Monday, December 7, 2015

“…as if her earlobes were these weird earlobe cat doors.” #96: Abby’s Lucky Thirteen (1996)

Oh, boy! I kinda like this book. Abby gets in trouble for something that really isn’t her fault, which happens sometimes in real life. Plus, as I’ve said before, I like Abby and I especially like the fact that Abby isn’t really studious and her mother isn’t all Kishi-like about it. Abby’s allowed to get mediocre grades without it causing World War III in her house. It’s a nice contrast to poor Claudia, and realistic to boot.
Before I explain that any further, let’s vlog the BSC and social media.

And yes, you’ve seen all of me now!
Abby buys a ‘study guide’ off a kid she doesn’t know for a test she didn’t prepare for. What she doesn’t realize is that the guide is actually a copy of the test with the answers all written in. The teacher figures out what’s going on because a group of kids all have the same exact answers to every question, including the ones that were wrong on the ‘study guide.’ Abby tries to explain that she didn’t know what she was buying but the teacher doesn’t believe her, so she gets suspended. Meanwhile, Abby and Anna are studying to become Bat Mitzvahs and all these family members are coming together. Abby’s mom catches her trying to hide her suspension. Abby learns a lesson about being and adult because of all of this. Best of all, after another BSC member almost buys a study guide as well, Abby is vindicated in the eyes of her teacher.
In the subplot, the parents of Stoneybrook decide to turn off the television, so the kids start making up their own television shows and acting them out.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: Abby looks really Goth, especially compared to Anna in pink.

Am I the only one who has the urge to pronounce Anna as ‘Ana’, like Princess Anna from Frozen? I’ve always said it that way, and I’m not sure why.
Right above the ‘manuscript assistant’ notification in this book is another thanks, to a group of people who shared their Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah stories. One of them is David Levithan. Think it is the David Levithan?
Abby says she used to be the star of her old middle school’s soccer team, but in #89, Anna said Abby wasn’t a team player and didn’t join sports teams. I guess the authors changed their mind.
Abby makes a couple of violin puns so bad I’m not going to repeat them. Instead, I’ll do it one better and quote Emily Litella: “What’s all this fuss I keep hearing about violins on television?
Did you know a Bat Mitzvah can’t bite you in the ankle? I learn something new every time I read a BSC book. *snicker*
Real book: Turning Thirteen.
Abby starts off by sorta lying to her mother. She was out with a cold two days before a math quiz she flunked. She tells her mother her teacher didn’t care that she’d been out, which was true. But Abby doesn’t mention that she’d been neglecting her math for a while before and didn’t work on it at all during her two days out sick.
This is (slightly) interesting (probably only to me): Abby lists the members of the group and calls Jessi Jessica. But she calls Kristy and Stacey by their nicknames. I’m not sure what that means, but I find it intriguing.
Also interesting, and something a lot of feminists say: Abby posits that people who call Kristy bossy are just uncomfortable with a self-assured, outspoken female. I disagree to some extent—Kristy IS bossy—but it’s sort of true. The friend of mine I mentioned in my vlog who is all about causes is, among other things, all about feminist causes. She says that people who call women bitches are just uncomfortable with a confident woman who won’t back down…which I don’t completely disagree with.
Abby likes Claudia’s snacks…because athletes need carbs. This is proof that you can twist any piece of information any way you want to make it sound good. This, and my local newspaper, and my Facebook feed….
Claudia showed up to the BSC meeting looking like a bumble bee. See below.
Mallory’s mentioned having brown eyes, but I swear the whole Pike family has blue eyes. Anyone back me up on this? I know they mention it in book #14, but they also say Mallory has chestnut-brown hair in that book as well. In later books they alternate between saying her hair is red or reddish brown.
Abby keeps referencing Leave it to Beaver. It’s what she was watching instead of doing her homework, and then she’s thinking about how surreal it is during math class instead of paying attention. (Sidenote: The Cleavers? Surreal? Really? Abby doesn’t say surreal, but it’s what she’s alluding to. I guess in an era of divorces and dysfunctional families, the ‘Gee Shucks’ type of world of Leave it to Beaver would seem pretty surreal. Never mind.)
Claudia spelling: terible, plott, parnts, togethar, telavision. Oh, and she references Jeny Prezzziohso. Hee hee!
Hmm. Mary Anne’s babysitting for the Arnold twins, and it got me thinking: does AMM think that all identical twins have completely opposite personalities and one of them likes music? I knew a set of identical twins when I was young whose names were just as similar as Marilyn and Carolyn, and the two of them would finish each other’s sentences and liked all the same things. As they got older, they could have developed separate interests, but I always pictured them being more like Adam and Jordan Pike, who share the same interests and are very good friends….
Mr. Arnold is Jack. Why are so many dads in this series Jacks/Johns/Jonathans?
Margo is a fan of a show called Mr. Pinhead. I’d watch it!
This is funny: Claudia suspects that Jenny Prezzioso (Jeny Prezzziohso?) will grow up to be a patron of home shopping networks.
“When in doubt, eat chocolate.” It’s a slogan MA once saw on a t-shirt. How did she see my shirt? (Okay, I don’t really own a shirt that says that. But I want one now!)
Abby is startled to discover the study guide another kid she didn’t know sold her was a copy of the actual test. She tries to get up the nerve to tell the teacher what happened, but it doesn’t happen. And then—I like this—her conscience gets the better of her and she keeps having nightmares and being plagued by having done something wrong. Buying the study guide—if it actually was a study guide, like Abby assumed—wasn’t wrong, but not telling the teacher the truth once she figured out what was going on was.
Anna quotes a Nike commercial, but doesn’t mention the brand name. She just says ‘athletic shoes.’ At first I thought this was funny because they have no problem mentioning certain brand names in this series—Laura Ashley, anyone?—but then I realized it was more Anna not being athletic herself and only paying a little attention to the commercials. She heard the ‘Just do it’ but not the rest of the ad.
Abby’s math teacher is Ms. Frost, which leads to this: “Her voice was cold. And for once, no pun is intended.”
Abby and four other kids are all suspended. Much like another math-cheating story, the teacher becomes concerned because Abby’s score is exactly the same as the other kids. Not only that, they all missed the same question…in the exact same way. I can understand both the teacher and principal’s assumption that the kids cheated. And in a way, they did. They didn’t copy each other, Shauna style, but they cheated all the same. (Abby’s cheating was, of course, inadvertent.)
Okay, so here’s the thing that gets me. Abby doesn’t want her mother to know about the suspension, so she erases the message from the school on her answering machine. In my experience, that kind of deception makes things much worse. I would have been in so much trouble if I’d gotten suspended at Abby’s age…but so much more trouble if I’d erase an answering machine message about it. Anna even says as much to Abby when she finds out. (See below.)
Mallory: “You can tell Vanessa’s really upset. She forgot to speak in rhyme.” And Mal doesn’t whisper this to one of the other sitters…she says it out loud, causing half the group (which includes all the Brewer-Thomas kiddos, the Pikes and the Braddocks) to snicker.
The combined group then goes on to create their own ending to a Ghostwriter-style kids mystery show called Cassandra Clue’s Casebook that they love. I was thinking of a book I’d read where the children created their own soap opera based upon The Edge of Night. I was realizing how similar the two plots were…when I realized that the other book was Ann M. Martin’s Belle Teal. Now it all makes sense.
Abby actually takes the bus to school even though she’s suspended. When I was in school, they told the bus drivers when kids were suspended so that they wouldn’t let them on the bus. I know her mom is home, so she has to leave the house, but wouldn’t it have been just as easy to leave the house and then walk into town? Especially because she lies to the BSC so they don’t know about the suspension either. She tells them she’s staying home to study her Torah. How does she get on the bus and not arouse Kristy’s suspicions?
This is funny: “It sounded almost as if I were missing school. Even worse, it sounded as if I were missing the school lunches!”
Ha! I do love this as well. Abby goes to eat lunch at Pizza Express the last day of her suspension…and her mother catches her. Going back to what I said earlier, it’s hard to tell whether Abby’s punishment is worse because she lied to her mother, but I do know this. Abby’s more hurt by her mother considering her a liar and saying she’s disappointed in her, than she is by the month-long grounding.
Come to think of it, Abby’s grounding is a lot less severe than Kristy’s from the last book. Yes, it’s a lot longer, but she’s allowed to go to her afterschool activities and babysit…she just can’t visitors or make phone calls.
I do like this, too, for its realism. When Abby told Ms. Frost the truth about the ‘study guide,’ she didn’t believe her. It does sound like a bit of a ridiculous story, after all. (Think about it as an adult…why wouldn’t Abby realize what she had was a copy of the test? And how did she come to buy it from someone she doesn’t know?) But then Mary Anne also buys a copy of the test from the same student, but Abby stops her from using it. The two of them go see Ms. Frost together. Because Mary Anne is a good student who doesn’t pull the kind of crap Abby does in class, Ms. Frost actually believes her. That’s the part that rings true the most to me, having taught school before. Also, I like the fact that Ms. Frost acknowledges that Abby was the only one of the five students suspended who explained what happened, which should have been a hint that she was telling the truth.
Building on the Belle Teal comment from earlier, Stacey refers to the kids’ ongoing drama as a soap: The Young and the Reckless. Another, Smaller World. I’ve always been amused by made up soap opera names, because they’re either jokes upon real soap names (like these) or sound exactly like the joke names, only less jokey. (The Brash and the Beautiful, for example.)
“Who knows what weirdness lurks in the hearts and minds of people and jerks.” Thank you, Vanessa. Even funnier, though, is that the ‘soap’ starts with a keyboard ‘organ’ and sauce pan ‘cymbal’ theme song. Soap operas haven’t had themes like that since the seventies at the latest, and this is a bunch of kids who, at this point, were born in the late 80s.
Mallory chides Stacey for not knowing about the kids’ drama because it’s all over the notebook. Stacey changes the subject. Hee hee!
I once read an essay on the history of what Jewish people named their children. First generation Americans and people whose children would be first generation wanted their children to fit in, so they didn’t give them Hebrew or Yiddish names. They found what the essay called ‘English Gentleman’ names, such as Sheldon, Morris, and Morton. Over several generations, those names became known as ‘Jewish names’, because other groups weren’t using them. So then they started straying away from those names in order to blend in again. By the seventies and eighties, the popular names for the country were also popular for Jewish parents. But at the same time, some families started moving back toward Biblical names (which, it must be pointed out, were also on the rise in the general population). But that led to traditional Hebrew and Yiddish names coming back into favor as well. These days, many Jewish parents don’t mind giving their children names that mark them as Jewish.
What was the point of me bringing that up? We get an extended Stevenson family tree synopsis in this book. Some of her relatives have the English Gentlemen names like Morris and Mort. Others have Biblical names like Ruth, David, Micah, Esther, Saul, and Aaron. And other names are neither, like Jean, Amy and Sheila.
Two last notes about this: Abby thinks her family is huge because there are seventeen people in it, including great aunts and second cousins and whatnot. Uh…I have twenty-four first cousins. I counted up recently and if I were to invite my family—parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (and their spouses and children)—to my wedding, I’d have to invite 78 people. And it would number in the hundreds if I invited all my grandparents’ siblings and their children and grandchildren….
And Abby says her mother has no siblings, which sets up a whole plot that pops up later…
There are a whole bunch of vague description of all the party clothes everyone (including all of Abby’s little cousins) are wearing, but I’m only going to put complete outfits that characters were know about are wearing. I’m trying to figure out why Mary Anne is wearing exactly the type of clothes she fought to stop having to wear at the beginning of the series.
Abby and Anna each have to give a sermon about what being an adult in the eyes of Jewish law means to them as part of their Bat Mitzvah. Anna plays something on her violin (which feels like cheating but suits her all the same.) Abby, on the other hand, talks about how important it is to make the right decision in all choices and to be honest and truthful. She actually does sound like an adult at this point. Isn’t it amazing that she had this adventure so that she could learn all this and have something to talk about?!?
Abby and Anna, like most religious Jewish people, also have Hebrew names. Logically, their Hebrew names are Avigail and Hannah. Abby mentions that Abigail/Avigail means “father’s joy”, so it’s very appropriate for her situation. Makes you wonder if that’s why it was chosen for the Name the New Sitter contest winner.
Abby mentions her twentieth high school reunion and Shannon shrieks that she doesn’t want to be that old ever. This is both realistic (I think a lot of kids feel that way) and funny. Especially considering that, for people who grew up with the BSC, 38 isn’t that old anymore. Hell, some of the original readers from the mid-80s are probably older than that themselves.
Claudia: leopard tights, black ankle boots, black bike shorts, yellow leotard, black fuzzy sweater with yellow buttons, leopard earrings (see the title quote); tunic shirt, long skirt, lace socks
Mallory: rust brown sweater and jeans
Jessi: rose turtleneck, jean skirt, tights, pink legwarmers and flats
Brad Simon (the kid who sells the tests): jeans and flannel shirt
Kristy: corduroys and button down shirt under sweater
Mary Anne: yellow wool skirt, dark tights, plaid vest, turtleneck
New characters
Amy and Sheila (5 and 3)—24 and 22
Sarah and Lillian (5 and 4)—24 and 23
Aaron, Bette and Jonathan (6, 4 and 2)—25, 23, and 21

Next: #97

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