Saturday, November 14, 2009

BSC Mystery #9: Kristy and the Haunted Mansion


This was one of the stories I found really creepy as a kid, and even creepier as an adult. Kristy and Bart (her sort of kind of maybe love interest) have put the best players from both of their baseball teams (the Krushers and the Bashers) together to form the Krashers and they play against another rag tag team in a town thirty miles over. Charlie drives Kristy, Bart, and some of their team members and equipment in a van (four Bashers, Karen--insert shudder--David Michael, Jackie, and Buddy). On the way back from the game, there's a storm and they get lost. Outside this huge old mansion known as the Sawyer House, a couple of bridges wash out and so they're stranded. The caretaker who lives in a little old cottage lets them stay up in the old house till morning. Everyone's worried back home because there's no phones to call and it's back in the day before you could just use your crackberry to Twitter: "Staying in a creepy old house with my older brother, my beard, and eight kids, one of whom is Karen Brewer--someone kill me, kthnxbai."

The house is a bit spooky because the electricity is out and there are rumors of ghosts. Doing some snooping (newsclippings and an old diary), the kids find out that a young woman named Dorothy Sawyer used to live here. She wanted to marry her fiance, Will Blackburn, whom her father didn't think was good enough for her. She planned to run off with Will one night outside the creek and elope but she never showed up and was presumed dead (drowned, one assumes).

Kristy and the others figure out that the old caretaker is Will and they ask him what's up. He explains that he moved back here and bought the house as a way of keeping his love for Dorothy alive. Too bad you're separated by oceans and time from another literary loon who'd be perfect for you. Miss Havisham and Will would make quite a couple. I've really got to start up a Missed Connections page on the blog.

Kristy goes back home and a week later the BSC has a sleepover. Karen, bitch that she is, stole a snapshot of Dorothy and brings it up to Kristy's room to show the others because she's figured out who Dorothy is. Turns out she looks just like the woman who owns the Stoneybrook sewing shop and Mary Anne agrees. The next day, the sitters go to the sewing shop to ask Dorothy about what's going on and if all goes well, play matchmaker between her and Will.

Dorothy explains that she ran away because she was afraid Will would make her live the conventional boring existence of a housewife in a pre-Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan world: "I didn't have to answer to any man: not Father, not Will. For, as much as Will loved me, I knew he would have given me the same sort of life that Father had...I knew it was wrong to let them think I was dead, but it was the only way I could see for me to take control of my life." This is what happens when you base your strong willed female characters off of Aladdin's Princess Jasmine.
  • When the kids meet up with Dorothy, they think that she should tell Will she's alive. She smiles, thinking it'll give him a surprise and that she'll do it. Yeah, that won't traumatize him even a little. Dotty, you creep, you're probably planning to give him a heart attack so you can take over your old house, hire the kids who weren't good enough to be Krashers as your Oompa Loompa-esque minions, and make cutesy kitschy craft items galore with an even lower overhead than an Indonesian sweatshop.
(Claire, Margo? "Crap" has a "p" in it.)
  • This book was ghostwritten by Ellen Miles. I'll refresh your memory--she normally writes a series called The Puppy Place and no, it's not as cutesy wutesy as it sounds. It's worse. It makes Pound Puppies look like that show on Animal Planet with all the hoarders who collect dogs.
  • And yes, this time, I know Ellen didn't farm out any ghostwriting to a hip twentysomething aspiring writer. If some young hipster with more TV knowledge than sense had written this book, Dorothy would be a really awesome old person, like a former hippie who ransacked a Nuclear Power Plant back in the day, now going under the alias Muddy Mae Suggins to escape the fuzz. Or she'd be Dr. Ruth. Or Carol Kane's character in The Princess Bride. But no, Dorothy comes back to Stoneybrook and takes the absolute hippest, coolest job that Ellen and Ann M. could think of. She owns a sewing supply store. It's called Sew Fine. Not even the Widow Towne or Nannie, the resident Stoneybrook biddies, could top that.
  • You know how we associate some of the books with food? I always associated Island Adventure with candy bars, Stacey's Emergency with homemade brownies, and Jessi and the Awful Secret with Burger King. This one sucks in terms of food. Will gives the kids some apples, bread and a jug of water instead of readimade pop tarts and double chocolate Oreos. And since it's Ellen Miles, not Peter Lerangis writing, you just know that the bread was whole wheat and that those apples weren't even Granny Smith. If the BSC members weren't such goody goods, instead of solving old people love affairs, they'd go back the next weekend to egg and TP Will's house. But no. They had to go and create an American version of As Time Goes By.

  • I wonder how that meeting between Will and Dorothy will go. "So, Dorothy, how's your life been?" "Wonderful! I've been around the world several times, met countless suitors whom I've all turned down, and seen all kinds of thimbles from around the world. How about you?" "My collection of gnarled apples that look like you is almost've got that going for me."
  • Dorothy thinks she's so empowered because she ran away and let all her friends and loved ones think she was dead. When I reread that, I had the same reaction as when I found out that damned Lindberg baby wasn't kidnapped at all and really ran off to start a career as a baby model for Gerber.
  • Babysitting! On the fateful night that Kristy's missing, Claudia's babysitting for the Newtons. She shows up wearing a tie dyed shirt. Since it's raining, she's covered in colors and has to call Janine over to bring her fresh clothes. Not shown: Stacey's commentary on Claudia's wardrobe malfunction.
Claudia: "Well, I just made the outfit myself, and I guess the dye didn't hold--"

Stacey: "Gee, Quinn Claudia, it's almost like you're saying that people don't need to buy out Bloomingdale's to look good."

Claudia: "No, Stacey! I just meant that since..."
  • Claudia doesn't lose another opportunity to mock Janine for being smart. When she's worried about Kristy, Janine comments that Kristy will probably be fine because she's so intelligent and resourceful and Claudia eyerolls because Janine thinks intelligence can solve any problem. Duh, Janine. Wearing a cute pink tank top with matching pink elephant studs in your ears is the best way of coping in a crisis when you're stranded in the rain. Besides, popular people don't need to be intelligent in a crisis.
  • Later, Janine has no idea what to do to make baby Lucy stop crying, so Claudia suggests Cheerios (oh, Claud, bleemers and compulsive eating are right around the corner for you, aren't they?). Janine responds with, "'She'll get milk all over herself'" and Claudia smiles thinking that Janine may be booksmart but she sure doesn't know kids. Ann? When I last met you, you said the child you'd must love to spend time with was that five year old Dexetrin addict on last month's Toddlers and Tiaras ("She could be the next Gabby Perkins!"). And Ellen, the last time you spent any meaningful time with an actual puppy was the cover shoot for one of your books where you tried to stick a tutu on a bulldog who promptly peed all over it.
  • Claudia almost doesn't take that sitting job, FYI, as she's so worried about Kristy. But she does because she knows Kristy would have made Claudia eat her own head been upset and told her it was unprofessional. BSC Uber Alles!

Ann M. and Ellen have no clue what feminism really means. Not a clue. That's how they created a character like Dorothy, who thinks that being a strong woman means pulling a Falcon Heene and making your family and friends worry while you go off and have fun. Note to Ann and Ellen: those self involved, "I just need to find myself on my parents' dime in an Indian ashram/hitchhiking around the country/in the loft apartment of every guy in the East village" that you knew in college were not feminists. When I e-mailed Ann about this, I got a smug response about how Amelia Earhart disappeared and isn't she a feminist? Oh, Ann and Ellen, I'll send you guys copies of The Second Sex and Vindication of the Rights of Woman--review before you create another adult female character ever.