the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in real life


When I saw this picture of a closet-bedroom, I couldn’t help but be reminded of our young whiny friend, David Michael Thomas. So which is better, DM: living in a closet or being legally bound to Karen Brewer?

(The New York Times via Unclutterer)

There are several character-memes in the BSC fandom, and one of them is “Stacey is a ho.” I.e., you will find Stacey underneath the bleachers sucking off the basketball team LOL. I have always found these meme to be unfair and distasteful. Yes, as we saw in Stacey and the Boyfriend Trap, Stacey sure has had a lot of boyfriends for an eighth grader. But to be fair, Stace was in eighth grade for a very long time. (Oooh, another fandom meme!) Really, is it so hard to believe that someone who is smart, attractive, and pretty damn nice would be attractive to the opposite sex? And wouldn’t have a hard time finding a boyfriend (or seven)?

SOmeone on the BSC boards, however, pointed out that they didn’t really like the message that it sent that Stacey moved right on from one serious relationship (Robert Brewster) to another (Ethan Carroll). This criticism kind of threw me for a loop, because I’ve done the same thing. I am what a women’s magazine would call a serial monogamist. I don’t have one night stands. I date people for about two years, and enter into a relationship state known as being Brooklyn-married. The longest time since I’ve been seriously dating that I’ve gone without some sort of romantic attachment: two weeks. Shortest: twelve hours. So as you can see, for me Stacey’s serial monogamy that occurs later in the series doesn’t strike me as odd at all, and I never even thought to fret about the messages that Stacey’s boy-attachment sends to young, impressionable readers.

Then, like in Beavis and Butt-head when their very small and ineffectual brains begin working, a dim, small lightbulb appeared above my head. Out of all the BSC members, Stacey is the one whose family situation most resembles my own. My dad has always worked a lot, my parents got divorced, and he found his own Samantha Young while my mother is still single. I can say, easily, that things that are easy for my friends with parents in loving stable relationships (getting over things, breaking up with someone), are very difficult or near impossible for me. I then began to think about some of the other members of the BSC, and their attitudes toward men and relationship.

Mary Anne, Jessi, and Claudia are probably the healthiest. Jessi’s parents seem to have a really great relationship, and Squirt is still a toddler so you know their marriage is still Hot. Jessi is usually pretty level-headed, and she tells Quint where to go when he wants to take their relationship further and more serious than she is comfortable with at age eleven.

As far as Mary Anne goes, well, my hatred for Logan is still strong. Despite her meekness, Mary Anne is able to stand up for herself and dump the dead weight and bossiness to rival Kristy Thomas that is Logan Bruno. Yeah, she takes him back a few books later, after he promises to smother her less, but she finally realizes that Logan is not the guy for her in Mary Anne’s Big Breakup. She knows that she needs to be her own person, and having Logan Bruno around will hinder that. It is easy to criticize Richard Spier for being nerdy and over-protective, but I think that Richard, especially later Richard, is one of the BSC parents who is actually the most tuned-in and active in their kid’s life. It was Richard’s help, after all, that Mary Anne recognized that she needed to dump Logan–for good this time. Even her friends in the BSC blew her off, but Richard recognized that the relationship wasn’t really working for Mary Anne anymore.

Claudia is someone who should be on the same boy-attractiveness plain as Stacey, but she doesn’t even have a boyfriend who’s not a Vacation Boyfriend until Mark Jaffe. Janine dumps her Hottie Boyfriend Jerry and have her pine after her for the rest of the series. Go Janine! The Kishis, like the Ramseys, have a really strong marriage.

On the divorce side, we also have Kristy and Dawn. While many pin Kristy as a lesbian, I don’t think that not caring about clothes and a love for sports automatically defines someone as a lesbian. Kristy manages to keep Bart as her sort-of boyfriend until Kristy + Bart = ?. Bart gets fresh (Peter Lerangis’s memorable makeout scene!), Kristy freaks out. Kristy realizes that she is not ready for that kind of action yet. Some people read this as Kristy will NEVER be ready for this kind of action if a penis is attached, but I think that might not be necessarily true. I think it has far more to do with the fact that her father abandoned her. Kristy: probably should go to therapy now that she has a millionaire stepdad who can afford it.

Finally, we have Dawn. Dawn is one of the more contradictory characters in the BSC, and perhaps in children’s literature as a whole. We are told over and over that Dawn is such an individual, but yet she often changes her California Casual self to satisfy what she perceives as what other people would like. The two most glaring examples of this involve boys: Travis and Lewis. Dawn did everything Travis told her, because she thought that Travis liked her and if she cut her hair and pierced her ears again that he would like her even more. And then she made that kind of psychotic-sounding phone call–”I was already a beauty!” And for Lewis, Dawn did that weird makeover/personality transplant, and then immediately went back to Old Dawn when he revealed that he liked Old Dawn more. Insecurity stemming from the fact that her parents, who for most of her life seemed to be happy and loving, very suddenly got divorced and her family was ripped in half? It’s the only explanation I can come up with that makes sense.

I am sure that there are people with divorced parents who are OK with relationships, and people with happily-married parents who are messed up about them, for various life factors. But it sure does seem to be an explanation for a lot of what goes in BSC lovelife land.

There were many interesting responses to my last post. There was one in particular, however, for which I feel that my response merits its very own post, and not a comment in reply.

Rebecca wrote,

But anyway, I don’t think the books could be reprinted, not even if they were updated. It’s not the out of date references that are the problem, either, in my opinion. Young adult, and even middle grade, fiction these days is very… dramatic. It’s also pretty gritty. You have to be willing to really tackle tough issues and not balk at having characters talk the way real kids and teenagers talk, rather than using your characters to set positive examples. And AMM just didn’t do that with the BSC. They’re too squeaky clean and well rounded, with good, easy lives. It’s not the clothes or the lack of cell phones and email that date these books (although frankly, I don’t think such a club could exist now, in the age of online services), it’s the style of the writing. And that’s not a quick fix–that would necessitate a whole new series.

Now, granted, my only exposure to kids in middle school is high school is actually through the BSC fandom. Thus, I don’t have much of a handle on what is up with teens/preteens these days. But I do have two siblings currently enrolled in elementary school, so I know a fair amount about kids under ten and what they’re like and into. And this is why I disagree with Rebecca completely.

My first point is that the BSC is not intended for young adults, or even middle grade readers (which I’m assuming means middle schoolers). The BSC is written at a fourth-grade level, which means that many BSC readers are even younger than that. Nobody who has ever survived middle school would believe for a moment that the BSC is anything like real life. The BSC paints a fantasy of autonomy. In real life, middle schoolers in most places can’t or are not allowed to go anywhere without their parents driving them. Most parents also consider thirteen, let alone eleven, too young to baby-sit. Police departments usually don’t use middle schoolers as unpaid detectives. Awkward, shy girls don’t get to have hot boyfriends. Instead, boys make their lives hell. Nobody’s seventeen-year-old brother is very interested in driving around a bunch of middle school girls. They’re too busy trying to achieve their two main goals in life, getting beer and girls.

The other point I want to make is that entertainment aimed at or enjoyed by the age group that the BSC was written for is actually now LESS gritty and not at all irreverent than it was when I was in elementary school over a decade ago. Pete and Pete, Ren and Stimpy, the Simpsons–that’s what I was watching on TV. I liked grunge and alternative rock. That’s a far cry from the Hannah Montana-Magic Tree House-High School Musical stuff my sister likes, which is about as dangerous as dangerous as cotton candy. I would say that kids are even MORE sheltered today then they were a generation ago. And then when I was older, practically every YA book I read was about rape, drugs, or both, so I find it hard to believe that publishing trends have really gotten that much grittier.

I found this on youtube. It’s a song by a Czech band called SandWitch entitled “Mallory on Strike.” I’d like to think they were inspired by Ann’s novel, which I have been reading lately.

MizzMarvel posted this article on her livejournal.

The article states:

When they get older, Logan, Eli and Collin Penn may blanch at the notion they wore nail polish to their first news conference. But it’s the only way their parents know how to tell the boys apart right now. The identical triplets were born Wednesday at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island — an event so rare that an obstetrician estimated it might happen just once in 200 million births.

I’m interested in whether Ann knew how rare identical triplets were when she made Adam, Byron, and Jordan Pike identical triplets. Until today, I had never given it a second thought. I had assumed that the ratio of fraternal triplets to identical triplets was the same as that for fraternal twins to identical twins. I had no idea that it was something which would merit national coverage.

Do you think that Ann just made the Pike triplets identical because she is so into big families and thought it was cool? She also seems to be very interested in identical twins, as you have Marilyn/Carolyn, Miranda/Mariah, and Abby/Anna. The only fraternal twins in the series I can think of are Tasha and Terry Hoyt, who, of course, could not be identical.

It seems to me like Ann really didn’t do her research here, because it seems like something would have been noted about the attention that the triplets received at birth. As MizzMarvel noted, I think it would definitely be something that Mal would have had issues with, since she was a lowly single, non-identical birth whereas BAJ got a ton of attention at birth.

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.

Everyone rolls their eyes when they recognize that the last name of the Australian Hobart family is a city in Tasmania. But did you know that Kent (last name of Victoria, the British Princess), is a county in England? And that Ramsey is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey?

Are there any other examples of this phenomenon?

There are two instances in the series where the characters are based off of real, existing people and Ann has admitted this.

The first is that the characters of Mary Anne and Kristy are based off of Ann and her childhood best friend, Beth. Ann is kind of mousy and quiet, whereas Beth is loud and outgoing. Notice, however, that Ann gave herself a hot boyfriend–something that never happened in real life. Hmm. Anyway, so their friendship dynamic is based on Ann’s and Beth’s, and so are the personalities, just exaggerated.

The other instance of real-life people purposefully brought into a character happens with the Perkins family. The Perkins family in the books is a fascimile of the Perkins family in real life, forever frozen in Stoneybrook time. There is a real Myriah, Gabbie, and Laura.

Why did Ann choose to put this real family in the books? Why, Mrs. Perkins is, in real life–wait for it–Beth, childhood best friend. So when Kristy (adolescent Beth) moved away, Mrs. Perkins (adult Beth) moved in. When Kristy sits for the Perkins girls, she is in fact sitting for her future children.


I have developed a head cold and my sd card reader has not arrived with my suitcase yet. My plans for the next couple of posts I want to do involve photographs, which requires a way to transfer said photos to my computer. Boo and bullfrogs!

I just discovered the BSC Scrapbook at uandme4bsc and it is hilarious.

Also, I was reading Abby’s Twin today and she said that Long Island was half an hour from New York City. This confused me greatly. Brooklyn and Queens are, technically, ON Long Island. Even if by “New York City” Ann/the ghostwriter meant “Manhattan” it does not take half an hour to get from Queens or Brooklyn to Manhattan, unless traffic is really terrible. Long Island is really, really, really big. It is wider than Connecticut. So saying that “Long Island” is half an hour from New York is crazy, because driving from say, Southampton to New York City would take a hell of a lot longer than one half of an hour. Unless you had a teleporter. I suppose that Abby meant that where she lived on Long Island was half an hour from New York City, but still. Being precise matters when it comes to geography.

Like how Abby’s mom took classes at the Culinary Institute of America, which is in Hyde Park. I have been there, and it took a really long time to drive there from the immediate NYC burbs. Like 2 hours. Just because they are both in New York State does not mean that somewhere on Long Island is close to Hyde Park.

In the early 90s I remember that gang violence was really in the forefront on the national scene. Television shows such as Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper addressed these issues with Very Special Episodes that involved tragic shootings and deaths which, quite frankly, shared the shit out of me.

In an attempt to stay relevant to the world around them, the team behind BSC did a Very Special Book about gangs. It was a Special Edition Reader’s Request, to be more precise. That’s right everyone: Logan Bruno, Boy Baby-Sitter. In the BSC version, however, there were no warring factions wearing colors and getting special tattoos. Instead, the gang members in question wear matching leather jackets and calls themselves The Badd Boyz. Yes, with a “z” and two “d”s. They do things like steal. And eat pizza in the parking lot.

Apart from the late 80s/early 90s mainstream hip-hop group-style spelling of their names, the Badd Boyz make me think of more 1950s/1960s street gangs (junior versions of the gangs inWest Side Story, Rebel Without a Cause, Grease) than the kind of gang with which I was familar. I know that Ann has a habit of regressing back into her childhood (*cough*i love lucy obsession*cough*) but seriously? This is what Ann comes up with when they decide they need to address gang violence?

Do you think that the Badd Boyz were even an attempt to bring to light some issues of the day in a way that would be less disturbing to young readers? Or was it just the male version of Stacey’s Bad Girl arc? Or did someone in the Scholastic art department draw that rat note and thought it was really neat, so they built up an entire book around it?


Very Special Thanks to Penny for scanning this!

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