Friday, February 28, 2014

BSC #17: Mary Anne's Bad-Luck Mystery

By Ann M. Martin. Published October 1988.

Good lord. This is one of those books that show maybe these girls aren’t mature enough to be taking care of children.

We begin with some foreshadowing. Cokie Mason, Grace Bloom, and their friends are staring at the BSC lunch table. Grace has a big old crush on Logan. Mary Anne hears one of them say something about being “stuck up”. Mary Anne says she knows people think they may be stuck up because they only sit with each other. But she doesn’t really care.

Mary Anne has receives a letter, and she opens it at the club meeting. It’s a chain letter, and it tells her she has to send it to twenty people or she, her friends, and family have back luck. She’s like, “I don’t even know twenty people.” She could send it to baby-sitting clients, that would be enough. But all the older girls think it’s pretty silly. Mallory and Jessi freak the fuck out, though. Mary Anne ignores them, and throws the letter away.

The next day, Mary Anne has an unusually clumsy day. And she gets grumpy with her friends.

Dawn sits for Jackie, and of course he has a clumsy time. It’s what her does. But Dawn wonders if it has to do with bad luck.

On her way to the next meeting, Mary Anne receives a small package. It’s addressed to her and the members of the BSC, in cutout letters. Everyone’s scared to open it, but Mary Anne finally does. Inside is a necklace, with a glass ball charm, with a seed inside of it. There is also a note, with the cutout letters again: Halloween is coming. Beware of evil forces. Wear this bad-luck charm, Mary Anne – or else.

The girls all pretty much lose it, and start naming all the “bad luck” things that have happened to the recently. It’s ridiculous. But Mary Anne puts on the necklace anyway.

Mary Anne sits for Jamie, and there’s a whole bunch of accidents. Then there’s a bunch of accidents at school the next day. The girls are getting seriously freaked out. They decide to go t the library, and they check out a bunch of witchcraft books. I’m kind of surprised their library has so many of them.

Jessi sits for Jamie. He’s scared of Halloween, but she reads him a book about a cute, shy little ghost, and Jamie wants to dress up as him. It’s a boring chapter; I think just to beat us over the head with the fact that it’s Halloween.

Claudia and Mal have a bad luck sitting job at the Pikes’. Claudia says it’s her worst job ever. Really? There was a bird in the house, that they got rid of quickly, Byron burned dinner, and Vanessa lost a tooth. If that’s your worse job, consider yourself lucky. Oh well, she’ll break her leg soon enough. Then she’ll know a bad sitting job.

The girls have an emergency meeting, and go through their spell books. They don’t find anything they can use, though. They either have to wait two months, or use things like ox tails. Kristy starts getting all scary dictator during this meeting. Mary Anne says they’re more scared of her than the spooky thunderstorm happening.

The night before Halloween, their school holds the Halloween Hop. You can either go in costume, or not. Mary Anne and Logan go as cats. Of course they do. Mary Anne still wears the necklace. Cokie says something like, “Nice bad-luck charm.” MARY ANNE. You are dumb.

When she gets home, there’s an envelope taped to the doorknob for her. Inside is another cutout note, telling the baby-sitters to Old Man Hickory’s headstone the next night at midnight.

Mary Anne spends the next morning on the phone with the other girls, until Kristy decides to just call for another emergency meeting that afternoon. The girls decide they definitely have to go to the graveyard. But then they start discussing sneaking out of their houses, and they realize just how complicated that can be. So Kristy, of course, comes up with an idea. She’ll have a late-night slumber party. Charlie will pick them all up around 10:30, and take them to the graveyard, then they’ll go to Kristy’s afterwards.

Ok. My parents were not strict, but I think they would have had a big problem with me going out so late, with a seventeen-year-old driving. Especially when I was eleven. And where does Kristy’s mom think they are before they show up at the mansion? And Charlie. Poor Charlie. Don’t you have any better plans? He doesn’t get enough credit.


Mary Anne kind of tells her dad about the necklace, so he’ll know a little bit about why Mary Anne doesn’t come back. Seriously, the girls think they might die. Anyway, he says it’s not a bad luck charm; it’s a mustard seed, which is actually a symbol of faith. Oh. Mary Anne feels like a dumb-ass. And then she starts thinking about it, and she remembers what Cokie said, and realizes nobody told her what it was.

There you go, genius.

So she calls Kristy and tells her, and of course she comes up with a revenge plan.

The girls are picked up at ten-thirty, and they go straight to the cemetery, loaded down with supplies. The girls rig up ghosts from the trees on ropes, and then hide, with masks and flashlights.

Eventually they hear voices, and put their plan into action. They shine lights on the “ghosts” and make them move, then on their own masks. They surround Cokie, Grace, and their friends, and won’t let them get away. They thoroughly freak them out, and then finally take off their masks.

They call each other sneaks, and then a male voice calls out. It’s Logan. He had a phone call telling him to go to the cemetery if he wants to see something amazing. That sounds totally suspect, but okay.

Cokie fesses up to sending the necklace. Grace says they wanted Mary Anne and the girls to look like jerks in front of Logan. So that backfired nicely.

At the mansion, the girls can’t get to sleep for laughing hysterically. But there is one thing. Cokie had no idea what they were talking about when they brought up the chain letter. So they may still have the original bad luck. But they bring up a bunch of good things that have happened recently, including making Cokie and her friends look stupid. So they decide the bad luck is gone, just like that.

That was easy. Just decide you don’t have bad luck, and you don’t have it anymore. What do you know.

o   Mary Anne spends an entire page talking about how much she loves the mail.

o   We get a lesson on how to use the library, including using the card catalog! Holla! But Mal and Jessi say to act mature in the adult section; the librarians are suspicious of kids in there. Really? I never came across that problem.

o   Also, I think it’s weird they never mention Mrs. Kishi, considering she works at the library.

o   Logan refused to go in a sewing store without Mary Anne. Insert eye roll.

o   Mary Anne says she’s read a lot of Stephen King books. I find that doubtful. And then she says she’d watched Halloween and Halloween II. Isn’t there sex in those movies?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Somewhere Between Life and Death

By Lurlene McDaniel. Published 1990.

Erin and Amy Bennett are only fifteen months apart in age, but they’re quite different. Erin is older, dependable and a dancer, while Amy is always running late and wants to be an actress. Amy has a cute senior boyfriend, Travis, and Erin has a secret crush on him. She’s a little obsessed with him; it’s kind of weird.

The girls have a performance at a recital in which Erin is dancing while Amy gives a dramatic reading, and their friend Shara sings. Erin gets aggravated with Amy for being late to rehearsals, but she always ends up forgiving her.

Despite this, their performance is a success, and there’s a party for everyone afterwards. When they run out of soda, Erin offers to go get it, but Amy begs to let her do it. She’s only had her license a week, and she really wants a chance to drive. Erin lets her. Everyone watches the tape of the performance, and then Travis shows up to pick Amy up, but she’s still not back. They go out looking for her, but can’t find her. They return to the school, and then their mother’s friend shows up, and tells them there’s Amy’s been in an accident.

They rush to the hospital, and Erin finds her parents. Amy is in Neuro-ICU, because she has a traumatic brain injury, and is in a coma.

The family falls into a routine, with someone always with Amy in case she wakes up. Erin even misses school. Travis comes to see Amy once, but he can’t stand to see her that way, so doesn’t come again. Erin gets pretty pissed at him.

Erin meets a girl her age, Beth, in the waiting room. Beth is there because her mother’s kidneys are failing, and they’re waiting for an organ donation.

After a while, the Bennetts decide to try to get back into a regular routine. Erin goes back to school. On her first day, she overhears a girl talking about how she’s going to a dance with Travis. That douche.

Amy had an appearance at a children’s home to perform as a clown scheduled, so Erin decides to go in her place. The teacher who is in charge is overjoyed. Erin puts on the makeup and costume and feels pretty silly. She meets her guy clown counterpart, and they work up a routine. Erin ends up having fun, but she thinks it’s for the best she doesn’t have to see the guy again.

Beth gets good news, in a bittersweet sort of way. There’s a man who’s been declared brain dead at another hospital, and he’s a match for Beth’s mom. So they’re leaving right away. Erin is happy for her, and they say they’ll keep in touch.

But this is a Lurlene book, so there’s majorly bad news coming. One day when Erin arrives at the hospital, she’s told to go to a conference room, where her parents are. They inform her Amy has been declared brain dead, and they’re discussing whether to donate her organs. The entire family has to be in agreement, even Erin. Is that true? I have no idea.

Anyway, Erin is totally against it, and she gets royally pissed. She’s also in denial that Amy is really essentially gone. She thinks they should keep her on life support, because something someday may make her better. The doctor explains that once you’re brain dead, everything starts to fail, and they have a limited time to retrieve the organs. Erin really hates that phrase. Her parents decide to give her some time.

Her friend Shara comes to see her. Shara’s dad delivers babies, and she takes Erin down to the nursery to see the babies, and then to the NICU. They have a long talk about life and death, and about the role of medicine.

That night is the dance, and Erin makes the decision to go wait for Travis to get home. It’s creepy. She pretty much yells at him for dating someone else, and informs him that Amy is brain dead. It’s pretty harsh.

She goes back to the hospital, and talks to Amy. She tells her all about what happened with Travis. She finds in her bag a bunch of papers of Amy’s that her teacher had given her. She reads an essay Amy wrote about being sisters, and it’s very sweet. Then Erin looks into Amy’s eyes, and realizes she really is gone, and it’s time to let her go.

The family says goodbye the next day, and it’s pretty sad. They sign the papers to donate her organs.

They have a small funeral, and Shara sings “Amazing Grace”.  Erin finally feels at peace.

o   Oh my goodness, so much exposition. Just hit me over the head with it, Lurlene. She really is the worst about it.

o   Wow, 1990. Mrs. Bennett smokes a cigarette in the ICU waiting room. Crazy.