Wednesday, February 26, 2014

BSC #16: Jessi's Secret Language

By Ann M. Martin. Published September 1988.

Seriously, has Hodges Soileau ever seen
an eleven-year-old?

You guys, I can’t even with Jessi and her dancing. There is no way an eleven-year-old would be getting lead parts in ballets. She should just be starting pointe. But of course, she’s in the “advanced” class, in which the oldest students are only fourteen.

But anyway, she has her first big audition since she’s moved to Connecticut. And she gets the lead role of Swanhilda in Coppelia. I can’t even begin to explain how ridiculous this is.

Of course, she has to deal with a couple of mean girls in her class. Hilary and Katie Beth don’t like Jessi, not because she’s black, but because they were the youngest in the class before she came along. And now they’re totes jealous of her part.

On the baby-sitting front, Jessi lands a special reoccurring job. It’s for the Braddocks, Haley and Matt, who’s deaf. Jessi first meets with Mrs. Braddock a couple of times to get a crash court in American Sign Language. She also gets to know the kids a little bit. She picks up a weird vibe from Haley.

The three of them run into Mary Anne sitting for Jenny. They all get introduced, and Jenny doesn’t quite grasp what the deal is with Matt. Then he lets out a laugh, which even Jessi admits sounds weird. It scares Jenny, and she says he’s weird. The girls think this makes Jenny a total brat. I think it’s more a four-year-old who doesn’t get what’s going on. Haley gets upset, and Jessi realizes Haley is trying to fit in, but Matt is making it hard.

Jessi introduces the Braddocks to the Pikes and Barretts. The kids get along great, and the Pikes and Buddy start picking up the sign language. They even start making up their own. The boys all bond over sports, and Haley and Vanessa become friends.

Jessi has an awkward encounter at dance. The mean girls are starting to be less mean, and then Jessi meets Katie Beth’s little sister, Adele. Adele is deaf, but her family doesn’t know sign language, and she’s usually off at a special school in Massachusetts. It’s pretty sad.

Jessi has a heart-to-heart with Haley. She says she resents Matt, and sometimes wishes he were never born. But she also sticks up for him, and is proud of him. It really sounds like a lot of sibling relationships, and Jessi compares it to her own.

During their conversation, Haley tells Jessi that Matt has never been to the theater or anything, and that makes Jessi sad, but it gives her an idea.

Jessi works with her ballet teacher, Mrs. Braddock, and Matt’s teacher to make opening night of Coppelia extra special. Matt’s entire class is invited. Haley narrates at the beginning of each act, while Mrs. Braddock signs what she says. The kids sem to love it.

Jessi does awesome, of course, and the whole BSC plus her parents, Becca, and even her grandparents from Oakley are there to see it. And she gets a special surprise. Keisha, her cousin and best friend from Oakley is there as well. It’s a bit awkward with Mal at first, but Mal says the perfect things, and it’s all good.

Adele is also there, and loved the special show. Katie Beth tells Jessi she has started taking sign language classes so she can talk to her sister. Adele and Matt get into a rapid-fire conversation, and Jessi realizes how much more she has to learn.

o   Jessi doesn’t come off very well at first. For our first proper introduction to her, she straight-up brags about how good she is at languages, ballet, and her long, long legs. In the first three pages.

o   Jessi is not taking enough dance classes. To even begin pointe, you really need at least three technique classes a week. She’s only taking two. If she were really in a good advanced class, she probably would be going every day.

o   Oh lord, I’d forgotten about Haley’s hair: cut very short, with a tail in the back. Jessi assures us this is very in. Whatever, Jessi.

o   I call bullshit on everyone in the cast getting ten free tickets. How the hell are they supposed to make money?

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