This, it must be said, is probably the second most annoying of the BSC books I read as a child. There was basically a BSC reject pile in my mind: books that I read only once and never wanted to read again. There were several books in this pile: #12, #37, #57 (of course) and this stinker. I was the same age as Mal when this book came out, and I remember thinking two things:
A) She was acting like a seven year old where boys were concerned (Boys have cooties!)
B) She was acting like a total idiot in every other way.
The plot? I'm glad you asked. Mallory has to take a co-ed volleyball unit in gym class, and the boys are taking it really seriously and keep being mean to her because she sucks. So she benches herself in gym class and keeps getting detentions. But when she realizes that benching herself is hurting her grade, she talks to her teacher, who tells the boys to lay off. Then Mal discovers she's good at something in gym class and it's happily ever after.
Because that's not enough "awesomeness," some of the sitting charges have been acting crazier than usual. Mal thinks it's just the boys, so she posits the theory that Stoneybrook boys are just awful. When Ben disagrees with her, Mal suggests a sibling swap. Ben's brothers act like doofuses (doofi?) at Mal's house, while her brothers behave at the Hobarts', teaching Mal that it's just being around her that makes boys nutso.
Want to know what I looked like in gym class in 1992? Look at the front cover. Substitute an orange shirt and black shortie shorts for the gym attire and straight light brown for Mal's curls, and you have me. (That's a long way of saying I had those hideous man-style glasses back then. I didn't think I would be able to see as much if I used little lenses.)
Heh. Mallory and Ben are doing homework together, and the Pike boys get together outside Mal's room and make kissing noises and so on. Sounds like pretty typical siblings to me, but Mal's so embarrassed that she and Ben go to his house instead. (Even funnier, when she heads to the BSC meeting from Ben's, Claudia, Dawn, Stacey and Kristy tease her about it too.)
I really do feel for Mal on hating gym and especially volleyball. The only two things in gym I was any good at were soccer and hockey. Oh, and the year we had a unit on relaxation, I was pretty good at that too. Volleyball in my school was a lot like volleyball as described here.
I also remember being really jealous that SMS only had gym a couple days a week. Ours was daily, and I grew up in the only state that, at that time, required students to take gym class every year in middle school and high school.
Mal decides to faint to get out of gym class, only she waits until everyone else is already out of the locker room before she fake faints. Idiot.
The gym teachers in this one are Ms. Walden and Mr. De Young, the same teachers from #122.
No wonder Mal's teammates hate her. Instead of trying to hit the ball and missing (or just hitting it lamely and costing the team a point) she runs away from it. She needs to take some Daria lessons....heh.
Jamie is being a crank pot during a sitting job and hides on Mallory. When she scolds him, he calls her a grouch head. So, being terribly mature, Mal calls him a hider head. Way to stoop to the four year old's level, Mal.
Mal stops paying attention during the game and a volleyball hits her in the face. The kid who hit her is actually really nice about it, but when Ms. Walden calls her on the fact that she wasn't paying attention, she snaps in the teacher's face and gets benched for the first time. This is what gives Mal the idea to voluntarily bench herself.
When she gets her first detention, Mal imagines that it will lead to a life of crime. Because that's likely.
Although, Mal takes the written notification of her detentions and hides them from her parents and pictures herself as wanted for mail fraud (which is technically true.)
Logan notes the change in the kids of Stoneybrook. Mal says he doesn't notice it's just the boys because he's a boy himself.
Mistake! Dawn says Buddy is seven and Suzi is four. They're eight and five.
Best line in the whole book: "For a sensible person, you can be really illogical sometimes." The speaker is Jessi.
Mal's theory: only "American boys from Stoneybrook" are pains. (How do you explain the fact that Logan's little brother, who spent most of his five years in Louisville, is being a brat at one point, then?) What makes those boys into pains? Well, gym class, of course! This theory makes absolutely no sense.
Ben is the logical one here. He keeps telling Mal she should just grin and bare it, and pointing out that actually playing volleyball can't be worse than lying to her parents. He's also the one who points out that she could fail gym if continues to sit out.
Ms. Walden's theory of what happens after Mal quits volleyball: next she quits college, then quits jobs. That's almost as good as Mal and her life of crime.
DM wants to watch GI Joe, while EM likes Care Bears. Because this is actually 1985, not 1992.
This scene made me laugh. While Care Bears is on, DM turns on a tape player to drown it out. Kristy turns it down, so he turns it back up. This goes on for a while, until Kristy takes the batteries and throws them out the window.
When Mal's mom finds out about gym class and detentions, she's all sympathetic. My mom probably would have been sympathetic too--if I'd told her about the problems in class or even about getting a detention for sitting out. But she would have been furious if I opened her mail and hid the detentions from her.
Mal and Ben decide to trade brothers without asking their parents. Why would the Pikes and Hobarts be okay with that?
The Pikes have a ping-pong table in their basement.
Unsurprisingly, the Hobart kids act like lunatics at the Pikes' house. I maintain the reason that boys act crazy at the Pikes' has a lot to do with how they parent. The Hobarts, having four kids spread out over seven years, were able to set rules and routines and discipline their kids. This is why the Hobart kids are generally well behaved and why the Pike boys behave while there. The Pikes, with eight kids in six years, are generally just trying to survive. Since there really aren't too many rules, the kids act nutso. And Mallory's little sisters are just as zooey and crazy as her brothers, if you want to be honest about it. (Silly-billy-goo-goo, anyone?)
Sure enough, Mal comes up with this idea herself in the next chapter.
After volleyball, the next unit in gym is archery. (Really? I never ever had an archery unit in school.) And Mal turns out to be so good at it that she makes the archery team. Because all middle schools have archery teams. And the team is never, ever mentioned again.
Claudia: Purple MC Hammer pants, neon green leotard top (a combo of words that one should never speak), red braided belt, tropical fruit earring, two hoop earrings (the colors! the horror, the horror!)
Dawn: black stirrup pants, fleecy top with red and pink roses, high tops, four sparkly rose earrings (sounds better than most of her clothes)
Mallory: one piece denim jumpsuit
Next week: I dunno what I'm doing next. Probably #14 Hello, Mallory.