Wednesday, October 29, 2014

“How about if we rendezvous at the front counter? I’ll be the guy holding the chocolate shake.” BSC #61: Jessi and the Awful Secret (1993)

Despite what I said last week, there will be no making fun of anorexia. (Even I have standards, no matter how low they may be!) There are enough other things to make fun of in this book anyway!
Jessi’s dance school is offering a free ballet class for underprivileged kids. Jessi and her classmate Mary volunteer to assist with the class, and Jessi notices that Mary is dieting to the extreme. She decides (with the help of the BSC) that Mary is anorexic. Eventually, she tells Mme. Noelle, who helps Mary get the help she needs. Meanwhile, because some of the kids are really getting into the ballet class, Watson agrees to fund a scholarship so that two of the children can continue.
In the B plot, Kristy’s been busier than normal, while Shannon’s been less busy than normal. Shannon starts hanging out with all the other BSC members, and Kristy gets jealous and accuses her of stealing her friends.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover. Mary looks younger than Jessi, which we know isn’t true, because Jessi’s the youngest member of her class. Other than that, it’s not bad. I’m assuming those kids are Martha and Devon.

I don’t remember how many times I read this as a kid, but this is the first time I’m rereading it as an adult. I’m looking for all the signs and symptoms of anorexia as I read. The first time Mary is mentioned, Jessi notes that she’s a control freak and a perfectionist. A few pages later, she mentions needing to lose weight.
Um….special. Jessi mentions that Mal thinks she’s ugly, but she’s not that bad. Then, she says that Mal is so nice and wonderful inside that when you spend enough time with her, she starts to seem pretty. I get the idea behind this, but it’s actually pretty insulting. (I really, actually do get this. I wasn’t cute in middle school at all. Bad, huge glasses, terrible acne, greasy hair in a bad style, plus awful mid-90s clothes. I’m a hell of a lot cuter now.) Wouldn’t it be nicer if Jessi just said, “Mal doesn’t think she’s pretty, but she actually is.”
At one point, Schafer is misspelled as Shafer, despite the fact that it was correct earlier in the same paragraph.
I’m trying to figure out what it is about Claudia that she can look cool wearing something that the rest of the world would look terrible wearing. They say that in a lot of books. Is it because Claudia is Japanese-American and 'exotic looking'?
There are four other teens helping with the children’s dance class with Jessi and Mary. One is Vince, whom Jessi is able to distinguish from the other boy because Mary says he’s a snob and he looks like a snob. (Apparently, in BSC-land, you have to be blond and rich to be a snob. Vince is blond and stands up very straight. The only other time I can remember them worrying about snobs it was Amanda and Shannon, and they’re both blonde, too.) Then there are Darcy, Raul (whom Mary thinks is cute) and Sue.
The kids in the class include Devon, Martha, Nora, Jane, Yvonne, Cherisse, Alphonse,
I don’t know why, but I had a good laugh when Jessi feels the need to explain that Linny is a boy.
I would have loved the game Let’s All Come In as a kid, except for the fact that Karen rules the game with an iron fist. The Karen thing aside, I do think it’s unfair that the boy (usually David Michael, but Linny this time) is forced to be the bell hop every time they play.
More signs of anorexia (Jessi picks up on these ones): Mary is constantly checking herself out in the mirror, more than the other dancers do, and pinching at her alleged tub or chub. (Tub is on the stomach, chub is on the thighs. My mom says this is technical terminology. Thanks, mom.) She also wears oversized clothes, which keeps people from seeing how much weight you’ve lost, and of course, she barely eats and pushes the food around, breaking it up, so it looks like she’s eaten something.
So of course, because Mary’s not eating, she gets faint and nearly passes out. I could never be anorexic because I nearly did that because I didn’t have enough protein for breakfast this morning.
The title quote is what Jessi’s dad says when she asks him to pick her up at Burger King…but wait outside for her. She’s already embarrassed by her dad. They grow up so fast!
Kristy keeps getting irritated because she’s super busy and doesn’t have time to hang out with Shannon, so Shannon is calling all the other BSC members to chill instead. (I guess she’s between activities?) But Shannon calling all the other members is her idea, so I’m not entirely sure why she’s so huffy. Maybe she should just take fewer sitting jobs herself? Then she’d have time to hang out, too.
Kristy’s going out with Bart for the evening, so Stacey babysits for the Thomas/Brewer crew. Elizabeth says that Kristy, Sam or Charlie should be home by eleven. Um, really? Kristy’s in freakin’ middle school! I had a ten p.m. curfew until I was 18. Now, I know my mom was a little…overprotective…but eleven seems a little ridiculous for someone who doesn't even wear a bra yet.
I guess it’s not so silly in BSC-land, because Shannon’s curfew is also eleven.
Mary faints in their regular Friday ballet class. Mme. Noelle suggests she eat some chicken soup to ward off the ‘virus’ she has. Jessi suggests the advice is wiser than Mme. Noelle suspects. But Mme. Noelle’s not exactly a noob. She’s been a dancer and a teacher for a while, so she must have seen eating disorders over and over again.
There’s this thing about how it’s harder being a minority ballet dancer than a white dancer. Raul, who is Latino, keeps raging that Mme. Dupres, who is running the free dance class, expects nothing out of the kids because they’re poor and a number of them are minorities. Later, he says that Mme. Dupres was too hard on Devon when he was being disruptive just because he’s also Latino and poor.
Kristy asks Jessi to come sit at her house because everyone else is going to hang out with Shannon. But here’s what made me laugh: Kristy’s going to be a planning meeting for the spring dance. Doesn’t that sound more like something Stacey, or maybe Claudia or even Dawn would do before Kristy?
Jessi actually asks Aunt Cecelia for advice about Mary. Not only is AC helpful (and gives the right advice), she actually compliments Jessi. She tells Jessi she has good instincts.
Claudia spelling: usualy, deap, breth, relly, nock, thogh, Tifany
One of the girls in the class, Martha, has clearly taken ballet lessons before, but insists she never has. Eventually her mother admits that she’d scrimped and saved to enroll Martha in classes, but stopped because someone told her that there was no room for people of color in professional ballet. But seeing Jessi in the class makes her feel better about it, and Martha tries for (and gets) one of the scholarships.
The other kid who gets a scholarship is Devon, who was a problem for the first few weeks of the class. However, after Mme. Dupres kicks him out of class one week, he comes back and behaves and develops some good skills.
Claudia: neon green tank top, fuchsia stirrup pants, oversized white man’s shirt, colorful woven belt, ceramic bead earrings
Jessi: (don’t get all excited; it’s just dancewear) neon green leotard, blue workout pants, yellow slouchy socks (so…very…bright…)
Mary: big white shirt, gray sweats
Next week: Mystery #7: Dawn and the Disappearing Dogs

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