Monday, July 7, 2014

BSC #50: Dawn's Big Date

By Ann M. Martin, ghostwritten by Suzanne Weyn. Published January 1992.

Lewis was TOTALLY my definition of a 90's hottie.
Also, the little girl laughing at them cracks me up.
Dawn and Mary Anne are planning an epic New Year’s Eve sleepover, but not agreeing on the food to make. So they come to the sensible conclusion to each do their own thing. Very good, girls. Then Mary Anne mentions that Lewis, Logan’s cousin, whom Dawn has been writing to, is coming for a visit soon. Dawn gets a little freaked out by this, and worries that he won’t like her. Then she insists she’s not insecure. You can be secure about some things and not about others, you know, Dawn. Then she goes on to brag about how the others are always telling her how great her hair and skin are, and then snarks that they might have that, too, if they didn’t eat so much junk food. Whatever, Dawn, we all know Claudia has great hair and skin.

At the sleepover, Dawn is feeling all left out and insecure again over not having a boy to talk about like the other girls. But at least that means she’s the only one that doesn’t get made fun of when Jeff and the Pike triplets spy on them from the secret passage. It’s pretty hilarious. She makes it her secret resolution to get a boyfriend.

Dawn goes to sit for some new clients, the Hills. The dad’s name is Harold. Harold Hill. Like the Music Man. That has to be on purpose, with the way Ann loves old movies, right? Anyway, there’s nine-year-old Sarah, and seven-year-old Norman. Norman is overweight. “He wasn’t stout. He wasn’t husky or stocky or pudgy. He was fat.” What is with the overweight kids recently? I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear!

Norman says he’s going to do homework in his room, but Sarah knows better. She barges in on him, and sure enough, he’s chowing down on snack cakes. Sarah says he’s not allowed to do that. She has permission from her mother to get rid of food she knows Norman has been hiding. Later, they watch a movie, and Norman brings out some Hershey’s kisses, and then sneaks off to make a sandwich and eat some Oreos. Sarah’s friend Elizabeth comes by, and makes fun of Norman, telling Dawn he’s called Enormous Hill at school. When the girls go out to play, Dawn talks with Norman. He says they’ve gone to doctors, there’s nothing causing his weight gain except overeating. But he just can’t stop. They look outside, and the girls have made a fat snowman with a small head, with Enormous Hill written in the snow.

Dawn, you’re doing a really shit job in keeping this poor kid from being bullied.

Mary Anne comes home with the news that Lewis will be arriving in a week. Dawn decides he’ll be her test case. If she can get him to really like her, she’ll know what to do with other boys. But she decides she needs a makeover. Mary Anne helps her to look just like a model in a magazine. They curl her hair, put on a lot of makeup, and Dawn cuts a shirt down to make it off-the-shoulder. Then they take a Polaroid picture to send to Lewis, so he can see the new and improved Dawn.

Claudia sits for the Hills. First only Sarah is there, because Norman is at an after-school program. Sarah likes to draw, so Claudia gives her an art lesson. But then she hears Norman coming home, being teased by other kids and having snowballs thrown at him. He goes right for the cookies when he gets inside, and Sarah gets onto him again. When she goes out to play, Claudia talks with Norman, and he says when he feels sad, eating makes him feel happy. Y’all, this is really depressing. Later, Claudia sees a letter he’s writing to his pen pal girlfriend, and it’s full of lies, saying how he took on a bunch of bullies making fun of an overweight kid.

Mary Anne actually took two pictures of Dawn, and Dawn kept one. She becomes pretty obsessed with it. She realizes it’s because she looks cool, because she wasn’t smiling, just like the model. She thinks her regular self is too happy. So she starts being sullen and answering back in class, and the actual cool kids love it. At home, she starts ripping up all her clothes up, and getting up early to do her hair and makeup. Mary Anne is supportive, but the other girls don’t like it. Claudia says it’s just not her, and Dawn thinks Claudia’s just jealous, because now she’s not the only one with a unique style. So Dawn’s pretty pissed off with them all, especially Claudia.

For some reason, Dawn and Mary Anne go all the way to New York with Logan’s family to pick up Lewis from the airport. But Kerry and Hunter aren’t there. It’s weird. Dawn went out and bought a whole new outfit for the occasion. Lewis is cuter than his picture, and Dawn can’t really talk to him. Yeah, really “cool”, Dawn. Lewis doesn’t seem too impressed. But after they get home, Logan calls to set up a double date the next night. Mary Anne directs Dawn to magazine articles on how to talk to people.

So the Hills just get more frustrating. When Stacey sits for them, they have an exercise tape for Norman, and his meal schedule tacked up. Stacey tries to get Norman to do the tape with her, but he goes to get some water. When Stacey goes into the kitchen, she finds Norman with a soda and potato chips. Norman tells her his parents don’t like him, he’s heard his dad saying, “Norman is so fat, I can’t believe he’s our son”. And they pretty much only talk to him about his weight.

Honestly, the Hills are really pissing me off. That day they were going to the health club. Why don’t they spend some time with Norman and exercise with him? And how about not stocking your house with a bunch of junk food if you know it’s a temptation for him? And how about getting him into some counseling, too?

 So the double date is pretty much a disaster. Dawn makes a fool of herself, trying to do all the “right” things she’s read about. And Mary Anne “helps”, but really just makes it worse. And they go to see Gone With the Wind (really, a couple of teenage boys chose that?) and Dawn ends up crying when Bonnie and Melanie die, and it ends up a mess on her face because went way overboard on the eyeliner. By the end of the night, Dawn’s decided Lewis isn’t interested, and she’s pissed at Mary Anne.

Well, Mary Anne’s pissed at Dawn, too, so they’re not speaking, and just being ridiculous. But the other girls make them talk, by each calling them up, and making them each get on a phone to discuss the Hill situation. Pretty sneaky, girls.

Mary Anne sits for Sarah and Norman, and Sarah draws mean pictures of Norman to put up on the fridge to keep him from eating. Mary Anne tells her to quit, but really, overall, discipline is none of the girls’ strongest points. Mary Anne tells Norman he should stand up to her, so he gets brave and tears the pictures up. Mary Anne tells him he’s brave enough to talk to his parents, too. Then they put on a fun jazzercise tape Jessi lent them, and eventually even Sarah joins in. The kids just make up silly dances. Mary Anne thinks that with everyone harping on his faults, no one could see his good points. She wonders if she did that with Dawn.

Dawn decides it’s time to fix things with Lewis. She calls him during lunch, and he agrees to meet at a coffee shop after school. At first, it’s just as awkward as it has been. Finally, Dawn apologizes, and tells him this isn’t the real her, she was just trying to be cool. She’s really like the girl in the first picture she sent. He says he thought the first girl was gorgeous. She asks if they can start over, and if he’ll meet her at her house in about an hour. She runs home, showers, puts on her old clothes, and winds up looking like the old Dawn. When Lewis arrives, he obviously likes this version. They have a fun afternoon of Dawn showing him the barn and telling stories, and Dawn even converts him to health food. When Mary Anne gets home, she doesn’t know what the fuck is going on.

That night, Dawn and Mary Anne make up, just like you knew they would. And they each take part of the blame. They decide to try another double date, and this one goes much better. They go bowling, and then to Dawn’s favorite health food restaurant, Cabbages and Kings. I always thought that was actually a cute name. Then they walk around downtown before they have to end the night. Mary Anne pulls Logan away, leaving Dawn and Lewis alone. So they kiss, and it is apparently amazing.

The next time Dawn sits at the Hills’, things have changed. There are no more diet lists all over the walls. They’ve actually stopped buying junk food, like I suggested. And Sarah even stood up to Elizabeth when she made fun of Norman. All this happened just because Norman talked to his parents. SEE, GIRLS??? Talking to your parents is a good thing!

Mary Anne actually calls Dawn while she’s still at the job. Kristy would so not approve. But Mary Anne just had to tell Dawn what Logan told her. Lewis sent him a letter just raving about Dawn, and he thinks Dawn is the most unique person he’s ever met.

I know we’re supposed to take away from this how being the real you is what’s important, and people will like you for who you are. But in the end, it’s still really just about getting a boy.

o   Arrgh, the continuity issues of this one drive me crazy. In the very last book, it was explicitly stated that Dawn and Jeff were leaving for California the day after Christmas, and Dawn would stay there until New Year’s Day. And yet they’re both in Connecticut for New Year’s Eve in this book. It’s one book after the other; I assume they’re meant to be the same year.

o   As a reminder of just how young these girls are, Jessi wasn’t even allowed to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve before this year.

o   Ahhh! Dawn says, “Boys aren’t supposed to like smart girls. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.” This drives me crazy. Even when it ends up being proven wrong, it still puts the thought out there and in to little girls’ minds.


  1. This book drove me crazy and I think I only read it once. I hated all of the fat-hate on poor Norman. Like you said, why are they buying junk food if it is a temptation for him? And why don't they just leave the poor kid alone. Elementary school is too young to diet and can contribute to health problems in adulthood. But my family did this to me and perhaps I am bitter.

    Also, the BEST boys like smart girls (or boys. I'm equal opportunity here). You know, the ones that care about personality, interests, discussions, and who you are as a person. They also tend to be pretty good in . . . other areas. But that's a little beyond the BSC.

    1. Ha! I will totally agree with your last point.

  2. I hate how they always gave the fat characters the most unfashionable, dumpy-sounding names: Elsie, Ethel, Norman. (Of course those types of names are all the rage now, but not 20-30 years ago.)

    1. I know, right? It's like they never stood a chance. And there's "Me and Fat Glenda" coming up sometime, too, that gives credence to that theory.

      (I wanted to say gives weight to the theory, but...I just couldn't be that punny)

  3. You ever notice it's okay for Claudia to slam-dunk twinkies and hide huge amounts of junk in her room, but not for a fat kid? The fat kid can apparently never have junk food again their life.

    Also most fat kids are just fat because they're fat. Not overeating.