Thursday, May 28, 2009

BSC #97: Claudia and the World's Cutest Baby

http://i.biblio.com/z/817/228/9780590228817.jpg

And this was the book where Claudia stopped being cool. She stopped being the girl who bought sequined pink sneakers and made dreamcatcher earrings. The girl who taught me how to make FMWs (Frozen Milky Ways) and who inspired me every time I thought I should have been reading classic literature and not more BSC/trashy YA lit. Instead, she became this baby obsessed little old lady in thirteen year old form.

Claudia's Aunt Peaches (weird nickname, go with it) gives birth to her first child. Claud has always been close to her aunt, and Peaches and Russ (her husband) name the baby Lynn (as in Claudia Lynn Kishi) and ask Claudia to be the godmother. She's eager to help--a little too eager. After they come home from the hospital one Saturday afternoon, Claudia comes over to Peaches and Russ's place to help out every single day after school, lectures Peaches on baby care, breaks their coffee machine, and one Sunday, invites the entire BSC to stop by. Peaches finally gets fed up on Thursday afternoon (this after six days of non stop Claudia) and tells her that she and Russ need alone time. Claud is pissed that Peaches made her feel like a pest and storms out.

That weekend, Claudia goes on a school trip to Philadelphia (along with Abby and Stacey). Another classmate of hers, Melissa, has a girl crush on Claudia (oh come on, every single one of us did, too) and follows Claudia around trying to impress her. At one point, the class is at an art museum and Claud really wants to go to the nearby Rodin Museum but there isn't enough time/interest. Melissa says they can both go, look at the sculptures, and come back before they're missed but they lose track of time and soon it's Home Alone 13: Lost in Philadelphia time. (Credit for that joke goes to Mr. Alan Grey on page 123.) The two girls get in trouble for leaving the group and Claudia yells at Melissa for being a pest but learns a valuable lesson. That she was doing the same thing to Peaches. Except she didn't learn the most important thing: coming between a new mother and her sleep and/or source of caffeine=death. Claudia and Peaches make up, yay! Claudia also makes up with Melissa but they're not actually friends because Melissa doesn't worship at the altar of baby.

Side plot: the Arnold twins watch scary movies on TV. They get scared. Then they learn the secrets of how these movies are made and they decide to make their own video tape using homemade special effects.
  • Towards the end of a BSC meeting, Claudia gets a phone call from Russ saying that they're on their way to the hospital to have the baby and they ask her to let her parents know. Claudia starts freaking out and screaming. She goes crazy waiting for her parents and Janine to come home and considers running to the hospital. She worries that the baby will be born before she can get there. Okay, you know, there are medical professionals there--I don't think a thirteen year old who can barely spell the word "the" is going to add anything to the experience.
  • So then when they finally rush to the hospital, they wait and wait and wait. Mrs. Kishi says it'll be soon and Claud thinks, "Soon? Soon felt like a thousand years." But then I realized that since Russ calls towards the end of the BSC meeting, so labor probably starts before six. Claudia and her family make it home from the hospital by 10:45, so this all took less than five hours. If there's such a thing as karma, when Claudia has a baby of her own, she'll probably labor for forty hours.
  • Claudia has two teachers, Ms. Bernhardt and Ms. Vandela whom they call Dolly 1 and Dolly 2 because they have big hair and lots of make up a la everyone's favorite bosomy white trash country singer. (I'm talking, of course, about Willy Nelson.) I give Ann M. props for finally creating some characters who are teachers (other than El Zitmore, Wes, and Mr. Kingbridge, we didn't really see too much of the faculty at SMS). Showing us just how much imagination Ann has, she borrowed both her characters from celebrities. Well, ONE celebrity. Wow, remember when Paula Danziger wrote an interesting and nuanced teacher character in The Cat Ate My Gym Suit? Turns out all she really had to do was borrow a celebrity and her work was done.
  • Claudia thinks Baby Lynn is cute and even cool because her black hair is spiky looking. It's also cool because it's held in place by placenta goo.
  • The day that Peaches and Russ bring Lynn home from the hospital, the Kishis host a little welcome back party for them. Claudia realizes at the last minute that she's out of film for her camera so she makes her dad drive her to the store. Her mom suggests that she use her mind's eye, but Claudia insists, "'I will not let my goddaughter down!'" (Someone PLEASE get the Twizzler pull and peel out of her ass.) So they rush to the store and then back. Incidentally Claudia goes through a whole roll of film before Peaches and Russ even reach the front door and she makes sure Janine gets another roll of film of Lynn and Claudia together. One day, Lynn is going to walk into Claudia's room and find a mini shrine in the closet (right next to the shrine to Lil Debbie), with thousands of pictures of herself. It'll make that scene in One-Hour Photo look toned down.
  • At the gathering, Claudia says "Once in a while, I let other people hold her. But most of the time I rocked her..." (like a hurricane!) She also talks about how one night she has to stay away from Lynn (no, not because of a restraining order) because she's babysitting at the Prezziosos and she nearly bursts into tears when she puts baby Andrea to bed. Uh, I know she's about seven decades too late for this, but have you checked Claudia's room for the Lindberg baby? Like behind the Laffy Taffys?
  • Claudia takes Lynn from Peaches and shows her how to burp her. As she does so, she muses, "'Some babies are "Eeee" babies. Others are more "Aaaa." Funny, I've never seen an "Ohhh" baby.'" Claudia? You're not supposed to start talking like that until you hit thirty-five and your bio clock goes into overdrive and you start sniffing baby hair obsessively and your married friends are too afraid to leave you alone with their kids.
  • At one point, Claudia breaks the coffee machine by offering to make coffee. (The water goes in the back, not in with the ground up coffee. Claudia learns this the hard way.) Rather than descend on her like a swarm of locusts ("Wench! You took our caffeine!") Peaches and Russ tell Claudia it's fine and she eventually replaces it.
  • When Claudia brings over a new diaper bag for Peaches, she includes some new wipes in case Lynn was allergic to the aloe ones. And she brings soy based formula in case Lynn is lactose intolerant. (How the fuck is it that you didn't know about anorexia or Alzheimer's but know about lactose intolerance?) Peaches tells Claudia that she knows Lynn isn't lactose intolerant--she's been over all this with the pediatrician, so shut your Twinkie hole, Claudia. Actually, I'm surprised Claudia didn't go all La Leche on Peaches, extolling the wonders of milk straight from the source. Then again, maybe the ghostwriter ("what a trip!") just knew better than to mention the word "breast" in a BSC book. Considering how squeaky clean Ann M.'s mind is, I think that underneath their shirts, every single woman in BSC world is like a Barbie doll with plastic nippleless breasts.
  • So after SIX DAYS of Claudia either showing up at 7 in the morning or as soon as she gets out of school and imparting (chicken) nuggets of wisdom, Peaches manages to refrain from dragging Claudia out of the house by her tie dyed suspenders, and instead says, "'You don't know everything.'" (Is that the best you can do, really?) Claudia stares open mouthed at Peaches. Claudia Kishi? Graduate of the School of Hard Knocks and BSC Club Member? How could she know less than the mother of said baby who's spent nine months carrying her. Then she reminds herself that Peaches is stressed and instead of shutting her M&M trap and going home to look at her Anne Geddes collection, she follows Peaches into the living room and makes a "helpful suggestion" as Peaches changes Lynn's diaper.
  • Fast forward to the trip. Melissa sits down at a table with Claudia, Stacey and Abby (telling her own roommate, Lily, that there's no room--burn!) and then asks Stacey if she's going to eat her roll. "'I love rolls. Just like Claudia. Right, Claud?'" Claudia: "I didn't respond. I was too busy shoveling." (Translation. Claudia: NOM NOM NOM NOM.) Okay, before we start hating on Melissa, I have to point out that I do love a girl who enjoys her carbohydrates. And I have to admit, if I were a thirteen year old girl-crushing on Claudia, I'd be all, "Uh...you like...stuff? I like stuff, too! And, um...dinner rolls...you, uh, like dinner rolls?"
  • Claudia's pretty snarky towards Melissa. After their teacher tells all the students to behave well on their trip because they are representatives of Stoneybrook, Claudia, Stacey and Abby all roll their eyes. When Melissa chimes in, Claudia thinks, "Uh-huh. Right." Shut up, Claudia. Only I may snark.
  • At the Rodin Museum, Melissa pays for both their admissions. Then later when they try to take the subway, Claudia only has two dollars and change and Melissa says she spent all her money at the museum, and Claud gets pissed. Dude, shut up. She's annoying, but she spent her money on you.
  • When Logan sits for the Arnold twins, Marilyn and Carolyn, they end up watching a scary movie. Logan's downstairs working on homework and the girls are upstairs watching the movie and every once in a while, he hears them scream. Every time he goes upstairs to see what they're watching, they flip to another channel so it takes him a while to catch on that they're watching something banned. (The audience loves a slow learner.) At one point, Meathead hears a scream and walks into the room to find the girls watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He says, "'Uh, I guess Lou was getting a little rough in the newsroom?'" In 1996, I want to know what 13 year old boy knew who Lou Grant and Ted Baxter were.
  • When Logan finally catches them out, he switches it off but they protest that it takes place in a town like Stoneybrook and that the girl looks like Mary Anne. Way to tempt him--a movie where Mary Anne dies? A world with no Mary Anne--what spineless BSC member will Logan be able to do jedi mind control on next?
  • After her misadventure, Claudia loses her appetite and hardly eats at dinner. So later she convinces Stacey and Abby to sneak out of the hotel room so they can has cheeseburger. And they actually don't get caught. For some reason, when I first read this, I was really shocked that they didn't face consequences for the burger incident. Not that I think leaving the hotel to have cheeseburgers is a cardinal sin but because in BSC world, it kind of is. But then I saw that this book was ghostwritten by Peter Lerangis. He's got a bit of a wild streak going so you know he's always pulling fast ones. ("Hey Ann, let's have Dawn and Mary Anne throw a party in the barn but NOT invite the Stoneybrook under eleven contingent." "Picture it: Kristy, Bart. A little tongue, maybe?")
  • It also made me think of what happened when I was in seventh grade and the kids a year ahead of me went on the eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. Instead of sneaking off to go to art museums, a bunch of them smuggled vodka and Schnapps in tiny shampoo bottles. Anyway, my school administration was probably wishing they just had to deal with a Claudia situation instead. Sure, it's nerve-wracking but you can put a way better spin on that. What's better: Drunken Kid Falls Off Balcony on Trip to Nation's Capitol; Onlookers Giggle, or Dedicated Art Student Risks Life and Limb to Get to Rodin Museum.
  • Want to see the UK version cover? The fact that the world's cutest baby isn't portrayed makes me wonder what the hell Claudia did with Baby Lynn. Seriously, I'd hire her to be a sitter if I were my child were already damaged beyond all hope. Like if I were the mother to Rosemary's baby or Damian or baby Suri. Poor Peaches, having to open the door to that every single day. I wouldn't know whether to start chanting, "The power of Christ compels you!" or to get my child checked for rabies.
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n31/n155653.jpg

In conclusion, I'm not buying this Claudia as baby guru thing. When I was thirteen, my policy on crying babies was shake it like a Polaroid picture. Thank god for Louise Woodward for setting me straight. Oh, hell, I still think that iPhone baby shaker application is funny. Claudia Kishi did go back to being sort of cool when she started becoming the Chloe Sevigny for the seventh grade set (she's bringin' side ponytails back!) but it was never the same as in the old days.

Wish me luck, I get to meet Ann M. this weekend at Book Expo!

Friday, May 22, 2009

BSC #87: Stacey and the Bad Girls

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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.

http://www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth/archives/But%2520I%27m%2520a%2520Cheerleader.jpg

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.

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Mia wears black clothing and lipstick.

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

http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/music/images/Ani-DiFranco.jpg

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!"

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  • 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, well...you see...whenever something like that happens, uh...um..."

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.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Because my snarkiness cannot be contained

A new era---er, blog, for when I absolutely have to snark TV.

Get a Pencil and your Casebook at http://pencilcasebook.blogspot.com/ is now up and running. Enjoy!

(And yes, the title is a Ghostwriter reference.)

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Monday, May 18, 2009

BSC #33: Claudia and the Great Search


http://www.scholastic.ca/annmartin/bsc/lib/covers/bsc33.gif

After attending yet another award ceremony for her older sister, Janine the Genius, Claudia starts to think that maybe the reason she's so different (i.e., stupider) than her family is due to her being...adopted, like Emily Michelle, Kristy's two year old adopted Vietnamese sister. Claudia doesn't see very many baby pictures of herself and sees a locked drawer in the study. And she can't find an announcement of her birth in the paper. So she tries tracking down her birth family. Meanwhile, Kristy's worried about her sister not being advanced enough. Apparently, Emily Michelle doesn't speak that much English, is having nightmares, and doesn't talk that much, isn't toilet trained, etc. Emily even gets turned down for some pre- pre-school program (the horror! the horror!). Claudia ends up doing some work with Emily Michelle--tutoring her about shapes and colors, and then she's re-tested and everyone thinks she's normal.

Was Claudia adopted? (Do you care?) No, her parents just put her birth announcement in another paper that's now out of business, parents always take fewer pictures of their second children, and the locked drawer has cash in case of an emergency. (Like someone finding out that Mimi's really an illegal and the Kishis needing to pay them off. Okay, okay, I'm kidding--Mimi was already dead in this book.)
  • Early on, Janine attends an award ceremony for being smart or whatnot. Claudia wears: "a very short black skirt, an oversized white shirt with bright pink and turquoise poodles printed on it, flat turquoise shoes with ankle straps, and a ton of jewelry, including dangly poodle earrings." Oh, and a side pony tail. Claudia says that people stare at her and Janine and that they're probably thinking they can't believe they're sisters. No, they're probably thinking, "Doesn't she know that the fashion trend is poodle skirts, not shirts?" "Why is she wearing earrings shaped like sheep?" Or, "Damned hipsters. They're like roaches. For every one you see, there's a thousand more lurking in the walls." Oh, no wait, that last thought was mine.
  • Later that night, Claudia makes an artistic looking salad for dinner. When her dad sees, he says that it's awesome that she's making a celebratory salad for her sister and she's irritated that he doesn't recognize that she's being creative. She thinks, "Celebratory salad, my foot." Uh, Claudia? I think you just transformed into a middle aged white guy. I'm cool with it, but I don't think the day glo leg warmers really work anymore.
  • In this book, Stacey sits for the Perkins girls, and they "cook with real ingredients." Five year old Myriah and two and a half year old Gabbie manage to make cookie dough without a recipe or help from an adult. (Stacey bakes them for the girls, but they do everything else.) I'm over four times Myriah's age, and I can barely turn on an oven without pulling a Sylvia Plath. You know, I've always thought there was something not quite right about the Perkins girls. Like, right before the BSC members come over, Mrs. Perkins gives the girls a "pep talk."
Mrs. Perkins: Myriah! Your singing on Good Ship Lollipop was off. To the basement, now.

Myriah: But, Mommy, I don't want to!

Mrs. Perkins: Not another word. And no more contractions! Karen Brewer never slips up and neither should you!

Myriah: You said you wouldn't chain me to the radiator if I learned the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof last week!

Mrs. Perkins: Everyone in Stoneybrook knows Fiddler on the Roof--Linny Papadakis even knows how to do the bottle dance. This time, I want you to memorize Gypsy with no mistakes!

Myriah: But Mommy!

Mrs. Perkins: And take your sister with you. I've had it up to here with that damned wiffle ball business. She'll use a real ball if it kills her.

Myriah: Gabbie's not my real sister! She's just a midget wearing a diaper!

Sing out, Myriah, sing out!

  • Kristy's worrying about Emily Michelle because compared to all the other toddlers they know, she's behind. Okay, your parents brought her over from Vietnam so she'd have a better life, not a worse one. And yes, I personally think that the all singing all dancing life at the Perkins household is worse than life as a child prostitute in a small Vietnamese village.
  • So what did other kids do at age two? Andrew answered the phone (Watson, shell out for an answering service, please). Karen was making up fantastical stories (dammit, Watson, why didn't you nip that in the bud?). David Michael was really interested in cars and memorized different car names. Gabbie can play baseball. Myriah was penning detective stories under the name L. Wright Wentworth, Esq. Okay, Ann M. Martin, have you ever actually spent time with a non-plush child under the age of three? One day someone's going to leave you with a small kid and you're going to scream. "It didn't cook anything! It didn't engage me in witty conversation. And I'm covered in toddler goo!"
  • Claudia babysits for Emily Michelle one night: "...Kristy wasn't kidding when she said Emily had some problems. I got to see the problems firsthand." Ominous. I've seen a LOT of horror movies, so I was expecting Claudia to walk into the bedroom to see Emily with a dead Boo Boo, finger painting in his blood. Honestly, Emily's "problems" are so utterly mundane. She gets scared of a thunder storm and wakes up crying in the night. Claudia tries to put her to bed but Emily's scared of the dark and Claud has to get her the nightlight from Karen's room. (Sidenote--Karen has a nightlight and Kristy's not kvetching over her?) So Emily's a two year old who's scared of the dark and loud noises and you think she's got problems, Claudia? Your best friend has man issues up the wazoo, your club secretary needs to be on Prozac, and pretty much every one of you has a baby fetish. Judge not...
  • While babysitting for Emily, Dawn sees her pick up a pebble and start to put it in her mouth. She stops her, but thinks: "Goodness...aren't two year olds supposed to be over that business of putting things into their mouths?" Goodness, Dawn, aren't thirteen year olds supposed to be over that business of only eating food that doesn't cast a shadow (level five veganism, baby!)? No, I will never stop making fun of her for calling hamburgers "cow carcasses."
  • Claudia says to Stacey, when she can't find an announcement of her birth, "'If I'd been born to Mom and Dad, the announcement would have been in the paper. That's just the way it goes.'" There's no law saying every baby has to be announced. Anyway, my theory was that her parents were just too busy (taking care of their eldest genius child, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, keeping their Hattori Hanzo swords polished) to bother with the newspaper announcement. Or, you know, teaching their youngest daughter to read or dress herself.
  • So Claudia goes to her old pediatrician's office to try and get some information. She talks to the receptionist, saying she wanted to see the good doctor for information for some school project, perhaps to see her birth record. The receptionist frowns and I can positively hear the eerie violin music in the background as she informs Claudia that Dr. Dellenkamp was NOT Claudia's doctor when she was first born--that Claudia didn't see her until she was two and Janine was five. Claudia thinks this is fishy. What? No, it's not! It doesn't prove you were adopted since you've already seen pictures of yourself with your parents when you were a baby! You already know you weren't adopted at age two! It's not even all that weird. Maybe Dr. D didn't open up a practice till you were a little older. Or your other doctor left town or something. God.
  • And why does the receptionist know when Claudia first started seeing Dr. D.? It was over ten years ago! Does she go through the files every night after everyone goes home (beep, beep, HIPAA violation alert!)? Is every Stoneybrookite required to know the history of every BSC member?
  • Claudia looks up birth announcements for babies born the same week she was because she thinks maybe one of them gave her up for adoption (uh, if your parents are lying about you being their birth child, why can't they be lying about your birthdate?). Out of the three babies born the same week as Claudia, two of them belong to families still living in the area: the Ferguisons and the Selsams. The third family, who moved, are the Hos. Claudia calls the Ferguison family with some cock and bull story about doing a school report on family trees and the Ferguisons have an unusual name so she decided to call them. She asks Mr. Ferguison about how many kids the Ferguisons have and their names and ages. Claudia pretends to be surprised that Kara Ferguison is her age and says, "'I wonder why I don't know her. We must be in the same grade.'" Mr. Fergusion responds, "I don't know, you creepy, creepy girl, now stop stalking my daughter." Actually, he says that Kara attends Stoneybrook Day School.
  • Claud tracks down the Selsam girl so the only unaccounted girl left is Resa Ho. She learns that they moved to Wyoming and looks for people named Ho in Wyoming. Two of them don't have a daughter named Resa and she can't get in touch with the third, so she assumes that it's her birth mother and that she's a Ho (heh). Right after that, I successfully convinced Claudia to check if gullible really wasn't listed in the dictionary. Twice. For someone who's been reading Nancy Drew books for so long, her detective skills suck. Time to surreptitiously place some Sherlock Holmes on her bedside table. Wait, no, something more her reading level--Encyclopedia Brown and Cam Jansen!
  • Claudia starts freaking out about being adopted. Stacey, trying to comfort her, points out that lots of people are different from their family members. Like she's the only McGill with diabetes. That doesn't even compare to the way that Claudia is different from her family. What, would it be better if you guys ALL had diabetes? You could take family trips to buy more syringes? Write Wilford Brimley letters together? Stacey also says that Becca and Jessi Ramsey are nothing alike. This confuses me. Oh, because Becca's eight and Jessi's eleven, right.
  • At the end, Kristy says she's relieved about Emily. She goes on to say, "'One thing we'll have to do this summer is get her toilet-trained...But I think Emily will manage that.'" Glad you approve, Frau Thomas. Honestly, do most thirteen year old girls care about when their little sisters enter the anal stage? Plus, the image of Kristy trying to toilet train her sister fills me with dread. I see jackboots, whips and bamboo shoots, and I can hear Kristy shrieking, "Mau! Didi mau!"
  • Incidentally, everyone thinks Emily is super backwards for having all these so called issues. But Squirt is only a little younger and seems to be about the same level and no one has ever said boo about him. And I'm pretty sure Marnie isn't toilet trained and that she doesn't know her colors/shapes either. The only outlier here is Gabbie. I propose we start a fund to have her brain dissected.
In conclusion, Claudia is almost too stupid to exist. I'd say she should parlay her fashion sense into being a model because contrary to what Tyra "smiling with your eyes is an art!" Banks says, models are allowed to be vapid for a living, while artists have to be at least somewhat intelligent. Then again, I think Claudia could combine her love of art and fashion and become a designer. She'd fit in great on Project Runway as the female, Asian version of Blayne "Who's Sgt. Pepper?" Licious.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BSC Mystery #1: Stacey and the Missing Ring

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Oh, youth. I had great memories of this book as a child, mainly because it came in a four pack with three other mysteries (Beware Dawn, Mallory and the Ghost Cat and Kristy and the Missing Child). It wasn't very good, but this was the first one, and I had a soft spot for it. Note the key word in that sentence--had a soft spot for it. This book starts off with Stacey deciding that she wants a diamond ring because her birthstone is a diamond. Her mother doesn't ream her ass out for asking (damnit, Maureen, THIS is why she's a spoiled bitch) but tells Stacey she won't buy her the ring. Fast forward a few pages and Stacey ends up with a sitting job for this new family, the Gardellas. They have a seven month old baby, Tara, a dog (Bird) and a cat (Mouse). The G's are rich--Mrs. Gardella sports a buttload of diamonds before she leaves the house. Stacey sits for the baby and animals, and it's uneventful.

So the next day, Mrs. Gardella calls Stacey. Last night before Stacey came over, Mrs. G put her diamond ring on the dresser because she meant to wear it with her outfit, but forgot. This morning, the ring is gone, and they think Stacey took it. The Gardellas don't want to hire any of the BSC to sit and are planning on telling the rest of the neighborhood about the incident. Everyone's totally upset because god forbid they not babysit. No one's calling the BSC and the gang is desperate to clear their good name.

Finally, Stacey decides she'll babysit for the Gardellas until the ring is paid off (so, pretty much until she's thirty, right?). Mrs. G is okay with that as long as another sitter comes along to supervise the first time, so Kristy comes with Stacey. Turns out the cat, Mouse, has a habit of hiding assorted objects in odd places, and he took it and hid it under a rug. Mrs. G. apologizes and then it turns out she didn't tell anyone else about the incident because she didn't have time (she told the Prezziosos but that's it). And business was slow because people just didn't need babysitting services for mundane reasons (family trips, etc.). Some parents like spending time with their kids. Deal with it, bitches.
  • In the first chapter, Stacey and her mom clean while sweating to the oldies. Stacey says she loves old music like "Shake It Up Baby" and "Pretty Woman." Nice, except I think you mean "Twist and Shout" and "Oh, Pretty Woman." Well, can't be too hard on Ann M.--I think "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" and "Kumbaiyah" were more her speed. Then Mrs. McGill starts reminiscing and digs out her old photo album to show off her Sweet Sixteen pictures. Stacey giggles over her mother's beehive hairdo. Oh, Stacey, we're trying to butter your mom up so she'll buy you that rock! Second, not everyone looks hideous in a beehive:

http://haireality.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/beehive2.jpg
  • Anyway, Stacey drops the diamond bomb, saying, "'I love my birthday, too...since my birthday has always had such a special meaning for me, I was wondering if you might like to help me buy this ring I saw at Stoneybrook Jeweler's.'" Wait, your birthday has a special meaning for you? Do you mark the occasion with friends and cake? That's unusual in American culture. Most people don't even know when they were born. Also, is it just me, or does Stacey sound like some Internet scam artist? "Hello, I'm from Nigeria, and I was wondering if you'd like to help me with a special, limited, once in a lifetime offer!"
  • Her mother's response is that her birthday is months away. Stacey replies, "'I know. And I didn't mean that the ring would be a birthday present. See, it's a birthstone ring...and it would be so - so meaningful for me.'" Wait, what? You want your single mother to shell out for a diamond ring and then also shower you with gifts several months later on your birthday?
  • When her mom refuses to buy her the ring, Stacey's response is, "'Dad would buy it for me.'" Good God. Were I Mrs. McGill, my response would be, "That's it. We're mailing you to Abu Dhabi--er, West Africa. You want diamonds so much, you can mine for them yourself in Liberia." But Mrs. McGill just gets sad and says that Stacey's probably right about Mr. McGill.
  • So, after her mom tells her no, no, no, no no no no no (see? I can sweat to the oldies, too, damnit), Stacey gets pissed off and decides to go hang out with her friends. Stacey, withholding affection when someone won't buy you something only works when that person's shagging you. At the mall, she complains to her friends about how cruel her mother is. The other girls tactfully point out that by asking for a diamond ring, Stacey's well on her way to earning her chutzpah badge. My reimagining of how that scene SHOULD have gone:
Stacey: "My mom won't buy me the ring! Don't you guys think I have the worst parents ever?"

Kristy: "I haven't seen my biological dad since I was seven."

Mary Anne: "My mom died when I was a baby and till I was twelve, my dad dressed me in styles that made Laura Ingalls look like a hobag."

Claudia: "My mom found a Milky Way under my mattress and used Chinese Water Torture on me for five hours last night."

Mallory: "I sleep in a drawer!"

Stacey: "But my mom won't buy me a ring! And when I was seven, my parents only bought me the small Malibu Barbie Dream House!"
  • Mallory says that she'd never even think of asking her parents for a diamond ring. Oh, but asking for a nose job isn't presumptuous at all? No, wait, that was harsh. Poor Mallory needs all the help she can get in that department.
  • Next. Stacey meets Mrs. Gardella, a client who apparently never met a diamond she didn't like. She's wearing a velvet dress and velvet shoes (this woman would be a perfect match for George "I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable" Costanza) diamond necklace, diamond earrings and diamond hair clip. (Hair clip, really?) Stacey gushes over Mrs. G who smiles and says she was thinking of wearing her diamond toe ring, her diamond studded belt, her diamond nose ring, and her diamond tiara, but that would be a bit much, wouldn't it? Aww, Stacey's found a role model. In the meanwhile, I wonder how many of Dr. Joan Bushwell's chimps had to die harvesting diamonds in the mines for Mrs. Gardella to get all her jewels.

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  • Stacey thinks to herself that Mrs. Gardella seems nice and even though she's rich, she's just like anyone else. While Stacey starts humming If I Were a Rich Man (since, you know, every Stoneybrookite is required to have the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof memorized), I feel the urge to point out that a girl who used to attend a Manhattan private school, whose father lives in an upper east side apartment in walking distance of Bloomingdale's, and who regularly dines out and attends Broadway shows is most definitely not one of the simple folk.
  • The Gardellas are super obsessive about their animals. Bird eats hamburger with rice and Mouse gets chicken livers. Bird eats off a dish on a little Oriental rug and Mouse eats ON the table along with the family. Eating at the same table as an animal whose paws are regularly in contact with kitty litter. Now that's what I call hygienic. Mrs. Gardella, ever heard of toxoplasmosis? It's a little parasite found in cat excrement that can go to your brain and make you go batshit insane. Oh, wait. Never mind.
  • This animal stuff would be cute except the "About the Author" section in EVERY BSC book has a detail about Ann M. Martin having a cat named Mouse and no children. You guys know that this is the ghostwriter paying homage to Ann M. Martin bathing her infant surrogate, dressing it in baby outfits, making it wear a bib when it eats, and then burping it, right? (Okay, I know I'm not allowed to make fun. I do the same thing except the animals in my situation are plush.)
  • Stacey's depressed one evening so her mom tries to cheer her up by suggesting they both watch a movie together. Mother McGill proposes It's a Wonderful Life which Stacey vetoes, saying, "'I can't say I agree with that these days.'" Your life sucks because some loon accused you of having sticky fingers, you're spending less time changing diapers, and your parents won't buy you a diamond ring? Yeah, you're really out on the ledge with George Bailey. Please, can I spray paint "I SUPPORT BLOOD DIAMONDS :) :) :)" on her back and send her through an ultra liberal campus?
  • At one point, Claudia goes over to Stacey's house to hang out and starts rifling through her things, looking for (you guessed it) the diamond ring. Way to be subtle--I see those Nancy Drew books have really helped. You don't go through her room when she's right there, moron. Put a diet label on one of her Cokes, wait for her blood sugar level to spike and when she's half conscious, THEN ransack the place for stolen goods.
  • So, Stacey has offered to babysit for free. She and Kristy go to the Gardellas. The Gardellas say they hope that this works out and that maybe after this little business of Stacey paying off the ring is over, she can sit for them again. (You mean when she's in college?) Mrs. G heads out, presumably to go rehearse Diamonds are a Cat Lover's Best Friend for the Stoneybrook All Singing All Dancing Revue. Kristy wants to give baby Tara her bottle because, "'[she hasn't] taken care of a baby in awhile, and [she misses] it.'" Those are words that should be spoken by a first time grandmother who hasn't held a baby in years, not a thirteen year old girl who was probably thrown out of a hospital maternity ward for smelling the babies' hair this morning. (Also, your sister Emily Michelle is only two, Kristy. Two. What, did she stop being cute? They go stale after twenty four months, like Twinkies? That's not what you said in Kristy and the Baby Parade!)
  • One detail I found particularly grating was at the end. Mary Anne goes through the record book and sees a note saying that the Barretts were out of town on vacation and that's why they haven't called. (Ha! MA made a mistake. Sort of.) But mostly it just pisses me off that they keep tabs on their clients.
  • At the end, Claudia makes Stacey a present to make up for suspecting her (it's an earcuff). Then Stacey tells the gang that she might get the ring after all because her parents talked about going in for it together for her birthday or Christmas. Goddamnit, Mr. and Mrs. MGill! Rules, boundaries and limitations! One, call in Cesar Milan. Two, think twice before you sing your child, "Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring." Three, she's thirteen and it's the early 90s. This is more her speed:

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In conclusion, diamonds will make everything all right! Diamonds! Diamonds!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pass it on! Or, what makes Stacey McGill happy?

I was tagged for two memes. Hurrah! I love memes.

Name six unimportant things that make you happy

I was tagged by Stacie for this meme. Thanks, Stacie! You rock.

Rules

1. Mention the person who nominated you (above).
2. List six unimportant things that make you happy
3. Tag six blogs, state the rules & notify them with a teeny comment on their blog.

I decided to do this as though I were Stacey McGill of the BSC. (Thank you for the idea, Stacie.) So what are the six unimportant things that make Stacey happy?

1. Getting a good glucose reading. Diabetes is hard!

2. Finding a gorgeous pair of trendy shoes and not having to pay full price because Dad (and his AmEx card) is with me. (Anything for his little Boontsie.) Aren't these sandals to DIE for?

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3. Whenever Ethan/Robert/Jeremy or whomever I'm dating (I can't keep track!) drops all his plans and whisks me away for a romantic evening at the Rosebud. Some people say I'm a little boy-crazy, but a girl needs a special guy or two in her life.

4. Mary Poppins being shown on TV. I, uh, just love the special effects.

5. Unitards! They go with everything, they show off my great body (did I mention I'm tall, thin and blonde?) and they're just so fashionable. One time I got a plaid unitard half off because my mom works at Bellair's as a fashion buyer. Aren't I too much?

http://www.auroradancewear.co.uk/acatalog/nagano_unitard_detail.jpg

6. Getting asked to do a fashion show. Oh, I know you said unimportant, but this happens so frequently to me that it's no big deal. I did a fashion show at Bellair's fashion week and people are always telling me I could model if I wanted to. Plus, I plan on being discovered for having great fashion sense before I'm seventeen, just walking around the streets of SoHo looking cool, like Kate Moss or Chloe Sevigny. The picture below could be me in a few years--with blonde, permed hair, of course! Isn't that pelican purse to die for?

http://rookery2.viary.com/storagev12/769000/769212_074b_625x1000.jpg.


[/Stacey mode off] I'll be sending extra Pepto Bismol to anyone who asks. I know, posting both a pelican purse and a unitard in one entry? I was just asking for trouble. For what it's worth, I'm not done retching either. Stay tuned for an ultra bitchy Stacey recap this week.

Here's who I'm tagging:

1. Emily and Elizabeth at Underage Reading. I know I'm always inundating you guys with stuff, but I really want to know what makes you guys happy. I bet it will be laden with MSCL references.

2. Cupcake Witch

3. Lenore at Presenting Lenore

4. Banana Bomb at BSC Rediculosity

5. R.G. Quimby at Little Snarky Two Shoes

6. Kristen at BSC Revisited

Next meme up.

Seven Things That Make this Blog Rock

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Got this from Nikki (thank you!). The rules are I have to name seven things that make my blog awesome, and then pass it on to seven other awesome people.

1. Simpsons and South Park references galore!

2. You finally learn what really happened to Janie (of The Face on the Milk Carton series) without having to read all the books (yes, Caroline B. Cooney squeezed out four of them, and yes I took four bullets for the team).

3. Getting a vivid reimagining of Ann M. Martin's exciting, fun filled life.

4. You get to see what happened in Stoneybrook after you got too old to justify reading the BSC series.

5. So many different ways to say that Stacey McGill did Stupid Spoiled Whore years before Paris Hilton got her boob job and Nicole Ritchie ever put her finger down her throat, that Dawn Schafer is an insecure PETA member wannabe, and that all of these girls are so obsessed with infants that they make OctoMom with her biological hourglass look well adjusted.

6. Remember all those things you wanted to say to your health teacher when (s)he wasted your time saying "Drugs're bad, mmkay?" but didn't have the stones to? My Go Ask Alice recap does it for all of us. (Including me. I was a shy quiet kid who enjoyed puzzles and hated backtalking teachers.)

7. BSC Friends Forever. You know deep down you shouldn't be spending time or money on yet another BSC series that happened when you were way too old to even be thinking about imitating a Claudia outfit. Let Sadako recap them for you in bite sized bullet points. (And if you're really good, maybe I'll start doing California Diaries.)

So I'm tagging these fine folks:

1. Buried the Lead

2. Cinemania

3. Like Pike

4. RSVP Or Die

5. Mode a la Pie

6. Fear Street

7. What Claudia Wore

Saturday, May 9, 2009

BSC #123: Claudia's Big Party

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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 amazon.com 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!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Driver's Ed

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Brief Synopsis:

Remy Marland and Morgan Campbell are young rich kids in Driver's Ed. And they like-like each other! Instead of sending Morgan a note saying "DO YOU LIKE ME? __YES __NO," Remy writes RM+MC on her notebook. Instead of pushing Remy into a sandbox, Morgan stares at her tits and tries to be subtle. But Remy's best friend Lark arranges a date for the shy lovebirds. The kids will commit a senseless act of vandalism (stealing street signs). Morgan and Remy go, along with Nickie Budie (a creepy Bad Seed type who Morgan used to be friends with). Lark pulls out at the last minute but the others go on and end up stealing a stop sign that later results in a woman named Denise Thompson dying in a car accident.

Morgan and Remy feel super guilty (Nickie just denies all involvement). Eventually they confess and their parents make them go to the dead woman's husband and apologize. They do, but they basically face no punishment. Mr. Thompson, Denise Thompson's husband, says the police can only charge the kids with the crime of stealing the sign (incidentally, this doesn't happen. I don't know why not). Mr. Thompson could sue them, but he decides not to...because...well, I don't know, maybe he's sort of decent. If it makes you feel any better, Morgan and Remy also feel really, really, REALLY bad about what they've done. Oh, and it takes place around Christmas, so their holiday is ruined.
  • Let me give you an idea of the type of people contained in this book. No, they're not as bad as the ones in The Terrorist but they're bad. Remy is short for Rembrandt. Her parents named her for the famous painter. (They should have called her Andy. Andy...WHORE-HOLE! Heh.) Her parents also have a one year old kid who's technically named Henry. He's their pride and joy because her mother thought she was done having babies when she had him at age forty-four. Last year, Henry played Jesus in the Christmas pageant and he was so cute that his batty mother started calling him Jesus all the time. (I think the Botox has gone to her brain.) Morgan Campbell's name isn't so bad but I still hate him and his family. His dad is running for governor. And his little sister's name is Starr because Mama Campbell wanted a name that "rang and sang." We are now entering the rich and strange zone.
  • On principle, Mr. Fielding, the Driver's Ed teacher, doesn't learn his students' names. They're just too stupid. He also hates their designer spellings. Like Khrysten. Ugh. That's why they all wear name tags (which the kids all switch around so the ones who want to go driving can go whenever they want). Lark, Morgan, and Remy drive as much as they want. Mr. Fielding never notices because, "These kids, like their names, were fluff. Empty headed and personality free." Ooh, the bitterness is strong in this one. Uncle Joe, I changed my mind. Mr. Fielding is my new favorite character. (Sorry, Joe--you softened up and started loving on the Pikes.)
  • When Mr. Fielding takes the kids out driving, Lark goes through a red light and forgets several stop signs. Morgan rolls his eyes, thinking about how he'll tell the other guys in class how badly she drove. He says to himself, "Masculine superiority. Nothing like it." Okay, that tears it. I could write about how CaroB. just did a brilliant send up of sexism in the bourgeois adolescent circa the mid 90s, or I could come up with a new nickname for Morgan. I think I might start calling him MC. Not for Morgan Campbell, but Male Chauvinist. Or Monkey Cunt. Hey, MC, did you know? Years from now, dorky guys will be reading The Game to try to get to your level of misogyny.
  • Lark arranges the sign stealing date as a way to hook up Morgan and Remy. God, what is she, the Patty Hearst of yentas? As we know, Lark skips out, so Morgan, Nickie Budie and Remy go off without her. CaroB. doesn't point out how weird this set up is, but I swear to god I can hear Nickie Budie muttering something about "sausage fests."
  • Remy and Morgan flirt, touch hands, smile at each other, eventually kiss...and I really need something to make me stop puking. Dramamine? Sea bands? No, wait. A hatchet for Remy and a tire iron for Morgan. Incidentally, this little set up involves two testosterone pumped guys and one very sexy but dumb girl in a car in the middle of nowhere. No witnesses. Why couldn't they commit another crime that would be slightly more entertaining? I'm talking, of course, of cow tipping. (Remy being the cow.)
  • Where were we? Oh yes. Still on the sign stealing date with Pumpkin and Honeybun. Next time, we go to the malt shop, I swear to god. Remy says she wants to steal a sign called Morgan Road and all the blood rushes from Morgan's head. Remy smiles bashfully as she flutters her eyelashes. Morgan nearly takes flight, squealing, "She thinks I'm cuuuuuute!" and I glance over at Nickie Budie and wonder if he'd like to stick his cigarette in Not So Starving Artist's eye and then take off with me. Really, you guys don't have to steal crap as a sign of affection. MC, just tell her she's only a woman and too inept to steal anything, and besides, it'll ruin her nails, and Rembrandt Jr., you can just spread your legs to indicate you agree that he's a fine, fine specimen of manhood--there, book over. Granted, there will be nothing to snark and watching you get it on in the backseat will result in so much projectile vomiting that I'll have to buy new carpeting, but I'll deal.
  • Remy's reaction after she finds out about the woman she killed indirectly: Hmm, will this affect my relationship with Morgan? While she can't sleep, she thinks to herself, "Nice, Remy. You kill a woman and all you're worried about is whether Morgan kisses you again." Remy, you're a heartless, spoiled little tart. And no, the fact that you feel guilty over your heartlessness doesn't make it better!
  • After they find out about Denise Thompson, Remy and Morgan look at kids waiting in line to talk to Santa. Remy says she knows what she'd ask for if she were sitting in Santa's lap (Remy, you dirty girl!). Morgan responds, "'I'd take the night back.'" Oh, just wait till you're in college, MC. You might want to lose the sexist attitude before your first march, though. And no, feminists are NOT easy, even if you do pretend to have read Simone de Beauvoir, Germaine Greer, and Betty Friedan. You also have to pretend to care about what they're thinking.
  • At one point, while taking some kids out driving, Mr. Fielding muses about how he used to care about his students and now doesn't. He feels bad because he overheard Lark talking about planning on a sign stealing excursion and he did nothing. He starts to think that maybe he should care more: "I was a good person once...I was like Max Willitt. I taught and they learned." No! Get back, Mr. Fielding. Get back to where you once belonged. Come on, let's laugh at all the stupid parents who named their kid Madison because of Splash. I pilfered Devil Dogs from Claudia Kishi's stash, Mr. Fielding. Aww, c'mon. Let's go hate on the kids some more. And it works! Mr. Fielding demands to know which of the kids in the car took the sign and since none of them is Lark, Remy or Morgan, they have no clue. He retreats back into not caring, and I high five him.
  • I don't usually make fun of authors for not being able to write well. I know, they try. But I just had to put this in:
I'm safe in here, thought Morgan.

And Denise Thompson. She was safe where she was too.

Safe in a drawer at the morgue.
God, CaroB., that was truly bad writing. On the plus side, punctuating the very last sentence with a rim shot makes it all kinds of hilarious.
  • Denise Thompson, the woman killed in the accident, was a 26 year old wife and mother. Much is made over the fact that she's young, beautiful, in her prime, etc. when she dies. Well, every time a pretty white girl or woman disappears, CNN won't shut up about it, so that's nothing new. I'm envisioning an alternate scenario.
MC: Remy, Remy, it turns out we're not in trouble for killing Denise Thompson!
Remy: We're not?
MC: No, you vapid twit. Denise Thompson wasn't a hot chick. Her husband just said she was because of that inner beauty crap. And she was partly Hispanic. We're in the clear, babe.
Remy: Wow, Morgan, you're so brilliant!
MC: I know. It comes with having a penis. Let's go knock over a 7-11. It'll be ironic because we're rich suburban teenagers.
Remy: Oh, Morgan, take me now.
  • Confession time. Remy tells her parents that she's a spoiled rich girl and that her parents should probably send her to Malawi in exchange for a teen who will be grateful for having nice things--uh, sorry, that she took the stop sign. Her mother screams at her to stop crying because she's not the one who got hurt. Okay, this is a pretty good rant, which would have been enhanced only by, "Stop crying, girl, I'll GIVE you something to cry about. You pull another stunt like this, and I will slap you into the next century!" I'll cut Remy's mom some slack, though--Connecticut suburbanites suck at angry rants. Unless it's directed at the help right before they discover that there's not enough ice for the gigantic frozen swan at the Summer Cotillion.
  • However, the kid directed screaming all goes downhill when Mrs. Marland says, "'Is this why you quit the basketball team? Is this why you didn't want Henry in the pageant? Are you trying to hide out? Blame others?" Um, Mrs. Marland? Not putting Henry in the Christmas pageant probably wasn't ALL about the manslaughter. I know that for you, your one year old son may be the triumphant symbol of how your ovaries aren't dried up menopausal raisins (yet) but to the rest of the world, he's like a less adorable version of Linda Blair in the Exorcist. And it worries me that you can think of basketball in a context other than bouncing one off your soulless daughter's head. Yes, the only thing worse than taking a human life is when it results in no longer being able to play JV b-ball. I heard that Roy Cohn's game really suffered after the Rosenbergs were killed and it ate him up inside till the day he died.
  • After confession, Morgan and Remy head to the mall. Nothing like celebrating a woman's death with nachos at the food court! No, no, I kid. They're contrite. Morgan to Remy: "'What shall I get for my mother, Rem? She'd really like a tire iron and permission to split my skull open.'" Me too! Sure, I wanted that tire iron well before Morgan committed felony murder, but who cares? Mrs. Campbell, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
  • When Morgan and Remy go to Mr. Thompson to confess, they tell him about what happened in detail on that fateful night. They spare no details because they want to make themselves seem like nice, normal kids out on a date, not like hooligans. Morgan tells Mr. Thompson that Remy and he were into each other, "'and the road sign was...romantic.'" Folks, it gets even tackier. Remy: "'We were flirting...we were...giggling and we had our first kiss and even though the word stealing went through my mind once...it was a really neat night.'" I want to kill both of you. First of all because of the whole murder thing. But also because when most people hook up, it's fueled by alcohol and you have to pee the whole time and then you wonder if you'll get the herp and if he's really eyeing the blonde down the hall. These kids got the perfect first kiss and they're not going to jail.
  • Speaking of dates, Remy tells her mother that they didn't mean to fuck up, that they were on a date, yadda yadda yadda. Mrs. Marland says: "It was not a date. A date is something happy and good. They were vandalizing little--" Oh, Mrs. Marland. You need to start reading Psychotic Letters From Men and Nerve.com. I've been on dates that made Ted Bundy's escapades look downright romantic.
  • Towards the end of the book, Mr. Fielding takes Morgan and Remy to the grave site of Denise Thompson. I feel a very important lesson coming on. NO! Baby, baby, where did the cynicism go? But you can redeem yourself. I've got an ice pick and a book on partial lobotomies. Fifteen minutes alone with the kids, please? Mr. Fielding sighs and says, "'It was my fault...It's always the fault of the grown-up in charge, and so it's my fault.'" Where have you gone, Mr. Fielding, a nation of disgruntled Caroline B. Cooney readers turns its eyes to you. The kids say that it isn't Mr. F's fault (no shit). Mr. Fielding muses that he's just trying to spread the blame, and Morgan helpfully adds, "'It isn't peanut butter. Blame doesn't spread.'" With soundbites like that, you're on your way to following in Daddy's footsteps and running for public office--that is, if Don Draper and the boys on Madison Avenue don't snap you up first.
  • Finally, they have the Christmas pageant. Oh yeah, Morgan directed it. When your dad's running for governor, that's the kind of thing you have to do. That and stuff the skeletons back into the closet. In, in, damn skeletons! As he watches, "Morgan [slides] into a coma. It's my pageant, he thought, and I'm so bored, I think it's already February." Shut up, Morgan, snotty rich boys on the political scene who cause car accidents don't get to snark. For real. Teddy Kennedy showed up here last week and he even had a Portuguese Water Puppy and I told him the same thing.
Conclusion

What happens to everybody? I'll make an educated guess. Morgan goes off to create a local chapter of the He Man Woman Hater's Club. Remy decides that wearing her hair in bangs would be a fitting tribute to Denise Thompson. Mr. Fielding thins his hair, dons thick glasses and demands, "How do I reach these KEEEDZ?"

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Mr. Thompson sends his motherless son away to be schooled in the judo arts so he can grow up and go medieval on the kids who killed his mother. Morgan's dad gets caught up in the hustle and bustle of politics, but learns that there's no place like home. And I finally return this book to the library and exorcise the demon that moved in the day I put it on my nightstand.