Saturday, March 28, 2009

BSC #45: Kristy and the Baby Parade


Kristy and co apparently don't have enough kid related stuff going on in their lives. At the beginning of this book, Kristy reads about an event in Stoneybrook called a baby parade. Yes, a baby parade. With themed floats with babies in costumes or, alternatively, babies in strollers or in go-karts. Kristy thinks this is a wonderful idea for her adopted sister, Emily Michelle. At the same time, Mrs. Prezzioso (mother of infant Andrea and four year old Jenny) hires Kristy for a regular twice weekly sitting job for four weeks, but only after Kristy (and all the sitters) take a class in infant care.

Then the girls decide to have their own float in the baby parade, using The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe as their theme. They borrow nine babies from clients and use two of the girls' siblings (Emily Michelle and Jessi's brother, Squirt). For once, everything goes terribly wrong: the float looks awful, the babies all cry, and the girls get into a big fight. But they patch things up and they also get a few new clients from the baby class. There is a bright side (sort of). Mrs. Prezzioso, who entered Andrea in the parade, wins first prize in the stroller division.
  • Kristy's sitting for her brother David Michael as well as Emily Michelle when she reads about the baby parade and thinks that it would be a great idea to enter her sister:
But after I'd read that ad, my glance kept resting on Emily Michelle...I looked at her glossy, straight black hair cut like a Dutch girl's. I looked at her sparkling brown almond-shaped eyes. I looked at her plump, pink cheeks and at her sturdy little hands...and at her round little tummy.
  • Can we rename this book Kristy and the Baby Fetish? Or could we at least end the above passage with "and then I broke free from my humanoid suit and devoured the fleshling" because that would make more sense and be slightly less frightening.
  • So, the baby parade actually has divisions. Division A is for kids in fancy, decorated strollers and so forth, Division B is for kids in comically decorated strollers, and then there are divisions for the floats. I'm supposed to think that a thirteen year old who has friends would voluntarily enter this? We've entered the realm of barren, lonely middle aged women who go into chatrooms to bond over their shared love of Anne Geddes pictures, voluntarily wear snuggies, and watch Jon and Kate Plus Eight to fill the void in their lives. Kristy, get out while you still can. You're only thirteen--it's NOT too late for you!
  • The cover of this book makes it look like the baby parade was a big success but in actuality the shoe looked like a big orange blob. Also, the cover of this edition says you can enter to win a BSC party with Ann M. Martin. Considering that Ann M. Martin admits that her favorite ice cream flavor is "plain old vanilla" and that based on reading BSC books, her idea of fun sleepover movies are "The Parent Trap" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," I'm not sure that's much of a prize. (Of course, the little eight year old who resides inside of me would be breaking out the bubbly and screeching excitedly if I ever got the chance to really party with Ann M.)
  • When Kristy and Mary Anne arrive at the baby course, Mary Anne looks a little frightened and overwhelmed to be surrounded by pregnant women. Kristy scolds her, telling her she's seen pregnant women before, but MA points out that usually that was only one at a time, and this is a whole room full of them. I was kind of hoping the pregnant ladies would break out into screams of, "ONE OF US, ONE OF US, GOOBLE GOBBLE" but no luck!
  • There's a really odd part where Kristy mentions having a crush on one of the men running the baby course. It's only odd because it goes nowhere (Kristy thinks he's pretty cute and then her crush disappears a few pages later because she sees him as a family man with a wife and kids). My theory is that they put that in to dispel any inappropriate rumors of Ms. Thomas's budding sexuality. Yep, she may be a tomboy who loves sports, but she still likes men. Yup, absolutely. No sexual ambiguity there.
  • In one scene, Jessi sits for her little brother, Squirt. He loves watching Sesame Street, especially his favorite character, Elmo, who isn't featured very often. And that's how you can tell this is a very old book. Oh, for the days when it wasn't the Elmo Show and when Cookie Monster got to eat cookies whenever he damn well pleased!
  • I really love the scene where the girls argue about the float theme. Kristy wants to do a baseball theme, Dawn wants to do a surfing one, and Mary Anne wants to do a Three Little Kittens one. Stacey tells Mary Anne that her idea is too immature and that they need to do something more glamorous. She then proposes to dress the babies up in little tuxedos and evening gowns for a New York City theme. I don't know whose idea is stupider, and I'm not even sure I care. It's like LARPers vs. Furries: Which Are Slightly Less Maladjusted?
  • This is definitely the book where I started to think that maybe Ann M. had a warped view of babies and children. When you add it all up, it starts to look odd. References to characters winning cutest baby contests when they were little (Dawn and one of Stacey's "cool" friends, Andie). Little girls in beauty pageants (Little Miss Stoneybrook...and Dawn). Rosie Wilder, Stoneybrook's wunderkind. Derek Masters, the TV star. All the little kids who love to perform on cue (Gabbie and Myriah, I'm looking at you). On the plus side, maybe Ann M. Martin was on the cutting edge of the "Exploit your child for fun and profit trend." You just know that Patsy Ramsey was reading stuff like this when she was pregnant with JonBenet.
  • Mrs. P. really, really wants Andrea to win the stroller division. She has the baby dressed up as Queen Andrea. She then takes a page from "Pimp My Stroller" and has Kristy decorate the baby carriage to look like a little horse drawn carriage. Jenny's too old for the competition, so apparently all her hopes are pinned on baby Andrea. Later on in the book Mary Anne and Miss Priss, Mrs. P. also has Andrea star in some baby commercials. Jenny also wants to act, but apparently doesn't quite have the same sparkle. I saw Gypsy, so I know where this is going. Mrs. P., after Andrea gets tired of this and runs off in about sixteen years, you'd better get used to whoring out your eldest.
  • Mallory is assigned to make the costumes and like everything else associated with this awful, awful float, they are chock full o' fail! The costumes look like clown outfits and they clash with the float, so Dawn (who is sitting for one of the babies, Eleanor Marshall) tells Mrs. Marshall to put Eleanor in a blue party dress instead, without telling anyone else. Let's file this under Dawn is a passive aggressive bitch, okay?
  • Apparently, there really are baby parades out there. Or so Google tells me. So Ann M. didn't just come up with this all on her own, which is a relief. But it also disturbs me that there really are people who think dressing up babies in cute outfits and putting them on wagons is a good time. I have to find these people and introduce them to a little thing called Wikipedia. You can waste hours of time and never have to humiliate your baby.

Cat Fashion Shows. Cuddle Parties. Everybody Loves Raymond. System of a Down. Liking the aforementioned things makes you bizarre and possibly not worth knowing. But all of these things have some redeeming social value. Unlike a baby parade. If you are reading this and you know me in real life, you have permission to slaughter me the minute I propose having a baby parade. (Stuffed animal parades, however, are still in play.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The Splash Award--for alluring, amusing, bewitching, impressive and inspiring blogs. I received mine from Insert Book Title Here at {Insert Book Title Here}. Thanks!

The Rules:
1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been splashed by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your Splash award.

My nominees:

1. Banana Bomb at BSC Rediculosity
2. Jan at Fitzie's Soda Shop
3. Donica at SMS Cafeteria
4. BSC Snarker aka Kristen at BSC Revisited
5. Sunstreakedblonde at The Unicorner
6. Sada at 13 is the New 30
7. Snappleaddict at Tales of a Former Walking Highlighter

Keep on blogging, all!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Was a Teenage Fairy

Brief synopsis:

I actually liked Francesca Lia Block for the most part, and this was one of my favorite books of hers when I was a teenager. But you know what they say. You only snark the ones you love. Oh, and hate. This book is the story of Barbie Marks, a young girl who ends up becoming a model because of her scary pushy stage mother who makes Mama Rose look well adjusted. Barbie doesn't want to have anything to do with modeling even though she's supposed to be gorgeous (don't hate her 'cause she's beautiful!). Her mother even makes her go to a photographer (Hamilton Waverly) who's a pedophile who ends up molesting her. Her only real comfort in life is her best friend, a fairy whose existence is unknown to everyone else, called Mab.

The story fast forwards a few years later to when Barbie is sixteen. She meets a guy called Todd and eventually, Barbie gets the strength to out pedophile-photographer, and then Mab ends up shacked up with a guy-fairy. Oh, and Todd has a gay best friend called Griffin who's secretly in love with him and was also molested by the creepy photographer. (Yes, Griffin finds love, too, at the end.) I'm not really sure why Barbie's best friend had to be a fairy now that I read over this summary, but there you go.
  • When Barbie's mother takes her to meet with a modeling agency, she tells the agent that their last name is Marks because their real name (Markowitz) would hold them back in the modeling world. Aww, someone's changing her name to impress the Gentiles!
  • When I first read this book, I didn't realize just how much of a bitch Mab was. She makes cutesy insults that are supposed to be witty, but Barbie's always so in awe of how tiny and perfect looking Mab is that she lets her get away with it. I used to think Mab was cool, too, Barbie, but then I read a little book called The Game and it taught me that in order to get hot girls (large and small) to respect you, you have to treat them like crap. C'mon, neg that little fairy brat! "You're the best looking thing I almost swallowed today." Or try, "Nice wings. How much did you pay for them?"
  • This book makes use of one of my ultimate pet peeves. The main character is beautiful, and even her flaws are things most people would love to have. Barbie talks about how she's thin, maybe even too thin. And her breasts are small, but she is a model. The fact that she has them at all means that she's ahead of the game! And in one scene, she thinks to herself that her eyes are too big, her nose is too small, and her mouth is too big. Yeah, because all the Jewish girls I know are complaining about how their noses aren't big enough. And the cosmetic industry is constantly coming up with new ways to make our lips look tiny. As for the big eyes, again bullshit. Although, I read somewhere that we like cats because they have such big eyes, but if our eye to face ratio was the same as that of a cat, our eyes would be baseball sized. Okay, from now on I'm going to imagine Barbie looking something like this. You have to admit, it's scary.

  • Hamilton Waverly, the pedophile, seems to like having kids pose with animals. Barbie has to pose with a stuffed lion and a little boy at a photo shoot later has to pose with an actual cub. Maybe he's not a pedophile after all. Maybe he's a furry and the lion is his spirit animal. Which would make him less of an actual Bad Guy, but lower on the totem pole of freaks and geeks.
  • Barbie's beau, Todd, is such a catch. He's a vegan, he's got scraggly facial hair, he's one of those famous for being famous guys, and he drives a pink and black convertible. He also really loves women, so much that every time he falls in love he gets "[Insert Girl Du Jour's Name] FOREVER" tattooed on his chest (I guess temporary henna tattoos weren't in vogue back when this took place):
He really couldn't understand how his genuine appreciation of ladies could cause so much trouble. As far as he saw it, they all should be worshiped and have their names permanently branded on flesh; it was just that he couldn't accommodate each one...
  • For some reason, I can't help reading the above in Tim Meadows' Ladies Man voice. Also, I feel like Barbie needs to either get Friend Todd to a doctor or at least get him a non veggie burger, stat, because I subscribe to South Park's views of what happens when you go vegetarian and I feel Todd's pussification is well underway.
  • Todd tells Barbie and Griffin they both have the same strange, sad looking eyes. Barbie says that hers look that way because she smokes too much. So...wrinkly and squinty? Rocking that sad eyed Shar-pei look? I know I'm a real square when it comes to my health, but when I want to evoke that "the world is too much for me, I'm overcome with vapors and/or ennui, let's read Kafka and talk about philosophy" look, I just wear an extra layer of eyeliner. Panda eyes may be tacky but they'll never give you lung cancer!
  • To make up for the tattoo incident (Barbie gets pissed when she sees all of Todd's tattoos), Todd gets the tattoos changed to say SELENA FOREVER (Barbie changes her name to Selena Moon). Awww, that's awesome. Awesome that Todd and I both love that episode of "The Critic" where the rock star Johnny Wrath turned his tattoo of "Maggot" into "Margo." And Todd even has the same obnoxious soul patch as Johnny Wrath. Besides, now all he has to do is exclusively date girls named Selena and everything should be made in the shade for him.
  • One of the characters says something about Barbie being kind of weird because she smokes and does too many drugs. In Francesca Lia Block's world, this may result in eerily gorgeous looking girls but in real life, I think Barbie's going to start reminding us of another famous Jewish girl who did way too many drugs at a young age.

  • And what is with all the "Smoking makes you look like a haunted, magical elf" messages, seriously? I feel like I'm sitting in at one of Don Draper's pitch meetings, but instead of targeting 1960s era white guys, they're trying to hook the hipster/emo crowd.
  • I feel like Francesca Lia Block has a somewhat limited view of what it is New Yorkers do for fun. Barbie goes to New York for a fashion shoot, and the city is personified as a cold, hard working woman type (but who buys herself flowers at the end of the day just 'cause) who wears lipstick picked out by her local MAC drag queen (sorry, but for me it's Sephora all the way!). And every single time a character in one of her books goes to New York, they always end up at museums or vegan restaurants. It's never the Natural History Museum either, my personal fave. (Maybe Barbie didn't want to be reminded of her own physique--too many skeletons?) And just once, I'd love to see one of her characters be forced into one of New York's many great steakhouses--the passages devoted to vomiting would be so slinkster cool.
In this book's defense, it had a lot of things going for it. It's really progressive about gay people, it's pretty original, and it's a lot of fun. It has the dubious honor of being the only book I'd admit to reading in public that I've blogged about so far. The rest get little makeshift paper bag book covers. So despite the fact that I almost never say this, you should really read this if you get a chance.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Award Time

I received this from Laina at Laina Has Too Much Spare Time. (Thank you, Laina!)


1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog and/or in their CBOX.

5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

My nominees:

1. Elizabeth and Emily at Underage Reading
2. Nikki at Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki
3. Outpost Road at Shannon's Sweet Valley High Blog
4. R. G. Quimby at Little Snarky Two Shoes
5. Taren at Chick Manifesto


And now, the Zombie Chicken Award from Lenore. Thanks, Lenore!

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

1. L.K. Stine and A.M. Stine at Shadyside Snark
2. Fear Street at Fear Street
3. Troy Steele at Blogger Beware
4. I Hate Wheat at Dairi Burger
5. Longwinter at Like Pike

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Go Ask Alice


Go Ask Alice was one of those books I loved to read and reread when I was in middle school. That was back when I thought it was real, before I knew about and hoaxes. It purports to be a real life diary written by a 15 year old girl who falls in with a bad crowd and does drugs. In reality, it's basically a cautionary tale by a woman named Beatrice Sparks about the evils of drugs written in order to keep kids off drugs.

In Go Ask Alice, the nameless protagonist gets slipped some LSD at a party and from there it's all downhill. She runs away a couple of times, has sex on drugs, is raped, is slipped some LSD and has a major freak out where she hallucinates that worms are all over and starts scratching off her skin. The book ends with her deciding to go clean and to stop keeping a diary, and then there's an editor's note saying that she was found dead of an overdose two weeks after her last journal entry.

What really bothers me about this book isn't just that it's bad. It's also that it's the literary equivalent of "Drugs're bad, mmkay?" I really resent that this was on various reading lists and considered good literature when I was in middle school. But of course, no books should be banned. Only snarked. With that in mind, let's get started.
  • The main character has no first name, but I'm just going to call her Alice, because that's easier. So, one episode involves Alice losing her virginity to a guy named Bill whom she doesn't love while on drugs. This is meant to be a Very Bad Thing, but honestly, I kind of wish I'd been on drugs for my first time, just saying. Considering that Alice says that she thought sex would be like dogs mating but really took much longer and was "exciting...wonderful...indescribable," I'm in fact envious.
  • The first time Alice trips, it's because she's slipped LSD in a soda at a party. The party host calls the game "Button, button, who's got the button" and one of the guys at the party offers to "baby-sit" Alice since she got a soda with LSD in it and he didn't. Before my parents sent me off to college, they called that little game, "Rape by Intoxication," but who cares about semantics?
  • Alice's parents think it's a bad thing for her to wear her hair straight, like a hippie. When I think of women of the sixties with long straight hair, the first person to come to mind is Cher and Wiki doesn't cite any rehab stints. And all she had to worry about was marrying an abusive, hard-drinking rocker, starring in a string of infomercials, and the fact that she can't move over 90% of her facial muscles. Hmm, could it be? A fate worse than living the drug addled life?
  • Number one reason reason why this book is pure BS: the second time Alice runs away, she says she has no change of clothing, no money, nothing. Not even any Tampax and yes, she's on the rag. She keeps a diary informally by writing on bits of paper she finds. Yeah, I call shenanigans. No one's a dedicated enough writer to use bits of paper for diary entries when they could be staunching their blood flow with it. Although, if she's really a junkie, she wouldn't be on her period. I read the papers--I know all junkies are either too emaciated to menstruate or knocked up with crack babies.
  • When Alice and her friend Chris run away (that's the first time Alice runs off), they make it to Frisco and even manage to open up their own clothing boutique. Um, sure, yeah. They return home before they make it to Haight-Ashbury because speculating about it would've been too much for poor Ms. Sparks. But I was sad because I was kind of hoping Alice would get to meet Janis Joplin. Or have a totally awkward run in with R. Crumb.
  • Number of diary entries devoted to Alice bitching about how the guy she likes, Roger, stood her up: at least three. Number of diary entries devoted to Alice complaining about how her parents don't like her new hippie hair: at least three. Number of diary entries devoted to Alice talking about how much weight she wants to lose: around five. Number of diary entries devoted to Alice dealing with the aftermath of being drugged and raped by two adults that she and her friend Chris befriend in Frisco: one. That bad, huh? Almost as stressful as the time you realized you had to choose between buying a copy of Cheap Thrills to impress your new hippie pals and the new Monkees album because Davy Jones looked so damned bewitching on the cover. (This is the part where I confess to still lusting for young Davy Jones.)
  • Alice has to babysit because one of her stoner friends promised to but then flaked out. Then the girl, Jan, shows up and wants to babysit anyway and is stoned out of her gourd. Yeah, actually, Ms. Sparks, I didn't get what you were implying there with drugs and children. I think you needed to insert another iteration of the baby in the oven urban legend so I'll really know your stance on drug use.
  • The drug users that Alice used to be friends with get pissed when they realize she's clean and keep trying to tempt her to the dark side. When she babysits a second time, they even sneak into the house and leave some chocolate covered peanuts laced with LSD which she takes and then goes insane, trying to scratch off her face. Yeah, like any self-respecting junkie would voluntarily give up their stash. Or put it on chocolate covered peanuts. Duh, it's pot that goes with peanuts. LSD goes with M&Ms.
  • I call shenanigans on the fact that there is only one musical ref in this entire book, and it's not even a drug related song. (Alice starts missing her parents when she hears "She's Leaving Home.") Also, you just know that the author was patting herself on the back for putting in a countercultural drug reference in the title. Ooh, Jefferson Airplane! Now get back to me when you've listened to some Floyd.
  • At Alice's mother's birthday dinner (while Alice is living the clean life):
We had a fresh fruit cup and wilted lettuce salad with bacon dressing, it was a little wilted, in fact, much too wilted, but everyone pretended they didn't notice and Daddy teased me and said he wouldn't be surprise [sic] if I didn't make some young man a good wife someday.
  • Wow, bacon dressing, really? Good god, I'm about willing to start ripping off my own skin. Turns out it's not a bad trip that makes you do that--just boredom! Please go back to being a devil may care hippie, Alice. Also, either you have no idea how to use the conditional tense, or your dad hates you, but what he says amounts to saying that he'd be surprised if you were a good housewife one day.
  • Alice finally meets a nice young man named Joel. Towards the end of the book, he's away, but Alice's family secretly arrange for him to visit her on her birthday. And in one progressive scene, he mentions how he saw her coming home from school (he was hiding to surprise her for later) and she was wearing an old sweatshirt and shorts. Her brother and father laugh about how they had to practically tie him to a chair to get him to stay once he saw how she was dressed. You know, Alice, up in Haight-Ashbury, they don't even care if you shave your pits, let alone wear a nice dress, just sayin'.
  • Alice meets two different girls from broken homes who have been molested and are now used to having sex with almost anyone they meet. Ah, divorce, one of the evils of our time. It ranks right up there with making wilted salads and wearing an unironed blouse to the Saturday night sock hop.
  • The attempts of this middle aged writer to sound young and hip and anti-Establishment are hilarious. The snark speaks for itself:
Another day, another blow job. The fuzz has clamped down till the town is mother dry. If I don't give Big Ass a blow he'll cut off my supply...I'm almost ready to take on the Fat Cats, the Rich Philistines, or even the whole public for one good shot.
  • I resolve to start every day with the mantra, "Another day, another blow job."

In conclusion, I'd have more respect for parents who hired the "My Future Self" corporation as a way to scare their kids safe than for parents who gave this book to their kids.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Voice on the Radio

What lies in store for Janie in this third installment in the Face on the Milk Carton series? As usual, not much. Janie's boyfriend, Reeve, has gone off to college and is working for the college radio station. As a deejay, Reeve has very little to say, until he suddenly finds himself telling his listeners the story of Janie discovering she was kidnapped. The first two times I heard it, it put me to sleep way faster than Ambien (two layers of sleep my ass!) but somehow this story catches on and Reeve becomes a campus celebrity. Janie doesn't know about this but her response towards journalists, yearbook staff and just about anyone who wants to know the gory details of her life is to freak out entirely, so Reeve knows he has something to hide.

All goes well until Jodie Spring (Janie's bio sister from Jersey) decides to take a trip up to Boston to visit some colleges. She takes Brian (her younger brother) with her and also invites Janie to go along. Once in Boston, they tune in to the radio station, realize what's going on, and get pissed at Reeve. Lots of drama ensues, so Reeve quits the station. In the end, Janie forgives Reeve but doesn't get back together with him. Before Reeve quits, though, someone claiming to be Hannah calls in to the station at one point and Reeve's a wuss and hangs up on her before she can say anything, then wonders if it's really her. Except it's not because Reeve's older sister, Lizzie, who's a lawyer, finds out Hannah has been dead several years. Ho-hum.

  • Poor Reeve has no idea what to say when he's on the air, and that's why he has to resort to exploiting his girlfriend's kidnapping adventure. And here I thought that thinly veiled bigotry and reactionary politics were the way to get listeners. Have Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus steered me wrong? Aw, not again!
  • Lizzie's working at a firm that has been working on cult related activity and that's how she conveniently finds out that Hannah's dead. I'm so bored with this book and they just killed off the only reason I remotely care. I think I'd be slightly more interested if the sequel reveals that Lizzie gets her license to practice law revoked for giving away confidential information and has to resort to cage dancing for money.
  • Hmm, now that I think about it, if Lizzie can find out that Hannah's dead, why couldn't the FBI have done that? They mentioned they were looking for her in the last book, but according to Lizzie, she's been dead five years. Did whoever get the assignment to ghostwrite this book even read the last two books? You know, they only take about an hour to read and the reading level is intended for sixth graders. I'm assuming that whoever ghostwrites these is probably around an eighth grade reading level, so really, there's no excuse.
  • Lizzie's also described as one of those career women who's thin because she's too busy for lunch because of her job. Everyone I know in a high powered job has gained weight from free food or eating at weird hours, so I'm not buying it--I think Reeve's sister has an eating disorder. Poor girl won't even eat two grapes in a row. They couldn't have had her pass out a couple of times? Then we could have gotten a real double whammy when it came to after-school special messages: Don't be anorexic and don't exploit your girlfriend for popularity!
  • When Jodie visits Janie, she tells her, "...I want to be famous for something other than having a kidnapped sister...I still hate you for that, you know." This is a little vague--for not adjusting to life in a lower middle class household? For being kidnapped in the first place? For having a nondescript name? Hey, Jodie, are you also pissed at JonBenet Ramsey? Damn that little six year old girl having the audacity to be murdered! And on Christmas of all days.
  • Even though I hate Reeve for not having the stones to deal with radio without screwing over Janie, I also hate the way that Janie and her siblings react because it's so melodramatic. Janie wraps herself up in a blanket and lies on the foot of the bed and refuses to move. Oh, Janie, get over yourself. Climb out of the blanket, grab a snuggie and have some Red Bull. If Tyra, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jessica Simpson can face the press and get up every day without crying, so can you. You don't even have love handles, babe, and your story was only broadcast on COLLEGE RADIO.
  • Reeve muses to himself that he has raped Janie's soul. Janie's not yet sixteen and you're a freshman in college--you want to maybe look into whether you're real life statutory raping her? Use that legal counsel for something constructive for once.
  • Everyone tells Janie she was basically a brat in the last book because of the way she handled the adjustment (and Janie herself accepts that she behaved badly). Okay, she said some rude things (like when they ask her what topping she likes on her pizza, she's all "We don't eat junk food in my family") but come on. If you told me I had to live with a bunch of strangers and pretend I cared about them, I'd make Janie Johnson look like Pollyanna with my bitchery. I'd be all, "Are you guys culturally adverse to birth control or is your wife just allergic to latex, Mr. Spring?" Or "Hey, Mrs. S., Costco's having a sale on Slimfast, I picked you up a pack." Or my piece de resistance, "Guys, guys! Come quick, there's a note saying Brendan's been taken, and--oh, whoops, PSYCH!" I'd have been out of there and living it up again in suburban Connecticut in less than a weekend!
  • Visionary Assassins is the name of the band that Reeve always plays when he takes a break from reciting another Janie anecdote on the air. When he meets the band in real life, he's surprised by how nerdy they look. Oh, Reeve, dear, sweet Reeve. Sure, this book was written in '96 but the days of Pearl Jam and Nirvana are so over. If you think Visionary Assassins are bad, just wait a few years till you get a load of Weezer and Fall Out Boy. Soon, no self-respecting deejay will be able to swing a dead flannel wearing alterna band lead singer without hitting a hipster. And Reeve? Don't refer to any more bands as looking like computer science students. The word is emo, and no, those band aids on their forearms aren't from rolling the dice too hard at D&D meetings.
  • After Janie finds out about what Reeve did, she starts opening up to Jodie a lot more. Jodie's reaction: "Janie needs me...It took the betrayal of her boyfriend to make that happen." Then when they're talking on the phone and call waiting kicks in, Jodie tells Janie that if it's her best friend, Sarah-Charlotte, to tell her to buzz off. Hmm, this just took a turn for the obsessive. Let's insert a scene where we ponder what Janie really means to Jodie. "She's my sister, my lover, my sister, my lover...she's my sister AND my lover!"

  • Reeve thinks about how he always hated it when Janie wanted to go on and on, rehashing the details of her kidnapping back when she first found out, and how he wished they could just have sex. I don't know why Caroline B. Cooney wanted us to think that Reeve was such an awesome boyfriend. What, Reeve, you want brownie points because you didn't cop a feel when she was crying on your shoulder about how horrible she felt about being kidnapped?
  • Poor Brian Spring. He can't relate to anyone in his family anymore. He sucks at sports, he's way more academic minded than anyone else around him, he's a little socially inept, and to top it all off, he's got a bewitching redhead in his life. You know, I think his real problem is that he's actually in the wrong series.

Conclusions? Well, unfortunately, Reeve's still making poor grades at a no-name school. He's got no radio show, no girlfriend and a lot more people want him to die. On the bright side, Reeve, I hear Elizabeth Smart's single and those Mormon girls aren't nearly so uppity when it comes to having their kidnapping story splashed all over the tabloids. And they never sass their menfolk--go for it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BSC Mystery #17: Dawn and the Halloween Mystery

Brief Synopsis:

This book takes place when Dawn is living in California for six months with her dad and Jeff. A little before Halloween, Dawn witnesses an armed robber wearing a clown mask making a hasty getaway in the parking outside a costume store. As a result of the robbery, the parents in the neighborhood decide to call off trick or treating. So Dawn and her California friends (Sunny, Maggie and Jill) try to both solve the crime based on Dawn's recollections of the robber (clown mask, make of the car, etc.) and come up with a Halloween party as an alternative to trick or treating.

Dawn's been babysitting for Erik and Ryan DeWitt and their new friend, Timmy Ford, whose parents are recently divorced and who lives with his dad. When Dawn sees the same car from the robbery in the Fords' driveway, she calls the cops and they arrest Mr. Ford. But then of course, it turns out that Timmy's mother, Mrs. Ford, was the robber because she wanted to earn more money to try to take care of her son. Dawn sheds a tear, and then it's on to the Halloween party.

  • Dawn tells us about her Dad's girlfriend, Carol, whom she used to hate but now likes. According to Dawn, she used to think that adults shouldn't wear ripped jeans, MTV t-shirts, neon sunglasses or listen to new music or drive little red sports cars. Apparently, Dawn's dad is dating a 40 year old with a midlife crisis.
  • Dawn and her friends think hot dogs are the height of grossness because they're made from things like pigs ears. The girls complain about them when they stake out Frank's Franks (the armed robber had a bumper sticker from there on the getaway car). One day I want to take her out to Katz's Deli for some kielbasa and chicken liver. (And then if I'm feeling brave, to Harlem for some chitlins.) Claudia's twinkies aren't looking quite so bad now, are they?

  • The girls come up with three suspects based on people who bought clown masks. The first was a man from the flower store (ruled out because he had the mask lying around in the open). The second was a boy from the track team (ruled out because he was too nice). And of course, it ends up being the third one (a blonde woman). The ghostwriter clearly was watching Scooby Doo when he wrote this (the criminal is always the third person they meet). There's even an unmasking! Zoinks!
  • I love the fact that Dawn and Sunny find three people who bought this exact clown mask at one store and assume that the robber had to have bought it there. No, he/she couldn't have bought it in another town know...have stolen it.
  • And by the way, when Dawn is given descriptions of people who bought clown masks, she rules out the tall, blonde woman right away. Even though the robber was 5'8, which is short for a man, as the police point out. Score one for sexism! Someone's going to have a hard time getting into Smith or Wellesley. (Or even Vassar.)
  • Dawn's sleuthing really bites. She and Sunny follow Tom (the track team guy) home and decide he's too nice to be the criminal. He's running a Halloween party at the high school, he's nice to dogs, he helps old ladies across the street. Yeah, criminals and sociopaths are never deceptively charming pillars of the community. Oops, I just tripped over my biographies of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Leopold & Loeb.
  • Sunny flirts with the guy who works at the costume store to get him to tell them who bought the clown mask, and it totally works. Rereading this book made me think of California Diaries and how I couldn't wait till Sunny got all wild and out of control. And till Maggie got anorexic and Jill got...well, dropped in favor of Amalia and Ducky. Now I have to look back with sadness on the day that I came home from school to discover that all my Ann M. Martin books had been given away to poor children and my puppy had gone to live on a farm. Stupid traumatic childhood.
  • Dawn calls the cops when she's trick or treating with some of her babysitting charges and sees a creepy looking figure wearing a clown mask digging something up in the Fords' yard. I have no idea why the robber decided to wear the clown mask. Or how Dawn even knew that it had to be the robber and not some random person in a clown outfit. Or an actual clown who chewed through his ropes and escaped from a local circus.
  • Oh yeah, the Barretts and the DeWitt kids are having problems in Stoneybrook. Mrs. Barrett and her new flame, Franklin, find a house to buy that's big enough for the whole family for when they finally tie the knot. Only problem? The Barrett and DeWitt kids are upset because they'll have to move away from their old neighborhood and change schools. The BSC, of course, has to butt in and Mrs. Barrett and Franklin decide they'll move into a smaller house that's still in Stoneybrook. I'd like to see a realistic reaction from Mrs. Barrett if a bunch of 13 year old girls tried to interfere with their house hunting, but then this book would be entitled "Dawn and the Lesson in Household Finances" and that wouldn't be any fun.
  • Speaking of the DeWitts, the fact that there are two DeWitt families (the kids that Dawn sits for in California and the family that Mrs. Barrett is going to marry into) in BSC world is finally addressed. Dawn says something about how it's a huge coincidence and the California DeWitts are not related to the Stoneybrook ones. Of course, it's kind of bizarre that Cynthia DeWitt (in California) is described as a totally gorgeous actress who's always going on auditions for TV commercials and that Mrs. Barrett (soon to be Mrs. DeWitt) is also described as super hot as well. But not an actress.

Assessment of Dawn

As the BSC's resident sleuth? Fail. As a feminist? Fail. As an individual? Fail. I did really like this book back when I first read it because so many of the other so called BSC mystery books were pretty non mysterious (Mallory and the Ghost Cat and The Mystery at Claudia's House, I'm looking at you) or they were just plain unrealistic (pretty much all of the later ones). Still, for someone who supposedly loved mysteries/ghost stories so much, Dawn made a terrible detective. Dawn, go away. You're no good.


Because clowns figured so heavily in this book, a list of all the clowns that have ever creeped me out:

David Friedman (as in "Capturing the Friedmans")
Possible pedophile clown!

John Wayne Gacy (serial killer clown)
Yes, this guy would give me insomnia even if he wasn't a serial killer.

Ronald McDonald (the Joe Camel of the clown world)
He gets points off because he himself is less scary than one of his best friends. I'm talking, of course, about creepiness personified: the Grimace.

Binky the Clown from "Garfield" (creepy animated clown)
Don't look too deep into his eyes--you'll get sucked in!

Clarabell (old school creepy clown)
I have no words.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Whatever Happened to Janie?


In the sequel to The Face on the Milk Carton, Janie Johnson realizes that her biological family is the Spring family. (Quick recap: Janie was kidnapped from a New Jersey mall when she was three by a brainwashed cult member, for no real particular reason. Hannah took the three year old girl to her parents and presented her as her own child. Hannah's parents, assuming this was their grandchild, decided to raise the kid as their own, until the truth came out. And then Hannah disappeared forever.) In this book, the Spring family requests that Janie come home and live with them, and she does. The Springs are comprised of Mr. and Mrs. S, seventeen year old Stephen, sixteen year old Jodie and the thirteen year old twins, Brendan and Brian.

Janie's real name was Jennie Spring (Hannah must have heard "Janie" and not "Jennie") which is what her new family calls her, but I'm just going to refer to her as Janie, since that's easier. And much less sick. So, basically, everyone is surprised that Janie can't suddenly erase twelve years of history and become a Spring. (Well, everyone except the readers.)

We have two hundred pages of Janie feeling bad about not fitting in, followed by explaining to Mrs. Spring that she can't do this anymore, and then going home with her biological parents' blessing (even though they're devastated again). Somewhere along the line, the Feds show up and tell Janie that they have to try to find Hannah and try her for kidnapping, and Janie tells them that the stress of that will destroy the Johnsons. It's a moot point because no one ever finds Hannah in this book. Or in the next book for that matter. Oh, and then Jodie and Stephen go to New York City to try to track down Hannah but realize they can't.

  • First of all, I just have to say this book is so incredibly sick. Janie is unhappy that people are making her pretend that the Springs are her parents and calling her Jennie and everyone around her is wondering why this is such a big adjustment. Jodie even tells her at one point to tell her to pretend it's summer camp and that soon she'll be wondering why she was even homesick. Bitch, no, it's not summer camp, this is her life.
  • Mr. Spring isn't very big on forgiveness for cult members. In one scene when the Spring family is having dinner, he holds a spoon and twists the handle all the way back and says that this is what he'd like to do to Hannah for ruining their lives. Hey, Mr. Spring, wanna sign my petition to free Susan Atkins?
  • This title was so misleading. I totally thought something was actually going to, you know, happen to Janie. Janie going to live in NJ for a few weeks and then deciding to come home isn't much of a plot. If you're going to rip off a movie title, why not "Janie Doesn't Live Here Anymore?" I'm beginning to realize why they combined the plot of this book with the plot of The Face on the Milk Carton when they did the movie version.
  • One of the Springs asks Janie why she was drinking milk if she's lactose intolerant and she explains that she was eating peanut butter and that she of course had to have milk. Was Caroline B. Cooney being paid off by the dairy lobby to insert all these "milk is so cool" moments? The only time in my life I ever thought milk was cool was when I was five, terminally uncool and watching those awful "Milk: It Does a Body Good" commercials where all the kids grow up into super sexy adults because they drink milk. I must confess, I really liked the one where the little girl talks about how much the boy she likes will regret blowing her off after she drinks a lot of milk and grows into a sexpot. Hmmm. Now I blame lactose intolerance for why I never topped 5'2 or grew beyond a B-cup.
  • At one point, Hannah was arrested for prostitution in New York City. She wasn't accused of the kidnapping because at that point, no one knew she was connected to the Spring case. To make this book more interesting, after I found out about the prostitution charge, every time Hannah was mentioned, I mentally re-imagined a scene from the book Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl.
  • One of Jodie's best friends, Nicole, asks Janie if she's been back to the mall where she was kidnapped. (Yup, Nicole, it's like her own personal Mecca.) She also asks Janie, "'Was the interstate built when you were kidnapped?...Did that woman drive you away on I-95?'" The bad news, Nicole? As a friend, you fail. But the good news is that Nancy Grace and her entourage have been following your work and they think you have a real future in mining other people's emotional pain for fun and profit.
  • Nicole is also making a dress out of her brother's matchbox cars for some contest, by sewing them to her mother's old minidress. I think this is definitely a "On anyone else, it would have looked hideous, but on Claudia Kishi, it looked great" moment. Since Claudia would have jazzed it up with turquoise leggings, matching converse sneakers, a pony tail held in place by a gigantic car shaped barrette and an earring shaped like a tire in one ear and an earring shaped like a windshield wiper in the other.
  • The Spring family (all seven of them when you include Janie) live in a three bedroom house with only one bathroom. Where you get three minutes for a shower every morning. With no wireless. And only Nintendo for entertainment (and no, not even Super Nintendo, just regular Nintendo). Who knew Hell would really exist? And that it would be in New Jersey?
  • Mrs. Spring is described as loving kids and her family. When Janie was kidnapped, there were five Spring kids, and Mrs. S was planning on a sixth kid (well, before number 3 got kidnapped). Mrs. Spring, I love my cigar, but even I take it out of my mouth once in a while.
  • The Springs gave their kids cutesy letter names. Janie (well, Jennie) and Jodie. Brendan and Brian. And if they had had a sixth kid, they would have named it Stacey to go with Stephen. Well, at least they're capable of different letters, but the whole thing has kind of a weird Duggars feel to it. Speaking of the Duggars, you know that if this situation were taking place now that the Spring family would get a TV deal on TLC out of this. I'd call it: "I Was a Trust-Fund Kidnapping Victim."
  • Janie's boyfriend, Reeve, drives to New Jersey to visit her and tell her he's gotten into college. We get treated to a paragraph of him musing about shaving. Apparently, it's the best thing in the world for a guy. Almost as good as sex. As Reeve puts it, "Sex would be better, but sex was harder to get than razors." I never realized it before, but taken out of context, that sounds vaguely suicidal. Also, I blame this book for why I get irrationally excited whenever I see a man shaving.
  • Janie's older brother Stephen demands to know why she didn't try to come home when she was kidnapped and Brendan defends her by saying that the Johnsons probably tortured her and lied to her to keep her there and that she must have scars from the experience. Uh, it was suburban Connecticut, Brendan, not Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Things were bad, but not that bad. Besides, if you wear the wrong strand of pearls to the summer Cotillion, they can do all kinds of things to you without so much as leaving a mark.
  • Jodie and Stephen get really pissy at Janie for leaving without putting any real effort into becoming a Spring. Because forgetting the family who raised you for twelve years is just so damned easy, right? Jodie even asks Janie if the real reason she's leaving is because the Springs' house is so small and because they have less money than the Johnsons (ooh, class conflict rears its ugly head!). Janie replies that she hopes she's a better person than that, but hey--speaking as someone else with a buttload of hair, one 3-minute shower a day is not going to do it. I can barely lather and rinse in three minutes, let alone repeat.
  • Did I mention I hate Stephen and Jodie? During a fight, Stephen to Janie: "'You were three...that's old enough for complete sentences. That's old enough for arguing.'" And Jodie to Janie, after Janie's decided to leave: "'You are scum.'" Gee, I wonder why she wanted to go back home after all that.

Spring family? You guys are deluded. Jodie and Stephen, get over yourselves. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, hire better legal counsel next time someone says you can't have custody over your daughter.

Well, they really MILKed this franchise for all it was worth. There are two more Janie Johnson books to recap and hate on--The Voice on the Radio and then finally, What Janie Found. No, don't get your hopes up either. She doesn't find much.