Friday, May 22, 2009

BSC #87: Stacey and the Bad Girls

Brief Synopsis:

Previously on the BSC, Stacey was thrown out/voluntarily left the club. She's way too mature for them anyway, what with her boyfriend and cool new crowd. It's summer now, and she's pretty much spending all her time with a new group of girls that she knows through Robert. The gals come over every day to obsess over their favorite band, U4Me, eat all of Stacey's food, gab. Since Stacey isn't babysitting (BSCopoly, baby), her mom gets annoyed at this decadence and makes Stacey get a job. Eventually she ends up working at Bellairs department store (where her mom works as a buyer) in their daycare. The bad girls take advantage of her (shoplift, make money off her discount, make her wait in line to buy tickets for a U4Me concert) but Stacey's a moron and doesn't mind.

She finally breaks it off with the girls when they sneak alcohol into the concert, get caught, and then hide liquor bottles in Stacey's sweater and refuse to say that she wasn't drinking. Security calls their parents (no po-po's? drag) and Stacey's friendship with the bad girls is over.

Meanwhile, Dawn's mother gets a call from some relatives who say that they need the Schafer-Spiers to take care of their six year old daughter (Dawn's cousin), Amy, for three weeks while they go to England. Amy has never met them before, so she's pretty traumitized and at one point tries to run away to find her parents. She ends up at the Bellairs daycare (I have no idea how). Stacey knows what's going on in BSC world even though she hates everyone (she and Claudia still talk on the phone and apparently Claudia gives her blow by blow details of everyone's lives) so she figures out who this little girl is. She calls up Mary Anne and Dawn and is all, "If you seek Amy..." and they come get her. After the fallout with the bad girls, Stacey asks to rejoin and they let her in on a "trial basis," and the fact that she called Dawn and MA about Amy (as opposed to selling her into white slavery? seriously, what else was she going to do?) works in her favor.
  • To have this ghostwritten, Ann M. had to bring in the big guns: Peter Lerangis, yo. Ellen Miles and Suzanne Weyn can handle the "ohhh cute baby!" or "aw, let's help an old person" plots. But when it comes to the tough stuff, like making out with your sort of boyfriend or alcohol, it was all about the Lerangis.
  • From the back cover synopsis: "These girls are fun. A little wild even. But Stacey's not sure how much she can trust them...until it is too late." What's with the lack of contractions in that last sentence--was Karen Brewer writing copy for you guys? And what do you mean, too late? Nothing really happens to her other than the security people calling her mom. They make it sound like Stacey ends up face down over a barrel while the bad girls take a knife to her perm.
  • Gotta love the cover. The bad girls are standing on their chairs, so you know they're too cool for school. Though there are only three bad girls (did girl number four get lost on her way to Lilith Fair?) and they look a lot more likely to be throwing their bras at Ani DiFranco than at Eddie Vedder if you get my meaning.
  • The cover's tagline says: What would the BSC think of her now? Well, let's see.
Kristy: *chomping on a cigar* "Why weren't you babysitting? This is our busiest time of the year--the Pikes would love to go to a rock concert." *chomp chomp* "Mallory, get yer ass to the Arnolds' house, Claud, we're gonna need you at the Braddocks at five, let's hustle, people."

Mary Anne: "Stacey, you know we still care about you, right?" (Thinking: Someone doesn't look so developed or sophisticated in her baggy oversized purple sweater.) I love passive aggressive MA!

Claudia: "WHY am I still friends with you? Oh yeah, no one actually likes Kristy, tofu sucks, I'm beyond gushing over cute Lisa Frank stickers with Mary Anne, I can't hang out with eleven year olds, and the BSC alienated the one artsy, non-babysitter friend I had."

Dawn: "Your new friends did WHAT? They ate a SLIM JIM on the way to the concert? Do you know how many baby cows had to die so your friends could have a good time?"
  • So who are the bad girls? Well, Stacey knows them through Andi Gentile. Andi's "normal-looking." Andi's not a bad girl--she goes away for the summer, so we don't see her again (till she steals Stacey's man in Stacey's Broken Heart). And in Stacey vs. the BSC, it's revealed that she modeled briefly as a baby. No, I'm not making this up. As for the other girls, they have distinct looks but none of them has a single personality trait between the lot of them. First there's Sheila, who's a blonde cheerleader. You may remember her from such plot lines as Stacey wants to become a cheerleader but can't because everyone's mad jealous of how awesome she is.

Then there's Jacqui who's a redhead with a green streak, a nose ring, and alabaster skin. So she's Deb from Empire Records before she Delilahs herself.

Mia wears black clothing and lipstick.

Heather has short brown hair and "loves the grunge look."

Incidentally, one of these things is not like the others! (Hint: I don't mean Stacey.)

Below, Stacey. "Look, guys, I can be grunge, too!"

  • Since Stacey's friends come over and sponge off her every day, Mrs. McGill thinks it's time Stacey got a job. She does some searching and finds a modeling agency, no experience necessary. Since people are always telling Stacey she could model, she figures she can just walk in and start modeling, no biggie. My favorite part is when Stacey walks in to see three other girls accompanied by their mothers, all with portfolios and great outfits on. Stacey feels like a toad in her sundress. (As well she should. I learned from watching MTV's Made that all you need to wear on a go-see is jeans, a casual shirt, and a super high pair of heels.) The man and woman at the agency discuss her. The guy says, "'I see her as girl-next-door, household product, lawn care, possibly snack food.'" Tyra frowns, saying, "Yes, but America's Next Top Model has to be more than that--she has to be international, commercial, she has to be ready to walk down a runway one moment, be a Covergirl spokesmodel the next, and still have time to stick her fingers down her throat--Mr. J's not going to do it for you at this stage of the game." I mean, she says something like, don't call us, we'll call you.
  • Then Stacey's mom gets her the Bellairs' daycare job. Now that Stacey's working at Bellairs', she and her friends are spending a lot more time shopping after she gets off work. My favorite moment is when Stacey's in a store with her friends and she notices one of her mother's co-workers frowning over a group of wayward looking high schoolers (possibly with earrings, goatees, and bad attitudes). Stacey smiles knowingly: "I knew that store managers often keep their eyes on suspicious-acting people and gangs of teens. When I turned back around, my friends were gone." That Stacey. She's a savvy one! Tell us again how you and Laine were the Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen of your day.
  • Later, Stacey's friends ask her to buy them stuff with her 10% employee discount. Stacey gets all weird about this because she doesn't think it's kosher and she's afraid her mom will find out. (I'm not sure why--this is fairly common.) They buy really expensive stuff, like a silk bathrobe, full length calfskin gloves, and a straw hat with an ostrich feather. Stacey's embarrassed to be seen buying this stuff. Shut up, Stacey, I'm about to ask my brother to buy a graphic novel about sexual abuse with his B&N discount, so don't look so put upon. [If you're reading this...yes, yes, I do want it.] So the gals decide to return the merchandise for FULL PRICE. DUM DUM DUM. Stacey looks horrified. Okay, this is child's play. Freaks and Geeks' Kim Kelly games the system by putting an expensive price sticker on an inexpensive item, shoplifting it, then returning it to get full price.
  • Oh, since Stacey is working at Bellairs' daycare, we also have to deal with childcare that involves kids we don't even know. And since I know why you guys are really here, I'm not even going to bother recapping the face painting or the argument over toy trains. Enough daycare, more shoplifting and booze!
  • Tickets go on sale for the U4Me concert in Stamford. Stacey stands in line with the bad girls to buy tickets. Goddammit, I'm so sick of calling them the bad girls, but I hate writing out all their names. One by one, each of the girls makes some excuse about wanting to take a break, and each hands Stacey some cash and asks her to buy her a ticket if she's not back in time. She's pissed but gets over it. So, you're cool with being their serving wench, are ye?
  • Stacey's mom used to be a huge Beatles fan. She starts mocking Stacey and the girls for throwing their figurative panties at U4Me, until Stacey reminds her of how she used to call herself Paula. Don't laugh, Stacey. Maureen "Stacey's mom has got it goin' on" McGill is at least a Regulation-B hottie. And she's got both her legs, so she's got that going for her. I bet she has more of a chance with Sir Paul than you ever did with Wes.
  • I get the feeling that Lerangis can't tell the difference between grunge and boy band. Most guys seem to hate U4Me (like Robert) and all the girls love them. Then again, most of these girls seem into grunge bands. But they're called U4Me. Using pre-L33t speak is definitely a sign of boy bands (see also *NSYNC). So I guess U4Me is what happens when Kurt Cobain takes the happy pills, sells out, and strikes up a deal with Beelzebub, aka Lou Pearlman.
  • Skyllo, the lead singer of U4Me, descends from the rafters midway through U4ME's first song in a cloud of smoke. Am I the only one picturing Uncle Jesse in his Vulture incarnation? If I were at this concert, I think I'd also need a flask to get through this.
  • On to the booze! As the bottles come out, Stacey thinks, "Maybe I'm just dense. Or naive...But for a teensy moment, I thought Sheila had smuggled in a bottle of cough syrup." They're suburban kids in Connecticut, Stacey. Not Utah Mormon kids trying to get around their crazy religion's ban on alcohol. Anyway, you can't get loaded on cough syrup these days--the FDA has really cracked down. Try NyQuil.
  • At the concert, Stacey starts to think that the other girls look cool with their tiny bottles of liquor and that she looks square by comparison. When did this book become Grease and when did the Bad Girls morph into the Pink Ladies? From reading Stacey and the Cheerleaders, I thought that most of Robert's friends were sports goons and their bimbettes. At the concert, the girls start to get rowdy and throw candy wrappers (ooh).
  • The security guards come and whisk Stacey and her friends off to Room 101 to be lectured as Skyllo (how the fuck do you pronounce it anyway? Skill Low? sounds about right) pumps up his amp to eleven. Stacey is shocked, SHOCKED, that her friends sell her out and refuse to say that she wasn't drinking. So, they eat all your food, take advantage of your employee discount, make you stand in line for hours to buy tickets, and you're surprised that they're trying to pin this on you?
  • I think the lesson of this book is that alcohol is bad because it'll get you in trouble. What kind of message is that? Alcohol is bad because it's EVIL (until you turn 21). The responsible TV producers at Saved by the Bell taught us that a sip of beer will get you in a three car pile up. Two drinks will make you take a swing at Alex P. Keaton and that's never cool even if he is spouting Limbaugh esque right wing screed (Uncle Ned, no!). And if you're a chick, the minute you take a drink and an unfamiliar male character enters the screen, your virtue will be compromised. At the very least, you'll say horrible things about the people you love, which will usually be the highlight of the entire TV season to the long suffering audience, but will result in all your friends and loved ones looking at you as if you just raped a baby goat (Dawson Leary and Shawn Hunter, take a bow!). In this book, the drunk gals get a little rowdy but there's no coma from drinking, no "I'll NEVER drink again" hangover, no vomiting in the toilet all night, no older men trying to take advantage of their drunkenness with, "You know, I knew Axl before he was famous." "Uh, you mean SKYLLO?" "Uh, right, Skyllo--wanna make out?" Nothing juicy.
  • About Amy. I don't think it's necessarily evil to leave your kids with strangers for three weeks when they're six, but it's pretty fucked up. On the bright side, we don't get a cute scene where Amy learns to love Dawn and MA and the other BSC members. It's pretty much just non-stop crying. Hey, if I had to live in a house with that much tofu and faux-fu, and where there were hissing sounds every time I picked up a burger, I'd cry, too! In fact, that pretty much sums up my first year of college. (Damned vegan dorm.)
  • At the end, Stacey and Robert talk about Sheila, Jacqui, Mia and Heather. Robert says Stacey was right and that he'll back her up. Stacey feels a little better but notes that Robert doesn't say he'll stop hanging out with that group of friends. (He wasn't really close friends with those girls to begin with, but he is friends with the guys, a lot of whom date these girls.) To which I say, shut it, Yoko, he already quit basketball for you.
  • Stacey makes a list of the attributes a friend should have. They include things like being a good listener, being funny, caring, smart, cool, a sharp dresser, and being a good shopper. None of her bad girl friends had a single one of those traits (but Jacqui, aka Deb from Empire Records, had a rhinestone nosering and a floppy Blossom hat!). She thinks that even though none of the BSC members individually have all these traits, together they do. Wow, this book is a ringing endorsement for BSC love. The BSC: when everyone else around you sucks or hates you. So Stacey basically calls up Claudia and whines, "My new friends turned out to be manipulative bitches, and even though I'm still more mature than everyone else, I don't want to eat alone at lunch this year, so I'm rejoining, but I'm still better than you, kthnxbai."
  • How is it that it was summer in book #76 when Stacey and Robert went to Fire Island, it's summer again 11 books later, and then right before book #100 it's summer yet AGAIN when they go to Hawaii? I know we're in a time warp, but c'mon, THREE summer vacations in less than thirty books? I asked Ann M. Martin about this at the last Book Expo when she was there signing copies of a new book two years ago.
Ann M.: "Um, see...whenever something like that happens,"

Me: "A wizard did it? Are we to believe that this is some sort of magical summer vacation? I hope some ghostwriter got fired over this!"

Ann M.: "Um, would you guys like to see some pictures of my cat, Mouse, on his last birthday? Let me just go out to my car..."

And that was the last we heard of her. I had to walk home through a throng of irate fans, covered in tomatoes and my best friend wouldn't even look at me. (I'm barred from saying anything to Julie Andrews at the next Book Expo we attend.)