After a few weeks of losing a ton of steam on this reading, I am back! I am getting so close to the end, I don’t want to stop now! Changing it up a little bit to just include a little summary and my thoughts. I very much doubt the series will make it this far.
We open this installment with Abby in Wonderland (#121). And… it was weird. Abby, Anna and their mother travel to the Hamptons for vacation and to celebrate their grandmother’s birthday. There, Abby learns that her grandmother may have breast cancer and she tries to make sure that her birthday party is the greatest one she’s ever had (we never do find out about her grandmother’s diagnosis, however my suspicion is that it will come up again soon). Back in Stoneybrook, the BSC is helping the Pike kids create a beach vacation in their own backyard when their annual trip to Sea City isn’t possible. Overall, pretty standard BSC fare in this one. I still don’t like Abby books, and the BSC subplot was pretty standard – the pretend beach is a new idea for the the charges and not just repeating old standbys (i.e. parades), however, I do tend to get a little tired of the Pike kids when there are so many other kids in Stoneybrook we could be focusing on.
With the next book, another final milestone is reached. Kristy and the Cat Burgler (mystery # 36) is last mystery! This one pulls out all the stops, with the main suspect being a familiar figure in these books: Sergeant Johnson! He is at the scene of a strange burglary in Stoneybrook, in an old mansion in Kristy’s neighborhood. There are some other suspects of course, but Sergeant Johnson is the main one. Of course, all is well in the end, and it is discovered that he didn’t do anything, and that is was an inside job by the owner of the mansion for the insurance money. After finally ridding Stoneybrook of crime, the BSC is taking a little break from their life as amateur detectives. As the final mystery, this was a somewhat exciting one, but I felt like it could’ve been better. This was also another one that puts the BSC into oddly dangerous territory, and working with a police force who seems WAY too eager to have a bunch of thirteen year old amateur detectives do their job for them!
Over in Palo City, California, Maggie Blume is suffering from body image issues and a clear eating disorder. This was an interesting book about a very real and serious issue, but I found myself getting impatient with the narrative. Well, I suppose frustrated would be a better word, and perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be – you need to be as frustrated as Maggie is to understand the character. Throughout the book, as Maggie faces more and more pressure and falls deeper and deeper into anorexia, her personality changes. She becomes irritable and believes that the people around her are simply tolerating her, rather than actually liking her and wanting her around. It seems that in addition to the body image issues, Maggie is suffering from an anxiety disorder of some kind, but the book doesn’t focus on that (it could also be a side effect of the eating disorder on her body; I must admit I don’t know a ton about the topic).
Kristy in Charge (#122) focuses on a special project at SMS (when are they NOT doing a special project?) that allows the students to become the teachers for a week. As a teacher, I definitely appreciate that they expected the students to write lesson plans and not just be ridiculous in front of the other students, but overall I think this is a terrible idea. Though Kristy has a good experience in the end, Mallory ends up teaching the 8th graders (another poor move by the people in charge of the program) who come to refer to her as Spaz Girl, which becomes the catalyst for a number of important plot points in the books to come. Kristy, on the other hand, teaches gym with Cary Retlin and after a rough start, they actually figure out how to handle their classes. Meanwhile I could barely remember the subplot of this one, but it involves Vanessa Pike force teaching her siblings poetry.
In Claudia’s Big Party (#123), Claudia is having trouble time managing her social life: her BSC friends need her, her 7th grade friends need her, her boyfriend Josh wants to spend more time with her and on top of all that, Janine suddenly wants to do more things with her as well. Claudia decides that it’s time for all these groups to merge together. When Mr. and Mrs. Kishi go away for a few days Claudia and Janine throw a small gathering that quickly escalates into a large party. Though the party gets out of hand, and a vase is broken, it’s never quite the cliched insane rowdy party from teen movies at the time. However, they are caught, of course, but not before Claudia realizes that her two friend groups may never be friends with each other. Meanwhile, she is also having some boyfriend troubles, as Josh wants to spend more time with her. After getting caught throwing the party, Claudia and Janine have a huge fight.
Back to Palo City we got, for Amalia’s second diary. This one might as well be Maggie’s third however, because most of it is Amalia helping Maggie with her body image issues. She is the one who finds Maggie a therapist and supports her, going to far as to attend a few sessions with her. However, there is some Amalia-only action in the story. A new boy comes to school, and Amalia immediately takes to him, but she’s reluctant to get involved because her ex-boyfriend James continues to send her unwanted gifts and attention. She also gets Vanish their first gig and must work on getting the band ready for their first professional job. Overall, I liked this one. Amalia seems like a cool character and I liked that they were proactive about Maggie’s issues and not completely unrealistic (I mean, Maggie’s healing process does seem a little quick but then again this is a book universe we’re talking about!).
In book number one hundred and twenty-four, Stacey McGill… Matchmaker? Stacey is the new baby-sitter for the new family in town, the Brookes. When her mother, Maureen, picks her up she immediately connects with their single father (who is also divorced). Stacey is excited and tries to play matchmaker, which works… for a short while. Joni Brooke, one of the charges, is not happy with her father dating again, and takes this out on Stacey as well as other members of the BSC by association. John Brooke doesn’t handle his daughter well in this situation, something Stacey’s mother disapproves of. Though Stacey tries her best, she can’t make her matchmaking a success. For the most part, this one was cute. I honestly don’t have all that much more to say about it. Joni is insufferable but somewhat understandably so, and once she has a heart to heart with Stacey she tones down quite a bit.
We return to the Mallory/Spaz Girl plot line from a few books in Mary Anne in the Middle (#124). You may not that this one is a Mary Anne book and not a Mallory book. However, Mary Anne must be the referee for Mallory and Jessi, so it kid of make sense? Mallory is struggling at SMS and has applied to a boarding school in Massachusetts. Jessi can’t handle the fact that Mal wants to go away to school and leave her behind. Mary Anne is the person who finds herself pulled in two directions as both girls complain about the other one to her. Honestly, it was a really strange way to tell this story, but we basically learn that Mallory is choosing to leave Stoneybrook and attend Riverbend, a girl’s boarding school in the Berkshires. Though they fight through most of the book, Mallory and Jessie eventually make up. However, we have reached the end of an era here: another baby-sitter is leaving! And she’s not being replaced! The girls are growing up!
Then, this installment takes one more foray over to California for California Diaries: Ducky, Diary Two. Ducky’s second diary concludes the second round of journals for these characters (they have three each). In this one, we learn that Ducky spends more time caring for others than worrying about himself. He also continues to struggle to connect to his friend Alex, and tries to do everything possible to keep him safe. He also experiences a pretty serious suicide attempt on Alex’s part, but this seems to finally lead to him getting some help. So… does anyone else who reads these books find it strange that Ducky is friends with a bunch of thirteen year old girls? I mean, he is obviously not a predator or anything creepy, but he’s sixteen while they’re thirteen. In high school years that might as well be robbing the cradle!
I can’t believe the next installment of this series will be the last of the original BSC books before I move on to the Friends Forever series! I’m very excited to finally get to it.