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 Amazon.com, 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:
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*
"'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!"