Saturday, May 9, 2009

BSC #123: Claudia's Big Party

Huzzah, Sadako's first time recapping a Claudia book! And finally--I've been meaning to snark John and Ryoko Kishi. For those of you not in the know, those are Claudia's stereotypically Asian parents. Much like Claud's older sister, Janine, they enjoy reading Good Literature, wearing white Oxford button down shirts, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. So, other than the good literature part, they're a lot like Ann M. And as we all know, they are the reason Claudia has to hide junk food and Nancy Drew books. (Incidentally, Mrs. Kishi is a librarian. The fact that she'd ban any book, especially since Claudia typically hates reading, always pissed me off in a huge way.)

Anyway, in this book, Claudia has to balance her new 7th grade friends (she met them back when the administration made her regress a grade), her 7th grade boyfriend Josh Rocker and her BSC friends. Also, she has to deal with Janine who's become super clingy since she got rid of her boyfriend (remember him? Jerry, the guy she started dating in BSC Mystery #6). So when John and Ryoko go out of town, Claudia and Janine decide to throw a party so the BSC can mingle with Claudia's new friends. The party gets a little out of hand because too many guests show up. Then Claudia's aunt and uncle come, and the girls are in trouble!
  • Josh is all kinds of adorable. Claudia makes him go shopping with her in the first scene because she was supposed to go out with her seventh grade friends, Shira, Jeannie and Joanna [ed note: my god, Ann, is it too much effort to come up with characters associated with Claudia who don't have J-names?] after school even though she made plans with him. The girls gush over earrings while Josh smiles painfully. Despite Josh being super uncomfortable, the girls seem to love having him around. I can just see Joanna and Shira leaning forward. "Oh, Josh, you're just like one of us! It's not weird like hanging out with sexy guys--it's so comfortable." "Tell us which of the cute guys like us!" "Do these earrings make my lobes look fat?" Josh just smiles and says, "What are big sisters for!" Or, uh, he asks Claudia in private if she's ever not monopolized by her friends. Incidentally, Shira buys a hideous pair of earrings shaped like gavels that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself would sneer at.
  • Janine has nothing to do these days except check AIM to see if Jerry has signed on. And then recheck under her secret IM handle to see if he's really online but blocking her. And then see if he's on Facebook. Then back to AIM--lather, rinse, repeat. So she volunteers to show Claudia a cool art website. Janine says she'll "call up" the website. What next, is she going to answer the phone with "Ahoy hoy"? Ann M., I keep reminding you. We already stipulated that you won't be writing the technology parts of your books. This is included, but not limited to, passages about the BSC answering machine, the fax machine Stacey's dad gets so he can work at home, and any and all CD players. Let Lerangis & co. take care of that while you go make cocoa and knit socks for your cats. Anyway, while Claudia takes phone calls from her myriad friends, Janine keeps trying to show her the website, which features great works of art. Yawn. Bring on lolcats please.
  • Claudia wakes up one morning and receives a tense call from Josh, wanting to know if she's okay because she forgot to call last night. She says something about being busy and apologizes. What the hell prevented you from calling last night, Josh? Were you busy trying to glue together your spine? They hang up and I assume Josh goes back to creating a replica of Claudia out of packets of Butterfingers and Nerds, simultaneously crying and jerking off. Actually, from this point on, I'm just going to assume that whenever Josh isn't around, he's crying and jerking off.
  • That night, Josh "What a Man, What a Man" Rocker and Claudia go on a tri-date to the Rosebud Cafe with Ethan and Stacey and Logan and Mary Anne. Josh is the only one wearing a tie and Claud thinks he's overdressed. (Wait, so when you wear bolo ties and cowgirl hats paired with orange converse high tops, it's trendy but when a guy wears a normal tie, it's weird? I'm looking into the future and I'm seeing Claudia being stripped and beaten by Stacy and Clinton.)
  • At the Rosebud, Josh disappears into the bathroom and Claudia notices that he's tieless on his return. Well, duh, we all knows what he does when he can't be around you--what else was he supposed to wipe up the bodily fluids with?
  • Have you guys met Stacey's newest beau yet? His name is Ethan Carroll, he lives in New York, he wears an earring, he's into art and he's fifteen. I don't know much about him yet, but he goes in my snark-a-dex for future reference. After dinner, the gang watches a boring foreign movie picked out by none other than Ethan. For a while, Logan and Josh talk about sports. I don't know what Ethan's doing. Probably staring intently at the TV, letting his black beret slip just an inch forward, and murmuring, "Ingrid Bergman is SUCH a genius. Uh...Ingmar, INGMAR." I never thought I'd say this, but I long for the days of Luca.
  • Before the date, Janine bakes cookies. Claudia thinks: "Two nights in a row with nothing to do but hang out and bake cookies. That seemed odd even for Janine." Excuse me a minute. I need to surreptitiously karate chop Claudia. With that out of the way, I slip the website address for Stoneybrook Craigslist Personals into Janine's pocket protected pocket before scuttling into Claudia's room to raid the Hostess snacks.
  • On to the party! Ann M.'s parties must be riots. Claudia's shindig involves games where people have to match the person to the fun fact about them (you know, stuff like "I love the Mets," "I talk in my sleep," "My cat's breath smells like cat food."). She plans on handing out tiny stickers so people will know what teams they're on for games and organizes a contest where they decorate gigantic cookies. But there aren't enough cookies for everyone and people start eating the cookies without realizing they're just for decorating and then there aren't enough cookie toppings. And I never thought that a sentence that uses the word "cookie" so many times could bore me so much.
Meanwhile, somewhere at Scholastic in the editorial division...

"Did you get the invite to Ann's party?"

"I'm so not going. Last time she burst into tears when I ate a handful of M&Ms. She said they were expressly for the cookie decorating competition."

"You think that's bad? I used sweet tarts on my giant cookie but it turns out they were for the cupcake decorating contest and I was disqualified."

"Yeah, but this year the grand prize is first choice at one of her thimbles from around the world."
  • So Kishi pere and mere are peeved when they come home. I decided to put myself in their tabi socks. What would I say if I came home and was told that my teenaged kids threw a party in my absence? A party whose high point is cookie decorating, with no alcohol, not a single barnyard animal, and not one drunken make out session? "Kids, we're having a serious talk next weekend. And you're not to go out or talk to your friends till you watch Weekend at Bernie's, Bachelor Party, and National Lampoon's Animal House." Which reminds me of the one party I threw in high school where my parents came home early to find us midway through the Speed Scrabble Tournaments. "At least," my dad said, "at least tell me you won at Coke Pong." I know that Janine would have responded with, "Ginger ale Pong. Coca cola is a stimulant. We did not wish to overexert ourselves so soon before bedtime."
  • This book takes place after the one where the kids do that student teacher project and Mal taught an 8th grade English class and was teased. The kids are still calling her Spaz Girl. It took them this long? So Mal's all weepy and upset and accidentally breaks a vase at the party. But not just any vase! A vase containing the ashes of dear old Mimi! Just kidding. Claudia probably already ate those months ago in desperation, thinking they were the last remnants of her smuggled Chips Ahoy cookies.
  • After they're caught, Claud and Janine clean up and all of Claud's friends chip in and buy a new vase. (How the hell is it that in sitcom/terrible kiddie lit land, everyone always manages to find a replacement heirloom within hours but after two years, I STILL can't find a replacement for my cute tiny backpack purse that fell apart? And this using marketplace and eBay.) John and Ryoko come home on Sunday. They are not pleased. A replacement for the priceless vase? John's hands curl into fists. "Your grandmother Mimi carried that vase up her ass for years to bring it to this country! Not because she had to! Because she wanted to! Cannot be replaced! Stupid ungrateful American children."
  • Janine fetches the ivory handled dagger that the Kishis have lying around--you know, just in case any errant Kishi brings shame upon the family and needs to commit harikiri. "Honorable Father," she begins, "we know we have disgraced--" But then, it turns out that the girls prepared a nice dinner and nothing of any value was really destroyed (other than their faith in Claudia which was already on the brink) so it's all smiles as everyone digs into their kimchee. And I know that kimchee is Korean but given that nobody who writes these books knows any Japanese names other than Ryoko (which they spell wrong), I'm kind of surprised that the Kishis don't regularly chow down on kimchee, moo shoo pork and pad thai. Yep, all smiles...until Ryoko catches Claudia reading The Secret of the Old Clock and then thrusts the ivory handled dagger at her while gesturing at Mimi's photograph. "What would your ancestors say?! Why you bring shame on the family!"
  • Oh yeah, the B-plot. At the Kormans, Bill gets grounded for hitting his sister, Melody. He's grounded till he apologizes. So Mary Anne figures out a way to make the kids get along. She pretends to lose the house key when they go out on a walk and lets the kids figure out how to get back into the house. Their first idea is to break a window, so Bill says he'll go to the garage and get a hammer. Melody starts to wheel her little sister Skylar's stroller back to the house and then the house key falls out (Mary Anne put it there). Crisis averted. But I have a feeling that next time Bill and Melody are locked out of the house and have to figure out how to get in, the Kormans will be sending Mary Anne the medical bills for the tetanus shots.
I read this entire book hoping for a wild party. Not even a sexy party. Just something. Maybe someone we've never met before has one sip of beer. Or one of Stacey's bad girl former friends shows up. Or Jerry comes over and begs Janine to take him back. Just a soupcon of drama--too much to ask? And all I get are giant cookies that aren't decorated the right way. Someone better bake me an enormous cookie in the shape of an enormous cookie because I'm hungry and pissed. Oh, excuse me. I forgot to mention, the girls run out of pizza too soon. Fast times at Stoneybrook Middle School!