Because this is the last book in the series, a few extra things are included, like a letter from Ann M. Martin. Even better though is a timeline which appears in the back of the book. It gives some updates up to and including the Friends Forever series, and I know a lot of people haven't read those, so I figured I'd include the scans before the snark, and bring us all up-to-date.
Huh, I had no idea that the Baby-sitters Club was someone else's creation, and AMM was hired to write out the ideas.
In November of 1987, Stacey becomes firmly established in the public's mind as "the skanky one."
In June of 1988, Mal becomes known as "the awkward-looking one," based entirely on that unfortunate cover on her debut book.
Also, these suckers were released monthly? Jeez, no wonder ghosties were hired. Who could keep up with that writing schedule?
Morbidda Destiny, the titular witch of Karen's Witch, was up for a spinoff series. Unfortunately, Morbidda Destiny the Teenage Witch was cancelled after it tested poorly.
I'm kind of surprised that Mary Anne and Too Many Boys was such a big hit, but I don't know why -- the Sea City books were pretty fun, since they involved descriptions of the beach, and not the latest BSC Jumble Sale.
And whoa. Mallory went on strike? Who knew?
"'Move over Nancy Drew: Young readers have a lot more in common with the Baby-sitters Club!'" Nancy Drew drives around in a convertible solving mysteries, neither working nor attending school and instead relying on some mysterious unnamed source of wealth. Yeah, before the Baby-sitters Club came along, Nancy Drew was taking home all the awards for relatability.
"Mallory comes down with mono. (And she didn't even get it from Ben Hobart!)" Wow, getting stuck with mono and not even having a good make-out session to show for it? Poor Mallory, ever the eternal loser. With only eleven pages left in the whole book, and none of them story, no one can resist getting one last dig in on Mal.
I'm curious as to what the "BSC Mall Tour" consisted of...
Ah, poor Dawn, leaving the happy-go-lucky world of Stoneybrook for the horrifyingly real world of California Diaries, complete with cancer, anorexia, and alcoholism.
Other than that...Mary Anne as a store elf and a new cover design? This must have been a slow year.
Said slow year leads me to think this is the reason for Friends Forever starting. And look at all this drama: boarding school, house burning down, Logan being dumped again, and-- holy schneikies. (Thunder rolls and the earth splits open) Claudia is dating Alan Grey.
"Everything changes," indeed.
Gone are the days of pastel covers! The Friends Forever covers all feature solid colours and this weird flower theme. Hodges seems to have been canned as well, in favour of actual photos. I've got mixed feelings on the cover. On the plus side, we've got girls here who actually look like thirteen year olds, which we haven't seen since Dale Dyer stopped doing the early covers. Well, Claudia doesn't look so young, but hey, Claudia might have been a preschool, primary, and elementary school dropout before she became a middleschool dropout.
On the downside, this cover is pretty bland. Yes, the girls are in their caps and gowns, which at least relates to the plot of the book (And sadly, that's never a guarantee with the BSC books). But the plain yellow backdrop is boring, especially compared to the beautiful scenes that were painted for the old covers. Hodges may have had some difficulty figuring out what a 13-year old girl was supposed to look like, but his covers were always well-detailed and colourful.
The book's dedication reads: "For all the readers -- past, present, and future -- of the Baby-sitters Club books . . . with thanks." Aww. Now, prepare yourselves. I've never really read much for the Friends Forever series, but in this book, at least, things start to get very...realistic. Like, California Diaries level of realistic. And since these are characters that hadn't seen change in 15 years, it gets kind of unsettling. So, as the book inches ever-closer to becoming a Real Boy, with occasional steps back into old-school BSC wackiness, we'll be keeping track, with our very own Patented BSC Reality Metre!
And none of you start crying because this is the last book, ok?
No numbered chapters in this book, but in traditional Super Special style, each chapter changes narrators (And is named after said narrator). We begin with Kristy, who else? I think time coming unstuck has caused everything to go into overdrive, because Kristy is now a crotchety old man. She's lying awake, pondering her upcoming graduation, after "three years [of] my friends and I edging our way through SMS, or Stoneybrook Middle School." Well, "edging" is certainly one way to put it. Has it been three years already? My, how the time flies! (This is just the first of many examples of the eeriness of time moving again in these books)
Kristy goes on a brief sidenote about how she's not the only one graduating, as Charlie is finishing high school and heading off to college. Aw, shucks, our little chauffeur is growing up! But uh oh -- normally intelligent and very organized Charlie put off applying for any schools until it was too late to get into any of the big fancy ones! Now he's waiting to hear from some local schools. I've got two theories about this one: either Charlie spent the last year messing around with Janine and completely forgot to apply for college, or he spend the last year messing around with Janine and deliberately avoided applying for college so he could have an excuse to stick around. Either way, my mighty heart is melting.
(There's an odd amount of emphasis on Charlie in this book. Not that much, but more than the other family members, who are pretty much invisible. It kind of feels like there was a contest in the back of the earlier books that said something like, "Which peripheral character in the Baby-sitters Club would you like to get some closure on in the last book? Write the name of you chosen character on the slip below, and mail it to: THE BABY-SITTERS CLOSURE CONTEST, Scholastic Inc., P.O. Box 7500, 2931 E. McCarty Street, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Don't forget to write the name of your chosen character on the outside of the envelope!" And then the dumb bimbo who won didn't pick Pete Black, like she was supposed to, and she chose Charlie instead.)
Kristy is not dealing with the change well. She whines about how her whole family is fine the way it is, and Charlie doesn't need to go to college, and she doesn't need to go to high school, and Andrew doesn't need to go to kindergarten, and Emily Michelle doesn't need to start preschool. She has no interest in attending Stoneybrook High School, which apparently has over a thousand students attending it: "Kids come to SHS from all the middle schools in Stoneybrook as well as middle schools from a couple of other towns." I know nothing of how school districts work and the like, but that just doesn't seem practical to me. Also, how many middle schools can small-town Stoneybrook boast? But hey, if there's one thing I've learned after 213 books in this series, it's that Stoneybrook is the most ass-backwards town in America, and since this is their swan song, they're going out with a blast. CRAM THE CHILDREN IN A SINGLE SCHOOL! STUFF IT TO THE GILLS! BUS CHILDREN IN FROM OTHER TOWNS! STONEYBROOK MUST BE THE CENTRE OF ALL THINGS!!!
Kristy's anxiety isn't from a fear of large crowds, though (I assume on her first day of traversing the massive population of SHS, Kristy would whip out a whistle and just start swinging at the nearest people). She's worried that in such a big school, she's going to lose contact with Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne, and her friendship with them will change. The BSC will probably fall apart, and "I can't bear to think about not spending so much time with my friends, not seeing the little kids we've all grown close to. . . ."
That...that's actually pretty sad. Oh jeez, it's not going to be one of those books, is it? Damn you California Diaries, for teaching us how to feel real feelings! This merits a notch on the reality metre!
At the BSC meeting after school that day, the other three girls hadn't been able to stop talking about picking up their cap and gowns, and signing up to get a tour of the high school. Clearly anxious by all the talk of things changing, Kristy asks if it isn't bad luck for people to see you in your cap and gown before you graduate. Claudia is like, "Nobody gives a damn about caps and gowns. Even I know that." And Stacey awards Claudia with a gold star sticker for a job well done. And get your laughs in while you can, because the chapter ends with Kristy lying in bed, silently angsting over the fact that she doesn't want things to change. This is gonna be one hell of a book.
Mary Anne: Thursday, June 1
In contrast with Kristy's fears, Mary Anne is pumped for high school. Fittingly, she's equally enthusiastic about her new home. Considering her old home burnt completely to the ground, along with everything in it, I thought we'd have to endure pages and pages of crying until the entire east coast was flooded. But I would be wrong, apparently. How is it that Mary Anne is the one person in all this books who gets character development, unlike the others who just have their one personality trait flanderized until they're barely human anymore?
After the old house burnt down, the old barn was converted into a new house. This seems kind of suspicious to me, because even if the barn is big enough, has it really been kept up to structural codes all these years? It's a barn. But, apparently the barn is plenty big, and I don't know enough about neither barns nor housing regulations to forge a legitimate complaint.
That day in school, it was announced that all eighth graders had to attend an assembly during fourth period. Mary Anne is as excited about the assembly as she is about everything else in this book. She drags Kristy with her through a hallway filled with banners congratulating the eighth graders on graduating. This seems a bit much to me, but I went to a high school that had grades seven through twelve. The only people graduating were the grade twelves, and even in their case, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm. The school pretty much tossed you your diploma, and was like, "Here ya go. Now get out."
Kristy, whom I'm liking more and more with every page, seems to agree with me. She points out that they won't even be graduating for three weeks, but Mary Anne is too caught up in her giddy graduation fantasies to pay any mind. So much for her being "the sensitive one": Kristy seems to be about two steps away from jumping off of a bridge, and Mary Anne's too busy wondering if she can incorporate the cap and gown into her regular wardrobe without anyone noticing.
The girls meet up with Stacey and Abby in the auditorium, whom I presume were busy discussing bagels and other exotic New York goods. The assembly, it's revealed, was called to tell the eighth-graders about an SMS tradition. All graduating eighth-graders write themselves a letter, which the school returns to each of them four years later when they're graduating high school. It's not mandatory, but they're all encouraged to write the letter, detailing events that have defined their lives and their hopes for the future.
This is a cute idea and all, but they cancelled fourth period class to tell the eighth-graders this? Right before exams? When a fucking memo could have covered all that? What is wrong with this town? If I were Claudia, I'd be suing the school system -- if this is how they operate, it's no shock that school has failed her. That's it, you lose a point.
Fucking Stoneybrook. -1.
After the assembly, everyone agrees that they all want to write a letter, including Claudia. "I hadn't thought she would write one," Mary Anne mused. "Writing anything is a chore for her." ME-OW! Somebody made sure to put on her Bitch Pants today. (Although to be fair, I assume Claudia's letter to herself is going to be a Post-it note stuffed in an envelope that says: "Deer Caludia: I O U wun Milkee Way bar.")
Kristy begins talking about Charlie writing his letter, but Mary Anne stops listening because Logan has suddenly appeared -- a shocking event, considering he goes to the same school. "I glanced at him. He glanced at me." I glanced at the TV. How many times are we going to have to watch these two go through this song-and-dance?
Mary Anne goes on about how she thinks things feel unfinished between her and Logan, and she doesn't think it's nice that they don't talk to each other anymore, but I've already tapped out and have gone looking for an episode of Friends to watch. Ross and Rachel did this already, and they did it better. Also, there's the added bonus material for my Matthew Perry Wish Fulfillment Fantasies.
Stacey: Friday, June 2
Stacey's chapter begins with an e-mail from "NYCGirl" to "bigdad." And no, "bigdad" is not her pimp. While I applaud the books for finally joining us in the future and getting the Internet, Mr. McGill's handle is just all kinds of wrong. Someone needs to give him a crash course in Netiquette. Lesson One: Don't use your pornography and cybersex addy for personal stuff, like e-mailing your 13-year old daughter (Whoa. I just realized that since time is now moving and Stacey's birthday is in April, she's actually 14 now. Weird). Also, in 2000 Stacey was the first girl from New York to try and snag that address? Yeah. Right.
Stacey is e-mailing Mr. McGill (Whom I will hereafter refer to as "bigdad"), chatting about graduation and how shocked she is that she had to measure her head to make sure the mortarboards were the right size. Actually, so am I. We didn't bother with any of that for my high school graduation, but I guess graduation is like everything else in Stoneybrook: fucking intense. -1 reality point.
Uh oh. We're so far from reality, we're in Poneyville:
Stacey ends the e-mail asking bigdad to pass on a "hi" to Samantha. A little research reveals that Samantha is not bigdad's pet lizard, as I first suspected, but is in fact his new woman introduced in some earlier books. Score! Samantha sounds like a younger name to me, so I assume she's bigdad's skanky trophy wife. I also assume he was using that e-mail address when he picked her up on craigslist.
Like Mary Anne, Stacey is obsessing over graduating, claiming it's the most exciting thing that's ever happened to her. I would have thought being born in New York was the most exciting thing that ever happened to her, but apparently it's been bumped down the list for graduating. She also reflects on how the BSC feels "sort of minor league compared to [Stoneybrook High School]", which she describes as "the Big League." Again, I kind of thought New York held that place in her heart. This sudden shift in priorities has left me flustered. Stacey, you can't change it up this late in the game! Stay the one-note character we know and love! +1 Reality Point for character development.
Yeah, we're back in the game.
Even at the BSC meeting, no one can shut up about graduating, although Kristy is using the full power of her presidency to try and lock it down. She starts the meeting asking if there's any new business, and Claudia somehow confuses "new business" with "talk about graduation caps." Oh Claudia. Hats are never business. Even if you're in the hat business.
Kristy actually cuts Claudia off without saying anything. Seriously, she just glares at her. Maybe she was using the Force? Hmm. Could Kristy be Sith Lord? Must investigate further.
Following the Death Glare, "Kristy looked so earnest now, in her chair with the pencil over her ear, a notebook open in her lap, that I tried desperately to think of something that might qualify as new baby-sitting business."
Pathetically desperate Kristy? +1.
Stacey mentions Charlotte winning some award. The conversation shifts to how fast all the kids are growing up (Uh...yeah. Sure...), and Kristy hurriedly shuts down this conversation too. After booking a sitting job for Mary Anne at the Pikes (Mallory is home from school for the term), Stacey thinks about how the club members are all busy with other activities, and the BSC has slowed down significantly. "I have to admit I'm relieved. I don't think Kristy is, though. I think she missed it." That's an understatement. I know I speculated what Kristy's reaction to the club breaking up would be. The real thing is actually pretty sad. Frankly, I'm disappointed. I was hoping Kristy would go out in a blaze of glory and maybe blow up the town or something. +1.
As the meeting ends, Claudia asks Stacey to stay for supper and Stacy thinks this is the most normal her friendship with Claudia has felt since their fight over some dude which was dragged out through most of the Friends Forever series.
God, this feels way too much like actual high school. Reality isn't snarkable! It makes me sad, and puts us up to a four...
Claudia: Saturday, June 3
This chapter opens with an IM conversation between Stacey and Claudia.
CKishi: Hey stace whats going on.
NYCGirl: Hi, Claud! Just checking my e-mail. What are you doing?
CKishi: Your going to think I'm crazy starting an assinment on sat. night but I decided to start my letter to myslef.
NYCGirl: Great! How's it going?
CKishi: Its hard!!!!! Have you started yours yet.
NYCGirl: Not yet. Just thinking about it.
CKishi: I was porcri prok prokras putting mine off by reading my e-mail but I guess I'll go back to it now
More Internets? This could merit another notch on the Real Metre, but Stacey's immaculate typing rings false. Our snarks may be the epitome of perfect grammar and spelling, but online messaging? It's the land of the blind and Claudia is King.
Claudia finally stops porcristinating and tries to write her letter to her future self. She thinks of all the people who are important to her, a list that includes Alan Grey, a fact I still haven't reconciled with yet. I mean, I guess I always thought that if Alan was going to breach the BSC's sacred ranks, it would be with Kristy. Definitely a step towards unreality. -1.
Claudia struggles with how to start the letter. It takes her three attempts before she lands on "Dear Claudia." Oh well. Quality over quantity, right? Claudia lacks my optimism, however, and bitches about how she's missed two hours of good TV. Now, the time unfreeze confirms that June 3rd in 2000 was indeed a Saturday, which corresponds with how the dates have been running in this book. What was on TV on the evening of Saturday, June 3, 2000?
All that writing has tired Claud out, and she wonders if Stacey might call her. "A year ago a little chat with Stacey would definitely have perked me up. I wouldn't even have had to think about it. But Stacey and I are still dancing around each other a little, just the teensiest bit uncertain about our friendship. I mean, the friendship is still there, but it has changed. I hate to say this, but I feel as if I don't trust her one hundred percent anymore."
Man. A BSC fight lasting longer than one book?
The phone actually does ring, and Claudia answers it with a "Hello" like a real person! You see, Kristy used to make Claudia answer the phone with "Hello, Baby-sitters Club" even outside of club hours, but Claudia finally put her foot down (How on earth did Kristy even enforce that? Did she do practice calls to check?) "I have a feeling that when I get to SHS next fall, I probably will answer the phone in a whole new way." What the fuck does that mean? Is she gonna answer it, "Claudia Kishi, Middle School Graduate?" Well, don't start flashing that fancy new title too soon -- Claudia isn't even sure she'll be able to graduate, her grades are so low. This astounds me, considering her swift mind and skill at writing letters.
Right, so the phone's ringing:
"'Um...is this Elio's?'
"'Elio's?' I repeated.
"'Sorry, I think I have the wrong number.'"
I would have loved it if that was Alan, prank-calling his own girlfriend. A hour and a half and three calls later, Claudia could answer the phone to, "Hi, this is Elio, have there been any calls for me? Nah, I'm just joshin' ya baby, how's it going?" Alan Grey: totally my new Pete Black.
Mary Anne: Monday, June 5
Pike sitting chapter. It's totally blah, and Mary Anne's diary pretty well sums it all up. Raining out. Pike kids stuck inside bored. For the sake of plot, Mary Anne mentions the letters to themselves that the graduates are writing. The kids modify the idea to make a time capsule -- to include letters and items that are important at the time. Yawn. The only thing even vaguely interesting is the fact that Vanessa was "practically quivering with excitement" as the thought of a time capsule.
Kristy: Monday, June 5
Kristy is raving in her diary about Mary Anne's time capsule idea, in part because it's been awhile since the BSC has gotten involved in some good old-fashioned super obsessive extra-curriculars involving kids. "Note to self: Think up lots and lots of projects for the kids this summer. Then BSC will be so caught up in them that we won't be able to slow club down, even in fall when going to that other school."
Poor, poor Kristy.
Another BSC meeting. The BSC may be slowing down, but we waste plenty of time in these boring-ass meetings. Mal is present and bring a big announcement: Jessi's been picked to join a dance company that's going on a world tour this summer! Wait, what's that sound? Oh yeah. It's my Bullshit Alarm going off.
I don't know squat about ballet, and I'm sure there's some more-informed people out there who can correct me if I'm wrong, but an eleven year-old joining a ballet company and going on a world tour? No, no, no, no, NO! I'm docking you one point on the Reality Metre for this!
And we were doing so well.
Mal and Mary Anne also mention the Pike Family Time Capsule of Boring, and Mary Anne suggests including all the kids they baby-sit for, because heaven forbid somebody fart in this town without the Baby-sitters Club getting involved. The girls ponder on how long they should leave the time capsule buried: "Did we want to open the capsule in a hundred years? In five years?" ONE HUNDRED YEARS? I know Kristy, with her controlling, Type-A personality, probably genuinely believes she can bitchslap Death the same way she smacked around her possé of teen baby-sitters, but man, do the rest of them really think they're going to last 100 years? Is being delusional contagious?
They finally agree upon seven years, when the oldest of the kids they baby-sit will be about to head to college. Yeah, good luck rounding these kids up in 2007; they'll be so busy texting each other about how they heard Amanda Delaney got knocked up that they'll have no interest in this thing. Regardless, this leads to another discussion about the future, and Kristy loses her shit again. She's probably about a minute away from a wicked California Diaries-style drug addiction, and the only problem I have with this is that Mary Anne, the self-proclaimed "sensitive" one, seems to be completely oblivious. Oh wells. That's high school.
Claudia: Monday, June 5
Subject: grate idea
"This is a day of grate ideas. Mary ann had one this afternoon and know I have one its a REALY grate idea."
How can Claudia, through sheer association with Kristy, not know how to spell "great"? You let time slip, AMM, so you can't fool us anymore -- Spell Check exists now. Claudia is stressing about failing her exams and not being able to graduate, to which Stacey is all, "Pfff, you'll be fine." I'll assume that Stacey hasn't received that e-mail yet -- the one where Claudia spells "Mary Anne" incorrectly twice ("Mary ann" and "Maryanne", in case you were wondering).
Claudia gives a long list of her past failures, and the fact that Stacey doesn't remember her best friend being pushed back a grade makes me think Claudia won't be the only one failing. Stacey offers to help Claudia study, and then the two see an ominous sign: "In order to graduate, all students must return overdue library books by June 20."
Oh well, I'm sure that'll never pop up again.
And what about Claudia's "grate idea" she gathered everyone around for? Well hold on to your butts -- Claudia wants to throw a party! Graduating students having a party? SHOCKING. And just to make sure no one's having too much fun, everyone makes a point of saying they'll be too busy to baby-sit this summer. Kristy, unsurprisingly, attempts to commit seppuku right there in the cafeteria.
Stacey: Wednesday, June 7
NYCGirl is back, and she's e-mailing MRDALI, aka Ethan. Although we've been seeing some unsettling examples of personality development in this book, it's nice to see that the tried-and-true method of ONE PERSON, ONE INTEREST still reigns. In case you couldn't tell, Ethan is an artist, and can't you see how wicked-obscure he is because he chose "MRDALI" and not "MRLEONARDODAVINCI"?
Ethan's address is the most interesting thing about the e-mail, which is basically: "We told some kids about a time capsule. They loved it." And that's pretty much what the chapter consists of. The gang gets together in Mary Anne's backyard, and a lot of the usuals show up (Although I notice the Perkect Perkins' aren't mentioned. I guess Myriah and Gabby were too busy finalizing their working prototype of an actual time machine to bother with pedestrian things like time capsules).
And that's how the chapter goes. Kids learn about time capsule. Kids love it. The only ludicrous thing is what Kristy is brandishing about to be used as the capsule: a three-gallon tin can. That used to be filled with popcorn. That someone had given to the Schafer-Spiers when they moved into their new barn. Because, you know, your old home and virtually all your possessions were destroyed? Yeah, you need popcorn. And if the new house blazes up, you've got a healthy snack on-hand that you can make just from the heat of the flames!
Mary Anne (Letter)
Hand-written chapter. This book is filled to the gills with letters, and just to make it more confusing, you don't know if they're time machine letters or graduating eighth-grader letters. The important thing is, they're all boring.
This letter is for the time capsule and really serves as a reminder as to why I always found Mary Anne to be one of the more boring characters. Mary Anne's letter is wrapped around a piece of wood that was from the old house that burned down, which tellingly sets the tone for the letter. Blah blah blah, house burned down. Blah blah blah, neighbors are wonderful. Blah blah blah, memories can't be destroyed. Not to shatter the obvious closure Mary Anne has found, but my mother passed away last year, and I know that if I lost all my photos of her in a fire, I'd be pissed and not "the fire can never burn my memories" like Mary Anne is. There's coping, and then there's denial. Speaking of coping, Mary Anne mentions that when the time capsule is dug up, she'll be in college and the BSC probably won't exist anymore, and I'm treated to a glorious vision of Mary Anne in college. Being as repressed as she is, I'm guessing she'll be in the dorm for a maximum of two days before she discovers the exciting world of binge drinking and jello shooters. And then there's a great big scene when she comes home for Thanksgiving and Richard discovers her new dolphin tattoo.
This is Mal's letter for the time capsule, and considering it's the last time we really hear from her for the series, it's quite a nice send-off. She lists the things she likes and doesn't like about Stoneybrook, and it's quite poignant. The likes are pretty standard: It's on the water (Hey, I've lived on an island my whole life, and have always been near the water, so I can appreciate that); it's near a larger city (Stamford), but is itself pretty small; most people are friendly; there's lots for kids to do. It's the dislikes where this letter really shines: "It's so small that sometimes it feels suffocating. Some people here are definitely not friendly and need to work on their attitudes." She also says that since she went away from school, she doesn't feel "as much a part of Stoneybrook" as she once did.
Finally, someone admits that small-town Stoneybrook ain't all it's cracked up it be. I grew up in a small town, as I'm sure many of you did and many of the kids reading these books did. Hats off to this book for finally pointing out for all the perks, small towns can indeed be oppressive, and for people who find it that way, there is a potential to leave as you grow older. I found junior high to be just as terrible as Mal describes it to be, and props to AMM for acknowledging that everything isn't happy-happy-clubs and apple picks. Considering these books get read by kids a few years younger than 13, I think preparing them for that is a responsible thing to do. +2 Reality Points!
Whew, I'm gonna call that a wrap for now. This book isn't that long, especially since a lot of the pages are hand-written, but there's also not that much filler. I know this snark hasn't been hilarious, but this book is definitely more California Diaries speed, which isn't that mockable.
Next time: More crazy shit happens.