Saturday, April 25, 2009

BSC Friends Forever #5: Kristy Power!

Oh no! Sadako recapped a BSC Friends Forever book! I know that most of you reading haven't read this book. (I doubt anyone really read these books.) That's okay. They're not that different from the old series. Ann M. just 86ed the ethnic and ugly BSC characters and wrote some slightly different plots. Take my hand, and we'll get through this together.

This book is pretty much notable for the fact that every single aspect of it has already been done in some 90s TV show. Which leads me to believe that whoever ghostwrote this was probably not that much older than me, was doing this in a hurry and was also watching DVDs of My So Called Life and Beverly Hills 90210 while writing, all the while thinking, "God, why couldn't I have gotten the ghostwriting for Gossip Girl gig? Then I could just throw in some mindless sex and binge drinking. Ooh--internet debate on who's sexier, Jordan Catalano or Dylan McKay!"

Okay, okay, according to the acknowledgments page, it was written by BSC ghostwriter Ellen Miles who writes her own series called The Puppy Place (from what I saw on, it's a series even more innocent and cutesy than BSC world). I get the feeling that bulimia references and underage drinking are things that give Ms. Miles the vapors, and that she probably thinks that the characters on Gossip Girl should spend more time picking out stuffed animals and trading Lisa Frank stickers. But damnit, in my fantasy, there are ghostwriters for the ghostwriters and Ellen Miles was too busy doing research on pugs for Puggsley (yes, that's a real title) and decided to farm out this book to a jaded twenty eight year old. Don't worry, young Ghostwriter (word!). In a few years, you'll be able to move on to ghostwriting things of quality, like the newest Muppet Christmas Special, A Toy Story Reunion, and Can't Touch This: Elmo Learns a Valuable Lesson in Private Places (featuring former rap artist and current welfare recipient M. C. Hammer).

Snark on, MacDuff! Kristy's English teacher gets suspended for putting controversial books on a reading list that he hands out. Kristy and her friends lead a protest and eventually get him back. They're also doing a project where they have to do biographies of fellow students. Kristy is paired with her arch nemesis Cary Reitlin. She discovers an awful secret about him when she goes through his journal (apparently he got kicked out for sabotaging the school computer system or something). But it's okay because it's really just a story he was writing. To the talking points!

  • The English class is taught by Mr. Morley but they all call him Ted. Yes, Mr. Morley actually says that the name "Mr. Morley" makes him think of his dad and that's why they should call him Ted. Someone was watching that Family Guy where Brian teaches Chris's class. How much do you bet that Ghostwriter wanted to have Cokie Mason raise her hand and say, "I thought your dad's name was Cocoa and he got hit by a milk truck"?
  • So, Mr. Morley (I'm NOT calling him Ted--I refuse to equate informality with coolness) teaches them to stand up against censorship by giving them a list of books, some of which have been banned in the past. Nice, but I preferred The Substitute episode of My So Called Life. When the principal suspends Mr. Racine (whom the kids call Vic) in MSCL, at least it's over a juicy poem published by one of the students in the lit magazine. In Kristy Power!, it's because of books like The Catcher in the Rye. Boooring. I do get the sense that our overworked Ghostwriter probably wrote in a scene where it was hinted that Mr. Morley wasn't all that he seemed (like, maybe he had a wife and kids he abandoned, a la Mr. Racine?) but Ann M. probably sent the first draft back marked up with a note saying, Teachers who challenge banned books are GOOD. A good teacher can't be BAD in his personal life. Please work on your continuity errors. Silly Ghostwriter! Plagiarizing from My So Called Life is one thing (like Ann M. or Ellen Miles would even notice?), but introducing the concept of moral ambiguity? Heresy!
  • Mr. Morley is fairly hairy, in addition to inspiring the kids. (Well, he has a very thick black beard.) A hairy anti-establishment English teacher? Someone was watching Dead Poets Society. Actually, I prefer to believe that our young and hip Ghostwriter was surfing for House/Wilson slash porn and then said, "Hmm, wasn't Wilson a suicidal student in some Robin Williams movie before he was a weak willed oncologist? Hey, there's already a teacher character I can rip off, sweet. Screw well nuanced character development--I can make Happy Hour!" (Okay, I know House didn't exist back when this book was written. Leave me to my fantasy.)
  • When Kristy comes over to Cary's house so they can work on their projects, she sneaks into his bedroom to get an idea of what he's really like. She opens up one of his notebooks and glances through it and sees something he's written about why he had to leave his old school. Then she acts all weird and broody until she finally snaps and tells him what she saw. He gets angry, she realizes she screwed up, but she's still curious. Then she finds out that Cary writes short stories and that none of that really happened, and she's furious. And I get distracted and wonder whom I hate more, Kristy for reading Cary's private notebook and then getting pissed at him for not telling her it was just a short story draft...or Dawson Leery for reading something mean written about him in Joey's diary and then thinking he's entitled to an explanation. Well, Dawson doesn't stand out on a building ledge when his friends tell him they don't want to be part of his babysitting club anymore. But Baby Boy Spielberg basically manipulated his mom into not having an abortion so he gets points for that.
  • Also, if Kristy is the Dawson Leery of the BSC World, does that make Mary Anne the Little Joey Potter? They're both brunettes who lost their mothers, except that MA isn't from the wrong side of the tracks and Richard isn't trafficking marijuana (that's Sharon's gig). Hmm--this has some amazing implications for future BSC Friends Forever books. And both worlds have a sophisticated blonde girl from New York City. Hmmm. Maybe Kevin Williamson is the one plagiarizing. Or maybe a Kristy-MA-Stacey love tri is in the works!
  • So, there's one girl in the class (Merrie Dow) whose mother is always protesting and making a fuss. Mrs. Dow leads the fight to get Mr. Morley kicked out of school. Merrie ends up surprising everyone by going to the administrative hearing and sitting with the other kids who support Mr. Morley. The other kids are pleased and break out in cries of, "DONNA MARTIN GRADUATES, DONNA MARTIN--" Oops. Right character. Wrong meme. Well, at least this time the ghostwriter changed things up a little--the issue that Donna's mom was protesting in that Beverly Hills episode was the distribution of condoms at West Beverly, not inappropriate literature. Not that they'd need to distribute condoms at SMS--this place is like pre Reese Witherspoon Pleasantville.
  • When Kristy reads Cary's notebook, she assumes it's his diary. The passage she reads involves the reason why he had to move (something to do with sabotaging the school's computer system). None of the BSC girls is really all that computer savvy and I always got the sense that it was a point against Janine that she could work a computer. Apparently knowing how to use a computer is just plain diabolical. I really think that Ann M. Martin, for all her facebook and livejournal use, still distrusts her computer. Despite the fact that tech savvy people were ghostwriting these books, Ann was overseeing and she's a Luddite at heart. I feel like the following exchange between her and her assistant happens a lot:
Assistant: Finished updating a new Facebook note for you, Ann. Sure you don't want to give Twitter a try yourself now?

Ann M.: I don't think it would be right--I'm not in my Sunday best. And you know what happened that time I entered my Spam folder and saw what those people were peddling...

Assistant: Oh. Right. The neighbors still ask about the screaming.

Ann M.: Well, that's all for today, dear. Unless you'd like to fix us some ice cream before you go?

Assistant: No problem. Want me to use the new cones I picked up at the store?

Ann M.: No, that might be too much excitement for us. It is a weeknight.

Assistant: Okay. Plain old vanilla as usual?

Ann M.: You know me too well!
  • I have no shame. Especially since I'm getting Ann M. Martin's autograph in about a month. If you're reading this, Ann, I only snark the ones I love to hate.
  • The book ends with a fiesta! Kristy throws a party at the mansion and Mr. Morley shows up dressed as Santa Claus. Ugh. (This is weirder if you pretend it's not actually Christmas when the book takes place.) This is so unbelievably creepy that I have the sneaking suspicion that our hip young Ghostwriter was trying to pull a fast one on Ann and Ellen. You know, "How utterly pervy can I make this teacher before anyone catches on?" But I get the impression that A&E probably reacted with, "Awww. Let's have Kristy dress up as Mrs. Claus! The Pike kids can be elves!" Hip young Ghostwriter: "Can I put in a scene where Stacey sits on Mr. Morley's lap and strokes his beard while Santa Baby plays in the background?" Ann: "How sweet!" Ghostwriter: *head on desk*
Quotable Quotes

"'That's right...The First Amendment rules!'" Mr. Morley? Shut up, you're a walking cliche. If only you'd replaced the word "first" with "third" and made a little speech about how students should beware insidious British soldiers trying to take shelter in their houses, I might respect you a little more.

In conclusion, this is only the second BSC Friends Forever I've read. I received it from a friend (and BSC addiction enabler) because even though we never read this heinous series when we were kids, we're obsessed with our childhoods. Also, I just have to say that they went about this series all wrong. A little background for those of you not in the know--in this series, the club is still intact (and so are their hymens--ooh, I went there), but it has downsized (Dawn's in Cali, Mal's at boarding school, Jessi quit to take more ballet classes, Abby's too busy being a normal 13 year old) so it's all about the original four. There's a little more drama and things don't get resolved at the end of every book. I would have moved them up to ninth grade and done it a bit more like California Diaries myself, but whatevs. This series may not have anorexia or domestic violence like Cali Diaries. But at least it has a major Stacey/Claudia cat fight.

I'd like to pretend these books are too bad for me to read more of them, but we all know that is not true. On the bright side, these books seem to have little to no babysitting stories. Hey come on, you know you're glad that my recap didn't contain the words "silly billy goo goo," "toshe me up," or "hi-hi!"

Monday, April 20, 2009

BSC Mystery #3: Mallory and the Ghost Cat

Brief Synopsis:

This was one of the most non-mysterious BSC mysteries out there. In fact, the main plot really has nothing to do with the ghost cat--it's mostly about Mallory's great uncle Joe. I get the feeling that this was supposed to be a Very Special Book entitled Mallory and her Demented Uncle but they recycled it into a mystery when they started the BSC mystery series. I mean, the BSC mystery serial.

So the main storyline is that Mr. Pike's Uncle Joe is coming from the nursing home where he lives to stay with the Pikes for a month. Mr. P always told the kids stories about all the fun things he used to do with Uncle Joe, but when they meet him, it turns out he's stiff and not very lovable. Oh, and he obviously has Alzheimer's (often forgets things in the short term but has a keen grasp of things from a long time ago, gets confused about what time it is, doesn't remember the kids' names, etc.) but the Pikes don't think to tell their kids till the end of the book. So they cut short the visit since he needs more intensive care. Finally, it turns out that Uncle Joe IS nice but the kids don't realize till the last day. He's more comfortable with interacting with the kids one at a time. Then they visit him in his nursing home, and all's well. I guess. Except that Alzheimer's isn't curable yet, so this is actually pretty depressing.

Mysteeeeeerious subplot. Mallory is sitting for a new family, the Craines. They have three girls (Margaret who's six, Sophie who's four, and Katie who's two). When sitting, Mal and the girls find a white cat in the attic. The mystery is that sometimes Mallory hears mewing noises from the attic when the cat (named Ghost Cat) is downstairs. And also they find some letters and photographs in the attic from the original owner of the house who talks about having this white cat named Tinker that he loved. Then Tinker dies and the old man (Kennedy Graham) goes a bit mad and hears cat noises. Oh, then Ghost Cat's real owner shows up and he looks just like Kennedy Graham. So...he was a ghost? Then the girls adopt their own cat, called Tinkerbell, who's deaf, much like Matt Braddock. Maybe Jessi will show up to teach us all ASL for cats. And...scene. God, I don't even care.

  • In the early chapters where all the descriptions are given (you know, how many different ways can we say that Mary Anne should be on some kind of emotional suppressant and that Jessi's skin is the color of ebony), Mal tells us that she doesn't like her looks, but that her dad says one day she'll be a knockout. Why do I have an image of Mallory standing in front of a mirror a few years in the future, her glasses and braces off, all made up, saying, "I'm...I'm ugly...I'm an ugly girl, daddy."
  • So it's mysterious that there are mewing noises heard only by only Mallory (and also by Kennedy Graham). No mystery there. Mallory's as cracked as an old man who's been living alone with only the company of a cat. (Hey, rooming with Vanessa Pike will do that to you!)
  • Oh, it's also mysterious that the cat gets out of the laundry room where it was staying and runs around the house. They all look for it everywhere but can't find it. And then they find the cat in the laundry room again. Okay, next let's solve the mystery of why the cat turns into a demon at 6:00 AM when everyone's still in bed and he absolutely must be fed. (Hint: cats is weird.)
  • When Uncle Joe first arrives, Mallory's a bit shocked that he doesn't say anything about the hideous banner Claire and Margo made welcoming him to the house. And then Claire grabs him by the hand and leads him into the house, at which point he asks Mrs. Pike if he can wash his hands because Claire's hands were sticky. Mr. and Mrs. Pike think this is indicative of some OCD tendencies. Uh, no, he's not an elderly Adrian Monk. Your unwashed kids are just not that cute. And Uncle Joe? I think I love you. Can you roll your eyes at "silly billy goo goo" next? Please?
  • Mallory and Claudia are babysitting together for the Pikes at one point. When Claudia first meets Uncle Joe, she's gushes, "Hi, Uncle Joe!" He stares at her and is all, "My name ain't Uncle. It's Joe. Mr. Pike, if you're nasty--which you are." Well, not really, he just tells her to stick to Mr. Pike. When he's gone, Claudia's in shock and blurts out what a mean old man he is. Okay, if my awkward great niece brought home a ridiculous looking moppet who called me Uncle, I'd be weirded out, too. But then every old person in Stoneybrook seems to relish being called Grandma or whatnot by relative strangers (Mimi, Nannie, etc.).
  • So during dinner (again, while Mal and Claud sit for the kids), Margo and Nicky squabble, and then Jordan laughs and spits food out that lands a few inches from Uncle Joe's plate. Uncle Joe gets pissed and leaves and the others are in shock because this was a relatively calm dinner for the Pikes. Okay, but Mallory? You think it's normal that your seven year old sister vomits at the drop of a hat and peels bananas with her feet. And Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts are a staple of the Pike kids' dinner conversation. You don't get to judge what's gross.
  • Later on, Margo and Claire bring Uncle Joe a slice of cake and perform their "play" for them (it's some lame fairy tales). Uncle Joe falls asleep while they perform (thank you, Uncle Joe, the Pikes put me to sleep as well). But Mallory thinks it's slightly encouraging that the chocolate cake is gone. No, it doesn't mean you guys are any more tolerable, Mal. It just means that Uncle Joe, like all normal human beings, enjoys chocolate. I'd sit through a Vincent Gallo production if it meant a steady stream of chocolate.
  • Jessi and Mal feel like their parents treat them like babies. But the other 13 year old sitters assure them that that's normal at age eleven. I really hated when they got all world weary about being thirteen. You can't be jaded yet! None of you even menstruate! No one here has gotten a weird piercing. No one's been anorexic, smoked so much as a cigarette, or had a drink. Go rent Thirteen, then we'll talk. (I'm giving Dawn a pass for taking a sip of wine cooler in California Diaries.)
  • In one scene, Uncle Joe and Mallory's dad are reminiscing about the old days. All of a sudden, Uncle Joe gets confused and says he doesn't remember Mr. Pike's name. Oh, Uncle Joe, it's John. It's always John. John Ramsey, John Pike, John Kishi, and every other client is a John. (That sounded so dirty.)
  • Also, Mallory seems to think it's weird that Uncle Joe arrived at the Pike house wearing a blue suit buttoned all the way to the top. I'm not taking fashion advice from the girl who wore an "I HEART KIDS" shirt to her first BSC meeting. I'm just not. Uncle Joe, I already like you way better than most of the BSC members.
  • Dawn shows up at one of Mallory's sitting jobs to test if Ghost Cat is...well, a ghost. Mallory says that the Craine girls are still at the age where ghosts aren't scary but rather are fun. Really? Because I seem to remember Andrew--and pretty much EVERY small child--being utterly terrified by Karen's stories about Old Ben Brewer. Also, does that mean when you reach the age of eleven, it's the age where you learn that ghosts are frightening and real?
  • Well, anyway, Dawn has this ectoplasm meter that she sent away for (advertised on the back of a comic book) made from cardboard that's supposed to test if something is a ghost. Huh. Dawn reads comics. Then they test to see if Ghost Cat is transparent or if he's actually solid by having him go through a piece of string. (Um, how about the fact that you can pick him up?) Then Unchained Melody plays as Mallory and Dawn sculpt a piece of pottery--oh, no, wait. They take a Polaroid shot of Ghost Cat and he shows up, so it looks like he's not a Vampire Cat either, in case you were worried. (Speaking of vampire books, why couldn't this book be Bunnicula instead?!) It disturbs me that neither Mallory nor Dawn displays a hint of irony. Then again, Mary Anne genuinely believes that ghosts drove her out of Dawn's room in Dawn's Wicked Stepsister.
  • Speaking of an unchained (or unhinged?) Melody, Kristy babysits for the Korman kids, and her own sister, Karen. Melody Korman, who's Karen's age, spends the evening pretending to be a cat. Skylar (her one year old sister) is scared at first because she's got a cat phobia. Skylar's also scared of the fish fountain in the hall so they never turn it on. Did I mention I hate Skylar? Kristy thinks Emily Michelle's weird for being afraid of the dark and for having separation anxiety. But you just know that one day, one of the sitters will walk in to find Skylar curled up in her crib rocking back and forth anxiously screeching "NO TAT!" or howling something about the Toilet Monster.
In conclusion, now I know why Mallory and Jessi each only got one mystery book. This was abysmal. It was a bad mystery (well, non existent, really) and a bad Very Special Book (c'mon, when Full House does a better Alzheimer's episode, you know your book is lame). I always hoped that maybe this cat plot would dovetail with the Uncle Joe plot. Like, maybe Uncle Joe was Kennedy Graham in a past life? Or he'd adopt Ghost Cat and be happy? But no, these are two hastily slapped together plots in one book.

Also, Uncle Joe is my new favorite character. I want to hang out with him. We can kvetch about "kids these days" and make fun of Dora the Explorer, Miley Cyrus, and Teen Vogue. And then I'd film a movie starring him!

On that note, I don't really have anything in mind for my next recap just yet. If anyone wants to suggest anything (specific BSC titles or anything, really) to help me get my snark on, suggestions are more than welcome.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Terrorist

Brief Synopsis:

This book gets a lot of flack for negatively portraying Islam and Arabs. I remember that one of the girls in my class did a book report on this when we were in middle school (it was a French class review, too--how weird is that?) and talked about how she thought it was racist. And considering Caroline B. Cooney's protagonists are all wealthy, entitled American girls (and I grew up in Spoiled White Kid Central), that's saying something. So when I say this protagonist is obnoxious, I mean it. Not even her target audience liked her.

The main character of The Terrorist is teenager Laura Williams, an American living with her family in London for a year due to her father's work. In the first chapter, her younger brother, Billy, is handed a package that explodes and kills him (we're gonna need another Billy!). Laura and the experts, including her bodyguard, Mr. Evans, decide that it's the work of terrorists. Laura even suspects someone at her school, London International Academy, a school rife with foreigners. Everyone in her grade becomes a suspect (why her grade? Billy was in sixth grade. Is this supposed to make sense? I don't even know anymore).

Then about a week after her brother's death, a Muslim girl in her grade, Jehran, who up until now has been generally unfriendly towards Americans, starts making friendly overtures towards Laura and asks to use Billy's passport. Seems Jehran's brother plans to marry her off to some creepy dude in the old country and she wants to use the passport to flee to America. Laura, of course, decides to go along with this instead of suspecting the one person who has something to gain from Billy's death. Laura's various multi ethnic friends have been paying attention and intervene at the last minute by filming a United Colors of Benetton ad--er, by phoning Mr. Evans and telling him their suspicions. And then Jehran is detained and it turns out she planned the whole thing because her family was terrorists (but she really was going to be married off). Or something. I don't even know.

  • One of Laura's fellow students is Eddie, which is short for Erdam Yafi. Eddie has a crush on Laura which he expresses by constantly tugging on her hair. According to Laura, Eddie is fine for school dances but not boyfriend material. Later, Eddie says that when he grows up, he will participate in the destruction of Israel. The only pick up line more awesome than that is "Hey sexy mama, wanna kill all humans?"

  • The pro-America bent of this novel irritates me so, so much. Laura wears her denim jacket as a "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" statement after her brother dies to show she's proud of where she's from and to differentiate herself from the other foreign students. (Laura, too bad you're not Claudia Kishi, or you could totally pull off a jumpsuit made from the American flag and not look stupid.)
  • Then she goes around asking everyone in her grade where they're from in the hopes that someone will fold under questioning. Like Jimmy Hopkins, who's from Hawaii and part Japanese. When he tells her he had a grandmother who was partly Japanese, she actually says, "'That's not enough Japanese blood to look as Japanese as you do.'" Shut up, Laura. Watson and Crick are here to teach you about genetics and then to beat you to death with a solid gold double helix.
  • Every other adjective for Jehran is some form of "olive skinned" or dark skinned." Except that Billy was supposed to have looked like Jehran. So either little Billy was a tanorexic or Mama Williams has some 'splainin' to do.
  • When Mrs. Williams goes into the kitchen, all sad after Billy's death, she finds a can of Spaghetti-O's. Billy's favorite--he preferred it to a sauce that Mrs. W. made for four hours that rivaled real Italian sauce. Because Billy represents all things American. And Spaghetti-O's are American, not Italian. America=good. Did you get that? Anyway, Mrs. W. bawls and hurls the (yes we) can of Spaghetti-O's at a wall, and I suddenly wonder why she named her kid Billy Williams (his full name would be William Williams). Like are these people so dull that they couldn't think of another name? Or did Caroline B. Cooney's editor just get bored looking over this book and decide to publish it without proofreading?
  • Why is this book entitled The Terrorist? Isn't this technically just murder? Or is it always terrorism any time someone gets blown up in public?
  • Jehran is supposed to be from Iran or Iraq. No, it's not that I can't tell the difference--Laura can't remember where Jehran is from, even though she's been told hundreds of times. You know, because Americans don't know about current events? Yup, Laura decides to commit fraud with Jehran without even knowing where she's from. And without even crossing her off the terrorism list. Yep, Jimmy Hopkins is a suspect because he looks a little too Japanese, but the one person in the entire novel trying to commit a crime passes just fine. Oh, Laura, if only you'd been born a few years earlier. You'd fit in great with the Bush administration as the white Condi Rice.
  • How come we're never told what terrorist group Jehran's family belongs to? In the end, it's never revealed where they're from, what they're doing, or why they're doing it. Was Caroline B. Cooney trying to illustrate the timeless nature of evil by not tying them down to a specific entity? Or did Scholastic not want to shell out for a research assistant? You can tell this book was written pre 9/11, though, because otherwise it would have been "al-Quaeda" this and "Osama bin" that every five minutes and crap like, "If we hadn't gone into Iraq, more little boys like Billy would have died. You don't...hate children, and Mom, baseball, apple pie, Abe Lincoln and America, [dramatic pause], do you?" Actually, I hate most of those things. Bring on the digestive biscuits, Winston Churchill, and cricket!
  • The book is sprinkled with little details about Billy. Like he loved to sell American goods obtained from family friends to kids at the LIA. And he loved to dismantle the family's wardrobes--Laura would often come home to find her wardrobe in pieces. Oh, and he loved to appropriate British slang. Like the time he overheard the word "plimsoll" (sneaker) and then would say in faux-Brit accent, "'I'll just plimsoll on down to the corner...'" Apparently people would meet him and want to smack him at first but end up loving him. I just want to smack him. Is it wrong that I'm happy about an eleven year old boy dying?
  • At one point, Jehran is planning a slumber party for a group of girls that conveniently includes Laura. Even though Jehran made a huge point out of avoiding the non Muslim girls up until now. Laura? Laura, are you paying attention? (The stupidity, it burns.) Jehran smiles coolly at some girl who deigns to criticize her sleepover food. Right after she sweeps her hair past her swarthy skin and blinks her dark, other worldly eyes that have never known the taste of pure American grade Twinkies:
It was a Euro-smile. Not broad and easy like American smiles, but thin with superiority. Euro-smiles made Laura crazy. She wanted to say: Listen, if you were really so good, you'd be number one in the world. And you're not. So there.
  • Wow, even the smiles are fatter in America. But if your poor attempts at terrorist catching are any reflection of the U.S., we're not number one by a long shot. I really wish this book HAD taken place in more recent years so I could yell things at Laura like, "Weapons of Mass Destruction, HA" and "Osama Bin Laden is where now?"
  • Laura thinks that American desserts are superior to Brit ones. (Surprise, surprise.) Before Billy died, she was given a package from America full of Twinkies which she hoarded from him. What's the matter with you people? You're in the land where Cadbury is plentiful and you want Twinkies? Then again, I have an unhealthy obsession with the Devil Dog. I still prefer European desserts, though. So let's see, on the list of things better in America, we have snacks and smiles. Watch as Laura later expounds on how much better the U.S. passport is than...well, anything. Why? Because it's from AMERIKER! AMERICA, FUCK YEAH! Oh, sorry, got caught up there. The Spaghetti-O's of patriotism fell over and hit me on the head, and...yeah. Okay, I'm better now--and this book won't snark itself, so on with the show.
  • At the sleepover, Jehran confides in Laura about how her parents and siblings are all dead (slaughtered by whomever came to power in her country--details are vague). Then she talks about how her one surviving brother is going to force her to marry a man back home and how this guy is 56 and already has wives and will force her to pump out babies for the rest of her life. (Hey, is Bill Henrickson finally taking a fourth? Alright!) Laura's first reaction: "Is...he, um, nice?" I hurl the Spaghetti-O's at Laura and wait for her to blow up.
  • Laura and Jehran's plan, in detail, is to steal Billy's passport from her parents' house. Then, Laura will buy tickets in cash to America. (Jehran has access to all kinds of wealth because...well, just go with it, okay?) After that, they'll pretend to be on this class trip to Edinburgh so their families won't worry (in Laura's case) or have their daughter stoned (in Jehran's case). Jehran's family will go on being all terrorist-y, Laura's mom will stare at the can of Spaghetti-O's and bemoan the death of her culinarily ungifted son. At the airport, Laura will cut off the Jay-ster's pony tail and she'll be transformed into an eleven year old white boy. They can't sneak suitcases out of the house, so Laura will tell airport officials that their Grandma's going to buy them all new clothes in the states. Really? Grandma's going to get you new socks and underwear, too? Stupid Laura.
  • So it turns out that Jehran's family is made up of terrorists who killed Billy. Why? Because they were evil terrorists who hate America. Why are they killing a random little boy? why did they ask a sixteen year old girl for advice about who to kill? Sigh. Don't ask. Jehran chose Billy because she looked like him so she could use his passport to escape. So she's a terrorist AND she wanted to escape. Does this make sense to you? Don't worry. It's not you. Jehran ends up going to a foster home and then walking out a few months later, never to be heard from again.
In conclusion? Laura, you're dumber than Janie Johnson. Hell, you're dumber than a box of bricks--if a strange man offers you a ride, I say take it. But are you as dumb as the protagonists from Driver's Ed--two spoiled rich kids who (with a third) steal a stop sign that results in a woman's death? Time to revisit that glorious tome and find out!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award


This is the award given to new blogs and blogging friends that the blogger has just discovered. I got mine from the lovely DeSeRt RoSe at DeSeRt RoSe BoOkLoGuE. Thanks!

Here are my nominees. (Some of these I haven't discovered SUPER recently, but they're all fairly new to me.)

1. Little Snarky Two Shoes (love the Are You Afraid of the Dark recaps!)
2. RSVP or Die--Point Horror Recapped
3. Underage Reading (Gave you guys another award a while ago, but I love ya both and all the awesome topics you guys mention! Going to your blog is always a lot of fun and I love the interactive aspect.)
4. Unleashing My Inner Geek
5. Laina Has Too Much Spare Time
6. Presenting Lenore

Love y'all!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

BSC #76: Stacey's Lie


Brief Synopsis:

This was one of the books I never got around to reading when I was younger, but I remember looking at the title and the cover and thinking, "Ooh. Scintillating." Well, I would have had I known that word. Stacey's workaholic father, Ed McGill, wants to spend some quality time with his daughter, so he tells her she can pick any vacation spot she wants this summer, and that she can invite along Claudia. She picks Fire Island because her boyfriend, Robert, is going to be working on the ferry there this summer and this way they can spend time together. The only problem is that she doesn't tell anyone. Claudia finds out when they get there. She's not happy about it, but she deals with it. But Stacey ends up ditching her to hang with her man for most of the vacation and eventually Claudia gets pissed when Stacey keeps putting her second.

Then Stacey's dad finds out and she's in major hot water. But it also turns out that Mr. McGill brought along a secret girlfriend who was renting a house of her own, named Samantha. Stacey and her dad have a long talk, etc., and then Stacey apologizes to everyone and they accept it (why? I have no idea).

Subplot involves Mallory "Don't waste an A-plot on me" Pike and Jessi "Black is nothing short of drop dead gorgeous, muthafucka" Ramsey as camp counselors in training (didn't we already do this plot, like five times over?). Two of their campers, Haley and Vanessa, wear the same swimsuit on the first day and then get into a huge fight, so it's up to Mal and Jessi to patch things up (yeah, you know they do).

  • If you're wondering if this is the book where Ed McGill is busy working and then hands Stacey some cash and tells her to go pick out something pretty to wear to dinner that night, you're right. It is. And no, I haven't stopped shuddering, thanks for asking.
  • Stacey and her dad eat dinner at a fancy restaurant the night her dad tells her about the vacation plans. Stacey orders shrimp cocktail (sans sauce--don't forget, she's got the diabeetus) and snapper, her dad orders steak au poivre. [Side note: every time I order shrimp cocktail, I get to hear a lecture about how phenomenonally overpriced it is.] They're at the Lion's Lair, a totally fictional restaurant...and I got bored midway through reading, so I decided to fill in what I believe the characters were really thinking. Ed: Goddamnit, I did not bill a client for 16,242 hours last year so she can order the most expensive waste on the menu, and on top of that, I still have to pay alimony AND child support? Screw it. Next time it's Applebee's or nothing. Stacey: Oh, I love the Lion's Lair! I wonder if my hair looks fluffy enough today. But not too fluffy. Maybe I should get it layered?
  • When Claudia finds out that Stacey lied about Robert being at Fire Island, she storms off and Stacey goes to calm her down. Stacey thinks it's really cool that Robert takes off, but then comes back a few minutes later asking her if everything's okay, because it shows that he can give her her space, but still backs her up when she needs it. No, actually, Stacey, it means that Robert is so spacey that if you guys ever go to Times Square together, you'll need to invest in one of those toddler leashes.

  • Stacey's reasoning for lying to Claudia was that Claudia wouldn't have come if she'd known the vacation was an excuse to see Robert. She's all, "See? I had to lie!" So it's okay to lie if it's to get what you want. With your high math skills, Stacey, if Enron hadn't gone under, you'd have a cushy executive job (if you ever get out of the eighth grade, that is).
  • So after a few days, Claudia's getting annoyed at being the fifth wheel. [Yes, you fans of Television Without Pity will note that I used the phrase correctly--FIFTH wheel, not third.] Seriously, Stacey says stuff like how she could ditch Claudia at the beach to go see Robert, but at night she HAD to take her along or her dad would be suspicious. So Claudia complains one afternoon while she and Stacey are waiting for Robert to get in from the last ferry ride, and then Stacey tries to make Claudia feel better by inviting her to have lunch with them. Which means that originally Stacey was planning on having lunch with Robert alone, and telling Claudia to just vamoose? Um, Claudia, WHY are you still friends with her? You deserve some kind of medal in self control for not letting it spill to Robert that oh by the way, Ms. Uber Sophisticated peed herself at a slumber party in New York back before she knew she had the diabetus. If I were you, every time Stacey dropped a hint about being left alone with Robert, I'd be all, "I don't know. That DEPENDS." Yeah, Claudia was more mature at thirteen than I am now.
  • Stacey says that her room at her father's Upper East Side digs is kind of small, but that's okay since she spends so little time there. Okay, sorry, now I have to add in what her dad would say. I worked through Christmas AND Thanksgiving last year to afford a two bedroom upper east side doorman building on top of keeping you and the baby mama in luxury, and the fucking room's too small? Okay, you're relegated to the closet, wench--Samantha and I need a new love dungeon.
  • Even Stacey's dad gives her the silent treatment when he finds out that she lied to him. Harsh, but awesome. And a long time coming. Okay, Ed, now pull an Alec Baldwin and leave an angry phone message telling her she's a selfish little pig the next time she refuses to come to New York and visit you. Go burn down, burn down Bloomingdale's. And then give her an ultimatum: you're tired of being her cash cow and she has to choose between her insulin shots and her monthly perms. (God, I'd kill to see the look on her face.)
  • I think this is the time when I'm supposed to psychoanalyze the main character and conclude that she latches onto anything with a Y chromosome because her dad never gives her enough attention (the divorce, him working such long hours). But I hate Stacey with such a flaming passion that I can't really blame Ed for making up so many excuses to avoid spending time with her.
  • You know, Claudia's imaginative, funny, an interesting dresser, artsy, smart--well, artsy, and she's got a lot going for her. Why are she and Stacey still friends? What really sets Stacey apart from the other BSC members? We've already got a blonde member (Dawn) and a member who's into guys and clothes/make-up (Claud). The only things that really makes Stacey unique are that she's good at math and from a vibrant metropolis (I forget which one. New...Brunswick?). Oh, and the fact that she occasionally channels the spirit of Wilford Brimley.*4HeOHTodr3XVRp9BhxEv6VPBWuQAi27K16HWEjzboCtOavHgEX0geCcNp-vU3YWrKhY6ochky5ZulkV9m5OKc6p0PF-vQ-/diabeetus.jpg

  • Shannon doesn't seem to have a BFF, so, Claudia, if you must attach yourself to someone at the hip, pick her. You'll still have a fashionable, blonde girl around, so it's not like things will change all that much (and honestly, weren't those Stacey's two main selling points?). Plus, you won't have to worry about her throwing a tantrum if someone else has the nerve to order sugary fudge or non-diet cola. (Sure, Stacey always says she's fine with the sugarfree alternative, but I bet she's pouting the whole time.)
  • Stacey writes a letter to Jessi saying that she's looking forward to seeing her and Mallory when she gets back. And that's where you know she's desperate because little Miss Can't Be Nonbitchy has no other friends that haven't already been alienated. Seriously, when else does Stacey ever speak to those two unless she either wants dance lessons and/or a dose of white guilt (from Jessi) or a feeling of superiority on those days when she's got either a bad hair day or a zit or something (from Mal).
  • Speaking of Mal, Jessi, and their recycled non-plot, since when do nine year olds care about wearing the same outfit? This is almost as believable as the Hobart boys wanting to look nice for their "dates" in that Valentine's Day book. And it's a hella ugly bathing suit anyway--a red and white striped suit with a ruffle along the neckline (the fuck?). Never was so much fuss made over a bathing suit about which I cared so little. Except for possibly that weird ass bathing suit that wasn't really a bathing suit on season one of Project Runway. You know, the one that Kevin designed, and that Morgan wore to go out partying in, and it got ruined and then he almost lost the challenge, but luckily Alexandra's sucked even more? I miss Project Runway. Where was I? Oh yeah. Ruffles on swim suits make me retch. Neither Haley nor Vanessa is even remotely fierce enough to pull off this outfit. Now, Becca Ramsey, MAYBE, but these two biyatches are only slightly less annoying than Karen Brewer.
  • Claudia enters herself, along with Stacey, Kristy, Shannon and Mary Anne (the other three girls are up visiting for a weekend) in a parade, with a royal theme (prince, princess, jester, and so forth). Stacey has to be the dragon because they're all pissed at her. Why couldn't you guys always make her dress up as a dragon? Although honestly, dragons are kind of cute. Make her dress up as a used tampon instead.
  • During the vacation, Claudia spent most of her time building and photographing elaborate sand castles. Her photographs end up selling for a lot of money, and at the end, Stacey brings her the cash she earned and then apologizes. Claudia says that the money will pay for new art supplies, Nancy Drew books, and chips, and Stacey asks if that's all she needs to be happy, looking all contrite and ready to make up. I would have said, "No, I also require Devil Dogs, a buttload of dresses from H&M and the complete Sopranos on DVD and if you provide me with those things, I might consider one day speaking to you." But Claudia's all, "I need a best friend!" and they make up and say they'll never let a guy come between them. Hmmm. Until Jeremy of BSC Best Friends Forever! I was kind of hoping Claudia would request to see Stacey down eighty Pixy Stix before she made up, but either she's a better person than I am, or Ann M. Martin caught that in one of the early drafts. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but I guess it's too spicy for Ann M. (Now, if it were a dish of cold, bland, plain old vanilla ice cream...)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What Janie Found

[Ed's Note: I know you guys mostly wanted another Babysitters Club book, but I have to, have to, have to get these last few Caroline B. Cooney books out of the apartment and back to the library where they belong. But I'll try to recap a BSC book one next.]

Brief Synopsis:

At last! I'm done with recapping The Face on the Milk Carton series! We open in medias res--Janie's father (Mr. Johnson) has just had a stroke and is in the hospital, unconscious. Janie's instructed to look over the family finances and discovers a dirty little secret. It's not that exciting--turns out Hannah's still alive, living in Boulder, CO and oh yeah, Mr. J is still in contact with her. He sends her money every three months, even though she's technically wanted for kidnapping. Mrs. J is still under the impression they have no idea where Hannah is. So Janie, with the help of former boyfriend Reeve and her New Jersey brother Brian, has to decide whether to keep supporting Hannah or to track her down and sic the Feds on her.

She goes to CO to visit her biological brother, Stephen, who's away at college. Her plan, at first, is to try to meet with Hannah. She navel gazes for a few chapters, then just decides to empty the account devoted to paying off Hannah. That is, she gives it all to Hannah. Her rationale is that this way she can be rid of her. Telling the FBI would just destroy her family. Well, more so. There's also a subplot involving Stephen's girlfriend, Kathleen and her dad. (Kathleen and Stephen enjoy bike rides, long mountain hikes and raising their body metabolisms. Ah, Colorado.) On with the snark!
  • What does Janie find out? Not a damned thing, as far as I'm concerned. Hannah, why can't you join one of those cults where they do a mass suicide? Eat a spiked Twinkie, hitch a ride on Haley's comet, I don't care. Just stop showing up in every book only to disappear at the end. Caroline B., it's such a cocktease the way you keep sprinkling Hannah in front of my nose and then yanking her away. And by cocktease, I mean it's as tempting as the fatter, deader, maggottier version of Anna Nicole Smith gyrating on the lap of a confirmed homosexual.
  • So Janie's dad has a stroke. Yeah, I saw what you did there, CaroB., making it so that Janie's dad is sick enough that it's an EXCITING INCIDENT (someone was taking notes at the last Writers' Workshop Conference!). But you also made him unconscious so you didn't actually have to write him any dialogue. That's almost literary. You almost get to join the pantheon of R.L. Stine and Ann M. Martin. Almost.
  • As I mentioned, Mr. Johnson is in the hospital, busily dying and whatnot. And Mrs. J. is so incompetent (well, except at cake decorating and serving on committees) that their teenage daughter has to go through the family finances? Janie, I changed my mind. Go back to the Springs and leave Stepford mommy behind. I'm not kidding about the cake decorating, by the way. In the first book, Janie takes a class in decorating cakes with her mother because that's what you do to fill the hours in suburban Connecticut. I'm assuming that if Mrs. Johnson did find out about Hannah, her first line of defense would be to decorate a cake. No, not actually bake a cake. Just decorate one.
  • Turns out that Kathleen's dad is an FBI agent and Stephen gets all freaked out that the Feds are stalking him or something. If you guessed that this plot point involves Stephen deciding to break up with Kathleen because she cheated on him, but her father saying that he'll give Stephen confidential information about Hannah as long as he stays with're wrong. What's the matter with you? This is the series where NOTHING HAPPENS. Do you really think CaroB. wanted to take herself out of the running for Guinness Book of World Records Entry for "Longest Series Where Nothing Really Changes"? The point of Kathleen's dad being an FBI agent is...I have no idea.
  • When Kathleen hears the story of Janie from Stephen at dinner, she's positively drooling over it. (And later, she wants Janie to tell her every minute detail about the kidnapping.) Kathleen, put on a fake weave, stop working out so damned much, and let your ass go big--if Nicole in Whatever Happened to Janie? was Nancy Grace, you can be Tyra Banks. Except you didn't yell at Janie enough for not expressing her emotions and you didn't talk about how when you were kidnapped, it was by twelve Hare Krishna runaways but you still worked your magic and let your smile go all the way to your eyes.
  • Kathleen (and Stephen himself in earlier novels) makes a big deal out of how Janie actually went to go live with the Johnsons, and was gauche enough to want to be called Janie (not Jennie)--Janie was her KIDNAP name. This is reminding me of that Greg the Bunny episode where Greg renounces his "fleshie" name in favor of his Puppish name. Can I watch that episode instead of reading this book? Please? Okay, back to business. Guys, it's a one vowel difference. Would you be happier if she decided to spell it Jennie but pronounce it Throatwarbler Mangrove?
  • I'm a little surprised that Janie left to go to Colorado (using the college tour thing as an excuse) when her father was in such dire straits. What happens if dear old dad kicks the bucket and Mama Johnson has to pick out funeral attire by herself? You'll come back to Connecticut to find hundreds of decorated Entenmann's pound cakes all over the house and a decomposing corpse in the basement. Seriously, let's get this woman a new hobby. To the Build-a-Bear Workshop, Jeeves! (Yeah, I was actually talking about CaroB.)
  • There's a detail about Janie wanting cowboy boots and the rest of the gang dutifully trooping into a pawnshop. Then she can't afford to both buy plane tickets home and pay for boots (bitch, it's called flying coach!) so she pouts and Stephen gets all magnanimous and buys her the boots. Yes, Stephen Spring, the college student from a working class Jersey family. Stephen counts out his money in grease stained one dollar bills earned working construction, Janie dances around in her cowboy boots. I hum a few bars from Darkness on the Edge of Town and wonder why Janie couldn't have skimmed a few dollars off the top from her "Kidnapping Checking Account." Or at least have guilted her ex boyfriend from an Old Money Connecticut family into paying instead. You know, the one standing right next to Janie, wondering how he can make up for his past gaffe and get into firecrotch's pants again?
  • Janie gets into a snit because of how her father is supporting her kidnapper. Okay, she's probably right--that's fucked up and your dad probably broke a few laws. But Janie also acts as though she's jealous because it means her dad loved her less than he loved Hannah. If it makes you feel any better, Janie, you're probably getting the better deal. Hundreds of sweaters you don't need, a huge sleepwear collection, fancy trips to Disney World on your birthday. Sure, Hannah got to join a cult, but it was an ass backward fashion challenged cult--the Hare Krishnas aren't cool. It's not like she got to be a Moonie.
  • About Kathleen. She's irritating. Janie stays in her dorm room when the east coast trio visits. She's incredibly insensitive when it comes to rehashing Janie's kidnapping past. She asks questions that close relatives shouldn't, let alone near strangers. But the worst part is that she also wakes her guest up to go on a five mile run at 6 AM. Hey, I love eschewing carbohydrates and burning calories as much as the next average American girl, but bitch, don't encroach on my sleep time--just don't even.
  • So, during the mini marathon, Janie manages to ditch Kathleen to stake out the post office where Hannah has a P.O. box. (Kathleen runs off, unseen for a few more pages--possibly to go check out a pro-ana board.) Janie sits down on a bench outside the post office. A middle aged woman sits down next to her, and Janie realizes that this MIGHT be her kidnapper. She stares at the ground. Is it Hannah? Goddamnit, it's NEVER LUPUS--I mean, it's never Hannah. You didn't find Hannah in New York City in Whatever Happened to Janie? and it wasn't her calling in to the radio show in The Voice on the Radio. Janie looks away, the middle aged woman leaves, I pop a No-Doze and it's on with the show!
  • Kathleen starts calling Janie a "kidnapette." And referring to her as "Janie-Jennie." No, if you really want to piss her off, throw her in the back of your SUV and scream, "Hey Janie, stop kidnapping yourself, stop kidnapping yourself!" Hey, it satisfied the five year old in me.
  • Oh, gawd, and Janie, Bri and Reeve seem to think their idea of getting Hannah out of their lives is so brilliant. Reeve tells them to pay off all the money to Hannah. That's not really any less depraved than giving her money four times a year, but okay. I'll go with it. Reeve's reasoning is Janie is unkidnapping herself. Then Brian's all, "How will Hannah know what she means?" And...oh, here's the ingenius part. They--ah, I'm bowled over by it. They decide to write her a note letting her know. Wow. Guys, I think that's JUST crazy enough to work. And why does Janie need to "buy herself back," anyway? She just manipulated a poor college student into buying her a pair of boots and she's still in high school. I think she's doing just fine.
  • Do you at least want to know if Mr. Johnson survives the stroke? Well, you've been reading this far--might as well find out, even though he's pretty much the least interesting character in this saga. Oh, wait, you forgot and thought you were reading a book with the concept of closure. I think at this point, not even CaroB. cared what happened to any of them. So no, we don't know. I've never seen a series where the creator just threw up their hands and said, "Screw it, I'm bored, let's just stop" so flagrantly. Well...okay, The Sopranos. (But at least there, I can lie to myself and say it had artistic merit or something. And only because I still worship at the altar of David Chase.)

Okay, let's just pretend that this story was the imaginings of some bored network executive who needed to come up with some teen related WB show ("Uh...think Seventh Heaven meets 90210 meets the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case except she's a redhead and not Mormon") because that's the only way I can excuse how awful this entire series was. But on the bright side, I can say a fond good-bye to all these lovable characters. Adieu, Janie "She's been living in her white bread world" Johnson. Reeve, here's hoping you either get some nookie or actually make some money off of dating and living next door to a kidnapette (aww, now I'm doing it, too!). And Mr. Johnson, I hope you--ah, I can't even pretend to care anymore.