Monday, March 23, 2015

“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

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