Ahh, here we go. This book begins a change in the BSC. By this point, they must have realized that the series were coming to an end. The Friends Forever series narrowed the focus of the characters and the action. There were fewer characters—fewer sitters and fewer clients—and the plots were (mostly) more realistic. There were no more festivals, no more giant group activities. Just four girls, their friendships, their love lives, their homes and the occasional sitting drama. Interestingly, it’s not just the BSC who wind up being the focus of stories. I’ve always wondered whether the characters who got more page-time in the FF series were the authors’ favorites, or whether fan letters had any input. I say that because, for the most part, the non-BSC members who get stories are often ones who interested or intrigued me through the whole BSC-universe.
Why am I saying this? Because the evolution and development of one of those characters starts here. He’s always been one of my favorites, but small pieces of development through the years led to this, and then much more development through his sporadic appearances thereafter.
Mallory leaves for Riverbend Hall. She feels like she fits right in, except with her roommate, Alexis. Alexis creates impossible rules, rifles through Mal’s stuff—including her diary and a care package sent by the BSC—and even draws on pictures of Mal’s friends. She tries to get along with her, talking things out, but Alexis won’t budge. After Mal gets the school staff involved, Alexis tears the room apart entirely. The staff admits that they put Alexis with Mal because they thought she’d be able to get along with her where no one else could, but it’s decided that Alexis’ problems are just too big, so the two of them are separated.
Meanwhile, the sitters are dealing with Pike Family Room Wars. With Mal gone, Vanessa has her own room, which most of her siblings are not happy about. This includes Vanessa, who likes the idea of her own room, but not the realities. The ideal situation would seem to be putting the four girls in the larger bedroom, because only three of them would be in it most of the time, while the boys could room in twos. The trouble? Adam and Jordan are fighting the idea. Byron agrees to room with Nicky, solving the problem and leading him to take a leadership role among his siblings.
Did you know that Sam Thomas set the spaghetti-sucking record? I’m more than a little disturbed that Mal knows that. Was she there, or did Kristy just…brag…about that during a BSC meeting?
When Mal describes her family as all matching except for her, does anyone else think about the possibility that she’s got a different father than the rest? I mean, I know it’s possible for her to just have different looks. My friend Zee has four kids and three of the four all look like a combo of their dad, with his straight brown hair, and their mother, with her pale coloring, gray eyes and freckles. The other daughter has curly hair, much lighter in color, and a much fuller face. She’s still an obvious combo of the two families—she’s the spitting image of one of her aunts—but when my mom saw pictures of the oldest two girls, she assumed they had different dads.
Mallory and Jessi plan on emailing each other once she leaves for school. It was one thing when Mrs. Pike was emailing in the last book, or when characters were surfing the ‘net, but these girls are eleven. My niece will be nine in a couple weeks, and I can’t imagine her mom letting her have her own email address, but maybe things were different back in 1999? (Later you learn that Mal’s email address is provided by her school, which is a little different. You know that’s got to be monitored.)
Mal has this little moment the morning she leaves for school wherein she realizes she already packed her robe, so she’s going to have to go to breakfast in her pajamas. This is the same house where ‘see food’ and running around naked are normal. Is she really concerned about her P.J.s?
There is a joint Mary Anne-Jessi notebook entry, and I really had trouble differentiating their handwriting for some reason.
When the Pike parents drive Mal to Riverbend, Claire gets very upset and wants to know why all three of three of them need to go live in Chassamoosetts. Meanwhile, Vanessa dresses all in black, looking like ‘a romantic heroine wasting away from sorrow.’ I can totally picture this.
Mal’s friends? Smita Narula, Pam the prefect, and Sarah Bernhardt, an actress who was named after a famous actress, and Jen Bodner, who used to be Alexis’ roommate.
Mallory says she doesn’t really miss boys. Insert your own gay joke here….
Oh no she din’t! Mal’s roomie is a real piece of work. When Mal comes home after her first day of class, Alexis is reading her diary. She claims Mal left it open on the bed, and that she considered that an invitation to read it. That’s someone with absolutely no sense of boundaries. You almost want to get a lock for your trunk after something like that…
Ahh, Byron is already a teenager in training at age ten. When asked how he feels about the room situation, he just shrugs and says, ‘whatever.’
Vanessa’s door sign? “Poet at work/Knock, you silly jerk” Niiiice.
Mal’s way of handling Alexis is to avoid her and allow her to have the room to herself except when sleeping. Sarah, Mal’s actress friend, is making a drama out of the Alexis situation. She’s so stealthy and spy-like in her tracking of Alexis that Mal keeps waiting for her to suggest they synchronize watches. (I’m picturing a scene from Soap: “Let’s synchronize watches. It is now…threeish!”)
I miss Claudia spelling. Oh, sure, she still misspells things on emails, but it’s not the same when it’s not in her belabored handwriting. Wasnt, eether, thats. She also uses gong for going.
The title quote comes from Abby and Claudia’s joint email. Abby says that, for solving the Room Wars, Ambassadors Kishi and Stevenson will be awarded the Silver Doorknob. After Claud’s question, Abby suggests she could make an earring out of it.
The Siege of Vanessa’s Room. Sounds like an epic saga poem, penned by one V. Pike.
You’d think the Pikes would be better able to handle fights between their kids, even with their obvious hands-off policy. (To some extent, I agree with this policy. Give them a chance to sort things out for themselves before dictating a solution.) But Mr. Pike sits the seven kids down and asks them to tell him what’s going on, without any direction. He seems surprised that everyone starts talking at once. Abby has to whistle before they get quiet.
If I wanted to, I could write a whole dissertation on the ‘evolution of Byron.’ A lot of you are aware of my extreme fondness for that character, which stems from several different scenes throughout the series. In one book, he offers Nicky part of his lunch after Adam and Jordan tease him; in another (#73), he’s the logical brother who is the only one of the triplets able to bring any sense of order—however small—to their kickball team. Here, it takes a while to notice that while the Pike kids are arguing about Vanessa’s room, Byron never takes part. He simply complains that Adam and Jordan’s posturing causes the three of them to be punished with extra housework, and then says ‘whatever’, like I mentioned before. While his brothers and sisters are laying siege (I just love that term), Byron is sulking in the basement. He tells Abby that Adam and Jordan are acting like babies about the whole situation, and he just wants some peace and quiet. He’s not the actual one to solve the problem here—Abby is—but his attitude allows the solution to work. Later, in the FF series, he takes a more mature role in things. He fills the big sibling role Mal used to play, and more.
The Alexis situation is solved when Jen, her ex roomie who had a single room, agrees to switch rooms with her. She and Mal get along okay, and that lets Alexis have her own room. Mal finally feels completely happy at school.
You do have to wonder why they didn’t give Alexis a single room after two different bad roommate experiences, anyway. My sophomore year of college, there was a freshman who, like Alexis, went through two roommates in one semester. She was really immature and would walk into your dorm room and start going through your stuff without being invited in. Her first roomie was very easygoing and could get along with (almost) everyone, so we all knew who was the problem when they fought. Her second roommate wouldn’t put up with a single ounce of crap, so that pairing lasted about two weeks. They told her she had two options at that point: she could either pay more money for a single room, or she could get the hell out of the dorms. That wouldn’t work with a sixth grader, but it seems pretty cruel to start Mal off at boarding school with a roommate who had already terrorized two others on the thought that the oldest of eight could make it work.
Mallory: jeans and blue sweater; flowered flannel pajamas
Alexis: black sweater, short black skirt, black high tops, five black metal hoop earrings; orange sweater, black jeans
Sarah: long purple skirt, silky, shimmery purple shirt