Claudia tells her friends the next day at lunch that she put the note back because she couldn’t go to the principal and say, “I took this note out of Shawna’s locker and it proves she’s the cheater,” without getting into trouble. Claudia is at a loss on how to prove Shawna is the cheater. Why don’t you just retake the test? Even the principal wasn’t sure that Claudia had cheated. Mr. Zorzi can’t prove either way who cheated, so why doesn’t he just have both girls immediately retake the test instead of automatically believing Shawna? Kristy suddenly remembers how they tricked Cokie Gray into incriminating herself with the mystery notes and bad luck charm. Cokie’s last name is Mason, right? Is this just another continuity error, like Sabrina Bouvier? Now that Cokie’s last name is Gray, I’m imagining her to be related to Alan Gray, even though I don’t know how common the last name Gray is.
The new plan is to make Shawna incriminate herself in front of Mr. Zorzi because if tricking Cokie worked it should work on Shawna. Claudia puts her plan into action on Monday. Her plan is to use certain trigger words to get Shawna to confess. So Claudia is trying to pull an “I Never Said it Was Poison?” Does she think Shawna will hear the word “copy” and be so guilt-ridden that she’ll confess in the middle of class? Does it occur to Claudia that Shawna might not realize that Claudia is trying to trick her into confessing? For all Shawna knows, Claudia is just emphasizing certain words. Even if Shawna does figure out what Claudia is up to, she could just keep her mouth shut instead of confessing. Shawna just gives Claudia a puzzled look, so she clearly doesn’t understand that Claudia is trying to get her to incriminate herself.
Shawna just gives Claudia her copy of the handout. Claudia thinks that maybe Shawna doesn’t feel very guilty. Or maybe Claudia isn’t using specific enough words. It’s not like Claudia was referencing something really obscure that only Shawna would know. Asking for a copy of a handout seems perfectly innocent and not at all suspicious. I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone asked me for a copy of a handout. People ask for copies of handouts often enough. I would just wonder why Claudia kept emphasizing the word copy. I would just figure that she didn’t think I understood.
Mr. Zorzi interrupts them to ask if they’re ready to begin. He starts teaching about whole numbers, but Claudia is too busy trying to think up a next way to incriminate Shawna. She decides to prove that Shawna could read her answers from where she was sitting. That only proves that Shawna was capable of reading your answers, but it doesn’t prove that she did. Claudia writes, “IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE A CHEATER AND MIGHT AS WELL ADMIT IT,” and thinks this will get Shawna to confess. No, it won’t. How will being able to read something prove you’re a cheater? It just means you were able to read the sign from where you were sitting. Suppose some other kids could read what Claudia wrote? Are they cheaters as well? How is Claudia going to use this as proof that Shawna cheated? Is she going to say to Mr. Zorzi, “Shawna could read my paper from where she was sitting, so she cheated?” That won’t work. It’s not proof. Besides, if Shawna can read your paper, you can read hers, so that argument could be used against you.
Claudia needs Shawna to look over at her, so she tries to get her attention by clearing her throat, tapping her pencil, and whispering her name. The other kids are looking at Claudia now. So she’s disrupting the class, then? Claudia decides to take drastic measures by stretching and yawning hugely. Mr. Zorzi is shocked by this. I’m quite sure that there were more shocking things Claudia could have done. I’ve had teachers ask students if they were raising their hands or stretching, so stretching doesn’t seem all that unusual to me. As for yawning, I could explain it as Claudia being tired, instead of being bored with the material, which is how I’m sure it came across. I wouldn’t gawk at a girl yawning and stretching.
Claudia tells Mr. Zorzi that she’s sorry and she’ll pay attention. The other kids make gestures saying that Claudia is nuts. I don’t think someone yawning and stretching is that unusual, myself. Maybe if Claudia tried to have an impromptu sing-along about how wonderful math is that would inspire some odd looks. Claudia decides to try and learn something. Then she figures out that she can prove that Shawna cheated by proving she could read Shawna’s paper. How the hell will it prove that Shawna cheated if you say you could read her paper? Doesn’t that make you look ever more guilty? Claudia leans over to read Shawna’s paper and sees that Shawna is writing notes to her friends. It’s juicy stuff, apparently. Claudia gets absorbed in reading the note. I’m going to guess this is because she’s never seen teenagers acting like teenagers and talking about teenage things instead of kids. She’s so engrossed in the note that she doesn’t realize Mr. Zorzi is calling her. Thankfully, math class ends. Claudia’s plans to get Shawna to confess aren’t working. I guess Shawna’s a tougher nut to crack than Cokie was.
Claudia is upset that the triplets didn’t look happy to see her when she went to her babysitting job. I could understand not looking happy to see Kristy or Dawn. I would love it if the kids begged their parents not to get Kristy or Dawn to babysit them. Then if that wasn’t possible, the kids begging their parents to take them with them, even if it was to a place totally inappropriate for kids, like a BDSM convention. Oh, and the triplets are apparently going through withdrawals because without their allowances, they can’t by gum. I’m thinking that gum is a G-rated drug from the way the triplets are talking.
Mallory gets the triplets ungrounded by telling them to stage a reenactment of the baseball incident because that might jog a memory. Maybe she’s just doing this to trick the triplets into confessing. Once her parents get home she can yell, “Jordan did it! They staged a reenactment and Jordan broke the window!” Of course the confession might not mean shit because the triplets didn’t confess. The triplets reenact everything about that day, including telling lame knock- knock jokes. It turns out that everyone broke the window by accident. There was a bad pitch and a bad hit or something. I don’t care. The point is that the broken window was an accident. So did the triplets just forget it was an accident? It’s not like one of them was directly responsible for the window breaking- they all were. Why didn’t they just say it was an accident and that all of them did it? They would still be sticking together. Whatever. The point is that Mallory has saved the triplets’ from dying of boredom.
Claudia goes to Janine’s room later that night and asks her to talk. Janine turns off her computer right away and gives Claudia her full attention. Claudia tells Janine everything that’s been going on and asks if Janine thinks reenacting the test will work. Yes, I think retaking the test is a fine idea. No, wait, Claudia didn’t mean retaking the test- she meant staging a total reenactment of the day of the test. I highly doubt Shawna is going to reenact the part where she copied off Claudia’s paper. She already lied about cheating off Claudia, so why the hell would she confess now? Janine points out that Shawna would just have to pretend not to cheat and Claudia’s hopes are crushed. Janine assures Claudia that Shawna isn’t going to get away with making her look like a cheater. Claudia goes to bed but notes that Janine is smiling secretly and looking like she’s in her own world. I like to think that’s how the BSC looks whenever they start daydreaming about the other members or how the club got started.
Claudia tries to act like being accused of cheating doesn’t bother her. She tells herself that she doesn’t care about what happened. I’ve lied to myself before by saying something doesn’t bother me when it does because I don’t want to deal with the hassle of a confrontation. Claudia decides to dress to match her new attitude. She decides that a person who didn’t care about being accused of cheating would dress wildly. You dress wildly all the time, Claudia. Don’t most of your introduction paragraphs say that you’re a wild, outrageous, or some other variation dresser? How will dressing how you usually do make people realize you don’t care about being accused of cheating? Unless you dressed plainly as in a plain shirt with plain pants and hair in a simple style and no jewelry, I doubt anyone would bat an eye at you. Maybe they’d bat an eye if you had actual fire as part of your outfit. I can understand if Claudia had an outfit she wanted to wear because it was a special feel-good outfit. But maybe dressing how she usually does means Claudia is going about her business and not caring that she was accused of cheating.
Claudia decides to roleplay Ms. Frizzle. I’m just happy because there’s a reference to something I know, even though I haven’t seen the Magic School Bus in years. I can imagine Claudia wanting to go on one of the field trips. It’s no surprise that Ms. Frizzle is Claudia’s fashion role model. She probably watched Magic School Bus as a child and decided that Ms. Frizzle was the coolest dresser and she wanted to dress just like her. Oh wait, the Magic School Bus was a set of books. I didn’t know that. Okay, so Claudia read the books and decided that Ms. Frizzle was the coolest dresser and she wanted to dress just like her. I’m sure that Claudia watched the TV show to check out Ms. Frizzle’s outfits. Claudia also probably tried to draw the outfits as well.
Here’s Claudia’s outfit.
I decided that my theme for the day would be The Sea. I put on a blue skirt with brightly colored tropical fish printed all over it. Then I put on a green blouse. I figured that could represent seaweed or something. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, over to one side, and I pinned it with a sand-dollar barrette I made last summer. I ran to my closet and pulled out a pair of shoes. They’re the plastic kind called “jellies” that I had decorated with stickers of seahorses and shells.
Maybe it’s because I’ve become used to Claudia outfit descriptions, but I would just go about my business if I saw Claudia wearing that. I would only stare if I saw Claudia not wearing one of her usual outfits. Claudia has a good day in school because she pays attention in class and answers some of the questions when she knows the answer. Her teachers are proud of her and Claudia is proud of herself. Claudia goes the rest of the day pretending that she doesn’t care about being accused of being a cheater, but she really does care and she’s still upset over it. She’s also upset about having to take an F instead of the A she earned. I feel for Claudia. It sucks to be in a shitty situation and not being able to do anything about it.
It’s the end of the school day. Claudia is thinking about working on a collage when she spots Janine. Janine came down to the school to try and do something about the awful situation. Claudia tells Janine that she told her to stay out of it and Janine said that she told their parents to stay out of it. There’s nothing preventing her from helping. Janine’s plan is to talk to the principal about what happened because they always had a good relationship. Claudia is worried that Janine will tell about the breaking and entering the BSC did. I’m sure that Janine would have the sense not to mention that her little sister and her friends broke into Shawna’s locker to find evidence of Shawna being the actual cheater.
Claudia feels hopeful and thinks that this might not be such a bad idea. She thanks Janine and waits outside while Janine talks to the principal. Mr. Zorzi comes down the hall and goes into the principal’s office. The principal invites her in and Claudia is embarrassed about her outfit. I think this is the first time I can remember reading about Claudia being embarrassed by her outfit. I wonder what she’d have worn if she knew she was going to be in the principal’s office. I want to say she’d have worn a tuxedo. Claudia goes into the principal’s office. The principal tells Claudia that Janine told them she knew the material very well and didn’t cheat. The principal asks if Claudia cheated and Claudia says no. Then the principal says he believes that everyone has a chance to prove that they’re innocent. Then why didn’t you give Claudia a chance to do this, you moron? It took Janine coming down to the school for you to say, “Hmm, maybe we should give Claudia a chance to prove that she’s innocent.” If you truly believe that everyone deserves to prove their innocence, then why didn’t you have a conference with Claudia’s parents to see if there was a solution? Why didn’t you call Mr. Zorzi, Shawna , and Claudia into your office and try to work something out?
Mr. Zorzi is smiling at Claudia when the principal says that innocent until proven guilty is the basis of their justice system. Mr. Zorzi clearly doesn’t believe that. He assumed Claudia was the one who cheated right away because he was looking at her when he told the girls that someone must have copied the other. Then he just took the word of a student that he didn’t know and decided that Claudia was the cheater. He really has no basis to be smiling about innocent until proven guilty being an important part of the justice system when it’s clear he didn’t let Claudia prove her innocence. The principal tells Janine and Claudia to leave him and Mr. Zorzi alone. Claudia will have a chance to prove that she’s innocent. Claudia is stunned. Yeah, I would probably be just like, “Really? You seriously aren’t fucking with me?” before being happy.
Janine has to drag Claudia home because she’s still in a state of shock. When Claudia thanks Janine for what she did, Janine just says, “Why not? You deserve a second chance.” Claudia wonders if this is the same Janine she fought with for all these years because Janine is acting like the best big sister ever. Maybe Claudia will realize Janine isn’t so bad. Claudia asks Janine what she thinks she’ll have to do. Janine says that Claudia will have to prove that she knew the material. When Claudia admits that she’s nervous Janine offers to go through a couple of problems with her because Janine is awesome. Claudia soon realizes that she knows the material. She tells Janine thanks and Janine says that no one gets away with calling her little sister a cheater. Claudia thinks that Janine is A-OK. Yes, Janine is awesome, Claudia. I think this book is where she really gets to show off what a good sister she is.
Claudia decides to give Janine a collage as a thank you present. Claudia calls Stacey and there’s a line about Stacey stretching the phone cord. This makes me think of the eighties, even though I wasn’t born in the ideas and I don’t think I watched too much shows or movies from the eighties. Stacey tells Claudia that it’ll all be over by tomorrow and Claudia hopes that she’ll have good news to tell the BSC. I’m pretty sure she will. Claudia knows the material and she’s going to get a chance to prove it.
Claudia arrives to math class early the next day to see what Mr. Zorzi and the principal decided. They finally decided to have Shawna and Claudia retake the test. It’s about time, you morons. Then again the book would have been over if someone suggested, “Let’s let Claudia and Shawna retake the test.” The rest of the class will be working in groups, so Claudia will be able to retake the test in peace. Claudia isn’t as nervous as she was the first time around. Claudia turns her test in. When class is over Mr. Zorzi calls her to his desk. He starts talking about how he coaches basketball and how taking a test is like playing a game. You can win or lose. Claudia is like, “What the fuck does this have to do with my test?” Yeah, when my little brother graduated high school this guest speaker kept going on and on about a basketball simile and I was just thinking, “For god’s sake, stop talking about basketball so my brother and his classmates can graduate!” Mr. Zorzi tells Claudia that if a person loses the game it just means they need more practice. What the hell does that have to do with Claudia’s situation? Claudia aced the test the first time. She got a 94! How does that translate into, “She needs more practice?” It’s not like Claudia got an abysmal score on the first test.
It turns out that Claudia did even better and only missed two questions. Mr. Zorzi apologizes for accusing Claudia of cheating and Claudia accepts. Mr. Zorzi calls Shawna to his desk and tells her that Claudia passed the test and that it was clear she knew the material. Mr. Zorzi says Shawna will have to retake the test tomorrow. Claudia thinks that’s unfair because Shawna is going to have more time to study. Shawna says she can’t retake the test because she doesn’t know the material. I feel slightly bad for her because I can relate to studying material forever and still not getting it. Shawna confesses that she cheated off Claudia. So all it took for getting Shawna to admit she cheated was to have her and Claudia retake the test? This retaking the test would have solved a lot of problems really soon.
Mr. Zorzi asks why Shawna cheated and Shawna tells him that she was overscheduled and stressed out. Mr. Zorzi frowns and says that Shawna owes Claudia an apology because Shawna let him believe Claudia had cheated. I still think Mr. Zorzi handled this badly. I remember that Mr. Zorzi isn’t Claudia’s regular teacher but a long-term sub. I’m going to assume that Mr. Zorzi is fairly new to teaching and made a mistake. Shawna apologizes but Claudia doesn’t care because she’s proven her innocence and earned a higher grade than before.
Later that day Claudia is singing along to her radio and working on a collage. Claudia is tone deaf. I wonder if there are any BSC members that can sing. It’s 5:29 and Kristy hasn’t shown up for a meeting. I’m sure that in later books the girls would have been calling the police because Kristy is late for a meeting. Then when the cops say that Kristy is only a minute late and might be caught traffic they would say, “The lights know better to turn red on Kristy Thomas. Besides, she would have Charlie run a red light if it meant getting to a meeting on time. Claudia is more relaxed about this than Kristy would have been because she knows that everyone will begin to straggle in. That’s true. Most of my classmates come in right as the bell is ringing and class is starting. Kristy would be panicking and wondering where everyone was and saying that the BSC prides itself on being reliable and how could they say they were reliable when members are late?
The door to Claudia’s room flies open. The BSC and Janine are there with chips, cookies, and soda. They had the idea to make this meeting a party. Claudia is stunned because Kristy doesn’t often change the format of a BSC meeting. If it provides Kristy a chance to show off she’ll change the format of the BSC meeting. But the BSC is basically sitting around and waiting for clients to call. That’s all they’re doing. What’s the big deal with having some chips and a gossip session while they wait?
Claudia notices Janine hanging back and figures she might be uncomfortable. Claudia calls Janine the best sister in the universe and invites her in. I just love how awesome Janine was in this book and how Claudia appreciated it. Claudia gives Janine the collage as a thank you present for helping her study. Janine is still awesome and says that she doesn’t have to do that because she enjoys helping Claudia study. Claudia tells Janine that she knows she can be doing other things than helping her study. She says the collage is also for talking to the principal. Seriously, I was so happy with this book because Janine was being awesome and Claudia was appreciating Janine and acknowledging that she doesn’t have to help her study.
Janine tells Claudia she loves the collage and she’ll hang it in her room with pride. The triplets are going out for ice cream. Mrs. Pike feels bad about how long they were grounded. They broke four windows. Shouldn’t they have been facing some form of discipline? At the very least they should have been told ot be more careful or to play far away from the windows. The Pikes are also going to be doing chores around the house to work off their debt for breaking the window by doing chores. What about the other windows they broke? Claudia gets to keep the 94 she got on the first test. I think she should get the 98 she got on the second test. She earned that 98. Besides, I thought that when you retake the test you get the grade you get when you retake it. Janine asks Claudia if she’s glad Gertrude didn’t make the cookies. Yes. Eight cookies aren’t enough for a party involving eight people.
Claudia’s parents get her a cake as a way of congratulating her. Claudia is proud of herself.