Previously: Mary Anne ignores a chain letter and is, on a wholly unrelated note, tormented by some girls who want her boyfriend. The girls blame Mary Anne for all the bad luck in the entire world, the girls attempt to go all Buffy on that situation, but without actually being fun or interesting. General middle school drama ensued before ending happily ever after, as always.
Sweeney: This being a Stacey book and the first book to take place in New York, it would normally be a Nugs recap. However, she is on a bit of a Snark-hiatus at the moment, leaving Lor and I to discuss the magic and rainbows of the BSC taking on New York.
Anyone who blames the internet and/or text messaging for destroying young peoples’ ability to spell needs to read one of Claudia Kishi’s entries in the BSC Notebook. Since the girls aren’t in Stoneybrook, the BSC Notebook is nowhere to be found. However, we can’t begin a chapter any other way than with a pointless summary of the chapter from a girl other than the one telling the story, so we’ve found a substitute! In lieu of the Notebook entries, each chapter begins with a postcard from the girls. First, to Stacey in anticipation of their arrival, then to friends, families, and cats (I’m looking at you, Mary Anne). It’s about as annoying as it sounds.
Lor: No, STFU. She did NOT write a postcard to her cat. I feel like if I were a mother, that’s something I’d want to know about a potential childcare giver. I mean, just looking beyond the fact that they are all babies themselves, I’d want to know things like, “I’m Mary Anne! I write postcards to my CAT.”
Sweeney: I mean, it’s addressed to her dad and her cat, but still weird.
The book opens with Claudia gushing to Stacey in a postcard about the BSC’s upcoming trip to New York and then jumps to Stacey, in her bedroom, reading this postcard and complaining about cockroaches. Ew. Stacey spends a lot of time explaining to the reader that even though she lives in an apartment, she’s actually incredibly well-off and privileged, because you probably didn’t know that people in the city live in apartments and the city must sound incredibly foreign to you.
Lor: People who live in apartments in not the city are poor and gross.
Sweeney: Well, obviously.
Since we are having fun with stereotyping here, much of Stacey’s character is informed by what non-New Yorkers think of New York and New Yorkers. However, her characterization in this book isn’t anywhere near as bad as the How-New-Yorkers-Assume-Everyone-Else-Is way in which the rest of the girls are depicted. This is the most annoying book we have recapped so far, and it’s making me realize that this is probably only going to continue to get worse.
Anyway, thanks to a gigantic pile of contrivance, the adults in Stacey’s building have decided to have a big meeting about the homeless problem, as if they are going to tackle New York’s homeless problem. It’s the sort of bullshit, glossed over explanation that I suppose a seven year old wouldn’t question, but that I still can’t really forgive an adult for writing.
As a way of humanizing homelessness, we are occasionally introduced to Judy, the homeless person whose name Stacey knows because she’s such a good person and all. Judy alternates between being sweet and crazy. Her sweet times are characterized by addressing Stacey as “Missy” and her crazy is marked by shouting nonsensical things. In typical BSC fashion, an attempt at addressing an issue tactfully just completely misses the mark with its stereotyping and generalizations. You try, Ghost Writing Collective.
The Ann M. Martin GWC kind of reminds me of Almost Politically Correct Redneck.
Lor: I really cannot believe that this book’s Big Contrivance is homelessness. I wonder what about book 16’s chain letter made the GWC go, “next time: homeless people. YEAH.”
Also: best analogy ever. A+
Sweeney: After all this time, you’d think we would stop questioning the driving logic behind the GWC, but we can’t help ourselves.
As Stacey is apparently the only baby-sitter in the building, all the parents call her to watch their kids during the big Saturday meeting where they solve homelessness. Stacey feels bad about having to say no, and then remembers that time that the BSC teamed up to watch kids during Kristy’s mom’s wedding and head a GREAT IDEA. The members of the BSC should come visit Stacey in New York.
If this is what passes for plot development at book 17, I really am afraid of what is coming down the line. Of course, we’re not done with the nonsensical contrivance, because the Friday of that week is some big teacher day in Stoneybrook, so the girls have off school and Stacey’s parents tell her she can take that day off too.
So after we hear about Stacey’s awesomely privileged life and her doormen and getting cab fare from her mother, she goes to meet the girls at Grand Central Station. Unfortunately, the girls do not go to meet Stacey at the information desk like she told them too and Stacey gets unreasonably huffy about this mix-up.
Once they find each other and exchange excited greetings, we are introduced to each girl’s static disposition for the duration of their stay: Mary Anne is (unsurprisingly) the girl who has memorized the guidebooks, because she’s in love with New York in a ridiculous way, Kristy is just kind of obnoxious and cunty about everything, Claudia is desperate to seem cool in New York, and Dawn is terrified of her own shadow because people get mugged and killed and shit in New York. Well, I mean, if you’re thirteen and wandering around the city alone, maybe.
Lor: None of these characterizations surprise me. Especially Kristy. She’s cunty in any city. Internationally cunty.
Sweeney: It’s kind of an accomplishment, really.
Stacey is mildly annoyed with her friends pretty much immediately because they’re excited about New York and making her look like a TOURIST and just, you know, EW. I get that nobody wants to look like a tourist, and also that she is thirteen and that much more obsessed with image crap, but this got old and annoying by page twenty, which is how I knew it would persist for another hundred pages.
Then Stacey is mad at Claudia for having too much stuff for them to go straight to lunch. They will have to take their stuff back to Stacey’s building which is TOTALLY OUT OF THE WAY. AND. JUST. UGH. Why would you bring stuff to come visit me? What is wrong with you? I just want to smack this girl.
They decide to go The Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. Now, I used to collect the guitar pins and I had most of my birthdays in college at the one in DC, so I’m not going to hate on Hard Rock, but the way it is described is all sorts of ridiculous. I’m not even going to dwell on the fact that these five thirteen year old girls are going there or anywhere else alone, because that ship has sailed here. I’ve lost all concept of what non-negligent parenting looks like and become utterly desensitized.
Lor: But… but… their parents fight homelessness…
Sweeney: The girls are getting excited about things and Kristy can’t pronounce filet mignon, and embarrasses the shit out of Stacey, and she’s just being generally obnoxious and rude, and amusingly describes the Hard Rock as “the coolest restaurant in New York” LOL. Sure, Stacey. Whatever, you’re a baby, so it’s not like I’d take your opinion on such matters seriously.
The girls buy a millionty things at the gift shop after they eat, and Stacey continues to be mortified.
“I looked around for a place to hide, but there was none.”
I’d say I feel your pain, but mine is unquestionably worse.
Next she takes the girls to Bloomingdale’s and the absurdity of their inability to function in public reaches epic heights. Yes, I’m aware that it’s an exceptionally large department store, but given that all of the girls but Dawn have been to the city before and Dawn is from LA, I’m calling bullshit on their inability to understand how a fucking department store works. Dawn trips trying to ride an escalator, and Mary Anne gets them in trouble when she pockets a tester because she thought it was a sample.
I can’t even fault Stacey for being a gigantic bitch at this point, because this is all kinds of absurd. I’d like to imagine that her actual internal monologue is something more along the lines of, “How the hell did I get written into this nonsense? Who is pulling these strings?”
After that it’s time to go back home and run around the building meeting all the kids’ parents, because I guess they had to have a brief non-negligent moment in the book. Dawn is apparently terrified of elevators too, because I guess we don’t actually have those in LA. I was mistaken. Also, one of the parents calls Stacey by her real first name, Anastasia. Back in the elevator, Kristy doubles over laughing at this. I know that my hatred of Kristy occasionally defies reason, but since this is my best friend’s name, I feel that I have a duty on behalf of our middle school selves, to call Kristy out for being an obnoxious little shit.
Lor: My middle school self would like to meet Kristy after school by the flag pole. She’s going down.
Sweeney: I’m glad you have my back, Lor. We just need someone to hold our lunchboxes.
Then the girls need to get ready because Stacey is throwing a party that night, so that the BSC can meet her New York friends. As you may have guessed from the title of this book, it does not go well.
Mary Anne goes all crazy about making sure everyone is dressed New York City Cool, and gets Stacey’s seal of approval for their wardrobe choices. She’s extra rude to Kristy, who generally deserves it, but also, you know, calm the fuck down. After being a huge brat about the whole thing, when Stacey picks out an outfit for Mary Anne, like she asked, she basically says, “No, I don’t want to wear that,” and puts on an outfit that Stacey describes as being straight out of Little House on the Prairie.
Stacey is very excited for her New York best friend, the tragically named Laine Cummings, to meet her Stoneybrook best friend, Claudia Kishi. Laine arrives ahead of the rest of the guests and Claudia pounces in full bitch mode right away, saying that she’s heard about Laine before, as she was the friend who got in a fight with Stacey after she was diagnosed with diabetes, to which Laine replies that Claudia’s the friend whose fight with Stacey almost broke up their little club. Stacey describes this by using the word “snipe” three times in one page because vocabulary is hard.
Lor: I was about to find the common denominator here and blame everything on Stacey, but that whole “you have diabetes ew” thing was pretty shit on Laine’s part.
Sweeney: Truth. But, Claudia brought it up out of nowhere, so I’m mostly blaming it on her.
Things are off to a shit start before everyone arrives and then it just gets worse. The BSC girls don’t really interact with anyone, with the exception of Mary Anne, who is just weirding everyone out with her NYC Wikipedia bullshit.
Finally Stacey forces Kristy to talk to this guy Coby, and Mary Anne seems to have found a topic that people are amused by and don’t exchange “WHO IS THIS GIRL?” looks over. Unfortunately, that topic is Dawn and all the million and six things that scare or unsettle her about the city. I have said this once and I’ll say it a thousand more times if I have to: if you’re going to be a tragically dull horse-poster girl, you are not allowed to be rude too. Also, Claudia totally cuts in on Kristy and Coby dancing, which was a total bitch move and actually made me feel bad for Kristy.
Eventually the party ends, and everyone is miserable. Laine stays to help clean up, but ultimately decides not to spend the night like originally planned for the obvious reason of Claudia being a mega-bitch. Stacey tells the girls that they need to call a truce at least until after they watch those kids the next day and then they all go to bed.
The chapter about the party began with Dawn’s postcard to her mother, which actually made me laugh a little.
P.S. They have to have doormen here to keep murderers away.
Oh, Dawn. I love you. Way to make sure your mother feels good and secure about letting you go on this trip.
The next morning they have a straight-to-business meeting about the whole thing, where everybody is in a shit mood. The one good thing about this book is how low it is on boring babysitting details. We have now reached that portion of the book, but fortunately for you, I’ll make it quick because it’s basically a series of nonevents. Stacey gets the kids in order by making them get into “Madeline lines” and they go to the Natural History Museum. One kid gets lost for a brief second. Then they go to Central Park, some kid almost gets sick from eating too much ice cream, and Stacey tells the kids the story of Stuart Little.
While they are walking around the park, Stacey expresses genuine interest in something, which prompts Claudia to point out that this is the first time that this has happened since they arrived, since she has been a jaded city bitch the whole time. It’s probably unfair to expect Stacey to get excited about any of the really generic New York things the girls did, but she was definitely being unreasonable in her ZOMG STOP BEING TOURISTS attitude. I mean, barring the points in time when the girls made it seem as though Stoneybrook was legit backwoods, middle of nowhere, which is not exactly how the town is usually portrayed.
They ride the carousel together and then everything is magically back to normal and they all get along again. There is no conversation about any of it, just a carousel ride. That’s all it takes, apparently. I started to say, “I miss having eighth grade problems,” but that’s just not true. As much as I’d love to solve my issues with carousel rides and pizza-on-your-dog diplomacy, I do not wish to be thirteen again, and these poor losers are trapped there.
Lor: Though if magical carousel rides were transplanted into adulthood that would be pretty awesome. “Fuck you!” “THAT’S IT. We’re getting on that carousel RIGHT NOW.” Bam. Brilliant.
Sweeney: Right? Why can’t this be a thing? Let’s make this a thing.
After they get the kids back to the house, Laine Cummings calls to make up, in her rich person fashion. Her dad is a Broadway Producer, which is, unsurprisingly, stretched beyond the reasonable limits of what that means, for the purposes of our “plot.” He can get them six awesome tickets to some awesome musical and a limo will pick them up and it will all be swell and wonderful, as long as the girls are willing to go.
As awful as Claudia has been throughout this book, she’s not quite the fool she seems to be, and is willing to play nice for a free Broadway show. They meet Laine for dinner and the show and everyone laughs and has a magical time. This chapter begins with Mary Anne’s postcard to Logan, in which she explains that “limo” is short for “limousine.” Thanks, girl!
Lor: WHAT. My life is changed.
Sweeney: After the show, Stacey invites Laine Cummings to spend the night again, now that everything is cool. Laine Cummings decides that while she’s glad that she got to hang out with everyone on better terms, they need to spend their last night together without her. It’s a classy move, but she’s still going to end up a porn star. A classy porn star, at least.
Lor: In porns with a plot.
Sweeney: The last chapter is just the girls filling Stacey in on all the shit that has happened since her departure, which we already know and I don’t feel like explaining. They decide to prank call Jeff, Dawn’s brother, since its three hours earlier in California. Mary Anne begs to be the one to do it. When Jeff answers the phone, she puts her hand over the receiver and loudly whispers, “Jeff answered!” She then delivers the classic, “Is your refrigerator running?” (Yes) “You better go catch it!” I’d sigh about Mary Anne’s unforgivable stupidity, but all the girls found this equally hilarious.
The next day two of the kids bring them shitty drawings that they made to thank the girls for a fun day, so they decide to go around the building saying goodbye to all the kids. Then they go to the station and have sappy goodbyes before hopping on the train back to Stoneybrook, and unfortunately probably books with more boring baby-sitting details.
Lor: I’m going to guess that at the end of this book, there were still homeless people in New York.
Sweeney: Oh, we didn’t talk about homeless people again, because they’re gross and already fulfilled their contrivancey purpose.
Next time on The Baby-sitters Club: A kid pulls a practical joke and Claudia breaks a bone. We get an actual injury in Stoneybrook! The cover asks if this will be the end of her babysitting career, because perhaps part of the deal with permanent-8th-grade is that your bones also no longer heal? I’m not sure but you can find out in #19 – Claudia and the Bad Joke.