Sunday, October 30, 2016

"It could star in a horror movie." BSC FF#1: Kristy's Big News (1999)

Kristy's father Patrick calls from California, inviting Charlie, Sam, and Kristy to his wedding. Charlie is reluctant to go, but the three of them head to Sausalito anyway. Sam tries to play peacekeeper while Kristy grows close to her new stepmother, Zoey. Charlie, meanwhile, barely holds back anger and frustration. Just before the wedding, Patrick accuses Charlie of being negative and a bad son, because Charlie--among other valid points--mentions the fact that Patrick barely acknowledges David Michael's existence. Kristy winds up telling Patrick off, pointing out how much Charlie has sacrificed because Patrick walked out of their lives. Sam helps Charlie change his perspective enough to enjoy himself at the nuptials.
Interesting Tidbits
Oh look. The ghost of Ben Brewer. I really hope that's the last time that ever gets mentioned.
There's a level of realism in the various Thomas kids' responses to hearing that their father is getting married. Charlie is understandably angry at his father for trying to barge back into their lives, while David Michael is upset because his father didn't even ask for/about him. Sam and Kristy sort of reluctantly agree to go, but neither seems very enthusiastic.
Kristy's breakfast? Wheaties mixed with Rice Krispies. I've never considered mixing cereal in one bowl. Maybe that makes me weird?
I like how the characters and backstory are all introduced organically in these books, much like in the early BSC books. Kristy decides to go see Mary Anne, so there's a whole discussion on the Richard-Sharon marriage, the Dawn-moving-away business, and the fire. Claudia and Stacey aren't mentioned until they show up in the story later, for a BSC meeting.
Oh, and this is the best part: We don't see the BSC meeting. We don't get to hear the history of the BSC, or even much about Stacey and Claudia.
Dinner at the Thomas-Brewer house? Gnocchi with marinara sauce. Or, as Karen says, potato lumps with tomatoes.
This is pretty cruel, though. Charlie is completely set against going to California to stay with the father who abandoned him. He's told it's his choice initially, and Charlie's old enough--and usually described as mature enough--to make those types of decisions. But then Elizabeth tells him that if he doesn't go, then neither can Sam and Kristy--who both were 'meh' about the wedding but actually wanted to see their father. It doesn't sound like a bad parenting choice on one level, and I think that's the level it's intended to be seen on: among other things, Kristy points out how unfair it is for her and Sam to have to explain to their father why Charlie didn't attend. But it's essentially emotional blackmail. Elizabeth knows how much Sam and Kristy want to go, even if they don't say so, and so does Charlie. She also knows how responsible Charlie's always felt--been made to feel--for his younger siblings. There's only one possible ending to that scenario, and it's not really fair. Charlie should be allowed to say, "No--I'm angry at my father and not ready to play nice with him. Maybe someday. But not now."
For Charlie's eleventh birthday, he's given a baseball glove and the freedom to not babysit Sam and Kristy one day a week, because Sam will watch Kristy. He says "I'm almost ten," but that doesn't seem accurate. Of course, virtually no character in this series had an actual birthday. They just were mentioned as one age when they were introduced and then, several books later, were all a year older. So for all we know, there's actually a fifteen month gap between Sam and Charlie, and they were just frozen in age in those three months where they were two years apart in age. Later, Patrick makes a comment that makes the same thing more plausible.
Another thing I like: Kristy rarely mentions her father, except to say she's angry at him. She sees him once in a super special, and again in her autobiography, but she never really learns much about him either of those times. So in her mind, he's still as he was seven years earlier. She imagines him living in a small house, with a beat up car, because he never made much money while married to her mother, and she thinks little else could have changed about him. So she's shocked when he has a really nice car and a huge, gorgeous house (in a part of the country that requires beau coup bucks...)
I must say, I like that Kristy, rather than saying, "my father" or "Dad", calls him by his first name, Patrick. If Watson's been more of a father to her, and she calls him by his first name, it would follow that she'd do the same for the father who wasn't there for her.
Patrick and Zoey's house doesn't meet Kristy's expectations, and not just because it's larger than she thought. She seems surprised that Patrick would be able to take enough care to keep plants alive. But to the adult eye, it's quickly obvious that Zoey is the one who cares for the plants. Zoey's study is neat and orderly; Patrick's is messy, with papers everywhere and stacks of books rather than a bookcase full.
This made me laugh: Kristy says that, among other things, Zoey is wearing a chemise and espadrilles. Then, two paragraphs later, she says that she doesn't know what a slip dress with a simple line is. I barely know what chemises and espadrilles are, but I can very clearly picture a slip dress with a simple line.
Kristy apparently drinks mochaccinos. That just sounds...wrong.
The title quote is Charlie's take on the horrific tuxedos Patrick and Sam picked out. Kristy say they are "baby puke yellow."
I like the development of Sam in this book. He's always been a practical joker and a goof; in several books, Stacey is basically more mature than he is. But, he's trying to play peacemaker in this book. He's not only trying to smooth things over between Patrick and Charlie, but also between Patrick and Zoey when Patrick starts acting juvenile.
Kristy wants to wear a tuxedo one day. I guess she's forgotten that Claudia's already done that. I want to say Stacey has, too.
I love the self-awareness. Kristy feels bad because of how much she likes Zoey. I can see why; she and Zoey have a lot in common. They're both organized go-getters who are more functional than decorative in fashion and sense. (Kristy figures this out in the last chapter.) But this makes her feel guilty because she liked Zoey instantly while she took a long time to warm to Watson, who has been the father figure of her life. I can understand that, too: not only had she been without a father for more than six years at that point, but Watson was so different from her bio dad. Then Kristy realizes that she actually likes Zoey better than Patrick, too. Again, completely understandable. Patrick abandoned her and has been a very negative presence in her life by not being there and not keeping basic parenting promises. Yet Zoey is a very maternal figure without trying to replace Elizabeth. *I* like her better than Patrick.
To be fair, the readers are obviously not supposed to like Patrick. He's written as being a very unlikeable guy: charming on the surface, but completely clueless and thoughtless. Even though Charlie is clearly uncomfortable with him and with being at the wedding, Patrick either can't tell or doesn't want to acknowledge that.
Patrick has a brother, Ray. I have to assume that is Robin's father.
OO-ooh. Kristy sees Sam's attempts to smooth things over as more of a way of buttering Patrick up, and then says Sam got that trait from Patrick. I never thought of it that way, but Sam's sense of humor, practical joking is similar to the way Patrick winks at Kristy all the time when he's riling Zoey up.
More Sam development: he gets angry at Charlie for not making any effort. Sam says that, even though he's angry, he's trying to forgive because that's his father and this is a chance they didn't think they'd have.
Sam and Charlie remind me, in a way, of Teah and Tessie. Their parents split when they were preteens, and their father made almost no effort to be involved in their lives after that, to the point where he has barely met Teah's kids, who are now nine and six. Teah tries to reach out to him and seek his approval at every available opportunity, while Tessie won't bother. She's mostly angry, despite her claims to the contrary.
Sam the profound: "But get this point: Patrick's never going to live up to our expectations of him, not the ones we had when we were children." He is a lot more mature in that moment than he's usually given credit for. I don't remember agreeing so much with Sam the first time I read this book....
I like that Zoey has no illusions about who Patrick is or what he's done. She's also smart enough to praise Elizabeth for raising such great kids on her own. Not only would that be true, but it's good of her to speak well about Kristy's mother to Kristy.
And after the wedding, Kristy's mother says she wishes Patrick and Zoey well, without any sense of sarcasm or anything.
Mary Anne points out that Patrick hasn't aged any since she saw him last, and Kristy notes he hasn't changed in other ways, either. I like that the girls all agree that's sad and feel sorry for him because of it. It leads Kristy to the revelation that just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to like them. And that's a really hard lesson to learn.
Kristy: jeans and a long sleeved shirt, tucked in; burgundy velvety dress with short sleeves; khakis and nice shirt; cut offs and Cynthia Cooper WNBA shirt
Zoey: baggy khaki pants, green crocheted vest, yellow and blue striped cotton chemise, espadrilles with ribbons, engagement ring with an emerald on a chain; green wedding dress with high neck, tight sleeves and pearl buttons
Mona, Zoey's ex-stepmother: pink pantsuit and blue scarf
Maude, Zoey's current stepmother: pink and yellow pantsuit
Claudia: cut off jean shorts over bicycle shorts, suspenders, Jackson Pollack-style splattered t-shirt
Mary Anne: khakis and polo
Stacey: blue ribbed sleeveless shirt, linen overall shorts
That's a whole lot of outfits for a Kristy book.
Next: #2 I hope there is cattiness of the highest order!

1 comment:

  1. I liked the character development in this book a lot, too.