nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dawn and the Impossible Three

Nostalgic Reads

Title: Dawn and the Impossible Three

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #5

Blurb: Dawn’s the newest member of the Baby-Sitters Club and everybody’s glad – except Kristy. Kristy thinks things were better without Dawn around. That’s why Dawn’s eager to take on a big baby-sitting job. It’s her chance to show Kristy what she’s made of.

Review: We finally get to Dawn, the fifth member of the BSC. Dawn is from California and, as such, eats a lot of tofu, granola, and wheat germ. She made friends with Mary Anne during the big BSC fight in the last book and her friendship with Mary Anne is making Kristy jealous. Kristy is used to having Mary Anne pretty much all to herself. Couple that with the fact that Kristy will be moving across town after her mom marries Watson ( and won’t live next door to Mary Anne anymore), and it’s a recipe for disaster and lots of hurt feelings. Luckily, Dawn realizes this and reaches out to Kristy, and by the middle of the book they are friends and everything is cool.

The “impossible three” are the Barrett kids: Buddy, Suzi and Marnie. They aren’t bad kids, but their parents are going through a divorce and it’s making their mom get a little spacy. The house is always a mess (which Dawn cleans up), she forgets to tell Dawn about one of the kid’s allergies, and leaves the wrong phone numbers to contact her while she’s gone. She also strictly forbids Dawn to let her kids talk to their father when he calls. The culmination of all this is that one day while sitting, Buddy disappears. Dawn can’t get in touch with Mrs. Barrett so she calls the other parents she knows in the neighborhood to form a search party. One of the other kids says he saw Buddy getting into a strange car and that’s when they call the police.

Buddy is fine. Turns out the strange car belonged to his dad, and his dad was supposed to have that weekend with the kids, but Mrs. Barrett forgot. So he drove by, saw Buddy in the yard, and decided to take him to the amusement park. Dawn stands up to Mrs. Barrett and says that she can’t continue sitting for them if things keep going the way they are. They work things out and everybody is happy by the end.

While not my favorite of the series (I never related to Dawn very much), this is still a solid read. I do feel bad for the Barretts – they are definitely going through a rough time – but hopefully this situation will lead to at least some improved communication.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – The Truth About Stacey

img_0039Title: The Truth About Stacey

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #3

Blurb: The truth about Stacey is that she has diabetes. Nobody knows . . . except her friends in the Baby-Sitters Club. But even they don’t know the real truth about Stacey. Stacey’s problem is her parents. They won’t admit she has the disease, and they drag her to practically every doctor in America! Seeing so many doctors made Stacey lose one friend, and she won’t let it happen again. Especially now — when the Baby-Sitters Club needs her more than ever.

Review: In this book, we get to know our third BSC member, Stacey McGill. She is new to Stoneybrook, is the same fashion forward sort like Claudia is. She grew up in New York City and was fairly recently diagnosed with diabetes. She was afraid to tell anyone what was going on at her old school in the City, so all her old friends thought she was being a drama queen and a liar when she was having all her health issues, especially her ex-best friend Laine.

Which, I’m sorry, is a really crappy thing to do. If my best friend was fainting at school, going to the doctor a lot, even getting taken to the hospital, I wouldn’t get mad at them. I’d be worried. I’d be checking in on them all the time to make sure they were okay. Ugh! The problem is that Laine was never told what was going on, and without Stacey being honest about it, it created a huge misunderstanding. The girls get to reconcile when Stacey has to go to the City to visit yet another doctor, this one who happens to be a quack.

The big problem that the BCS faces in this book is competition. A new group called the Baby-Sitters Agency is advertising older sitters, being able to stay out later, and have cheaper prices. They start edging in on the BCS’s territory. The two girls that run it are awful and the sitters they get are not much better. Stacey and the others start hearing from the kids they sit for that they are not happy. The new sitters don’t play with them, some of them invite their boyfriends to come over, and one burned a hole in a couch with a cigarette. Eventually, after the BCS finds one of their three year old charges playing in the street by himself, they are able to reveal just how lousy the Agency is. The Agency doesn’t care about the kids — they are only in it for the money. The Baby-Sitters Club is far superior, and now everyone knows it. Huzzah!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Nostalgic Reads

Claudia and the Phantom Phone CallsTitle: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #2

Blurb: Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey have had some strange adventures since they started the Baby-sitters Club. But nothing’s been as spooky as what’s going on right now. The baby-sitters have been getting mysterious phone calls when they’re out on their jobs. When a phone rings and they pick up, there’s no one on the other end of the line.

Claudia’s sure it’s the Phantom Caller, a jewel thief who’s been operating in the area. Claudia has always liked reading mysteries, but she doesn’t like it when they happen to her. So she and the baby-sitters decide to take action – with some very mixed results!

Review: These books are such time capsules! So many things could be averted if only they had cell phones!

The whole mystery in this story is the Phantom Caller, who breaks into houses after calling to see if anyone is home and then hanging up. Oh, landline telephones. Who has those anymore? Not many folks, that’s for sure. The girls are sure that the thief is getting closer and closer to Stoneybrook, especially after there are several hang up calls at the houses where they are baby-sitting. Of course, the thief is caught in another town, and the person (or people) calling Claudia and her friends turns out to be boys at school who want to ask her and Kristy out to the Halloween dance.

This book, told from Claudia’s point of view obviously, really helps you see that while Claudia acts confident, she has a lot of insecurities. She is not good in school, unlike her genius sister and as such, gets down on herself sometimes. It was nice to see that she was working towards making progress, both in school and with her sister, at least by the end of the book. Another thing that this book captures is how it is a little spooky when you are home alone at night, especially when you are the age of these girls – not little kids, but not grown up either. Wanting to be mature and take care of things, but also being really glad when the parents get home. I remember that feeling, and Ann M. Martin definitely captures it perfectly.

I am finding that I don’t remember The Baby-Sitters Club books as vividly as I do the Sweet Valley High ones. Maybe I stopped reading them earlier, since they were aimed towards a slightly younger demographic? Who knows. I am enjoying re-reading them so far though.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Kristy’s Great Idea

Originally I had planned to feature the next Fear Street book today, title The Surprise Party, but unfortunately I am having a hard time finding it. So instead, to mix things up a bit, we’re going to move on to another series that shaped my adolescence: The Baby-Sitters Club.

Nostalgic Reads

Kristy's Great IdeaTitle: Kristy’s Great Idea

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club

Blurb: Kristy thinks the Baby-sitters Club is a great idea. She and her friends Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne all love taking care of kids. A club will give them the chance to have lots of fun – and make tons of money.

But nobody counted on crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who don’t always tell the truth. And then there’s Stacey, who’s acting more and more mysterious. Having a baby-sitters club isn’t easy, but Kristy and her friends aren’t giving up until they get it right!

Review: I had forgotten just how good these books really are.

First, a little bit of history, since I did this with the first Sweet Valley High post. The Baby-Sitters Club first came out in 1986. The first 35 books were written by Ann M. Martin, the later books written by ghostwriters. There are 131 books in the original series, with spin-offs like the Super Editions, Mysteries, and the Little Sister series that focuses on Kristy’s stepsister, Karen.

This first book, Kristy’s Great Idea, sets everything up for our series. A group of friends come together to form a club in order to get baby-sitting jobs. Sure, there is the typical 80s thing where each character has their defining characteristic: Kristy is the outgoing tomboy, Mary Anne is the quiet bookworm, Claudia is the artsy fashionista, and Stacey is the fun city girl. Each book is told from the point of view of one of the girls, but we also get some stories from the other girls due to their notebook where they write down the details of their baby-sitting jobs.

So let’s talk about Kristy. She gets in trouble sometimes because she is very outspoken and doesn’t really have a filter. She is going through a but of a tough time. Her parents are divorced, her father is not really in her life, and her mother is dating another man, Watson. Kristy doesn’t want to accept another man in her mom’s life and avoids anything to do with him as much as she can, including refusing to baby-sit for his two kids.

Kristy gets the idea to start the Club after watching her mother try to find a baby-sitter for her little brother, David Michael. She was busy, her two friends Mary Anne and Claudia were also busy, her older brothers were busy, and their other baby-sitter was sick. Kristy felt bad that her mom had to waste time trying to track down someone and also that David Michael had to feel like a burden for her having to do so. The idea, that parents could make one call and reach a group of sitters, was actually a very good one and starts out pretty successful. Sure, they have some hiccups. Prank calls by Kristy’s older brother. Someone calling them for dog-sitting. They ended up at jobs with extra children they didn’t count on, who were all unruly brats.

The book ends with Kristy coming to terms with Watson and his kids, which is good since now Watson and Kristy’s mom are engaged. We also find out that Stacey, who has been acting odd about food all book, actually has diabetes and was afraid to tell anyone. The girls all get in a big fight, but are able to work things out. What I like best about this series is that even though the girls are stereotypes, like I mentioned above, they also feel very real. None of them are perfect, they have definite flaws, but they also sound like kids that I went to middle school with. That’s refreshing.

My plan is to flip back and forth between The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High ever ten books or so, with some Fear Street thrown in as I can find them. That will keep this feature from getting too stale.

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Wrong Kind of Girl

Nostalgic Reads

Wrong Kind of GirlTitle: Wrong Kind of Girl

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #10

Blurb: Jessica’s at it again!

Jessica Wakefield has sworn never to allow Annie Whitman onto the Sweet Valley High cheering squad. Annie may have the beauty, talent, and spirit to be a cheerleader, but she also has the worst reputation in school. She goes out with a different boy every night, and all the kids call her “Easy Annie” behind her back. Jessica’s pulling every devilish trick to keep Annie from ruining the cheerleaders’ image.

Only Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, knows what Annie’s really like. But can she change her sister’s mind before Jessica shatters Annie’s dreams?

Review: On a very special episode of Sweet Valley High . . .

Yeah, this is one of the ones that tried to take on some very serious subjects. Did they succeed? I would say that they mostly did. This book dealt with the dangers of gossip and bullying, and has a suicide attempt as a result of said bullying. As such, this is probably one of the more darker story lines in the series.

It’s also a case of Jessica being the world’s worst person, this time focusing her horribleness on Annie Whitman, a sophomore who is desperately trying to change her life. One of the ways she is doing this is trying out for the cheerleading squad. She is desperate. It is the key to everything. But Jessica, being Jessica, doesn’t think Annie is “good enough” for them. Annie has a bit of a reputation around school as being “easy.” She likes the boys. A lot. Often bad boys, including Rick Andover, the drunk who had nearly sexually assaulted Jessica in the first book.

Part of Annie’s backstory is that her mother was a teen mom and raised Annie by herself. Her mom is absent most of the time and often drinks heavily. She also has a live-in boyfriend who gives Elizabeth the creeps.

Let’s be honest. Jessica is no position to call any girl “easy” with the number of guys she’s pursued. In fact, one of the  guys that Annie nabs in this book was one that Jessica had her eye on for a while, which didn’t help the situation at all. Jessica is afraid that the whole cheerleading squad will be tainted by Annie’s reputation and proceeds to slut-shame Annie to the other cheerleaders so that they won’t allow her to join. Which is a completely hypocritical, because Annie is an amazing cheerleader! She’s also been trying to get better grades, after being tutored by Elizabeth, who also tries to convince Jessica to change her mind. Which doesn’t work.

When Annie doesn’t get on the cheerleading squad, she swallows a bunch of pills in an attempt to kill herself. The cheerleader’s manager, Ricky Capaldo, a somewhat geeky guy with a heart of gold, has taken a liking to Annie and, knowing how devastated she was, goes to her apartment to check on her. He finds her unconscious and calls the ambulance. He also calls the Wakefields. Jessica realizes how awful she is, for at least a split second, and spends several nights at the hospital, along with Elizabeth and Ricky, trying to talk to Annie and get her to wake up. Which she finally does. Jessica lets her on the cheerleading squad and everyone is happy again.

So does this book adequately tackle these issues? I think it does, in an 80’s/early 90s sitcom way. Because of the format, it does have to wrap up things pretty quickly, but it does impart the seriousness of the situations at hand, which I think is a good thing. This was one of the story lines I actually remembered from reading it back when I was a teenager. So I guess it was good enough to have stuck with me.

Set up for the next book includes the mysterious Suzanne Devlin coming to stay with the Wakefields. The daughter of an American diplomat, Suzanne has lived all over the world. In addition to that, one of the twins will get to stay in New York while Suzanne stays with their family. Which one will they choose?

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Racing Hearts

Nostalgic Reads

racing heartsTitle: Racing Hearts

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William

Series: Sweet Valley High #9

Blurb: “Love on the run…”

Roger Barrett has always had a hopeless crush on glamorous, wealthy Lila Fowler. The only attention Lila ever pays to him, though, is to make fun of him in front of her friends. But why shouldn’t she, he thinks. After all, he’s clumsy and shy and works secretly as a janitor after school.

When Roger wins the qualifying heat for a big race, he becomes a school celebrity overnight. And to his surprise, even Lila starts to chase after him. But Roger knows if he runs in the race finals, he’ll lose his job. Will Lila still notice him when he’s no longer a star?

Review: This may be the first book so far where Jessica is actually not terrible! Hooray!

Roger Barrett is sad and awkward and totally crushing on Lila Fowler, the richest girl in school. Roger is also super poor because his mom is sick and his dad is a drunk. There is a big event coming up – a race called “the Bart.” Lila shames Roger into running, which he does, enduring ridicule from Bruce Patman for it. Bruce is also running and exists purely to be a jerk to anyone and everyone around him.

But hey! Roger wins! And Jessica convinces Lila that Roger will be popular now after his impressive run, so Lila gives him a chance, much to the disappointment of Olivia Davidson, Roger’s best friend who has been harboring a secret crush on him. The other problem is that Roger has an after school job to help support his family – he can’t spend time training for a race!

Roger enjoys Lila’s attentions, but can’t keep up the charade. He tells her he can’t run, along with the reason why, and she is none too happy about it. But wait! Somehow Roger’s mean boss, who Roger was sure would never give him the time off to compete, is now totally cool with it and called the school to tell them that. Yay!

Roger also realizes that Olivia is his true love, the one who has been there all along. Double yay!

The day of the race arrives and it’s a close one. Lots of competition from other schools, but Roger wins the day! He also wins a full scholarship to Sweet Valley College. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy. Of course, all the attention has perked Lila’s interest again. She convinces herself that Roger made up the story about having a job and a mean boss. She is shocked when Roger turns down the invitation to Lila’s after party in his honor. Roger loves Olivia and that’s that.

Our subplot is that Jessica has come up with the idea that she wants to get serious. She wants to work part-time after school at her dad’s law firm and be a lawyer when she grows up. The shine of a new job wears off quickly, but then Jessica meets Dennis, who works for his father in the same building. They hang out after work, but Dennis won’t take her anywhere else. Why? Turns out he’s only 15 and has been lying about his age. Jessica isn’t interested after that.

There’s also a thing about Coach Schultz, who the students think is retiring because he has cancer, but that rumor isn’t true. He’s fine.

The set up for the next book involves Annie Whitman, a girl known for being “easy” who wants to join the cheerleadering squad. Jessica doesn’t want her there. I guess we’ll see what happens next!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads -Heart Breaker

Nostalgic Reads

412360Title: Heart Breaker

Author: Francine Pascal, Kate Willliam

Series: Sweet Valley High #8

Blurb: The surf’s up in Sweet Valley, and gorgeous Jessica Wakefield is making a big splash with Bill Chase, the hottest surfer in town. But after she tricks him into falling madly in love with her, she ignores him completely.

To complicate matters, shy, quiet DeeDee Gordon is also after Bill. But Jessica has the upper hand. If Bill even looks at DeeDee, Hurricane Jessica blows him off his board and back into her arms. Can Bill escape Jessica’s undertow, or is he in over his head?

Review: Ugh. This is another one where Jessica is the absolute worst person. Come on, all you 80s girls, answer this for me: why did we like this character?

You can’t help but feel sorry for Bill in this story. He’s very shy, very quiet. Likes to surf and . . . not much else. Spends a lot of time alone out on the waves. He also can’t help himself around Jessica. She leads him on, mostly because she can’t forgive him for turning down her invitation to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. Jessica does not handle rejection at all and is determined to make him pay. Mind you, they were never really dating. It’s not like she was all emotionally invested, they were boyfriend/girlfriend, and then he broke her heart. Bill is absolutely enthralled with Jessica, and she ignores him completely. Or worse than that. She takes advantage of his adoration, gets him to do things for her, and then treats him like dirt. And when a nice girl like DeeDee Gordon shows interest in Bill, Jessica does whatever she can to get the spotlight back on herself so that Bill can’t look away.

Another tragic thing about Bill? His previous girlfriend, Julianne, who was also a surfer and absolutely perfect for him, had died in a car crash before he moved to Sweet Valley. Part of his attraction to the Wakefield girls (he had a crush on Liz first, before falling head over heels for Jessica) was their physical resemblance to Julianne. Which is why he turned Jessica down at first — he was too shocked and still grieving.

Granted, Jessica doesn’t know this bit of background information when she starts messing with Bill’s mind, and I would like to think that she would never have treated him the way she did if she had known. She’s not a complete monster.

Side note: DeeDee’s father is a Hollywood agent. Jessica and Bill are playing the leads in a school play, and when DeeDee’s father drops in for rehearsal, there is a rumor that he thinks one of the actors has true star potential. Jessica spends the entire time absolutely positive that it’s her — and it’s not. It’s Bill. Hahahahaha.

There’s also a little trouble in paradise – Liz and Todd paradise, to be exact. An old friend of Todd’s — a beautiful, female old friend, mind you — moves back to town and make Lizzie all kinds of jealous. True, Todd and Patsy Webber used to date a while back, but they say that they are just friends now. Also, Patsy just came back from living in Paris, which makes Liz feel even worse about her boring self in comparison. As much as I really hate Jessica’s constant preening about how awesome she is, I really don’t like how insecure Elizabeth is about pretty much everything. She’s just as beautiful as Jessica is (identical twins, hello!) and is way smarter, not to mention nicer and an all-around better person. But she’s also always worried about Todd and letting other people walk all over her. Sigh. Luckily, this time there was nothing to worry about. Todd and Patsy are just friends and Todd is still madly in love with Liz.

Bill ends up with DeeDee, Todd and Liz are back together and happy, but there’s one other loose end here — Roger Barrett. Liz finds out that he is actually working nights and weekends as a janitor to help his parents pay for things. He also has a crush on Lila Fowler, the richest girl in school. The set up at the end of this one hints that something might happen between the two of them in the next book, so I guess we shall see. That would definitely be a case of opposites attract!