’s Book. It paints a much less rosy portrait of her visit than this book. For most of the time MA and Verna are not getting along and it is only at the end that they begin to like and relate to one another. I suppose that the story about her trip told by Mary Anne in the mystery book is much less interesting than in the Portrait, and in 1992 they perhaps had not planned the Portrait Collection series yet, so this is something I’m willing to overlook.

What I cannot overlook is what is truly the most WTF?! moment in the book. Mary Anne, supposedly a loyal girlfriend, continues her Sea City tradition in Iowa and goes on a date with a cute Farmer Bob. She does not say, oh well my Grandma made me go, or anything to that effect. She just says he’s cute. I can understand being bored after only hanging out with your grandma all the time, but if you have a steady boyfriend back home, you should not paint your activity as a date. Mary Anne was then disappointed that Bob, who took her to the Dairy Queen, was only interested in cars and cows. What does it matter, Mary Anne? You have a BOYFRIEND! God. MA is worse than Stacey sometimes.

Another problem with this book is this big paint fight they have while painting their cardboard cutouts for Heritage Day. While Mary Anne and Dawn’s house has a freaking BARN, they decide that the logical place to undertake a messy project would be… the den. This makes absolutely no sense. In a choice between a room which the family uses often and probably has expensive electronic equipment and perhaps important things like uber-romantic high school yearbooks and things like that, and a barn that no one cares whether you get it messy or not, they choose… the den. Well, anyway, they have this big paint fight. It is so messy that Logan has to take off his shirt. While they mention covering the floors with newspapers, they don’t mention the furniture or the other stuff in the room that I assume includes a television set. Also, it is specifically stated in several books that unlike Stacey’s mom, who allows boyfriends in the kitchen when she is not home, Richard and Sharon have an explicitly-stated “no boys in the house when we’re not home” rule. Mary Anne’s dad doesn’t even flinch when she relays this event to him, even when she mentions the “no shirt” thing. (Sexy!)

This last annoying, sloppy writing mistake is not terribly important but might be the most annoying and stupid. Charlotte Johanssen’s great-grandmother, Berit Marie Hjielholt Johanssen, emigrated from Denmark to the US. Her diary, which details her life starting from her voyage to America. Now, since it has never been mentioned before, I doubt that Charlotte reads Danish fluently. I doubt even more that Berit would have written her diary in English, given that she was Danish. But Charlotte can read this diary. My grandparents immigrated and even after years and years and living here they still wrote personal things in their native tongue. Has Ellen Miles mistakenly thought that Denmark was a part of England, like a Scotland with lax marijuana laws and more herring? It is hard to tell. Perhaps she is one of the one-fifth of Americans who cannot locate even the United States on a world map. Such as.

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