Two new kids have started eighth grade with our heroines. Jeremy just moved to town and he gets both Stacey and Claudia's attention. Since Stacey is still dating Ethan, she encourages Claudia to date him. But after Ethan breaks up with her, Stacey goes after Jeremy behind Claudia's back. When Jeremy prefers Stacey to Claudia, the two of them get into a giant fight, which isn't resolved in this book. (Aah, realism!)
Meanwhile, Rachel just moved back to Stoneybrook after three years in London. Kristy, Claudia and Mary Anne didn't like Rachel when she was young, but Stacey tries not to let that cloud her judgement.
The cover of my copy of the book claims there's a bumper sticker inside. My first instinct was to feel ripped off, because the bumper sticker was gone (just like there was clearly something that had been ripped out of my copy of #1.) But now that I have a brand new car, I can't help but wonder...why does a 10 year old reading this book need a bumper sticker? It's not like they have a bumper to put it on.
In case there was any confusion as to who was narrating the story (and there is--I keep trying to call the book Claudia vs. Stacey), the first sentence of the book is Stacey's mom calling her to the phone.
This made me laugh. Stacey realizes she's spotted a new boy, because she knows all the eighth graders and recognizes all the seventh and sixth graders. But....school just started back up for the year. I know it is almost literally the seventeenth time she's been in eighth grade, but each new year, there are new kids in the building. It shouldn't be a surprise to see an unfamiliar face.
There's a whole conversation between Stacey and Mary Anne about whether it's normal to notice cute boys when you have a boyfriend. They kept saying Logan and Ethan, which sounded like brothers. They're both those two syllable names ending with N that a book I own calls bell tones.
Kristy's description of Rachel: "She's like Lucy Van Pelt, Helga Patacki, and Angelica Pickles all rolled into one." I had to Google the middle one, despite the fact that I've seen a few episodes of Hey Arnold! Those later two characters seem too...modern...for the BSC. Anything that wouldn't have aired on Nick at Nite in the 80s seems too modern for the BSC.
Mary Anne says she's feeling uneasy and irritable in a way she can't explain, and it's more than just being in a new house. I can see her suddenly seeing her own mortality, along with other things. I love this development in Mary Anne, because it's something a lot of us can relate to.
Stacey's English class is reading The Midwife's Apprentice.
If Rachel just moved back after three years living in London, she would almost definitely have a British accent. She later says that she didn't live there long enough to pick up an accent, but I disagree. My parents didn't have accents after two years, but my sister and I did--strong ones. They left just as quickly as we picked them up, after a matter of months.
Claudia writes Stacey a note. There are some spelling mistakes, but they're all logical ones: Jermy, loker, purfect, cant, tho, wat (I know a grown woman who spells what that way every single time she writes. It's frustrating!). She also uses write for right and to for too. The best part is that her spelling irritates Stacey, because she's jealous of Claudia and Jeremy.
After Jeremy asks her out, Stacey asks her mom what to do. And Stacey's mom refuses to tell her what to do or even give her an opinion, saying that she doesn't know how to answer that. It's probably true, but if that were <I>my</i> daughter asking for it, I would have told her that there might not be a 'right' answer, or at least not one that everyone involved would like.
Stacey goes out for a jog. I don't think we've ever seen her do that before, but it's nice to see a non-jock character running for health, exercise and to clear her head.
Okay, I have to admit that there's a reason I never read this one before. I had read #4, and I'd seen this all from Claudia's point of view. I had a feeling I wouldn't like this book--or more specifically, Stacey. And I've been trying really hard to not let that cloud my judgment here. But while I give Stacey credit for just biting the bullet and telling Claudia the truth, that Jeremy sees her as a friend and had asked Stacey out, I cringed while she was talking to Claudia. This was Stacey's logic: Jeremy doesn't like you the way you like him. Therefore, you shouldn't mind if I go out with him! It's very teenagery, and not at all empathetic (how would Stacey feel if Claudia said that to her?!?)
To be fair, Claudia is very melodramatic about the scenario ("Who cares about that [Kristy's idea of weekend scheduling] when everything in my life is falling apart?") but afterward, Stacey wants to know why Claudia didn't care about her feelings as much as she cared about Claudia's. WHAT?!? Yes, she started off trying to stay away from Jeremy, but that was when a) she had her own boyfriend and b) she didn't know Jeremy liked her instead of Claudia. Once she find out Jeremy prefers her, she drops most of the concern about Claudia. Otherwise, she'd have told Jeremy to wait until Claudia was over the rejection for the two of them to go out.
The title quote occurs during Stacey and Claudia's first confrontation about Jeremy. Claudia counters by saying nothing is ever Stacey's fault in Stacey's mind...which is at least a little bit true. She does consider how much of this is her fault, several times, but not enough to try to declare a truce. Or give up Jeremy.
I should definitely be playing the second half of the season 4 of Daria while reading this. ("I kissed my best friend's boyfriend." "I'm sure it was just a one time--" "Twice.")
The plot 'twists' are all very realistic for middle school kids. Stacey keeps getting mad at Claudia for not calling her and trying to patch things up, but Claudia is obviously still very angry. Ethan had suggested that he and Stacey 'cool things' but obviously didn't intend to end their relationship, as he keeps calling her. Stacey, on the other hand, sees that as breaking up and refuses to take his calls. She had mentioned all of this to Claudia, who...tells Jeremy Stacey has a boyfriend in New York and that they're on a Ross-and-Rachel 'break' but Claud's certain they'll get back together. Jeremy is understandably confused about Stacey afterward, but doesn't stop to consider why Claudia felt the need to share that with him.
Stacey mentions babysitting for the Rodowskys, but we don't get to hear about the job because it's not salient to the plot.
Ha! Stacey calls Claudia brainless because she can't spell and was held back a grade. Claudia counters by saying that Stacey's a snob and thinks she's better than everyone because she's from NYC. Isn't that what a lot of readers have been saying about the characters for years?
"I can't believe the two of you let a boy come between you." Kristy, I can't believe that this is the first time it's happened. I know lots of BFFs who let boys come between them. (Or a girl, in the case of a couple boys my sister dated in high school.)
I'm so mature. Ethan shows up just before Stacey's date with Jeremy, freaking her out. She tells him he's going on a date (or rather, he asks and she admits it), so when the doorbell rings, she shoves him out of sight to answer it. It turns out to be Rachel, who had helped Stacey prepare for her date, bringing over some earrings for Stacey to borrow. Ethan sees her and calms down, because he thought he was going to be meeting her date. Well, my brain went a different direction: What if Rachel were Stacey's date? That would be an interesting way of coming out....
In the end, Stacey accepts the way things are currently with Claudia, but hopes they'll improve with time. She also acknowledges the fact that she sometimes IS a snob about being from New York, and says she'll try to curb that. Once again, a hard lesson to learn.
Claudia: tie-dyed jumper, pink t-shirt, black and yellow tights, vinyl ankle boots
Rachel: French braid, short denim skirt, yellow sweater
Stacey: blue thermal shirt with buttons down the front, jeans, boots, blue and silver dangly earrings, French braid
Next: Let's see the other side of this story with #4