Monday, March 23, 2015

“Is eating worms like eating meat? We’ll have to remember to ask Dawn next time we talk to her.” BSC #74: Kristy and the Copycat (1994)

I’m trying to decide which I hate most right now: alcohol, my computer or Karen. Normally I’d say Karen (my house is generally a Karen-free zone), but I had a little of this book read last night, but since I was drinking hard cider (yummy!) while reading, I forgot to save it. Then this morning, my computer had a malfunction of the stupid variety—the control button got stuck, as it does frequently, but nothing was working because of it—including saving or closing programs. As such, I’m starting over. If the early part of the book seems to be low on tidbits, it’s just because it’s not nearly as interesting the second time in two days. (Also, I’d drink some more Woodchuck this time, but it’s 9:30 in the morning. I have some standards, no matter how low they may be.
Kristy decides to try out for the SMS softball team, something I’m surprised she never did before. When she makes the team, she and the other new members are all told they have to vandalize a toolshed as initiation. After initially resisting, Kristy eventually gives in—wanting to look like a team player—and spray paints the shed. Some of the other girls stop for a smoke and the next morning, it’s announced that the shed burned down, injuring a bystander who tried to put out the fire. Assuming the fire started because of the cigarettes, Kristy freaks out. It’s made worse by the fact that the girls are all getting ‘I know what you did last summer’-style notes. It turns out that one of the girls who helped with the vandalism, the other one who didn’t want to do it, has been sending the notes to scare the other girls into confessing. Kristy decides to confess after the boys’ baseball team is blamed for the fire, but it turns out that the cigarettes weren’t really the cause of the fire. Kristy decides not to ever go along blindly with the group again.
Meanwhile, Karen has decided she really wants to be thirteen (because thirteen is, for some reason, ‘grown up’) so she starts copying. Every. Single. Move. The BSC makes. It’s more annoying than normal Karen, and that’s saying something. Finally, annoyed with herself for giving in to peer pressure and Karen for being Karen, Kristy convinces her stepsister to not try to be someone she’s not.
Also, Claudia and Stacey agree to coach the Krushers for Kristy, mostly for humor value. Honestly, having Mallory do it—because she seems to know the game best of the rest of the club—would have made much more sense.
Interesting tidbits
Le cover! Kristy is making a fabulous bitch face, while Karen looks like she’s writing down everything Kristy’s doing. Also, in a fabulous bit of continuity, Karen’s shirt clearly says Kristy’s Crushers. Part of me keeps trying to write Caren, for some reason.

When listing the members of her family, Kristy actually includes the ghost of Ben Brewer. (Interestingly, later Kristy mentions how Ben Brewer’s furniture and stuff is still set up in his bedroom on the third story. I never noticed this before. It gives a teensy-weensy bit of logic to Karen’s belief in the ghost. If you were Watson and had to deal with Karen’s craziness, wouldn’t you do anything you could to discourage her—up to and including dismantling the room?)
Really bad pun alert! Emily Michelle is playing with a seeded dandelion. She sneezes and the seeds scatter. Kristy says, “Dandy!” Later, EM and Nannie are blowing the seeds off all the dandelions. Nannie’s a gardener…why would she do that? My dad used to yell his head off when he caught my sister and I doing that, because it just meant more dandelions later.
After Claudia suggests Kristy join the school softball team, Kristy muses that the only way she’d be able to juggle playing and coaching is if she gives up something else. At various points, Claudia suggests giving up school and homework.
The title quote comes from the first meeting of the book. Claudia is eating gummi worms by dropping them into her mouth from above. Mal suggests she looks like a baby bird being fed by its mother.
I’d totally visit Planet Claudia.
Kristy’s making fun of the school lunch again. It’s not as creative as normal; it’s the same joke one of my classmates made in first grade about pasta looking like worms.
Obviously, Kristy makes the team. Despite saying in the last chapter that a lot of the team had graduated, only four new players join the team. In addition to Kristy, there are another eighth grader, Bea, seventh-grader Tonya and sixth grader Dilys. She’s the one who writes the creepy notes.
Two of the returning members of the team, Marcia and Tallie, threaten the new girls with initiation. They tell Kristy et al that they can’t join the team—really be accepted by the other members—until they get hazed in. If they don’t agree, then the other girls will do things to make them look bad on purpose. Here’s my problem with this: why don’t the new members just go straight to the coach? They know hazing is against the rules of the school, and Coach Wu wouldn’t put up with it—she’s pretty no-nonsense. I realize that would be kind of derail the plot, but it wouldn’t be the end of things, because it’s not like that would sit well with the team members.
I’m still trying to figure out why Stacey and Claudia were so keen to coach the Krushers. I get they want to help Kristy, but it’s not like either one of them has an athletic bone in her body.
Mary Anne’s allowed to stay up as late as she wants? That must be Sharon’s influence. My bed time at thirteen was 9:30 (10 on Tuesdays, so I could watch NYPD Blue.) I would think 10 or 10:30 would be plenty late enough. But I guess Mary Anne is a sensible girl; she says she only stays up late if she’s studying. That’s probably why she’s allowed to stay up as late as she’d like.
After the gummi worm incident and the mac-n-cheese as worms incident, Andrew decides to look for worms in the backyard, which makes Mary Anne decide that worms are ‘the theme of the month.’
Karen should go hang out with Stacey. She wants to know if Mary Anne was wearing something sophisticated when she met Logan. (Normally, I’d say that she should hang out with Dawn. Y’know, she and Ben Brewer could invite Dawn and Jared Mullray over for ghost paté.)
I love this line: “Somehow, the idea of color-coordinating the spray paint was so ridiculous that it almost made me feel better.”
When the time comes to actually vandalize the shed, Tonya and Bea are actually enjoying themselves. Bea even brings a burnt cork so they can cover their faces and look like they’re wearing a ‘hobo’ Halloween costume. (Okay, the last part is my thought, not Bea’s. You ever notice that traditional Halloween costumes just don’t exist anymore? Back when my parents were kids, people dressed as gypsies and hobos all the time. In these politically correct days, no one would dream of sending their kid out dressed as a Rom or a transient.)
I like the non-Karen part of this book. 1. A member of the BSC actually does something she knows is wrong, even though she knows it’s wrong. Kristy flat-out gives in to peer pressure. It’s very realistic for a girl her age. 2. Kristy’s guilt is massive. The book has to teach a lesson; any book aimed at teens/tweens that shows bad behavior has to show repercussions. Even if Kristy never gets caught (I’m in chapter 8 and I can’t remember how the book ends), just how sick, emotionally and physically, her guilt is making her feel should be enough to give smart girls who read this pause.
Claudia spelling! Yay! (Side note: she’s not writing up a job, but Krushers practice. This is smart so that Kristy knows what went on while she was gone. It’s like when I used to write long notes for the teachers when I substitute taught.) Introdused, prety, whistel, clipbored, doinng, standinng, reelise. Also, it’s for reel!
Leave it to Claudia and Stacey to get dressed up for Krushers practice. Part of what amuses me is that Stacey wears a Brooklyn Dodgers hat. When we were in high school, my friend Kelly would end awkward pauses by saying, “What about them Brooklyn Dodgers?” It was cute and funny, until one day I said back, trying to be cute myself, “You know they moved to LA about forty years ago, right?” She didn’t. She was stunned; it was like I’d just told her the sun was cold.
Both Stacey and Claudia are using Kristy’s old gloves. I guess this is before it was established that Kristy is a lefty, because chances are they both aren’t lefties. (Reminds me of one of my favorite childhood books, Switch Around. It’s the second book out of three about these two siblings. Thirteen year old JP is a genius but not into sports. When he’s forced to coach his half-brother’s softball team—something his sister Caroline would rather be doing, instead of babysitting her infant half-sisters—he and Caroline both vow to sabotage their new jobs. Among other things, JP doesn’t tell a righty on his team that he’s using his older brother’s old lefty glove, or tell his half-brother that he’s a lefty using a righty glove.)
Claudia is trying to remember a softball drill Kristy taught her, but she can’t recall the name. She thinks it might be pop tart or soda pop. I’d try either of those drills.
It’s really sad—but entertaining—when the players know more about the game than the coaches.
Kristy actually gets so upset after Bea and Tonya threaten her that she cries, just a little.
The first note: ‘I saw what you did. I’m biding my time.’ Fuh-reaky! I would have been scared if I’d gotten that note, and I didn’t even do anything!
Note numero dos: ‘I know what you did. Pay me fifty dollars or I will tell.’ Kristy’s worried because she doesn’t have fifty dollars. I know some kids her age who got an allowance of fifty dollars a week back in 1994.
Kristy sums up the whole blackmail thing like this: It’s her own fault, because she let herself be talked into something she didn’t want to do. BINGO! “I’d copied other to try and fit in, instead of being myself…And now, I didn’t like myself very much at all.”
When Kristy shows up at Krushers practice (which sounds like fun but fairly unproductive…honestly, I’d say it’s probably the best Kristy could hope for. Stace and Claud are keeping her kids showing up and practicing even if they’re not really learning anything new), Stacey calls her Coach Emeritus.
Karen keeps following Kristy around, trying to be—well, not really like Kristy, because she keeps talking about boyfriends and shopping—so maybe she’s trying to be like Stacey? It’s actually less Karen then you’d think based upon the title and the cover, but it doesn’t make her any less irritating.
Kristy, to Karen: “No one else is like you in the whole world.” Thank the heavens for that.
The end of the book has Kristy stating that some things never change, and then suggesting that their lunch that day is compost. She’s back to normal.
Claudia: sunglasses with round metal frames and square green lenses; big yellow shirt with red x-shaped buttons, baggy white pants, red Doc Martens laced with black and yellow laces (Outfit inspiration: Ronald McDonald); red satin baseball cap, purple sweatpants, purple high tops with pink laces, pink crop top
Stacey: black wrap top, short brown skirt, black tights, leopard shoes and scarf (in her hair), gold leaf earrings; black and neon yellow bike shorts, Nikes, black sports bra under a huge white shirt, Brooklyn Dodgers ball cap
Lisa Engle (Karen’s mom): flowered dress, hat with a flower
Seth Engle (stepdad): linen jacket and pants, panama hat (I’m cracking up picturing this and I’m not sure why)
Kristy: jeans, dark blue shirt, black sneakers (for skulking)
Karen: black and yellow bike shorts, black bathing suit top, white t-shirt, ball cap (for copying Stacey)

Next week: Still trying to play catch up. There will be Mystery #15, and, if I can muster the time, we’ll finally finish our time warp by me critiquing Dawn at her bitchy best: #60. (I finally went out and found one of those things that most people have…what’s it called…oh yeah, a LIFE. Heh. So I’ve been busier than normal.)

“Ooh, crime wave at story hour. What will be next? Crayon snatching? Puppet Kidnaping?” BSC Mystery #14: Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall (1994)

By the sheer haphazard nature of how I’ve read the books, last weekend I read mystery #12 and now we’re already into #14. This one’s slightly more realistic, although I much preferred E.L. Konigsburg’s take on kids living in places where they’re not supposed to live in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
The BSC, including Logan, all have ‘jobs’ working at the mall as part of their newest short takes class. There has been a lot of shoplifting, and some of the stuff is atypical for teenaged thieves getting off on the thrill. Big, expensive stuff is disappearing overnight, while small life necessities are disappearing as well. It turns out that the mall manager was ‘too nice’—he spent his entire budget in a short time because he couldn’t say no to anyone. He made up the deficit by stealing. Meanwhile, some kids who, due to a weird set of circumstances, were left home alone, moved into the mall in order to survive. Stacey calls the police, who arrest the manager, and take the kids into social services and reunite them with their mom.
Interesting Tidbits
Can someone tell me why leggings came back into fashion? They don’t look good on Stacey on the cover, and they don’t look good on the girls who are wearing them now, either.

Also, I’m not even going to try to figure out what’s going on in the upper left hand part of that photo. That’s some, uh, interesting architecture there, I guess.
The story begins on the final day of a short takes class; this one was called Math for Real Life and involved balancing a checkbook and playing the stock market, among other things. That’s something we didn’t really learn about until my senior year of high school but which I feel needs to be taught younger.
Suggestions from Stacey’s classmates on what their next short takes class will be: Zoo-keeping, How to Be a Clown, Advanced Skateboarding, How to Drive Your Little Sister Crazy. The cap-craziness is theirs, not mine.
I know the BSC is stuck in an alternate dimension where you can have twelve Christmases in one year, but if these short takes classes are one month long, think of how many months they’ve been in the same grade. If you want to be literal about it, I was five when the first BSC book was published and twenty when they finally finished eighth grade. Even if you want to be less literal (who wants to think of 27 year old Kristy Thomas, still in eighth grade, calling the BSC to order?), they’ve spent a lot of time in one grade.
How legal is this Project Work class? I mean, I know these kids aren’t getting paid, but they are actually doing work. It would seem to me that there would be beaucoup liability issues involved: who’s really supervising these kids? It’s especially true for someone like Logan, who’s working with food.
Speaking of, here are the jobs that everyone got. Even if you never read this book before, you could guess most of them:
Claudia—art store
Mary Anne—pet store
Kristy—mall security
Stacey—toy store (because Zingy’s wasn’t an option)
Jessi—movie theater
Logan—burrito place
Chapter five and we haven’t even actually gotten to the mystery yet…
Isn’t it illegal to leave your child alone at a bookstore or toy store while you shop? If it’s not, it should be. Some of the kids left alone at Mal’s story hour are three years old. Haven’t these parents ever heard the story of Adam Walsh? His mom left him alone in the toy section of a Sears, and when she came back he was gone. Eventually, they found him…murdered and beheaded.
The title quote is Kristy’s response to a little boy stealing cookies during the story hour.
All of the bosses of our cast of characters are really worried about shoplifting. Having Kristy work in security is a stroke of genius; she’s pretty much the only one who would be interested in that and she’s able to check security cameras after someone shoplifts right in front of Stacey’s nose.
We have a lot of shoplifters where I work, although they generally don’t go for crap that’s set at the registers. (None of that is worth much, for the most part.) Thieves tend to figure out pretty quickly what a) is easy to steal and b) high dollar. A big deal in my store is pillowcases; a set of two pillowcases can be anywhere up to $100 and they’re easy to slide into a big purse of the armpit of a coat. Or there’s always the other method of stealing, which is to pick up a $700 vacuum in each hand and run out the door with them. Fun times!
Stacey says that the magic is taken out of shopping by knowing how merchandising and pricing is decided. That’s an interesting perspective.
There’s absolutely no babysitting in this book, unless you count the fact that Stacey constantly has to entertain her boss’s son, Sandy.
Every time they list all the characters—whether it’s where they’ll be working or what they’re wearing—I kept feeling like someone was missing. I suddenly realized I was trying to put Dawn in the story even though she’s still in California. Maybe I like Dawn a little more than I thought? (Or maybe it’s got something to do with the Drunk-Dawn fanfic I need to finish…)
I can’t imagine that the mall director is thrilled about his head of security bringing her daughter to work with her. He can’t do anything if a store owner chooses to bring her kid to work, because he’s actually not paying their salaries.
This is how I felt when I used to work at a now-defunct movie rental place:
            Stacey: Did you guys see that movie poster?
            Jessi: I’ve not only seen that poster, I’ve seen the movie. Ten times.
Are cheese stores really a thing? Washington Mall has a Cheese Outlet, and there was one on That 70’s Show. I’d always kind of assumed the latter was a joke because the show took place in Wisconsin.
This is one thing I do like about this book: the police and security officers arrest a group of teenaged shoplifters and BSC members assume the shoplifting will stop after that. But it’s not normal for one group of boosters to be doing all the theft. At the end of the book, it turns out that there’s more than meets the eye (like Transformers!) here. Two different sets of things are turning up missing: big, high-dollar items stolen from locked storerooms, and little things that are more like necessities (hair brushes, towels, food, clothing.)
Hey, shouldn’t Logan be able to help security? After all, he knows a thing or two about shoplifting.
Stacey catches someone in the act of stealing from the Toy Town stockroom. All we’re given to work with is that he’s wearing sneakers, a ski mask, jeans and a light blue shirt. Leave it to Stacey to notice what someone’s wearing while she’s so scared she thinks she might pass out.
Heh. On the bus on the way to and from the mall, the BSC takes up the back two rows of seats. Claudia and Stacey sit in one seat, Jessi and Mal in another, and Logan and Kristy alternate sitting with Mary Anne. Can you imagine if Dawn had been there? They would have had to rotate sitting next to MA. It’s appropriate, given that Stacey called her “lovable” in the second chapter. Makes her sound like a stuffed animal or something.
So someone IS babysitting: Shannon. It sounds like she’s been taking all the sitting jobs, which makes no sense. The only times she’d have to sit was the two hours, three days a week while the rest of the club was at the mall.
Shea apparently developed a crush on Shannon while she was sitting. He kept writing her poems. Is it horrid of me to ask whether or not she can read them, given Shea’s dyslexia? (Yup. But I’m putting it out there anyway.)
Mary Anne, Kristy and Stacey are hanging out at Stacey’s. Mary Anne’s cooing over a picture of Cam Geary, saying that he looks so good in blue:
Kristy: Is that why you bought Logan a blue shirt?
Mary Anne: No! Well, maybe that’s partly why.
Jessi makes everyone synchronize their watches. These days they’d all just pull out their cell phones… (Also, I can’t help thinking of a line from one of my favorite television shows: “Synchronize your watches. It is now…three-ish!”)
New Characters
Sandy Frenning (2)—23
Hannah, Emily and Lea Powers (6, 3 and 1)—27, 24 and 22
Mara, Kyle and Brenda (12, 8 and 6)—33, 29, and 27
Claudia: white lace baby doll dress (she was looking at it, not wearing it); conservative dress and pumps; overalls, striped shirt, hot pink bandana
Stacey: conservative dress and pumps
Kristy: white blouse and skirt
Logan: white shirt, blue and red striped tie, corduroy jacket (yes, but was he wearing pants?)
Mary Anne: navy dress with a white collar
Mal: skirt and sweater

Jessi: skirt and sweater

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

“Is this putting practice?” BSC #73: Mary Anne and Miss Priss (1994)

This is the final original-series title I read as a kid. It really didn’t have anything to do with the book; I was 13 by then and waaaaay too old for the books. My parents only spent so much money on books for me, and I could either get a BSC book or something that lasted me more than an hour or two. I chose the latter. (And also, as I’ve mentioned before, the fact that #74 had a substantial Karen presence really didn’t help the BSC’s case.)
Andrea Prezzioso has become a baby model, and Jenny’s turned back to her old fussbudget-y self because of it. She’s trying to be perfect because everyone keeps saying Andrea’s perfect. Mary Anne goes on several acting auditions with Jenny, but Jenny’s not really cut out for that life. She then tries to get her parents attention by being the exact opposite: extremely messy.
The triplets have decided they don’t need babysitters because they’re mature and responsible enough to take care of themselves. To prove it, they start a kickball team. But fighting and a lack of planning nearly kills the team before it gets started.
Also at the Pike house, there’s a little C plot about how Mal isn’t allowed to come back to the BSC, yet she’s sitting for her own family all the time. Finally she points out to her parents how she’s sitting more now than when she was in the BSC and they let her rejoin.
Interesting tidbits
The cover: This kind of cracks me up. That’s Mary Anne, Jenny, the triplets and…some blonde girl (based upon the kickball team members, probably Haley). MA is supposed to be short for her age, so why are the triplets—who are only a couple years younger than her—so much shorter than she is? There’s a bigger height gap between MA and the triplets than the triplets and Jenny.

The story begins with a mistake in paragraph two, when Nicky is randomly nine. Then there’s another mistake on the next page, when a paragraph ends without a period.
Dawn left for California for “six months” at the beginning of the school year. So how is it now spring and she’s not back yet?
Sharon-itis: high heels in the vegetable drawer of the fridge; pruning shears in the bathroom.
Things Mary Anne is never allowed to say, #1: NOT! (As in, Claudia really loves math. Not!)
This story must have run seriously low on plot, because there’s the summary of about six different plots from earlier books in the first two chapters alone. You get an extreme overview of MA’s history, and then details of #70, #71, #72 and mystery #13. Phew!
Logan, after hearing that Astrid (Shannon’s dog) is having puppies, decides to point out that Bernese Mountain dogs drool prodigiously.
There’s gonna be a whole lotta Jenny outfits in this one, I’m sure.
Healthloaf: meatloaf, only instead of meat, it’s walnuts, carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. It probably isn’t that bad, but it sounds wretched.
Ha! The Pikes use Pow as a canine vacuum cleaner. Probably cuts down on the chores they need to do, and it’s probably as effective as a real vacuum, so why not?
I just can’t find anything to comment on in this book. Is that bad, or good? Meh.
I have to wonder, much like the last book, how accurate this is. How much of this story is accurate to auditions for baby-modeling? Did anyone research this? Of course, most of the parents—including Mrs. Prezzioso—are total stage parents and totally annoying.
Wow, Mary Anne is having a slow moment here. I can understand why she doesn’t get that Mrs. P is taking Andrea on auditions before she's told, but come on. She goes on an audition with the two of them and Jenny and it takes her quite a while to figure out that Jenny is jealous and feeling inferior.
Remember back when cell phones were called car phones and portable phones? Ahh, reminiscing.
I’ve always remembered this bit: Jenny gets an audition for a series of Karberger’s department store. She’s not very good at pretending to be happy or sad, but it gets worse. Instead of saying, “I wanna go to Karberger’s!” she calls the store Hamburger’s. Mary Anne tells her she always calls the store Hamburger’s.
The triplets’ kickball game is hilarious. They don’t have any rules or any planning, so it’s a total free-for-all. Everyone wants to pitch and they actually have two balls in play at once during the game at one point because of that. (Haley won’t let go of the ball—she’s actually lying in the dirt clutching it—so Matt gets another ball so the game can go on without her.) I laughed partly because it was ludicrous and partly because it reminded me of so many things I’ve seen in real life, when people thought they could half-ass preparing for things that needed more effort.
Here’s what you see when you watch the triplets in this effort, though. Adam is trying to be in charge; he’s the one who reaches out and gets everyone’s attention. Meanwhile, when the three of them argue, Byron’s usually the one with the most sensible answer (and he tends to win out); for example, he gets everyone to agree to count off to select teams. Jordan is the quickest to get frustrated, and he spends most of his time bellowing. He’s the one who calls the game “on account of rain.” It isn’t actually raining at the time.
When Jenny’s attempt at acting isn’t successful, she decides to get her mother’s attention in another way: by being super slobby. Is it really sad that I totally understand this logic? It makes me feel like I think like a four year old.
I like this: Usually, when the BSC determines there’s a problem with a client, one of two things happens. Either they solve it without consulting the parents, or the parents are completely shocked and clueless when the BSC member brings up the issue. Mary Anne is trying so hard to figure out how to bring up Jenny’s problems to Mrs. P, but she doesn’t have a chance: Mrs. P brings it up first. She knows what the problem is, and even how to solve it, but can’t make it work.
YAAAAY! Claudia spelling! First of all, she’s siting for the Pikes. Ther, sevendy, woud, cleen, sumthing, storry. Also, she uses wood for would.
Oh, I should have known it was this book! One day, my sister was talking to my mom’s extremely fat gray cat. He’s named Bear, and it suits him these days (although it didn’t when he was named.) My sister always calls him Bar or Baroo. I interrupted her and said, “Doesn’t Pow from the BSC say Baroo?” She just gave me a really weird look and went back to talking to the cat. But, yes, he does indeed say baroo. I guess that’s the onomatopoeia for basset-hound-esque howling.
All is well at the end of the book: Jenny has one successful modeling job and then decides to join the kickball team, giving up modeling all together. The triplets set some ground rules and their team is successful. And Mal’s back at the BSC. Yay!
Jenny: pink dress with lacy collar and puffed sleeves, pink hair bows and lacy sock; pale blue dress, blue hair ribbons and socks; blue dress with pinafore and matching hair bow; pink dress with kitten-shaped pockets

I’ll be reading two more books next week to catch up: Mystery #14, Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall and #74: Kristy and the Copycat. I’ll tell you this right now: If Karen were real, I’d bitch slap her during the events of #74. As is, I may require alcohol for this. You all have been warned…

“I think you may have been watching too much TV.” BSC Mystery #12: Dawn and the Surfer Ghost (1993)

I’m just going to come out and say it. Has anyone else noticed that the middle of the BSC series is subjectively lame? I mean, there is a certain ridiculous silliness to the early books, but that’s what made them appealing to preteens. The idea of five babysitters watching fourteen kids for a whole week, or being stalked by boys…those books were the reason that I wanted to BE a babysitter, or, more accurately, a member of the BSC.
By contrast, when you get to this part of the series, you’re starting to feel like an episode of the Simpsons. I loved that show in its early years; you never knew what was going to happen and the characters were fun. Then Homer just kept getting dumber, and so did the plots. I stopped watching around the time they started making fun of themselves (with an episode, among other things, called ‘Worst Episode Ever’ and another that literally stole plot points from about 10 other earlier episodes.) Simpsons/BSC fans could even argue that Abby = Poochie. The stories are still entertaining…sorta…just not up to the level you’ve come to expect . You open some of these books and go, ‘Oh, look, the BSC is organizing another event for 60 small kids. I wonder what angle they’ve got for it this time…zzzzz….” (That’s you falling asleep, obviously.)
Now, I loved the last ten or so books. I can’t exactly pinpoint when the series shifted back to being excellent. The last two books are very, very good, in my opinion. I even liked #129, when Kristy actually sucked at something (for the second Kristy book in a row!) and #127, when Abby was allowed to NOT want to date anyone—the way Dawn started out—and it was completely okay, with only the fans assuming that Abby = lesbian. (Abby is =ing a lot of things today, and she’s not even in this book!) I even loved the B plot in #126, and not just because of my near-obsession with the Pike triplets.
Now, the mysteries didn’t really get a chance to get better like the original series did, and for some reason, Dawn mysteries seem to be even sillier than the rest of the series; this one is especially Scooby-Doo tastic. (I know; I need to be familiar with some other mystery series. The only other ‘mystery’ show I ever really followed was The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog, where Alfred solves spooky goings-on by the use of logical scientific explanation. I’d actually love to see a BSC mystery that mimicked that!) The ‘ghost?’ I’m glad you asked. I mean, there’s no real ghost in this story, simply because the guy whose ghost is supposedly haunting the beach isn’t really dead. He just faked his own death.
I think I just summarized the whole plot in those last two sentences, so let me get back to my regularly scheduled snark.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: I think if I saw that ‘ghost,’ I’d have come to a logical conclusion: Someone was stupidly surfing after dark with no lifeguard on duty. And of course, that’s what is really going on. But this is Dawn, and logic isn’t her middle name. (Of course not. It’s Read.)

The book starts with a letter from Dawn to Mary Anne in which she mentions being sad because she’s missing a sleepover at Stacey’s. Is it just me, or are most of the sleepovers either at Kristy’s or at Dawn’s? I can only think of a few sleepovers that weren’t at the Brewer/Thomas or Spier/Schafer households. Mary Anne hosted one back in book #4 when Dawn joined the club and Mallory hosted one once—probably just that once because the triplets slimed everyone. I’m sure there are other examples, but all the other examples I can think of were at Dawn’s (#50) or Kristy’s (#17, #38, SS #11).
List of things Dawn is never allowed to say again, #1: Cowabunga.
Consistency: Sunny likes the surfer guys more than surfing. You don’t get too much Sunny until the California Diaries, but if any of you haven’t read those, Sunny is a little boy crazy and has no problem dumping one boy and dating his friend a couple days later. (Actually, my sister did that in high school too. Hmmm.)
I wonder how much the ghostwriter actually knew about surfing when she wrote this. Some of the stuff is such a silly stereotype. The ghosty-surfer is named Thrash, while Dawn’s surfing instructor is Buck. I sincerely doubt everyone who surfs goes by a silly nickname. (Or even worse: let’s hope they weren’t born with those names.)
Wait. Not everyone in California likes health food? All of my dreams are shattered. I can’t handle it. (*Sits down for a nice long cry*)
Sadly, even in a book that takes place in Cali, we have to have a chapter two introduction to the BSC…followed by an intro to the We Heart Kids Club.
Heh. Maggie’s not a punk…she just dresses like one.
Wait a minute. Why does any elementary school kid need to be taught how to play Duck Duck Goose?
Ooh, here’s a description of Thrash, whom Dawn finds cool: “Thrash was about twenty years old, and tall—maybe six feet two—with shoulder length white-blond hair. He was incredibly tan and his blue eyes were intense in his brown face.” He also has five earrings and a ring shaped like a snake. He’s a walking, talking surfer cliché, using words like ‘screamers’ and ‘gnarly.’ Dawn says he’s attractive but not her type. She also—like me—muses as to whether Thrash is his real name.
There are WAY too many letters to the BSC members in this book. When I was a kid, I never read the notebook entries, and reading all the boring letters from Dawn to whomever is worse.
I took a break after chapter four to do some laundry (now that there’s no longer 6 inches of water in my basement…long story) and when I came back, I turned on my ITunes on shuffle. The first song? Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home.” Appropriate. What’s funny is that this is the second time something like that has happened: Back during SS #4, I did the same thing and got Shinedown’s “Second Chance” which includes, among the lyrics, “I just saw Haley’s comet; she waved.”
So there is actually a B plot in this story too. Back in S-brook, the Arnold twins have started taking gymnastics. Carolyn hurts her ankle while Marilyn is supposed to be spotting her. Marilyn, feeling guilty, refuses to let Carolyn out of her sight after that. There are only two parts of this that are interesting: 1. The accident happens while Mary Anne is babysitting, and no one blames her (including Kristy…generally when little accidents like that happen when one of the BSC is sitting, she gets all worried that they’ll get blamed.) 2. My niece isn’t the only little girl who takes one set of gymnastics lessons and suddenly her parents turn her whole basement into a gymnast’s paradise. (She has uneven bars, a balance beam and several other things down there. Her dad is really more into the gymnastics than she is.)
One of the little DeWitt boys gives Dawn a seashell because it’s beautiful, and the guy in charge of her group says he has a crush on her. Dawn actually blushes. Dude, he’s eight! It’s just cute at that point, not blush worthy.
Even though Sunny loves ghost stories, she has the common sense not to believe in real ghosts. This puts her head and shoulders above Dawn.
Poor Dawnie has to solve this mystery by herself because they WHKC members just don’t care as much as the BSC would. Where’s Mallory and her mystery notebook when you need her? (This is probably the only time Dawn will think that.)
I’ve figured out Dawn’s ghost related problem: Like Mallory, she has yet to figure out the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Just because something happens in a ghost story doesn’t mean it could/would happen in real life!
I like Sunny more and more in this book: Sunny decides that Dawn won’t let Thrash’s death/haunting go because she has the hots for him. They did have a conversation in which Thrash called Dawn a surfer princess. I could totally see that starting a crush. (Had it been Stacey, Sunny would have been 100% right.)
Ha! The police aren’t interested in what happened to Thrash and Dawn thinks it’s because he’s a “surfer bum.” She’s partly right. It’s like when prostitutes turn up missing: they tend to be nomadic, so a missing/presumed dead hooker could turn up alive in another city. That’s why hundreds of women were able to go missing in Vancouver before the authorities caught on (and realized a farmer was feeding some of them to his pigs). In this case, though, I don’t blame them. The only proof that something bad happened to Thrash is a mangled surf board. For all anyone knows, he busted a few ribs and is recuperating in bed. Or, like the police seem to think, he could have just moved on.
Sunny finds a ‘clue’ on the beach: a can of Thrash’s one-of-a-kind board wax. She suggests that he either a) faked his death or b) got amnesia and is wandering around as alternatives to his ghost using the wax. Dawn’s response is the title quote.
Gozzie Kunka’s back! I like her almost as much as I like “Alan who lives under my stairs,” my neighbor’s imaginary friend.
Jill and Maggie join Dawn and Sunny at the beach, where they decide to just veg. Sunny decides to put some nail polish on, which seems like a bad idea. Hello, sand?
Oh, but they all spot a surfer at dusk making a move that only Thrash could make. Sunny points out that the ‘ghost’ has short hair but she’s certain it’s Thrash; she agrees to help Dawn investigate.
Thrash’s ghost sure has a weird sense of vengeance. He cuts a little girl’s foot at the beach, causes a grill flare-up that results in eyebrow loss, and even sends a seagull to dive bomb someone. Yet Dawn still believes that his ghost is the cause of everything. (To be fair, a few of the things could be Thrash’s fault, like flat tires and boards that may have been tampered with.)
Stacey finally solved the Marilyn/Carolyn problem by getting their own separate friends to call and invite them over. And it’s about as interesting as it sounds. The only part of it that got me was the name of the video game Carolyn leaves home to go play: Princess Power. Ha!
Dawn likes skipping stones. Insert your own snark about the stones polluting the water….
This is the third mystery in a row that unravels because the BSC is in the right place at the right time. I don’t read enough mysteries to know if that’s normal. They’re definitely no Sherlock Holmes, and I bet even Nancy Drew does more sleuthing than they do. Dawn goes for a smoothie and happens to recognize Thrash while he’s in disguise.
Oh, and then she goes and confronts him while he’s tampering with the board of the person he thinks is responsible for tampering with his board. Dawn manages to convince him to let the police set a trap instead. It’s a good idea, but if the guy’s willing to fake his death, do you really think some 13 year old he’s met once before can talk him out of finishing his revenge?
There’s something really funny about cops undercover as surfers, although I can’t explain it.
After the mystery is over, Dawn calls during a BSC meeting, pretending to be Mrs. Heidendorferman, needing a sitter for her triplets, Moe, Larry and Curly. Yet, that’s not the cheesy ending: the Arnold twins have now had a fight and aren’t speaking. Laaaaaaaaame.
So what did we learn in this book? Most surfers have stupid nicknames like Thrash, Gonzo or Spanky. The end.
Dawn: shorts, t-shirt, sweatpants and white sweater
I’d tell you what I’m reading next, but I’m literally putting this book away and picking up the next one. Just read the next post, okay? ;)