Thursday, October 8, 2009

BSC #79: Mary Anne Breaks the Rules

In honor of Halloween, which I'm celebrating all month long (and by celebrating I mean gorging on candy and watching horror movies), here's a book that takes place around Halloween. Incidentally, Dawn and the Halloween Mystery came out the same month (October of '94) as this book. But when Mary Anne talks to Dawn on the phone, Dawn doesn't mention that there's an insane clown on the loose that she's trying to track down. Is having killer clowns rampaging just an everyday occurrence in Palo City? Remind me not to hold my coulrophobics unite convention there.


Mary Anne notices that little Jake Kuhn has been feeling out of sorts because he misses his dad. (His parents are divorced and his dad lives really far away.) So she enlists her boyfriend Logan to provide some male guidance. Logan comes over a few times to play soccer and basketball with Jake while Mary Anne sits for Laurel and Patsy, Jake's younger sisters. It all comes to a crashing halt when Mrs. Kuhn comes home early and assumes Mary Anne has been doing the horizontal tango with Logan instead of watching the kids. Of course, she's on the hotline to the BSC complaining the very next day.

Naturally, MA lost all traces of the working spine she acquired in MA Saves the Day and MA's Makeover (Ann M. Martin wields that reset button like it's a Hitachi Magic Wand). So she's back to being Mary Anne the Meek and she doesn't explain what's really been going on to Mrs. Kuhn. The BSC worries that Mrs. Kuhn will call up other clients and tell them what bad sitters they are and that they won't get any more jobs. But about a week later, Jake tells his mother what really was going on, and everything goes back to normal.

Subplot: The babysitters supervise the kids while they come up with a haunted house for Halloween.

  • On the book cover: MA leans against the garage door smiling while Logan gives Jake some soccer tips. Lesson one--the jock strap you're wearing, Jake? It's either too big or too small. Not pictured: Laurel and Patsy Kuhn who are presumably locked in the car-hole.
  • Poor Jake. He's been described as a bit chunky, and just look at that cover. The only thing keeping that jacket on is the Perfect Fit Button(TM). He's the kind of kid who really needs help. Plus, can't you just picture Logan's reaction when MA asked him to mentor Jake? "I'll take him! Do you have him in a size small?"
  • In one scene Stacey asks Logan where he gets his energy. Logan replies, "'Rechargeable batteries...[and begins] unbuttoning his shirt. 'Want to see?'" Can we say the most gratuitous fan service, apart from the Bada Bing? Though I must admit, if I had been a preteen when I first read this, it would've given me such a clit-on, the likes of which I usually only experienced when climbing the ropes in gym class or seeing a Boy Meets World character do a hair flip.
  • When Jake tells Mary Anne he's jealous of Buddy Barrett (whose mother is getting remarried), that's when she realizes he needs to have a guy in his life. But she's afraid of criticizing Mrs. Kuhn. Okay, I know I mocked MA for not saying anything to Mrs. K, but this I can grok. My friend's sister's boyfriend's cousin works on Kate...Plus Eight and one day he got reamed out by the Divorcee Gosselin for playing Hot Wheels with Aaden on his break because "how dare [he] imply that she can't provide a male influence in his life? Aaden has plenty of male influence from when He Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken used to live with us and from the bodyguard, handlers, and my publicist Lance." (This is probably why none of the little boys know how to pee standing up--well, that and Mama Gosselin's undiagnosed OCD.)
  • Later, MA watches old Facts of Life episodes to seek out more fashion advice from Tootie, while Logan simmers at home because he can't pass on more male guidance to Jake (like foreskins need to be retracted for cleaning, and which Pokemon are butch enough for boys to like--Charmander and Bulbasaur, FTR). And then, Mrs. Kuhn comes over with Jake in tow to talk to Mary Anne...
  • I decided to update this scene because things have changed since 1994 when this book was first published. We have Megan's Law, Law & Order: SVU, and we know that Snuffy was wrong to tell Big Bird to keep their friendship a secret. So here's the scene presented for a modern audience:
Mrs. K: "I had no idea Logan was coaching Jake in soccer. I had thought...well, I had been confused. At any rate, Jake told me that Logan was spending all his time with him, while you looked after the girls."
MA: "Yes."

Mrs. K: "That Logan didn't come over to see you, Mary Anne, but to hang out with Jake.

MA: "Yeah."

Mrs. K: "And Jake never told me that he was spending all this unsupervised time with an older thirteen year old boy without my permission who hasn't passed a background check. Logan? Why don't you have a seat?"
  • In one scene, Logan and MA meet up with Stacey and her boyfriend Robert. Stacey tells them a story about how they and some other kids went to a French restaurant. One member of their party ordered sweetbreads (the thymus/pancreas of a calf) and it was so disgusting that none of them could eat their dinners so they just paid up and left. (The guy who ordered sweetbreads had to go home and lie down when he saw it.) Between this and the escargots incident in California Girls!, I have to wonder Ann M.'s beef is with foreign foods. Did she have an incident as a child where an authority figure stuffed foie gras down her throat?
  • The other sitters act pretty cold towards MA after Mrs. Kuhn calls. When clients call asking for the girls to sit, every time Mary Anne is free, someone else quickly volunteers to take the job instead. Mary Anne feels awful, and I don't blame her. I always thought that they could be fairly bitchy to her (especially in Mary Anne's Makeover). Don't you wish Erica Blumberg could play the Janis Ian to MA's Cady, and encourage her to take them down? This would so work since SMS has no Tina Fey-esque teacher to tell all the teen queens and wannabes to play nice.
  • The haunted house plot. Some of the kids (Jake, Nicky and Buddy) want a funny haunted house, and the others (Vanessa, Haley and Matt) want a scary one. Since I've been to a real scary one, and barely lived to tell about it, I'll go with the first option. Okay, okay, it wasn't so much a haunted house as it was the time I was trying to get into this guy named Christian's pants, and his idea of a date was watching the video of Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS in its entirety and I had to go along with it. (And yes, he did turn out to be an Oscar Wilde reading, Streisand ticket holding friend of Dorothy, and no, I haven't really recovered from the trauma.)
Happy Halloween everybody!