Reading Diary: BSC #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin
". . . Mimi, do you think I act like a normal twelve-year-old? . . . You know . . . Am I about as responsible and mature and smart as other twelve-year-olds and do I have pretty much the same interests they do?"
Now, most adults might have said something like, "That sounds like a loaded question" . . . But Mimi put her teacup down, sat back in her chair, and considered me. At last she replied, "Yes, you seem like a normal twelve-year-old to me. You do not wear the clothes that Claudia does, but I do not think that means anything. You are very responsible, and you also seem very mature. But you are serious, too, and I know it is not wise to confuse gravity with maturity."
As you can tell, Mary Anne Spier is having a little age-related crisis. (I've just got over my "quarter-life crisis" and am wondering whether they are all due to age.) Her father treats her like a baby, telling her she must wear her hair in braids every day and forbidding her to redecorate a bedroom that still has a pink-framed Humpty Dumpty hanging on the wall. She is the only member of the Baby-sitters Club who must turn down jobs because she can't stay out later than 9:30 on weekends--and it is both personally and professionally humiliating.
Now, I see where her overprotective single father is coming from, but really . . . If a twelve-year-old is worrying about her ability to do business, then she's quite a remarkable specimen of her age group.
Given the premise of this series, it is no surprise that Mary Anne finds herself watching over a little girl in a home situation that first parallels her own and then helps her break out of it. Little Jenny Prezzioso isn't exactly babied by her mother: she's "angel-ed up." Her mother won't let her wear anything but frilly, puffy, beribboned dresses, matching socks, and patent leather Mary Janes. It is a state of affairs to drive a four-year-old batty--and nobody understands that better than Mary Anne. Together, they both find a happy medium.
Whenever I put down a BSC book, I wonder what the heck I was doing reading nothing but Sweet Valley most of my tween life. Sweet Valley books are perfection driven: all about two perfect twin girls and their perfect family, in their perfect California home, in a perfect neighbourhood a drive away from a perfect beach. (And I don't even like the beach.) Yes, this series has its share of troubled characters . . . but all it really takes for anyone to get better is a run-in with one of the perfect twins, and then all is well again.
The BSC series, on the other hand, is driven by a higher ideal which I like to think of as, "Save the baby-sitter, save the world!" Its four (soon to be more) baby-sitters may still be very idealised, their stories all too neatly resolved; but they work hard for their money and for our hearts. Ann M. Martin owns Francine Pascal any day.
Mary Anne Saves the Day is also the novel that introduces the fifth member of the Baby-sitters Club, Dawn Schafer. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to find BSC #5 soon and review it here with the rest. =)
Image Sources: Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin