the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Non-BSC

Before we start discussing Missing Since Monday, I’d like to direct your attention to someone’s school project. They made a film version of the book. If you don’t feel like reading it, you can just watch this.

Missing Since Monday, as you may have guessed, is a book about what happens when a child goes missing. It came out in 1986. This movie starring Pam Grier was apparently based on it. (I would be interested in the thoughts of anyone who has both seen this movie and read the book.) I am not sure how to handle this post, since it is a mystery, basically, and I would feel bad about spoiling it, even though my general policy would be that once something has been out for twenty or thirty years, “spoiling” isn’t really a thing. I do think, however, that going through the plot is perhaps not the most interesting way to discuss this book, and I’d rather talk about the things that bugged me. This is basically just going to be compilation of random thoughts.

Okay, so sixteen-year-old Maggie and seventeen-year-old Mike are left in charge of their four-year-old sister, Courtie, while their father and stepmother go on their long-delayed honeymoon. Things go well until Courtie doesn’t come home from school one day, and they find out that she went missing.

First, Courtenay goes missing when she is snatched in between getting off the van at preschool (and I’m sorry, a bunch of three- and four-year-olds in a van without car seats? VERY DANGEROUS. I am only four years older than Courtie would have been, and we had booster seats in the car until at least kindergarten) and making it into her classroom. At the end of the book, the preschool says that they will now have the teachers supervise pick up and drop off. What the fuck. Why weren’t they ALREADY doing that?

Second, once again, everyone in this book, like in most Ann books, is loaded, but insists they’re not real, live millionaires. When the detectives bring up kidnapping-for-money, Maggie’s dad says that they’re not rich. Nope, they’re not rich at all. He is just the publisher of the “hardcover children’s book division” of a major publishing house who just got off the PRIVATE PLANE from his St. Bart’s honeymoon that was cut short. Also, when the police suggest a reward, the dad immediately goes, “$25,000,” which is around $50,000 dollars in today’s money, so basically, more than the median income for a family of four.

At least Ann finally set a book in Princeton. I am sure that the properitors of PJ’s Pancake House are super glad that the Creepy Guy is a busboy at their establishment. The places in this book are all real, I think, and it includes familiar names like Rosedale Road and Mr. Fiske. Yay, Ann.

The Creepy Guy is Brad, who is more or less David from Dazed and Confused. Only creepier.
He spies on Maggie and calls her “Baby” and makes obscene phone calls to her house. He also is creepy around Courtie, and ugh, eww. He is older brother of some of Maggie and Mike’s friends, and I understand that he was in the book to be there as a potential suspect, but he is just so gross. Oh, and Maggie doesn’t bother to tell anyone about these creepy calls until way late in the game, even after HER SISTER GOES MISSING. Very reminiscent of the BSC not bothering to tell their parents when completely panic-inducing things happen to them.

This is really random, but it stuck out to me. Maggie mentions that Leigh, her stepmother, who is an illustrator, has a studio in their house that is in what used to be “the sewing room.” Now, I understand that Ann would totally have a sewing room. Mrs. Towne, I can buy it. Future Mary Anne? Sure. But why do sewing rooms seem to be such a common room to have in books by Ann? The Arnolds had one until Marilyn turned it into her bedroom. And now these people have one, but WHY. Was there ever a time when a sewing room was a common use for a extra bedroom after the advent of mass-produced fashion? Hell, I think that even back when people bought fabric and made clothes for their families more often than not, I think only the very wealthy would be able to dedicate a whole room to it, and then those people would probably buy their clothes in town anyway. I don’t think that big shot publisher dad, nor the OG Mom who lost custody were doing much sewing.

Another thing that bothered me about the book, one that I think is going to be familiar to BSC readers, is that the conflict between Maggie and her stepmother centers around the fact that Maggie thinks she knows more about raising Leigh’s daughter than Leigh does. Leigh doesn’t want Courtie to have candy, and wants her to go to bed at the same time every night. Maggie constantly tries to undermine Leigh’s authority. I’m sorry, but when it’s not your kid, even when it’s your sister, you roll with the parents’ decision, unless they’re legitimately hurting the kid. And then Ann basically justifies Maggie’s behavior at the end. Totally shades of the BSC thinking they’re the best parents in Stoneybrook.

Overall, the most interesting thing about this book, if you’ve never read it before and are a BSC fan, are all of the things that jump out as being “BSC!” to you. (Courtie is afraid of an imaginary red mitten that snores under her bed!) If you want to read a book about a missing child, however, I’d probably go with the Face on the Milk Carton series instead. Judging by the number of external links I found, and all of the things I found from schools who still use this book, it still seems to be more popular than some of Ann’s other books from this era.

External links:
Are You There, Youth? It’s Me, Nikki on Missing Since Monday
Kirkus Review (apparently With You and Without You was published first, oops)
Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989
Red House Books

Next week, With You and Without You. I am probably going to pull a Mary Anne and cry the whole time I’m reading it.

Stage Fright was actually published before Me and Katie (The Pest), but due to issues with access to the book, I only read it this week.

Anyway, Stage Fright is a story about Sara, Wendy’s best friend in Me and Katie. As you may have guessed from the title, this book deals mainly with Sara’s experience with stage fright. Her class is putting on a play, and her teacher is making everyone participate, whether they want to or not.

I had a lot of issues with two adults in particular in this book: Sara’s mother and Sara’s teacher. Throughout the book, Sara’s mother is constantly pressuring her to be someone totally different, someone who loves the limelight and loves socializing. Basically, she is setting Sara up to have very low self esteem and to feel like the way she is naturally isn’t ever going to be good enough. This also causes constant friction between her parents, and I can easily see it leading to even divorce. It’s not enough that Sara has two good friends, because, as Sara’s mom says, one is her cousin and one (Wendy) might move soon. Sara should socialize and react to social situations the way her mother wants.

This all comes to a head with the play, because the teacher is insistent that everyone play a role, even though she has kids literally crying at the thought of having to perform on stage. Sara’s mom overhears Sara saying that she didn’t try her best at the auditions because she didn’t want a big part, and her mom yells at her. Sara’s teacher also gives Sara a kind of big part, even though Sara had spoken to her–privately and politely–about her qualms about performing. Sara’s teacher makes a point about performing on stage being a good experience to have, to which I say “Bullshit.” It is not a requirement for life, and there are many, many jobs and ways to live where one would never, ever have to go on stage. I absolutely do not see why the teacher insisted that everyone act, and if you have kids crying and freaking out and coming to you privately, let some of them just stand around on the stage without any lines. Let them be a tree or a bush.

Sara’s mom not only sees being able to perform on stage as a requirement for a successful life, but also she thinks that Sara needs to enjoy parties. This is also not a requirement for living. There is nothing wrong with only having a small group of close friends, and not enjoying hanging out in large groups. At the end of the book, Sara’s mom tells her that she only acts this way because she cares, and wants Sara to be happy. The way she goes about it, however, would most likely have the opposite effect, and would result in Sara feeling like her nature and her personality are wrong, and not good enough. It would be far more effective if Sara’s mother acted like Sara’s father, who accepts Sara for who she is and does not think that she needs to change to be happy.

I think a good contrast to Sara and her mother would be Richard and Mary Anne’s relationship, where Richard is, for the most part, except for not really realizing that Mary Anne is twelve and not six, supportive of Mary Anne and her nature, and doesn’t try to force her into situations she doesn’t want to be in, and listens to her needs. (Perhaps this is because Richard is also a quiet sort of person who enjoys sitting around and listening to jazz and not going to wild parties.) Over the course of the series, we see Mary Anne come out of her shell a little bit, and I think that her ability to do this on her own is partially because she has such a supportive parent in her corner. I feel sad for Sara because I don’t see things with her mother getting better, or her mother ever realizing that some people are shy, and that’s totally okay and a valid way to live your life. Sara does get a little more assertive over the course of book, and yells a little bit at Wendy, who is Kristy-esque, but I don’t see it as being a lasting change in her life. Soon she will be a teenager, and her mother will bug her about not going on dates, and Sara will continue to feel like there is something wrong with the way she is.

Stray thoughts:

  • The candy store in the book is called “Jugtown.”
  • Ann finally set a book in New Jersey. Yay!
  • The subplot about Wendy potentially moving is not set up very well, and is resolved in an anti-climatic way. It would have been more dramatic if Wendy did move, but I guess Ann wanted to write the next book. This whole subplot could have been left out and it wouldn’t have really made much a difference.

    External links:
    BSC Snark of Stage Fright

  • As I mentioned in my last post, I actually don’t have Stage Fright yet, so we’re skipping it this week. Which is a shame, since Me and Katie is a sequel of sorts to Stage Fright

    Wendy White’s little sister, Katie, is very talented and wins lots of awards for piano and art. Wendy is athletic and is ten to Katie’s eight. She also has friends, like Sara from Stage Fright. Wendy starts taking riding lessons and Katie does too, killing Wendy’s vibe. That’s basically the book.

    This book was the last one Ann wrote before the BSC started, and although I can’t speak about Stage Fright, it definitely has more of a BSC feel, albeit it seems intended for a slightly younger audience. It even opens with Lerangis-style onomatopoeia! The older/younger sister dynamic is also a common plot point in Ann’s books (Janine and Claudia, obviously, and Pearl and Lexie from Ten Rules for Living with My Sister). Ann herself, of course, has a sister named Jane. She based Claudia and Janine’s sisterly dynamic off her own (Ann was the Janine of the two), and I would guess that there is a lot from her life in this book as well.

    Even as someone who took riding lessons as a kid, I found a lot of this book boring. Basically, Wendy is jealous and Katie just wants to be her friend. There is a lot of horse stuff. Although it’s not explicitly mentioned, the Whites are well-off–they have a housekeeper, and when Wendy wants to take riding lessons, her parents agree immediately. Here, though, the MOM is a lawyer, which is a nice change from every dad in Stoneybrook being a lawyer.

    What kind of brings the sisters together is when Wendy’s favorite horse at the barn is injured, and he is going to be given away as a pet. Wendy, of course, wants to convert their garage into a stable, and Katie tries to help Wendy convince their parents to take on the horse. This does not work, and their parents end up giving them a cocker spaniel instead. There is also a horse show for their class, and surprisingly, Wendy does not win first (she has to ride a difficult horse), but she seems pretty happy with third place and gets her name in the newspaper. So, happy ending, even though it will probably be many years until the sisters actually become friends. Oh, Wendy also ends up in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the Barbie-and-Ken saga she and her friends composed.

    I would say this book is only really worth reading for an Ann completist, and I can’t even think of much to analyze here. I guess it’s interesting to see how she gets closer to BSC style.

    Stray Thoughts:

  • The book is dedicated to Myriah Leigh Perkins and Gabrielle Ann Perkins.
  • Sir Alec Guinness makes an adorable cameo appearance.
  • Ann gave Wendy the middle name of Matthews, which is also Ann’s middle name.
  • Wendy and her friends believe a horse can be bought for fifty bucks.

    No external links this week. This book, sorry to say, is slightly too boring to warrant interesting blog posts.

  • I’d like to preface this by saying that I don’t know much about autism, so please let me know if anything is inaccurate so I can fix it.

    Inside Out is a book that I ended up liking a lot more than I thought I would. It becomes pretty clear early on, if you’ve read Kristy and the Secret of Susan, what this book is going to be about. Jonathan “Jonno” Peterson is an eleven-year-old boy with a nine-year-old sister, Lizzie, and a four-year-old brother, James. James is autistic, and his autism appears to have much in common with Susan Felder’s. James “shut down” at about the same age as Susan did, and also doesn’t really communicate or do much by himself. The Peterson family is able to start James at a special school, where he will be worked with intensely so that the family can possibly avoid Susan’s fate of being sent away, as this book bluntly puts it, to an institution.

    In order to help the family afford this schooling, both Jonno and Lizzie find ways to earn money. Jonno also, with the help of a Kristy-esque friend, puts on a neighborhood carnival, and donates the money to the school that James attends. He gets a newspaper article written about him, which earns him the adulation of his classmates. This is another theme in the book: not being one of “cool” kids. Throughout the book, Jonno and his friends struggle with the “cool” kids in their class, especially when a child named Edward, or “Edweird,” joins their class.

    The only thing we know about Edward is that this is his first year in a mainstream classroom, and he seems to dress in costumes and speak formally. I don’t know if we are supposed to understand that is he is on the autism spectrum. It’s never really explained. Jonno at first makes fun of Edward to fit in, but then stands up for both himself and Edward at the carnival. I do feel like more could have been done with this part of the story. I do think that, surprisingly, Ann was able to write from the perspective of an eleven-year-old boy. The characters in this book are more realistic and flawed than you might expect from her. Writing from a male perspective also I think tempered some of her “Ann-ness;” i.e., there is nary an I Love Lucy reference to be found. It makes me wish for more Ann books from unusual perspectives.

    If you compare this book to Secret of Susan, at first glance, the Peterson family seems much more loving and involved in James’s life. But I think we have to keep a few things in mind. First, Secret is told from the perspective of someone outside the family. Kristy doesn’t know the heartache that led the Felders to conclude that Susan would be better off with professional care. Second, Susan is three years older than James, and it is hinted that Susan’s fate is still a very real possibility for James. I think that, like one of the posters on the BSC Boards said, if Hope Felder had been the older sibling and the narrator of Secret, we would have ended up with a very similar book.

    Stray thoughts:

  • Okay, this is basically something that the book ignores, but to me is a Chekhov’s gun. Lizzie is mentioned as often spending time with a 15-year-old neighbor boy, Wendell. What 15-year-old boy is spending time with a nine-year-old girl, catching minnows?! It is treated as a positive thing at the end that Lizzie is spending less time with Wendell, and this makes it sound even more shady to me.
  • I thought it was interesting how Termite, one of Jonno’s friends, doesn’t like being around James, and he is not regarded as a bad person for this, but rather with understanding.

  • Has anybody read A Corner of the Universe? How does the treatment of autism in that book compare? (If you are reading this later on and you’ve read Rain Reign, I’d be interested in your thoughts on that as well.)
  • James’s school uses hugs as a reward, which contradicts the little I know about autism and even what we later learn from Susan Felder, when she uses the hug machine in European Adventure.

    External links:
    Are You There, Youth? It’s Me, Nikki on Inside Out

  • As I discovered thanks to an astute poster on the BSC Boards, all of the books I’ll be reading for the Readalong are being released as ebooks on the 22nd of April by a company called Open Road Integrated Media (not Scholastic as I originally thought). This includes Slam Book, which I thought I was going to have to exclude from the Readalong because I don’t have it. Here are the links on Amazon:

    Bummer Summer
    Inside Out
    Stage Fright
    Me and Katie (the Pest)
    Missing Since Monday

    Slam Book
    Yours Turly, Shirley
    Ma and Pa Dracula
    Ten Kids, No Pets was released by Scholastic a year ago, and on the 30th, they are releasing Eleven Kids, One Summer.

    In news that is perhaps even more exciting, the company that is releasing all of Ann’s early books ALREADY released all of the California Diaries! You can buy them as five-in-ones (i.e., everyone’s first, second or third diaries) for ten dollars or individually for $4.79.

    So basically, it’s Christmas in April for BSC fans! I was wondering if the CA Diaries were going to be included, and how far Scholastic was going to go with the series rereleases–so far, we have the regular series, Super Special and Mysteries (Super Mysteries are coming out in May!) but I don’t know how far they’ll go in the regular series, and whether they’re going to do Portrait Collections or Readers’ Requests. I think we can safely assume that the CA Diaries are not on the table, since they let this other company publish them, but who cares, we already have them now!

    I’m not sure what format will work best for this, so bear with me.

    Bummer Summer is Ann’s first book, published in 1983. It is about Kammie Whitlock, a twelve-year-old girl whose widower father (sound familiar?) marries Kate, a college professor (who is 25 or 26 and lacks a doctorate, and oh god I’m older than the stepmom is this book). Kate has a three-year-old daughter named Melissa, or “Muffin,” and a two-month-old unnamed baby boy from her first marriage.

    This book proves that the fact that the adults in Stoneybrook seem to get divorced and remarried at lightning-fast speed is not a fluke of the time warp. Kammie is introduced to her dad’s new girlfriend at Thanksgiving, and they’re married by summer vacation.

    My whole perception of this book was colored by how terrible Kate and her father are. Basically, Kammie, like any normal adolescent would, has trouble adjusting to the fact that her dad, the only parent she has, has remarried and is feeling replaced, plus she has siblings for the first time in her life. So what the adults in this situation do? Instead of trying to understand what Kammie is going to, they ship her off to camp. WTF. Way to make your daughter feel even more abandoned/replaced.

    So anyway, Kammie goes to camp. She is there on a trial basis–she has to go for two weeks, and if she doesn’t like it, she can come home. Kammie seems immature for twelve, but honestly, that probably means she is written realistically, and not as a mini-adult like the BSC. She makes bad decisions and gets in trouble and acts kind of bratty sometimes. Kammie has some trouble adjusting to camp, and especially doesn’t like changing in front of the other girls or having to serve food (afraid to spill something/be in front of everyone else), and I thought these were pretty realistic for the age.

    As she is at camp, her stepmother writes her letters and this seems to help with their relationship. (It also would have helped if they had let the kid stay at home and adjust to her new family.) By the time Visiting Day rolls around (this camp has them every two weeks; is that normal?), everything is hunky-dory, both with the family and with her time at camp. She is enjoying herself, the baby gets a name, everyone is happy.

    This book has been mentioned by several people as being one that they liked a lot out of Ann’s early books. This does not bode well for the rest of the Readalong, since I found myself rushing through this one. I think Kammie was perhaps more multi-dimensional than we often see in BSC, and more imperfect, but I think my enjoyment of this book was spoiled by the fact that I didn’t read it as a child. I think that when you’re a kid, you don’t usually question the decisions of parents and other adults in books, unless the author gives you clues that these adults are supposed to understood as villains. Kammie’s dad and stepmom’s decision to send her off during a time of turmoil when Kammie has a lot of feelings of jealousy and abandonment is surely something that Kammie ended up discussing with a therapist.

    Stray thoughts:

  • Kammie and Kate go shopping at the Quakerbridge Mall, but they’re supposed to be living somewhere in New England, not New Jersey. Quakerbridge doesn’t even make sense as the name of a road in New England, since Quakers were not welcomed there! They were persecuted! She should have really just set her books in New Jersey and specifically in the Princeton area if she wanted to write what she knew, and didn’t feel like doing research about the locales she was writing about.
  • As someone who has been very resistant to preppiness her whole life, I very much appreciated the “Save an alligator, eat a preppy” shirt, even if “preppy” meant more modern Abercrombie&Fitch than the Abercrombie&Fitch from The Official Preppy Handbook by the time I got to middle school.
  • Camp Arrowhead has a lot of features in common with Camp Mohawk, such as the curtain around the counselor’s bed. Also there is a festival with a name that no one can remember, just like Lake Dekanawida and all of the jokes about its name.
  • The plot with Susie reminded me of Mallory’s problems with Alexis at Riverbend. New girl comes, everyone likes her, girl who has been rejected by her peers acts out by destroying something important of new girl’s (Mallory: collage from BSC; Kammie: quilt she’s making for Baby Boy). Mallory is nicer to Alexis than Kammie is to Susie, though.
  • The Whitlocks are LOADED. Kammie’s mom had ceramic placecards for dinner parties, and their house is mentioned as having three floors plus an attic like it is nothing. Kammie is also taken on a Lacoste shopping spree at the aforementioned Quakerbridge Mall, making her t-shirt all the more ironic. Lacoste is basically just a really big deal in this book. Susie also has a Lacoste towel.
  • Who doesn’t name a baby for months and months?

    External Links:
    Are You There Youth? It’s Me, Nikki on Bummer Summer
    Review from 1983 in Kirkus Reviews

  • One thing that may surprise some of you is that I have never read Ann’s pre-BSC books. I think they were already out of print by the time I started reading BSC, and for some reason, I never got them out of the library. So I’ve decided that I’m going to sit down and read the ones I have–I have all but Slam Book. I’ve decided to do it readalong style, which means that I’ll let everyone know what I’ll be reading that week, and then a post will go up on Monday with my thoughts on the book. So if you’d like, you can read with me and then come and discuss it in the comments on Monday, or on a thread I made on the BSC Boards.

    The first post will go up next Monday, and it will be on Bummer Summer.

    Happy reading!

    Sweet Valley Confidential, the long-awaited “reunion” book for the Sweet Valley High universe, came out this week, a cause for much excitement for twenty- and thirty-somethings who grew up with Liz and Jess.

    Shockingly to some, Sweet Valley was never my thing. I started with BSC at age six, and I think my mom felt that I was too young for Sweet Valley High, too advanced a reader for Kids, and dear god just look at all the spinny racks of Francine Pascal; I AM ALREADY LINING ANN M. MARTIN’S COFFERS EVERY MONTH. CHOOSE ONE. So I think the number of SV books I ended up reading adds up to less than ten.

    I bought Sweet Valley Confidential anyway, because I needed some light reading on my Kindle, I’m running out of trashy celebrity tell-alls, and Meg Cabot’s new book isn’t out until the middle of the month. (SO excited for Abandon!) I actually haven’t finished reading it yet, because having never really been a fan, it’s just not as much as a page-turner for me as it for those who grew up wanting to be size six blonde beauties with eyes the color of the California ocean. Or alternatively, Lila Fuckin’ Fowler. Anyway, I am only like a third or so of the way through, which is unusual for me because in third grade my teacher called me a liar because I read faster than she did.

    The question that SVC brings up for me, of course, is whether such a book would work for the BSC. We already have the The Summer Before, which I think works okay as a prequel, even though I don’t like how it messed with canon a bit. Ann has pretty much categorically denied that there will ever be a book featuring the Sitters after eighth grade graduation, but she also had, in the past, said that there won’t be ANY new books featuring the girls, and we got The Summer Before, so let’s examine the possbilities and the logistics.

    A book like Confidential, with the girls aged ten years or so? I honestly have a hard time seeing it work, and wouldn’t even really want it. I like that we can explore our own ideas for the girls’ futures in fan fiction, and it’s not set in stone that so and so got married/divorced/had babies/came out/became an executive/became a ne’er do well who never moved out of his parents’ basement (Hi, Logan!). Also, frankly, I don’t really see Ann has an adult/chick lit writer, or even a writer for an older YA audience. I don’t think she’s really a writer who wants to deal with sex, drugs, alcohol, and more adult topics. I think she handled more “adult” storylines deftly in Main Street, but in a PG fashion. I just don’t see her wanting to introduce adulthood to the BSC.

    I can see a Confidential-type book working, however, for California Diaries. It would be THE BEST THING EVER. Bring in Peter Lerangis to write it! The CD books were always more adult than BSC, and touched on issues in a way that would shock the shit out of Stoneybrook. So yes, bring on Palo City Confidential!

    I do think that a BSC-in-High School book or miniseries would work. Maybe bring Stoneybrook up to Palo City-levels of issues beyond “Wow, why do all of the parents in Stoneybrook suck?” Bring in a little bit of sex and controversy, just not as much as in the adult lives as our Sweet Valley friends. This is, I think, the most likely scenario for any kind of BSC reunion book.

    Ann has said that she has no plans to write a reunion book, and prefers that readers are able to imagine the girls’ future themselves. But she had also said that she would never write a new BSC book of any kind, and we ended up with The Summer Before anyway. Sweet Valley Confidential seems to be doing pretty well, if the excitement across the non-fandom blogosphere is any indication. Scholastic might take note of the possible very large dollar signs. The problem with The Summer Before is that it is very much a book aimed at middle grade readers. Parents who were fans as children might want to buy it for their kids, kids might be interested in it, and super diehard nostalgists might want it, but it’s not something that most adults would buy for themselves. Whereas Sweet Valley Confidential appeals to both teenage readers who weren’t around for SVH the first time around AND to readers who are now adults, who are ok with reading a trashy novel about people in their own age group. While a book about high schoolers isn’t quite the same thing, I can see people wanting to know what happened to the girls once they finally graduated from eighth grade, after a sisyphean thirteen-year run.

    What do you think of the BSC’s reunion book possibilities?

    I recapped Daisy of Love on ONTD today.

    Yes, my taste in both books AND television is excellent.

    There are certain things which happen with regularity in children’s series about middle schoolers aimed at young girls that do not really happen in real life all that often. Here is a but a short list, culled from readings of The Baby-Sitters Club and GirlTalk. Other tropes or other series/tv shows in which these things happen are welcome and encouraged in the comments.

    Since there is usually at least one main character who breathtakingly beautiful (while also being intelligent and modest), modeling is a good, exciting plot to turn to. Because what young girl doesn’t want to be judged solely on her looks? GirlTalk blew this wad early, in the third book of the series, The New You. Allison Cloud models after being selected in a Belle modeling search. She could have gone on to have a real modeling career, but the she wouldn’t have time to read 100 books over summer vacation.

    Stacey was so pretty that Scholastic felt justified in using this plot twice. The first was in the tv show, where Stacey was selected to model for Bellair’s and also could have gone on to have a big career, but chose baby-sitting instead. Much more glamorous. Then in Stacey and the Fashion Victim, she participates in Stoneybrook’s Fashion Week. Yeah.

    Another important plot point is that the only other girl in the modeling group that your modeling character knows is the sworn enemy of the series’ main clique. Stacy Hansen in GT, Cokie Mason in BSC. They’re bitches, and they’re beautiful.

    A fun twist to this plot is that in Stacey and the Bad Girls, Stacey is rejected as a model, for being “too commercial.” What, perms aren’t edgy?!

    Beauty Pageants.
    When I think of beauty pageants, I think of Delta Burke and Bravo’s series Toddlers and Tiaras. And the South. But in middle grade girls’ fiction, geography knows no bounds. Every town has a beauty pageant, and every girl wants to enter. Now, since sometimes the BSC takes on a feminist slant, in the BSC beauty pageant plot, it’s clients who are entering, and Mal and Jessi form the beauty pageant opposition.

    But in the GirlTalk book Beauty Queens, Allison and Sabrina both enter and it’s a big fucking deal and stuff. I don’t remember what Allison’s talent was–reading? I think Sabrina gets Miss Congeniality. Whatever. I haven’t read that book in ten years.

    Synchronized Swimming.
    Have you ever done synchronized swimming? No? Well, in middle school book girl world, schools have synchronized swimming teams. Wtih costumes. And underwater stereo systems. Perhaps there were editors out there with Esther Williams fantasies. Again, it’s our Allison who does this sport, in Allison, Shape Up!. Jessi, our ballerina, gets this plot in Jessi’s Gold Medal. Of course, these girls take to “synchro” (that’s what the cool kids call it) and win medals and shit. But because it’d be too boring a plot to include in chapter 2s, no matter how good at synchro-ing your heroine is, it’s always a one-book deal.

    Horseback Riding.
    According to movies and tv shows and books, before girls love boys, they love horses. Randy, because she likes to be surprising, had this plot in GirlTalk. Surprisingly, it was a multi-book arc for her. The other girls tried it, but sucked. Mallory also tried it, and naturally sucked. Mallory and the Dream Horse is easily one of the most snarkable books of the series. Who can forget Mallory, dressed like she is from the 1965 Sears and Roebuck catalog, hanging out at a cool rich kid’s birthday party where everyone else is dressed like they are auditioning for “Kids Incorporated”?

    Poor Mom, Rich New Dad.
    Is your mom a harried, overworked, lonely single mother? Have no fear, because soon a really rich dude will walk into her life, marry her after like a week of dating, and soon you will all be moving to an awesome mansion, which you will have to share with your new stepsiblings. If you’re a main character in a middle grade book series, at least. Both Katie Campbell and Kristy Thomas watched as their moms were swept off their feet, and soon they had to leave the little houses they had known all their lifes for mansions. Oh noes. Katie’s new stepdad’s mansion is way cooler than Watson’s, if you didn’t read GirlTalk. It has an elevator, an indoor pool, and is fully staffed. I want to go to there.

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