19 March 2012


Reading Diary: BSC #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey by Ann M. Martin

. . . Mary Anne is Kristy's best friend and Claudia is mine, but it's funny the way things work out. Mary Anne and I were going to be spending the next two weeks together. I was a little nervous about it. We are so different. Mary Anne is really shy; I'm pretty straightforward. Mary Anne is kind of young; I'm sophisticated. Mary Anne has no interest in boys; I had a couple of boyfriends in seventh grade.

As if reading my mind, Claudia said to me, "Are you ready for the Pikes, Stace?"

"I hope so," I replied. "I've never spent two weeks with eight kids before. At least I'll have Mary Anne to help me."

There's a great deal of telling and very little showing in the above passage, but that's typical of the first chapters of juvenile series books. Virtually all exposition so that the reader can get caught up, they don't give way to "Show, don't tell" writing until the second chapter. But it's not until the fifth chapter of this eighth Baby-sitters Club novel that we see how mismatched new Stacey McGill and Mary Anne Spier are.

I refer to the scene in which they compare swimsuits. Stacey's new bikini is bright yellow and "very skimpy," with little bows and the top part "filled out pretty nicely" (LOL!); Mary Anne's older bathing suit is white and pale blue, with a top that is "not filled out at all." Guess which one took one look at the other and declared she would wear jeans and a t-shirt to the beach. These two are probably the most unlikely pair out of everyone else in the BSC . . . which is probably why Ann M. Martin decided to throw them together as mother's helpers, in isolation from everyone else, for two whole weeks.


Dear Claudia,

I know I was supposed to be baby-sitting, but Scott was on duty today, and he's all I can think of. He gave me the most fabulous present, but I'm not going to tell you what it is. I'll show you when we're back in Stoneybrook. Say "hi" to Mimi!

Luv, Stace

P.S. Mary Anne thinks the gift is dumb. She doesn't understand.

It doesn't take long for Stacey to start giving the cute lifeguards much more attention than she gives her charges. This means Mary Anne is stuck with most of the real work--and with eight children to look after (all of them under twelve, three of them identical triplets), it is indeed work.

And yet we can't accuse Stacey of slacking, as the lifeguards turn out to be surprisingly high-maintenance crushes. Girls who want to hang around them must buy them sodas, make them sandwiches, and run all sorts of errands for them. It makes sense that a seasoned sitter would be great at the "love languages" of Acts of Service and Quality Time--but when Stacey starts bringing her favourite lifeguard drinks out of her clients' refrigerator and making him snacks using their food supplies, it's easy to understand why Mary Anne is so annoyed.

Every BSC novel is a study in character differences, but this one adds a twist to the convention: here, the contrast has less to do with Stacey's and Mary Anne's child-minding styles than with their approaches to summer romance. And, well, I'm not too crazy about that. Who reads a BSC book for the boys? Seriously.

There is still a lot of baby-sitting going on, though, and one of the boys they meet at the beach happens to be a mother's helper as well (!!!)--so I can't really complain. And the dynamics do make some sense in the end: only boy-crazy Stacey could get shy Mary Anne to take a risk on her own summer crush. It would be more balanced if a bit of Mary Anne had rubbed off on Stacey, too, but she has more of a supporting role in this novel.

And it's really the lack of balance that bothers me, especially where the other BSC members are concerned. Kristy has a whole chapter for her special baby-sitting disaster and Claudia at least gets to talk about the three-year-old boy she minds New Hampshire, but although we know Dawn is getting work over the summer as well, there is nothing about her own adventures here.

But I guess Ann M. Martin makes up for it by letting Dawn narrate the very next book in the series. That one is up next!

Image Source: BSC #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey by Ann M. Martin


Angie Tusa said...

It's amazing. As you described Stacey's bathing suit, it came back into my mind, clear as a bell. Unfortunately I don't remember much else about this book at all. The idea of Stacey waiting hand and foot on a guy bothers me now, and I wonder how my young self reacted to that idea by comparison.

mrsdarwin said...

Gah. I suddenly feel 11 again.

I remember thinking that Stacy was very silly in this book. She was never my favorite sitter, but I didn't really relate to any of them. But I read them avidly.

Enbrethiliel said...


Angie -- My first draft of this post almost included the following direct quote about all the lifeguard "groupies" that might make some more memories rush back to you:

How did those other girls get so lucky? Not only did the lifeguards seem to know them, but they gave them the supreme honour of doing favours for them. Those girls got to bring sodas and pick up anything that fell off the stand, and one was even asked to fix them sandwiches for lunch.

Crazy, aye? =P I know how that must read to a grown woman, but did your younger self pick up on Stacey's skewed perspective?

Mrs. Darwin -- Oh, Stacey is very silly here. While drafting this review, I skimmed an earlier chapter and got to reread the part where Stacey is consoling her overprotective mother and both are crying together. She reflects: "It's awfully hard helping your parents grow up. But it has to be done."

When it appears in the story, it doesn't have the sarcastic edge something like it would have in those TV programmes with goofball parents and competent kids--and I kind of liked the way Stacey was both mature and vulnerable in that scene. In the light of everything she gets up to later in Sea City, however, it falls totally flat.