{Rereading The Baby-Sitters Club: Books 111-115, Mystery 32, Super Mystery 4 and California Diaries: Maggie & Amalia, Book 1}

If you’ve been keeping up with this series, you know the drill and the title of the post says it all, so let’s jump right in!

In book one hundred and eleven, Stacey’s Secret Friend, a new girl comes to town, and Stacey just gets it all wrong. When she learns that the other eighth graders are making fun of new girl Tess Swinhart (calling her Swinehart and generally comparing her to pigs), she makes it her mission to protect her from their mockery. However, in doing so, Stacey ends up trying to change Tess and, while nice to her, doesn’t really form a real relationship with her. After a horrific pep rally that nearly reaches Carrie-levels of destruction (okay not really but the SMS kids pull a horrible prank on Tess, and she breaks her wrist and ankle as a result… but she is the only one injured here), Stacey finally learns to see Tess for who she truly is and stops trying to change her.

Episode-ability: 8. I’m giving it an eight because I liked the book, but it’s not a big “moving forward” plot point. Granted, Stacey learning that she effectively isolated Tess even though she believed she was trying to help might make for a good plotline.

In Kristy and the Sister War (#112), Kristy must get between a family feud the Kilbourne sisters are having. Well, really Tiffany and Maria are having it with Shannon, which then forces Shannon to get involved and the sisters are at each other’s throats. To complicate matters, their parents are also very busy and the whole Kilbourne family seems to be struggling. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Stoneybrook, the charges are all working on throwing an All-Kids dance for everyone to attend. The main and subplots eventually merge in the end when the Kilbournes enjoy time at the dance together.

Episode-ability: 4. Meh. Take it or leave it. As they have yet to establish Shannon as a character on the show, this plot would be relatively strange coming out of nowhere. I also found myself annoyed with the sister war itself, as I really did think the whole thing could have been solved with a simple conversation.

Claudia and the Mystery in the Painting (Mystery # 32) brings a new set of clients into the neighborhood… and a new mystery to solve. Claudia is helping out Rebecca Maddon, who is in town to deal with the estate of her grandmother, an artist named Grandmother Madden. Claudia reads up on the artist before beginning the job and discovers that all her artwork was destroyed after her death… or was it? Claudia and the rest of the BSC are determined to figure out the truth, and are all convinced that the original paintings still exist. While the sitters help out with the giant estate sale at Grandmother Madden’s house, they are determined to figure out if the original paintings are still hidden in the house somewhere.

Episode-ability: 3. It was a good mystery, but it was a mystery and it didn’t really advanced any major overarching plot points or themes of the books. Also, without giving much away, this was a mystery with one of the more dangerous endings. I feel like the books are definitely growing up along with their readers (although readers at this point are at least eleven years older than when the first book came out… I know I had already given up on reading the books at that point but perhaps they were trying to engage with the 90’s audience?).

In the next of the California Diaries series, we have Maggie: Diary One. As with the first two books, this is told in bits and pieces from Maggie’s required journal, and we see Maggie dealing with the pressure to be perfect put on her by her father, and how she rebels against it. She ends up going against his wishes and joining a local band. Things get complicated when a movie premiere (her father is the producer) falls on the same night as a Battle of the Bands competition. Maggie does her best to attend both but of course ends up getting caught. Most of the CD books ends on a slightly cliff-hanger-esque note (not really a cliff-hanger, exactly, but they don’t wrap up everything in a little box like the regular series books).

As I mentioned in the last post, I am not doing episode ratings for the California Diaries, as I feel they are too far off canon. Perhaps they could make a spin off at some point, in which case they would need to use nearly all the plot lines since the series is so short to begin with.

In Claudia Makes Up Her Mind (#113), Claudia finds herself suddenly faced with two big choices: the offer to return to 8th grade or remain in 7th grade, as well as a choice between two boys (her boyfriend Mark and her friend Josh). Meanwhile, the Color Wars are going on between the grades, which complicates both Claudia’s relationships and her feelings. Ultimately, she decides to return to the 8th grade. The subplot is standard fare: there’s a color war going on at the middle school so the BSC charges want to have a color war as well.

Episode-ability: 8. If we deal with Claudia moving back to seventh grade, then we have to deal with her moving to 8th grade again right? Seems only fitting that the plot line come full circle if we touch on it. Sidebar: Mark is super annoying, and I’m glad Claudia ultimately chose Josh.

Mary Anne overcharges her father’s credit car in The Secret Life of Mary Anne Spier and must get a secret job as a mall elf to pay for it. Sound like the plot of a Netflix Christmas movie? Well it most certainly could be! I feel like I also summed up the plot really succinctly with that one sentence. The subplot also fits right into the Netflix movie plot, with all the kids in Stoneybrook putting together a holiday fundraiser for the local hospital to buy presents for the kids who are patients. Mary Anne eventually comes clean about her job after everyone becomes concerned with how exhausted she is (and the fact that she never seems to be around).

Episode-ability: 3. This was a fun one, actually but definitely not a plot for the show unless they make The Baby-Sitters Club Christmas: The Netflix Movie! Hey, I’d watch it. Probably more than once (and I am not ashamed to admit that… if only people knew how much I watched The Christmas Prince trilogy.)

Baby-Sitters’ Christmas Chiller, the fourth super mystery, cancelled out everything I previously said before about the Super Mysteries. This one was three mysteries in one, two in Stoneybrook and one in New York City. The main Stoneybrook mystery is a series of both large and small robberies that begin to wreck havoc, mainly in Kristy and Abby’s neighborhood. The robber leaves strange notes reading “Naughty” and “Nice” at each house he visits. The whole neighborhood is on high alert because of this. Meanwhile, Mallory finds a young woman who has lost her memory and has no idea how she came to be in Stoneybrook.

The third mystery takes place in New York. Stacey and Claudia are visiting Mr. McGill when strange things begin to happen in his building. The whole thing is frankly pretty disturbing in the end – an ex-girlfriend of Stacey’s boyfriend tries to scare her and eventually lures her down to the basement of the building where her intentions are definitely to harm Stacey in some way.

Episode-ability: 7. I’m giving it a seven because I really liked it, and this one is the darker version of the Christmas special from the previous book! I was really into all three plot lines, though I will admit the NYC plot line was my favorite given how much I love reading psychological thrillers. The robbery plot line was also good and unlike some of the other super mysteries, I actually cared about the outcome. I even wanted to know everything about the mystery woman found by Mallory, so all in all it was a great read.

Next up is Amalia: Diary One, the fourth book in the California Diaries series, and we are dealing with some heavy topics here. Amalia is a new character to the canon, as she did not appear as one of Dawn’s friends from the We Love Kids Club. Her storyline is a doozy: she is in a sort of relationship with an older boy named James, who turns out to be toxic and abusive (a plot which thankfully doesn’t get very far before Amalia sees the light and breaks up with him). As all this is happening, she is also helping her sister at a woman’s shelter by taking care of the kids.

Overall I really liked this one. The narrative was broken up by various pieces of artwork done by Amalia, which was a nice addition to the journaling format (some people journal by drawing), and the plot line was engaging and interesting. Amalia, despite the various issues that surrounded her in the book, seems like a grounded character and she makes a nice addition to what I’m going to refer to as “the Dawn gang” (because ultimately I refer to the CD books as Dawn books).

The last book in this installment is Jessi’s Big Break (#115). Jessi gets the opportunity to attend a prestigious dance school in Manhattan. In order to make this work, her family arranges for her to stay with her cousin Michael (Aunt Cecelia’s son) and his wife who live in Brooklyn. Jessi soon finds herself immersed in a world of dance, and spending time with kids who share her passion for it, including former sort-of boyfriend Quint! Meanwhile, Mallory and Becca are each having Jessi-separation anxiety back in Stoneybrook.

Episode-ability: 5. I’ll give this one a five. It was not a bad story, but it didn’t really feature the rest of the BSC. While it’s perfectly fine to focus on one character in the books, I don’t think it would work necessarily for the t.v. series. Sidebar: clearly Michael and his wife have money based on where they live in Brooklyn! (Brooklyn Heights with a view of the skyline. Even for the late nineties that would’ve been a big price tag.)

And thus we come to the end of this installment of the reread. I’d love to say I’ll finish the rereads before the end of the year, but truth be told that would mean I have to post nothing else but these reread posts, so I think I’ll keep stretching them out even if I finish the installments faster. By my count, there are six left to go!

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