Sunday, November 22, 2015

“Mary Anne? Is there a reason you want to wait for the bus in the middle of the road?” BSC Super Mystery #2: Babysitters Beware (1995)

I should, in theory, like this book. It’s the sort of book that rewards you for having read earlier books. I’ve always enjoyed that sort of thing on television, whether it was introducing a plot point and then letting it go for so long you forgot about it and then bringing it back up years later (hello, Angela’s real name), or silly self-referential comments (“Would both Alex Yankou and Pete Riley please report to the office?”)
That said, this book BITES! It’s convoluted and the parts that are supposed to be scary are silly and cheesy. The best way for me to lay it out is to literally just make a list of what happens and then tie it together…maybe. Some of it doesn’t tie really well.
1.    Abby and Kristy witness what appears to be an attempted robbery next the Rodowskys’ house, the Seger family
2.    Someone throws a brick through Kristy’s front window and spray paints “You’re next” on her door
3.    Mary Anne and Logan each get notes that look like they are in the other’s handwriting, that say weird things like “Stop crying” and “Why do you do the things you do?”
4.    A fire starts in Claudia’s back yard while she, Janine, MA and Stacey are in the house
5.    Claudia, Mary Anne, Kristy and Stacey all keep getting creepy phone calls—hang ups and someone whispering “You’re next”
6.    Abby finds a photocopy of a photo of the four who keep getting the calls and Dawn in the recycle bin next to the photocopier at the library
7.    Someone sticks a note on Tigger’s collar that says…you got it… “You’re next”
8.    Stacey nearly gets hit by a car with a Springfield Business Bureau sticker on it
9.    Then, at Shadow Lake for some skiing, Stacey gets stuck in the chair lift
10. A snowblower buries Kristy in a little mini-avalanche
11. Someone removes a Closed sign from a black-diamond trail and Claudia nearly falls into a ravine
12. Mary Anne catches someone breaking into the Seger house and the Segers’ son is arrested for it
13. After a blizzard starts at Shadow Lake, someone snaps Kristy’s monogrammed ski poles in half and then Stacey sees a woman from the ski lodge skulking around with a gun
14. Stacey’s insulin goes missing, and some other, less serious stuff occurs in the cabin while the sitters and Kristy’s brothers are in the other room
15. Mary Anne, Shannon and Logan all get locked in the house of their suspected stalker and don’t get in trouble; his wife just says, “You have to stop him!”
16. The Shadow Lakers get chased down the trail by a deranged lunatic, but the woman they saw lurking turns out to be a police officer. They think that’s the end of things, but it turns out the lunatic is really someone else, who attacks them and threatens to throw Stacey in the lake
So what the $^#! is going on here? Woodrow Tate, son of Karl Tate, the villain from the dog-napping mystery, is out to get revenge on the BSC members for what happened to his father. He’s responsible for the vast majority of the above weirdness, but Ol’ Karl himself joins him at Shadow Lake in an effort to stop his son. After Karl gets arrested, Woodie keeps after the BSC. The Seger storyline has nothing to do with the rest of it—it’s just coincidence—and you never do figure out what’s going on with the notes between Logan and Mary Anne.
Interesting tidbits
The cover. Ooh, Scary! But Andrew seems more interested in the snow than the deranged dude outside.

This book’s claim to infamy: It is the introduction of the mystery notebook and Mallory’s near-obsession with it. I think she likes that notebook more than she likes Ben Hobart…or even Misty of Chincoteague.
Books referenced in this flashback: #2, #81; Mysteries #7, #10, #11, #14, #16; Super Special #8 +
Kristy catches DM and Karen watching a really cheesy horror movie and tries to get them to turn it off…because it’s freaking her out. This is the response. Karen: “Don’t worry. He doesn’t eat her yet.” DM: “And it’s really fake-looking when he does.”
It’s insinuated that, even though it hasn’t been mentioned since SS #8, Kristy’s family spends a lot of time at the cabin on Shadow Lake. She always feels left out, so Watson let her bring some friends this time.
SS #12 marked the beginning of something important and realistic in the BSC-verse. The BSC was split up for that book, with half in California, and half in Connecticut. In SM #1, part of them are in Maine, part in Connecticut. Everyone but Mal and Kristy go to Hawaii in SS #13, and some go to Europe while some work a day camp in SS #15. That’s true in this book too, with Kristy, Stacey, Claudia and Abby at Shadow Lake and Mary Anne, Mal and Jessi back in Stoneybrook.
Kristy suggests that Shannon’s life is booked years in advance. I can picture adult Shannon pulling out her date book and telling her fiancé, “Sorry, we can’t get married for at least four years. I’m booked up until then.”
Bad pun alert! Mallory points out how much insulation is in her basement, and Abby says, “I see you’re warming to the subject.”
Stacey calls Abby One Tough Cookie because she’s willing to stand up to Kristy. I don’t think that makes someone a tough cookie, but I do see how that would be refreshing in the BSC.
Archibald. Heh. I love the name Archie, but I’d probably just name the kid Archie.
I love that Abby is still so new that people don’t know who she is yet. It’s not like the BSC would send around a flier with her name and photo on it when she joined the club. Mrs. Rodowsky only knows who she is because she’s wearing a nametag that says, “My name is Abby Stevenson, get out of my way.” Oh, Abby.
Oh, Abby, pt. 2: She thinks it’s ‘excellent’ that someone is casing the neighborhood to plan a robbery. Honestly, though, the rest of the BSC feels the same way about it—they just don’t say so in front of Sgt. Johnson.
Really bad pun #2: Abby thinks it would be a crime not to give everyone a clue about the attempted robbery.
The main thing Kristy and Abby relay about the robbery is that the guy they saw running away had “evil, ski-mask framed eyes.” I actually like that turn of phrase.
I love the BSC logic of “I don’t want to worry my parents, so I won’t tell them about all the freaky-deaky and illegal things that are happening around me. I’ll just solve it myself with my middle school friends, and maybe our favorite pedophile detective.” At least Kristy has an excuse for it this time: she’s afraid Watson will have another heart attack. (I never said it was a good excuse.)
Mary Anne’s dressing up for a big date with Logan…to celebrate football season ending. The most interesting part about it is actually the fact that he says he’s going to take her to a ‘real’ restaurant, as opposed to all those fake restaurants they usually go to.
The title quote is what Claudia says when MA stops in the middle of the street after thinking someone’s watching her.
YES! Claudia’s responsible for starting dinner, so she contemplates serving Twinkie casserole with Dream Whip topping. (In reality, she just has to make a salad and set the table.)
Claudia spelling! Smoak, beleieve, hapenned, purpos, firefigters. She also uses off for of.
You know this mystery is really getting to the BSC, because a) Kristy let a meeting run UNTIL 6:10 ONE NIGHT!* and b) they actually forget to answer the phone when it rings. It’s like they forgot they weren’t Scooby Doo in the mystery machine and that their real purpose for getting together is to, y’know, line up babysitting jobs.
(*You have to wonder why Charlie didn’t come ring the doorbell and ask where the #$*! Kristy and Abby were. I have my theories on this. One is the popular fan fiction idea that he likes driving Kristy to meetings so that he can spend time with Janine. Then there’s the boring suggestion that he was studying in the car while waiting. I actually prefer the theory that Charlie isn’t actually Kristy’s brother at all, but a robot in disguise as a teenager, a la Vicki on Small Wonder.)
Claudia worries about Stacey getting “killed dead” skiing on trails that are too hard for her. I wonder what happens if you don’t get killed dead? Zombie Stacey anyone?
Kristy’s the one who suggests having a mystery notebook, but Mal volunteers to go through the gigantic club notebook and find all the clues from previous cases and put them in one place. That must have taken her hours, so it’s no wonder she’s so obsessive about the notebook in later books.
Zounds! A Shannon chapter! She calls Kristy a PI and WOA—“Private Investigator and Woman of Action.”
Mallory’s on a stakeout. That sounds so much more fun than saying she’s sitting at the Rodowskys’.
Really Bad Pun #3: Someone calls Kristy Agatha Kristy. I heartily approve and endorse this pun. (Shannon wonders where Abby gets all her awful puns, but I just hope she doesn’t stop…at least for the rest of this book.)
Kristy describes Claudia as sneaky, devious and excellent…because she knows how to manipulate Janine into giving her information.
Once again, you know something horrible has happened…because Abby’s being deathly serious. The photo Abby finds while digging through the recycle bin is from “The Mallory Book” (Mystery #7). Mal and Jessi were on the ends of the photo and got cropped out…which is symbolic of this whole series to date. But it also explains why they (and Abby) aren’t getting the crank calls.
Mal says she’s not built for stakeouts…because she has red hair. She suggests it’s why she’s the first one called on in class, but I always pictured her being that kid who sits in the front row and looks like she knows what she’s doing. It’s not her hair, it’s the word NERD written across her forehead.
Volume One of the Autobiography of Mallory Pike: Chaos and Catastrophe. I’m not surprised Mal would think she needs a multi-volume autobiography. Come to think of it, that’s probably the reason that she and Jessi didn’t get Portrait Collection books. Hmm…
A final Mal note before the chapter ends: Mal thinks her parents’ obsession with insulation has become unhealthy, because when she arrives home, her mother asks if she’s wearing enough layers. That’s actually funny, and more subtle than most of the jokes in this series.
In case you forgot Stacey was from NYC, she compares something to an express subway train.
“We’re part of his little phone terrorist circle.” Has anyone noticed how many of my favorite quotes in this book are either Claudia (like this one) or Abby? Why not share the love and let Stacey or Jessi say something awesome every now and then?
Speaking of Claudia: Stasey, proboly (that’s how I used to spell it when I was about six), acident, Abbey, polise, sombody, somthing. She also uses shuck for shook and too for to. I have to give her a little bit of credit though: she spelled Kristy correctly.
It's weird to have Abby refer to Watson as ‘Watson’ in one paragraph and then as ‘Mr. Brewer’ in the next. He’s Watson when he’s talking to Kristy and Mr. Brewer when he’s not. They need to be consistent about it. (I mean, when I was growing up I always referred to Tessie’s parents as ‘Greg and Mona’—not their real names, but you get the picture—and my friend Kelly’s parents as Mr. and Mrs. Kellysparents or later as Mama and Papa Kellysparents. But I didn’t just randomly decide to call Mr. Kellysdad Steve one day and see how that went over. I still think I couldn’t call him by his first name to this day.)
YES! Abby says that Karen is “…plugged into Mars. I’ve never met a kid like her.” That doesn’t sound like a compliment, which means I now officially love Abby. (BTW, Karen even annoys her own father on the way to Shadow Lake. He just doesn’t come out and say so.)
Jessi ponders Mal’s life philosophy, which I think is like pondering why Emo kids are so mopey. But she comes up with “Insulation equals Isolation.” I’m not sure what exactly it is that’s making Mal sulk all the time, but I suspect it has more to do with seasonal affective disorder (this is right before Christmas) than the actual insulation.
Actual (although ineffectual) foreshadowing of sorts: Becca had spotted a man with a blue tattoo on his face, much like the one she and Charlotte had seen while playing detective in M#10—the guy who ended up being the counterfeiter. So Mal and Jessi take the Pikes (and Becca) out for the day to look for blue tattoos. Vanessa suggests that the tattoo-faced guy could have broken out of prison to exact revenge on the BSC. Between that and all the references back to earlier mysteries, it should have been easy for first-time readers to see where this story was going…at least, that the suspect related to one of those earlier crimes.
They finally find the guy Becca has seen making salad at the pizza place. Mal’s so distracted that she tries to order a blue pizza.
Claudia has her priorities straight: when she and the other girls at Shadow Lake go skiing, she refuses to leave until she puts a Ring Ding in her pocket, for ‘nourishment.’
Whenever someone who writes in cursive (Kristy, Mary Anne) wants to put emphasis on something in a notebook entry, they switch to print. It’s odd, especially because they used the Dawn-handwriting font for Mary Anne’s printing.
When Mary Anne sees someone break into the Segers’ house—the same house they’d been staking out every time they sat for the Rodowskys’—she calls Sgt. Johnson, and then Logan. The Rodowskys come home before Logan gets there, but they’re not mad MA invited her boyfriend over, given the circumstances. A) I’m not sure I’d believe her if I were them. B) How the hell is Logan, with his 13-year-old boy skinny body, going to protect her from anyone? Honestly, not that he’d be much better in ‘protecting’ her, but she’d have been better off calling her dad.
CBC: Crime Busters Club. Don’t encourage them, Sgt. Johnson…even if they do your job better than you do.
An emergency meeting at Shannon’s house! That seems sort of odd, but I love it nonetheless. I always feel like, when they have emergency meetings at house with younger siblings, the sibs should be eavesdropping or being pesty.
If Logan really thought Mary Anne was sending him threatening notes, why did he agree to go ‘rescue’ her from burglars? Or show up at Shannon’s for the meeting?
Actually, the best part about the meeting at Shannon’s is the fact that she keeps whipping out the phone every time someone has an idea and just calling about it. When Kristy’s in charge at meetings, they seem to have to run everything by her first. Shannon seems to enjoy the freedom to just do whatever she’s thinking, without checking with the others first.
Watson and Elizabeth go to get supplies before the blizzard gets too bad and take the little kids with them. Sam tells them not to worry, because he’s there. He flexes his muscle. Stacey calls him a ‘nerd body builder.’ Later, the two of them talk, finishing a D-level plot about her worrying about him trying to get back together with her (since they first got together at Shadow Lake). He admits he’s just using her for flirting practice, which I love.
I’m trying to place the first time someone refers to a Pike-family station wagon as a Pike-mobile. I thought I’d coined that one, but Shannon uses it in this book and I’m thinking it’s happened a few other times throughout the series.
OH! I knew there was a book where Logan, Shannon and Mary Anne were in a bad guy’s house together. I just didn’t remember it was this one. Shannon’s dog Astrid chases a cat into Karl Tate’s house. They have to get her back out and she refuses to come when called, so they open an unlocked door and walk in. Trespassers! (Logan even makes the argument that they’re not breaking and entering, since the door wasn’t locked.) Somehow, they get locked into his former office…with the dog.
Spelling! Waching, scarry, readding, becaus, madeup, traped, maneiac. She also uses moor for more.
Claudia keeps getting freaked out during the blizzard, pointing out how horror-movie-esque everything is. To be fair, it’s more because of the woman outside with a gun than the snow, but she refuses to let anyone split off from the six that are locked into the house (four babysitters, plus Charlie and Sam).
Mistake! During the Claudia chapter, someone rips open her pillow and spills her red nail polish in the mess. But it says Claudia’s red nail polish instead of my red nail polish
Shannon should get a job as a mediator. She solves the Logan/Mary Anne fight by making them talk about it.
I love this notebook entry: “Did I ask for this? When I joined the BSC, I wanted a job, some friends. By friends, I did not mean acquaintances in low places. You know, like maniacs. And convicted felons…”
Abby pelts a chunk of frozen snow at Karl Tate, and the police officer they’d seen with a gun earlier, Kris Renn, compliments her aim. (She manages to knock him out.) Because she’s Abby, she decides to enter the Olympics in ice hurling competition.
Horribly awful pun: The BSC solves mysteries with flare.
Is it awful that when Woodie Tate threatens to toss Stacey in the lake, I really wanted him to follow through?
Woodie asks, “My father. Karl Tate? Remember him?” Um, yes. Even if we didn’t remember back when he was kidnapping dogs, much to Mallory and Dawn’s horror, he was literally arrested (again) two chapters ago.
Abby goes to throw something at Woodie, but instead Stacey just elbows him so he’s the one who falls into the lake. I almost wish she’d elbowed him in the groin instead of the stomach, but there you are. I’m clearly just a horrible person by this point.
Ooh, that’s it. Even though they don’t really mention Christmas in this book, I’ll quote the TV episode I was binge watching when I started this sucker: “Happy holidays, broomhead!”
Claudia: purple leggings under black bike shorts (NOOOOOOO!), t-shirt that says “This might be art”, suit jacket, Doc Martens with red socks
Stacey: black leggings, turtleneck sweater, cowboy boots, black suede vest
Mary Anne: thin, lace edged sweater, skirt, belt, patterned stockings

Next: We start 1996 with #93. I’d say I’d cry, but y’know. It’s a BSC book. If I were going to cry, it wouldn’t be because someone died, but because there was too much Karen in it.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it's because the Pacific Northwest is more casual than the East Coast, but my friends and I have always called each others' parents by their first names. Never Mr./Mrs. whoever. My parents had my siblings and I start out with being formal, but we were always told, "Oh, call me FirstName." My parents HATE being called Mr./Mrs. in non-business settings. It makes them feel older than they are.