{Rereading The Baby-Sitters Club: Books 116-120, Mysteries 33-35, Super Special 15 & California Diaries: Ducky – Diary One, Sunny – Diary Two & Dawn – Diary Two}

I am slowly but surely coming to the end of this BSC reread journey. This installment sees the end of the Super Special, with the final one of the series outside of the Friends Forever books. This seems like a really big milestone in this journey, so without further ago let’s get to the books.

In Abby and the Best Kid Ever (#116), we see the return of Lou McNally who has gone from Worst Kid Ever to Best Kid Ever. She is concerned that her new adopted parents will give her away if she makes trouble, and so she overcompensates for accidents and by being more polite than any child on the history of the earth. Abby soon sees that she can quickly turn from best to worst, and the BSC wants to help her find the middle ground between the two types. Meanwhile the sub plot is Abby working on a Black History month project which honestly doesn’t really go anywhere. Also along the way we meet some new residents of Stoneybrook, the Nicholls family, and there is some foreshadowing for the next main cannon book.

Episode-ability: 3. I just don’t feel like there was any significant content in this one. Even the Black History month project subplot was lackluster and didn’t really teach anything. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I am not a fan of Abby books anymore. Initially surprised that I liked her when, during my original reads as a pre-teen, I was just mad at her for replacing Dawn, I am back to not really enjoying Abby-centered books. I don’t even dislike the character necessarily, I just can’t stand it when she’s the narrator.

Mystery interlude time with Stacey and the Stolen Hearts (mystery # 33)! Stacey and Pete Black are running a fundraiser selling Valentines-grams to the students of Stoneybrook Middle School. Everything is going swimmingly until the back of filled out grams goes missing. Soon, strange copies of the grams start appearing around the school and wrecking havoc with existing relationships. This put the BSC is on the case. If you’ve been keeping up with the books and have a decent idea of the students who attends the school with the girls, then you can probably narrow it down to two or three previous troublemakers as the culprit. Elsewhere, the kids of Stoneybrook are participating in a Valentine’s Day part at the library.

Episode-ability: 4. Cute mystery, not a lot of episode content. The mystery in this one, for the first time in a while, is not really a big deal. What I mean by that is that it didn’t have the semi-disturbing ending involving yet another criminal of Stoneybrook!

Then it’s time for a trip to California, and our introduction to Ducky as a narrator in the California Diaries series with Ducky, Diary One. Ducky, who is most likely gay. It is never explicitly stated, but it seems pretty obvious… I guess that was still a little too risqué to put in a book for kids in the late 90’s but, come on. There’s so much other risqué content in these books. If you’re a person who is cool with Amalia’s abusive relationship, Sunny’s promiscuity, the drinking, an attempted suicide, etc. then really what is the big deal in explicitly stating that Ducky is gay? In any case, Ducky has been feeling isolated from his previous friend group and finds himself spending more and more time with Sunny, Dawn, Maggie and Amalia. However, he also tries to reconnect with his friend Alex, who is severely depressed and attempts suicide at one point in this book. There’s a lot happening in this one, and once again there is not real resolution at the end, we just move on to the next book and pick up from there.

Back to main canon with Claudia and the Terrible Truth (#117). And what a terrible truth it is. The BSC starts baby-sitting for the Nicholls family and immediately Claudia gets a bad vibe from Mr. Nicholls. He has a lot of strange rules and his two sons seem to walk on eggshells around him. At one point Claudia takes them to play with the other Stoneybrook kids and the boys are constantly worried about getting grass stains on their clothes. Eventually, Claudia witnesses Mr. Nicholls hitting the boys and she immediately tells her mother (Mrs. Nicholls works with Mrs. Kishi at the library). Ultimately, with the help of Mrs. Kishi, Mrs. Nicholls and the boys are able to get away from Mr. Nicholls.

Meanwhile, the kids of Stoneybrook are participating in a St. Patrick’s Day event, but honestly can you even pay attention to that storyline when the main one is so awful?

Episode-ability: 9. This is an important topic and could make an important episode to raise awareness about abuse. However, I also think that, given the show is made for a fairly young audience, it might be a little bit too heavy. There’s a big difference between reading about this type of thing and seeing it acted out on screen.

After the heaviness of the Nicholls storyline, we only sort of get a break in Kristy Thomas, Dog Trainer (# 118). What starts out seeming like a delightful story about the Thomas-Brewers becoming foster parents to a guide dog, we are introduced to Deb Cooper, a BSC charge who suffers from sudden severe glaucoma and has gone completely blind. The struggle that she is having adjusting to her blindness is far more interesting than the dog training plot. And I can’t even remember what the subplot was here – maybe it WAS Deb? And the dog training was the main plot?

Episode-ability: 5. I’m giving this a five because the book taught me a brand new thing to be worried about when it comes to my own health, and while it might be an interesting episode, I would never be able to watch it! Also, I was sure the whole time that the guide dog, Scout, would somehow end up belonging to Deb in the end, but that’s not where the story ended up.

Mary Anne and the Haunted Bookstore (# 34) is the next installment in the mystery canon, and it very loosely brings together fact and fiction when a new bookstore opens in Stoneybrook. The BSC is helping the owner with his kids as well fixing up the store when strange things start to happen. It all starts with Mary Anne hearing a bizarre heartbeat, a lot Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” As it happens, the bookstore is being opened in a home that is rumored to have been visited by Poe. Soon, more “hauntings” begin: the work crew sees ghosts in the basement, etc. There are plenty of suspects to be had, and in the end it turns out nothing particularly dangerous is going on.

Episode-ability: 3. This one was just okay. I wasn’t very invested in the mystery. It also had some loose ends that I don’t feel really got tied up by the end.

Time for another California interlude, with Sunny: Diary Two (the second of three in this post). We return to the angst of one Sunny Winslow, who is still dealing with her mother’s rapid health decline. To cope, she starts staying with the Schafers and becoming kind of a companion to Carol. However, when Carol is put on strict bedrest, Sunny also isolates herself from the Schafers and has a big fight with Dawn about how she always runs away from her problems. She is also continuing her relatively promiscuous behavior (they never say she does more than kiss a number of boys but it seems implied that more is going on).

As someone who works with kids, I understand what Sunny is doing and that her behavior is a reaction to what she doesn’t want to face, and her troubles definitely make me sympathetic to what’s going on in her life, however, that doesn’t mean I enjoyed reading a whole diary about it. It gets deep into the defiant mind of a thirteen year old, which can make it difficult to empathize.

The late nineties were just an angst filled depression-fest weren’t they? Why do I say this? Because when we return to Stoneybrook in Stacey’s Ex-Boyfriend (# 119), Stacey is dealing with her ex-boyfriend Robert’s strange behavior. Martin is back with another heavy topic as it quickly becomes clear that Robert is suffering from depression. He and Stacey reconnect when Stacey is concerned about his drastic change in behavior (quitting the baseball team, not hanging out with any of his friends anymore, lack of interest in any activities), and she soon learns that Robert needs more help than she can really give him and eventually urges him to talk to someone.

This was another one that had a main plot that more or less made me completely forget about the subplot, but the BSC throws a Strawberry Festival for the kids.

Episode-bility: 8. There is so much set up that would have to happen in earlier episodes to make this a plausible plot line but it is an important one, particularly because Robert seeks help before his depression gets worse. I feel like so many movies and shows deal with the topic after something tragic has happened, and this actually addresses how to seek help before that occurs.

We move on to Mary Anne and the Playground Fight (# 120) which features something we haven’t seen in a really long time: a pointless BSC fight! Nearly every time the BSC is at odds with each other (as a collective group), it is over something that either is not a big deal or could be solved if someone just communicated with someone else. The gist is that there’s a playground camp with job openings for the summer, but not enough for the entire BSC. So the girls (and Logan) are in a strange feud with each other over these jobs, even though most of them are also planning to go on the SMS trip to London and Paris, which would mean they would have to miss a week of work and likely couldn’t take the job to begin with. It of course all works out in the end, and sets up the final Super Special, but it was just such a weird, pointless fight.

Episode-ability: 1. I didn’t care for this one at all. Every single baby-sitter seemed really petty and the thing they were fighting about was just not remotely interesting.

Mystery thirty-five, Abby and the Notorious Neighbor, was so boring. There. I’m just going to say it outright. Essentially, Abby spies on her neighbor and becomes convinced that he’s someone she saw on a crime show that I can’t remember the name of in the book but was basically about unsolved mysteries. While home sick with bronchitis, Abby spies on the neighbor in question, becoming more and more convinced that he is up to no good. Eventually she drags Kristy into it and they do ultimately discover that Abby was right – her neighbor IS the main from the involved mysteries show.

Episode-ability: 1. It was all I could do just to get myself through this one and on to the next book in the series. I was not remotely invested in the overall mystery and felt like it was really a stretch. Perhaps that why the next mystery is the final one.

Time to pick up where we left off in the Dawn and Sunny saga in Dawn: Diary Two, the seventh book in the California Diaries series. Of all the California girls, Dawn is the one who seems to be angst-ing the least. While she is struggling with what’s going on with her friendship with Sunny, the possibility of losing Sunny’s mom and getting a new baby sister, Dawn doesn’t seem to be getting herself into trouble like the other characters are. She even reconnects with their old friend Jill a little bit in this one. It seems like Dawn is still struggling with where she belongs, for the most part. However, her new little sister, Elizabeth Grace (Gracie), comes along and Dawn is immediately smitten with the new baby.

Question: when did Dawn become so anti-Carol again? I feel like she made peace with her a LONG time ago, but all of a sudden absolutely can’t stand her again.

Now, a milestone for this reread: the FINAL Super Special, Baby-Sitters’ European Vacation! This really feels like a big deal, as it definitely means I am getting to the end of the reread journey. And I have to admit… it could’ve been better. With the backdrop of London and Paris, I definitely feel like there was way more opportunity to go out with a bang than what ended up on the book.

Kristy, Abby, Stacey, Mallory and Jessi are going off on the SMS trip to London and Paris, while Mary Anne, Claudia, and Dawn (visiting from California after the events of her diary book) are working at the playground camp with Janine as their head counselor. In Europe, there is not a ton of solid conflict: Stacey accidentally swaps suitcases with a war veteran who is taking his friend’s ashes to Normany; Kristy has a lot of sexual tension with a boy from the Canadian school on the trip with them; Mallory discovers she is distantly related to William Shakespeare; Jessi gets to dance in a performance at the last minute; Abby sort of meets who I assume is meant to be Prince Charles when she steps on his foot. They see the London and Paris sights, but there is not a lot of detail on that. Meanwhile, the BSC members working at the camp struggle with Janine’s leadership but they do ultimately make amends with her.

Episode-ability: 2. I hate to say this because I would love to see the show go to London and Paris, but they will need to add some MAJORLY more interesting things to the plot in order for it to be a good episode.

If I’m being honest, I am losing steam with this. I’m still enjoying the books and want to see them through until the very last book of the series, but I think I’m going to take it down to a slower pace and possibly change the way I do these posts. There are other books to read as well! But we shall see. I’m currently on an Abby book in the next installment, and those always tend to drag for me so I may change my mind once I finish it!

Either way, continuing to forge ahead!

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