Val Reads Baby-Sitters Club #5: Weeping, Weddings, and Welcoming.
Or, Summer and Winter vacation are awfully close together in Stoneybrook.
It’s been over a year since my last installment of Val Reads The Baby-Sitters Club. And I have one bad reason and two good as to why it’s taken me so long to continue.
1. I’ve been lazy. (That’s the bad reason.)
2. I left to travel shortly after finishing book 25 and my quest to pack light didn’t include stuffing my backpack with a BSC library. (That’s a good reason.)
3. I knew what was coming next…
I’m sure you were waiting with bated breath for my usual sarcastic comments, but I can’t snark on Claudia and the Sad Good-bye. It’s pretty much the saddest Baby-Sitters Club book ever written. No, I take that back, it’s pretty much the saddest book ever written. So yes, I was the 30-something on the train to work crying over a Baby-Sitters Club book.
In book number 26, Mimi, Claudia’s beloved grandmother passes away.
Previously Mimi had had a stroke that effected her memory and ability to do many things on her own. So, when she fainted at the dinner table one night, her family brought her to the hospital. The doctors weren’t sure what, exactly, was wrong with her. But a blood transfusion seemed to help and, after a week, she was sent home.
But then, during an art class Claudia and Mary Anne are holding for local kids, Mimi faints again and, again, is brought to the hospital. The doctors assure the family that Mimi will go home soon but, the next morning, Claudia awakens to the news that Mimi has passed.
Through the next week or so of a funeral, school, and Baby-Sitters Club meetings (still held for a sense of normality), Claudia isn’t sure how she feels. But then one night she lets it all out: she’s angry. She hates Mimi for leaving them and she blames herself. If she hadn’t lost her temper at Mimi in her last few weeks, Mimi wouldn’t have chosen to die.
Her sister and her family assure Claudia that it wasn’t her fault. That Mimi was old and sick and that she just knew it was her time.
And while it will take several books, if not the whole series, Claudia can finally start accepting Mimi’s death, and start to move on.
So this one totally came before book 26. You can tell because Mimi is alive and there is no mention of her rising from her grave. But I always forget to check where these Super Specials fit in and I can’t find a definitive list anywhere. And trusting the publish dates doesn’t help much.
The Baby-Sitters Club is going to CAMP! All of them. Stacey even dragged herself away from the best restaurants in New York (Hard Rock Cafe) to rough it in the cabins of Camp Mohawk. And Logan Bruno, Mary Anne’s boyfriend extraordinaire, came too, even though he is on the other side of the lake.
And all the kids in Stoneybrook came too. All of them.
I can guarantee there’s some sort of two-week-long adult bender/orgy going on back in Stoneybrook.
The kids are going as campers, the BSC are going as counselors (because you totally want camp counselors who have never been to camp before), and the junior BSC members are going as junior counselors because they’re whiney attention-seeking bitches who begged to be counselors and were reluctantly given a worthless title instead to shut them up.
This is a summer that tests who the Baby-Sitters Club are as people. Not on their ability to do archery or make lanyards, but on their ability to handle being with camp counselors who are obviously much cooler than all of them.
Dawn’s kind of boring until she gets lost in the woods. The night before the big trek one of the other counselors has to leave and they bring in a ringer who pretends she knows everything but knows nothing. And they get lost in the woods. Luckily, one of their campers reads books all the time so she is obviously a genius at everything and finds the way out for them. Books, guys. They make you smarter.
Stacey fails at camp. She ends up spending most of her time in the camp infirmary. Between poison ivy, impetigo, and pinkeye she’ll probably never leave the Hard Rock Cafe again.
Kristy’s bunkmates are way into fashion and boys. Maybe is Stacey was with them she could have spent the two weeks gossiping and not scratching. But Kristy got stuck with them. And she finally succumbs to peer pressure and lets them give her a makeover for the camp dance. She puts up with it but, obviously, decides she’d rather look like a boy.
Claudia falls in LUV with a dude she meets for 2 seconds. But he’s hawt, which appeases her, and Japanese, which would appease her parents, so it’s meant to be. She, unfortunately, doesn’t know his name and he’s counseling across the lake, so none of that really matters. But somehow her campers are able to find out his name: Will Yamakawa. She’s determined to see him before the big movie night and big dance but never gets around to it. They do meet though on the movie night but skip out on the movie to hook up in the woods. Talk. I mean talk. And then the next night they dance all night. Except when Kristy is a bitch and moves in on him with her new made up look. Who does she think she is? Skank. But then they go have hook up in the woods again. I mean, talk. TALK. And decide to break up and end their intense two-night relationship because they live in two different states and it would be impossible to be together. Even though the BSC goes on vacation every other book.
Mary Anne, oh Mary Anne. Mary Anne is desperate for the other counselors to like her. So she tells them she has a boyfriend. And, while it’s true, it sounds like such a desperate attempt to sound cool that no one believes her. So one night she writes a fake love note to Logan all about how much she misses him and wants to jump his bones when she sees him. Things our sweet little Mary Anne would never actually say to Logan. She doesn’t even intend for him to see it. She just wants the other counselors to see it. And they do. And then they insist she sneak out and give it to him. Which she does. But then they rat her out and she gets caught. But that gives her camp cred and they start thinking she’s cool and want to pierce her ears with infected needles and shit. And then she finally sees Logan again at the end-of-camp dance (is an end-of-camp dance even a good idea? Separate boys and girls completely for two weeks and then unleash them on each other all at once? And what’s even the point of a dance at camp?) and he’s all intrigued by the letter he was never supposed to see because he always loved Mary Anne in this nonsexual way but now he thinks there’s a chance he will finally lose his virginity. Something like that. It was implied.
Camp ended and everyone except Stacey went back to Stoneybrook. But don’t worry, the adventure isn’t over. In Stoneybrook time winter vacation is only a month away!
All of Stoneybrook is obsessed with the new TV show P.S. 162. Why? Derek Masters. The former resident of Stoneybrook Middle School and local model hit it big time when he scored a leading role on a Hollywood sitcom…
Now, before we move on let’s back up a little bit and examine this situation. Derek is an eight year old. So first off an eight year old is being played on TV by an eight year old and not some thirty-something? Unbelievable. And second, there’s a show about eight year olds on prime time TV? Who is watching this? I mean, besides all of Stoneybrook Middle School? WHO?
Derek’s on break from the show so he comes back to town and Jessi ends up being his go-to babysitter. She’s pretty star-struck herself until she realizes that he’s just a kid who wants to be treated as just a kid. I mean, he hasn’t hit that twenty-something washed out drugged out shaving his head crazy stage yet. For now, he’s still just a kid who happens to be on TV.
Jessi understands but none of the other kids do. The girls are all in love with him and the boys are all jealous. Especially one kid: John. John is big superbrat who does nothing but torture Derek.
Luckily, through the power of baby sitting, Jessi and the club are able to convince the rest of the kids in town that Derek is just a normal kid who lives in a normal house and does normal kid things. They even arrange to have a breakfast party to send him off when he has to go back to Hollywood like a normal kid! They even try to invite John to the party but can’t because there are no Johns in his class. Because apparently his class is the only class in the history of the world to not have a kid named John in it.
But apparently Derek just made John up to cover the fact that he was the one being a superbrat to everyone else.
You guys, the best thing in the world just happened to the Baby-Sitters Club: Stacey’s parents are getting a divorce.
You see, Stacey’s parents have been fighting a lot lately. Her dad works late every night (we all know this is code for “having an affair with his secretary,” right?) and her mom does nothing but shop with all his money. And they decide that the best thing to do is split up.
Stacey’s dad is getting a new apartment in New York and her mom is moving back to Stoneybrook. And they do the responsible adult thing of forcing their child to choose which parent she loves more.
Her dad offers a place in the bustling city full of her great private school, amazing shopping, and quintessential New York restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe.
Her mom offers a decrepit house she has no way of affording because she doesn’t even have a job in the Connecticut suburbs. But that decrepit house she has no way of affording because she doesn’t even have a job in the Connecticut suburbs happens to be in the same town the Baby-Sitters Club reside.
In the end, Stacey chooses to live with her mom in Stoneybrook, rejoin the Baby-Sitters Club, and abandon her father.
While checking out Stacey’s new attic in the house she abandoned her dad to live in, her new neighbor Mallory, junior member of the Baby-Sitters Club, discovers a big antique trunk. Stacey doesn’t want it so she lets Mallory take it home with her. There’s just one problem: the trunk is locked! And there’s no key! And Mallory doesn’t want to break the trunk!
Eventually though she says screw it and lets her brothers hack into it.
In the trunk Mallory discovers an old diary from a girl named Sofie who lived there in the 1890s. Sophie’s father was accused of stealing her grandfather’s painting and Sofie pledged to avenge her father’s name. But…did she? And is she haunting Stacey’s house? That was a mystery Mallory was determined to solve!
In the meantime, Mallory was also teaching one of her charges, Buddy, to read. Because if a school and his parents have already failed him, hiring an eleven year old is the next logical step. After teaching him that reading is fun because he can read comic books, Mallory has him read the diary. And he can’t make sense of it either but eventually finds some papers hidden in the trunk that clear the dad’s name.
It’s time for Stoneybrook Middle School’s annual trip to a Vermont ski lodge that we’ve never seen before and will never see again!
All the BSC is super excited for their weekend skiing and skating and snowball fighting. But they are also nervous — there’s supposed to be a snow storm and they might get snowed in!
Their bus makes it to the lodge fine but a bus of younguns from Conway Cove overturns on the way. All the teachers are bruised up but the kids are fine. But, without chaperones, they might have to turn around. Never fear though, the Baby-Sitters Club steps in and offers to take care of the kids.
Seriously though, if I had a friend like Kristy I’d find a way to change schools and never see her again. Why does every vacation have to turn into work? They didn’t have to step in. They didn’t have to volunteer their vacation to taking care of a bunch of brats. But they did. Of course. Because, Baby-Sitters Club.
Stacey meets some French dude from another school. They fall in love. We don’t really see them again.
Mallory decides to be a spy because that totally worked out the last time she tried it. Really she just made up a bunch of shit. She did manage to find Stacey and Pierre going at it and watched because
she’s a creep she wanted to know what happens when a boy and girl kiss. Because apparently she has a thousand brothers and sisters but has never accidentally seen her parents going at it.
Jessi is in charge of the no-talent talent show. Why is there a talent show at a ski lodge?
Kristy spends the whole time being
an overachieving competitive bitch in charge of the Winter War: a competition of all things involving cold and snow. She organizes the skating competition, the skiing competition, the snow sculpture competition, and the cross country skiing competition. She’s also captain of her team. Which is a total conflict of interest if you ask me. But whatevs. She is so determined to win that she bullies a bunch of kids who can’t cross country ski into joining the contest and one of them breaks their ankle trying. (It was a stupid move anyways because they point out that if the teams are uneven the one with less can send people in again…so why not pack a small team with good skiers and have them all go twice instead of recruiting shitheads who fall over?) Anyways. Kristy realizes for the millionth time that she probably needs to stop being so bossy. But we all know that will never happen.
Dawn is just a klutz and fucks up the competition for Kristy. Or does she throw it to get back at Kristy for making her work through vacation? The world may never know.
Claudia falls in love with her ski instructor. Who cares that he’s 25 and she’s 13? This is LUV! Nowadays if a 13 year old went around spreading rumors that the 25-year-old ski instructor was hitting on her he’d probably be fired and arrested and have to register with the state. But this isn’t nowadays and so he can dance with her and lead her on even though he totally has a wife and two kids and, apparently, no pedophilia record.
Mary Anne, oh Mary Anne. Mary Anne’s boyfriend, Logan, didn’t come to the ski lodge because his family already had a trip planned to Aruba. And Mary Anne is convinced he’s out there banging some hot island chick in the Carribbean. Note to Mary Anne: he probably is banging some hot island chick in the Carribean. So she spends the whole trip crying and moping and writing sappy letters. She hasn’t realized that you don’t sit there crying because your boyfriend isn’t there you go give some guy from another school a hand job in the bathroom to get back at him. (That’s probably a plot from Sweet Valley High?) But eventually Logan calls her and tells her how much he misses him, which totally means he isn’t banging some island chick because he can’t possibly do both and isn’t possibly just calling because he feels guilty. Obviously.
Oh, and all this time they were taking care of a bus load of kids. Because, Baby-Sitters Club.
It’s a dream come true for Mary Anne and Dawn: their parents are marrying each other!
Only child Mary Anne has always dreamed of having a sister, someone she can share a bedroom with, someone she can share clothes with, someone whose mom will force her to eat tofu for every meal, someone whose mom hates her cat, someone whose mom is forcing her out of her childhood home… And Dawn has wanted to fill the void ever since her brother left Stoneybrook to live with their father.
It’s a match made in Baby-Sitters Club heaven!
At first the sisters are so excited that Mary Anne’s dad wants to make an honest woman out of Dawn’s mom. I mean, before getting serious she seemed to kind of get around Stoneybrook…
Soon their dreams are crushed when they realize that a) their parents don’t want a big-fancy wedding with flowers and bridesmaids and debt-galore and b) the families are going to have to do a whole lot of compromising.
Damn gets upset with Mary Anne when she buys her mom a better birthday present. Mary Anne gets upset with Dawn when she finds out she and her dad are going to be moving, and she was the last to know!
But they make up in time for the teeny tiny wedding that includes the only close family and, you know, the entire BSC. The book closes on the bouquet toss and both new sisters are grabbing for it and ends with an ominous “to be continued…” and that’s where we leave now, until next time, which, hopefully, won’t take another year…