09 May 2014

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: BSC#13 Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye by Ann M. Martin

"Stacey?" said my mom gently. "We know this is a surprise, but think how much you've missed New York."

"I know. I know. I am thinking about that."

I really
had missed New York, even though my last few months there had been pretty unhappy, what with doctor visits, and friends who had become former friends, and even a couple of stays in the hospital. On the other hand, I liked Stoneybrook a lot. I didn't have any former friends here, only true, good friends . . . And I had the Baby-sitters Club and Charlotte Johanssen and a school I liked and a whole big house, instead of a not-so-big tenth floor apartment.

If you've ever had to ask, "Which baby-sitter is Stacey again?" . . . you probably got the answer, "The one with diabetes." But when Ann M. Martin decided that she wanted one of her characters to have a physical limitation, she probably didn't guess how helpful, inspiring, and memorable that character would turn out to be.

Now, I'm just guessing here, but I think it was readers' reactions to Stacey (which included a few girls realising that they might have diabetes, telling their parents about it, and being properly diagnosed!) that really showed Martin that a juvenile series can be both entertainment and a public good. And that was why she was open to taking requests from readers whose only source of catharsis would be seeing how their favourite characters might handle real-life crises the latter themselves had endured . . . like saying good-bye when somebody must move away.

But of course, with the BSC, you get a special twist. ;-) 

. . . "What on earth is the club going to do without Stacey? I know it's kind of mean to think about that right now, but it is a problem. A big one . . . I mean, we did all that advertising when school started," Kristy went on. "We got new customers--the Rodowskys, the Papadakises, the Delaneys, and everyone."

"And we depend on Logan and Shannon for help pretty often," said Dawn. "Hey, maybe one of them--"

"No, we've been through that already," Kristy interrupted. "They don't want to be regular members . . . Being a member of the club takes up an awful lot of time."

"And we need someone just as responsible as Stacey," Dawn added.

They have a point. Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Dawn aren't just losing a friend, they're also losing a vital partner in a thriving but vulnerable business. Did Stacey's parents even consider the economic consequences of their decision??? By the end of this novel, the club works out one possible solution to the problem . . . and putting it in motion gets to be Stacey's final official club duty. Oh, have I mentioned that Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye is the second BSC book that has made me cry? When Martin wants to be poignant, she pulls out all the stops!

Baby-sitting does not take a backseat to the drama. Heck, it's an essential component of the drama! The children all love Stacey, too, remember? As everyone comes to terms with the inevitable, accepting that the ending will not be happy, though it can be loving, they create catharsis for the most important group of people who will miss Stacey when she is gone. Having had to say goodbye to my own best friend when her family suddenly needed to move, I understood what Martin's original readers were looking for when they requested this plot . . . and for a few painful minutes, I could mark no difference between a character moving out of a series and a friend moving out of town.

Years later, Martin said in an interview that having Stacey leave Stoneybrook was the biggest mistake she made while writing the series. And while reading most of the book, I totally agreed! Then the catharsis hit and I just wanted to thank her. But now she has me wondering whether she could have done this story with another baby-sitter. Well, Kristy and Dawn are out: the former had already moved (sort of) to another part of town after her mother remarried, and the latter had just moved into Stoneybrook. Picking Claudia would have made the BSC lose its token Asian (I know, right?). As for Mary Anne . . . Hmmmmm. You know, it could have been Mary Anne! So now the question is whether, in an alternate world where it was Mary Anne Spier who moved to New York, did Ann M. Martin say that was the biggest mistake of the series? If only we could slide and find out . . . ;-)

But never mind "mistakes" now. Having seen the titles of future installments in the series (and having had some plots spoiled for me!), I feel confident that Martin made her long-term plans well.


Image Source: BSC#14 Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye by Ann M. Martin

2 comments:

Angie Tusa said...

Obviously it has been too long for me to remember for sure, but with Stacey being my favorite of the group there's no doubt this book had to be pretty upsetting for me too.

I had no idea that this kind of story was actually requested. That certainly puts an interesting perspective on the whole idea. At that age I certainly never thought about these books teaching me anything, though I'm sure they did whether I realized it or not.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

One of the reasons Martin said this was her biggest mistake was that she didn't anticipate the backlash of having Stacey move away. Apparently, she was a lot of readers' favourite character!