Reading Diary: BSC #18 Stacey's Mistake by Ann M. Martin
Remember the Baby-sitters Club I used to belong to in Stoneybrook? Well, I sort of carried the club back to New York with me, except that I'm the only member of the city branch. For some reason, none of my friends here seem interested in sitting. On the one hand, this is nice, because there are plenty of little kids in my building, so I get lots of jobs. On the other hand, I have to turn down lots of jobs, too, and I always feel bad about that. Besides, I miss the meetings our club used to hold.
Well, anyway, a total of five parents called up a whole month in advance to ask me to baby-sit on the afternoon of the big meeting. I felt bad about turning four of the families down, especially when the parents were all going to be at the same place for the same time. If only--
And that was when I got my brilliant idea.
It looks as if Baby-sitters Club President Kristy Thomas isn't the only one who can have really brilliant baby-sitting-related ideas! But only Stacey McGill would think of mixing business with the pleasures of a weekend-long sleepover and a boy-girl party in New York City. It sounds fantastic, doesn't it? So why isn't the title something closer to Stacey's Great Idea?
My wild guess is that it's because the most accurate label for this book would be Ann M. Martin's Mistake. I refer, of course, to her late-rued decision to make Stacey move away in BSC #13: Goodbye Stacey, Goodbye--which she corrected as soon and as credibly as she could. But if there is a part of her that wishes she could go back in time and prevent herself from even needing to correct it, then there is a part of her that is open to a parallel universe in which this book never existed. In that universe, we'd still have all the subsequent Stoneybrook-set stories, since it would just be a matter of dropping Stacey back into them. But we wouldn't have this particular adventure at all.
And there really is an AU feel to the baby-sitting part of the story . . .
"Okay," I whispered, as the elevator doors opened and we stepped into the Reamses' hallway. "This is the penthouse. It's the biggest, most expensive apartment in the building. The Reamses are really rich. They're nice but rich, so don't touch anything . . . Now, there's only one kid here. Leslie Reames. She's four. And she's a little like Jenny Prezzioso, so be prepared."
"Another spoiled brat?" wailed Mary Anne.
"A picky brat . . . But not a bad kid."
The BSC may be the main draw of the series, but their client families make a strong supporting cast. The high-energy Pikes, the crazy Brewers, the spoiled Delaneys, the unpredictable Rodowskys, the precious Prezziosos . . . Martin handles big ensembles well, and I'm sure that BSC fans have both a favourite sitter and a favourite family. But here we have an alternative bunch of families: you might say, the cast we would have had instead if the books had been set in New York City from the very beginning. And as fun as it is "to meet" them, it's a little jarring to think of a universe in which Mary Anne is a regular sitter not for Jenny Prezzioso, but for Leslie Reames!
But while all the baby-sitting scenes are unmistakably BSC, the main plot makes me wonder whether Martin, a prolific writer beyond this series, originally intended it for another project. Take out all the baby-sitting and you still have a great story about a girl who is trying to balance two worlds she has lived in and loved (a classic Martin theme!) by bringing her friends from both spheres together . . . only to discover that they are not as compatible as she believed. This conflict could really have used the simplicity of three main players: the friend from the first world, the friend from the second world, and the friend in the middle. But here Martin has six, and because she clearly wanted each of the four outsiders to have a particular quirk that would annoy someone on the inside, we see our beloved BSC members acting totally, even comically out of character. Still, I think she ties all the loose ends together well in the end.
It would be really fun "to slide" into that parallel universe in which Stacey never moved away from Stoneybrook, just to check three things:
a) whether either BSC #13 or this book is about Stacey's New York best friend Laine visiting Stoneybrook and not getting along with the rest of the BSC;
b) how Martin's oeuvre there differs from her oeuvre here, and whether there is a stand-alone novel with the plot I described above;
and of course, c) whether she picked a different BSC member to move away from Stoneybrook.
But until we develop the technology, we'll have to make do with BSC AU FF. =P
For Your BSC Notebook Entry: Do you have a favourite family from the series?
Image Source: BSC #18 Stacey's Mistake by Ann M. Martin