Wednesday, August 6, 2014

BSC Mystery #5: Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic

By Ann M. Martin, ghostwritten by Ellen Miles. Published August 1992.

Y’all, this book. I don’t even know. Is it really so much a mystery, or a mind-fuck?

Mary Anne wakes up from a really weird dream. She’s a very small version of herself, on a porch she doesn’t recognize, with two older people she also doesn’t recognize, holding a kitten, calling for her Mama. Mary Anne, that is, not the kitten. She doesn’t know what the dream means, but it bothers her all day.

The entirety Stoneybrook Elementary is working on a really kickass project. They’re having a Heritage Day, and every class in the school is doing something different. Some are doing skits, some are learning songs, one is even doing a historical Stoneybrook newspaper. Y’all, I would have been all OVER this shit. Hell, I still would.

Charlotte’s class is doing family trees, so when Mary Anne sits for her, they go through a big box of her family’s history, with photos and all sorts of things, including a diary of her great-grandmother’s. Fuckin’ A’, Charlotte! I’m like, genuinely excited for her. Mary Anne is, too, but it also makes her a little sad. She realizes she knows nothing about her own past and family like this.

But does she take the obvious path, and talk to her father about it? WELL, HELL NO! She is a member of the BSC, after all. She does remember her dad taking some boxes up to the attic when they moved in, and so decides to head up there and snoop around. And she finds what she’s looking for quite easily. She finds pictures of her parents wedding, which is cool. And then she finds an album of baby pictures of her, which she’s never seen before. And later in the album, she sees pictures of herself with the old people from the dream! Say what?!?! Time to move on to the box of correspondence.

So, yeah, it’s a whole bunch of letters from her maternal grandmother, Verna Baker, in Iowa, whom she has never heard of. And oh, yeah…Mary Anne totes lived with them for a year after her mother died. Mary Anne is so shocked by this news, that her father could just give her away, that she can’t continue reading anymore.

She does get back to them however, and learns that her father did at least want her back, even though the Bakers don’t want to return her to Richard. There seems to have been a bit of a fight, but of course, Mary Anne ended up back in the ‘Brook.

Mary Anne is so traumatized by all this news, that she is totally out of it in the rest of her life. And of course, she just doesn’t tell anybody. Because she’s ridiculous. Her friends all know something is up, but don’t press her. They probably think Tigger lost a whisker or something, and don’t want to deal with her waterworks.

She finally decides to tell Logan, and is waiting for him to call her back. The phone rings, so she picks it up, but so does her dad. So Mary Anne just totally listens in. I guess it’s a good thing, because the caller just happens to be Verna Baker. She tells Richard that her husband died the week before, and they were both upset at him not seeing Mary Anne before he died. So now she wants Mary Anne to come to Iowa. Richard says no, and Verna says she won’t take no for an answer. Damn.

Mary Anne, of course, bursts into tears. Dawn comes in, and so Mary Anne finally tells her, and they talk about it all night. Mary Anne wonders if her grandmother has any sort of legal claim to her. And she eventually ends up telling Kristy and Claud, and then Logan and the rest of the girls.

After having to take Charlotte to a parent-child picnic (what exactly does Mr. Johansson do that keeps him so busy?) and seeing all the kids with their moms, Mary Anne fucking finally works up the courage to talk to her father. ABOUT DAMN TIME! And what do you fucking know? It’s no big deal! Richard is surprised to hear her asking about her grandparents, and to find out all she’s learned in her snooping, but he’s not mad or upset or anything. Just tells her what she needs to hear.

When his wife died, Richard was so devastated, he knew he couldn’t take care of Mary Anne very well. So he did ask the Bakers to take her for a while. But once he was better, he wanted Mary Anne back. There was a custody battle, but it didn’t go badly. Everyone really knew it was right for her to go back. But everyone also agreed it would be too painful for the Bakers to see Mary Anne again; she’s so much like her mother. Which doesn’t make a bit a sense. Why did they want to keep her in the first place, then? Anyway, Verna isn’t trying to take Mary Anne back, she simply wants to see her.

A few days later, Richard gives Mary Anne a letter written by her mother, to be given to her on her sixteenth birthday. But Richard thinks it’s the right time now. It’s a very nice letter, and Mary Anne cries, of course. But now I’m going to get all judgey here on a dead woman. You were well aware you were dying, and all you left your baby daughter was a three-page letter to be opened sixteen years later? Nothing to help her through the time until then? Yes, I may be a terrible person, but it’s what I wonder. Whatever, Mary Anne’s happy, and thinks she’d like to plan a trip to Iowa.

So, the kid plot is all about Heritage Day, and various kids working on various projects, with various sitters helping them. Here’s one bit that bothers me. The Pike triplets learn about Old Hickman, and are utterly fascinated, even dragging Stacey to see his gravestone. They act like they’ve never heard this story before. What? I know Buddy was the main kid in #29, but the triplets were the ones who busted the damn trunk open, and Mallory was the one finding everything. Did her brothers really know NOTHING? And they even bring up Sophie a few times later on, so it’s not like they’re acting as though that storyline never happened. But it’s just said the painting was found in Stacey’s attic. No mention of Mal. Of course not. Ann hates Mal, after all.

o   Can we just talk about how ridiculous this whole thing is? Did Mary Anne seriously have NO curiosity about ANYTHING before now? Was she really so worried about upsetting her father a bit to learn about her family and history? Who doesn’t ask a few questions before they’re thirteen, even without having lost a parent or something? It’s all just SO fucking weird to me.

o   Mary Anne has never even been to her mother’s grave! WTF?!

o   So, I consider this (weird) storyline pretty big in Mary Anne’s whole storyline. And it comes up again. So I find it very strange that they chose to put this in a Mystery book, which I doubt was as widely read as the regular series. I have no numbers to support that, though.

o   Just…the coincidences for everything to line up just right for this book simply kill me. To go from Mary Anne’s dream, right to Heritage Day, right to her grandmother’s call. All together in a span of few weeks? Whatever.

o   Jessi puts Mal’s hair into a bunch of tiny braids, telling her it will look really cool after she sleeps with them in. Does that work very well with curly hair? It makes my super straight hair frizzy, so I don’t know about it working with Mal’s. We never hear how it turns out.

o   So, what did y’all think about this? If they fuck this up, I will lose my mind. You don’t mess with Meg Murry, bitches! I do love Frozen, though; I just don’t have kids, so I haven’t heard it 10,000 times.


  1. I think Mr. J. is an engineer. Not certain, though.

    1. Ok, that's where I was learning, too, though I wasn't sure why. So, I'm going to say we're right.

      I don't know why that makes him as busy as the good Dr. J., but I'm not an engineer, so what the hell do I know?

  2. This was my very 1st BSC book and it made me wonder as a kid, where did i come from!

    1. Aww, cool, I love knowing people's first books!

  3. The part about never being to her mother's grave was especially weird to me. Both my biological grandmothers are dead (I have nice step-grandmothers) and my parents visit their graves on Mother's Day and their birthdays. Seems odd that Richard would never have had Mary Anne put some flowers on the grave or something.

    1. I mean, it's just like...what? If Richard were always as devastated as he was in the beginning, MAYBE I could understand. But he really seemed ok discussing things at the end, so, yeah, just really strange.

    2. I kind of saw it as a lack of open communication between Mary Anne and Richard. I'm sure she learned a young age that talking about her mother made him sad, so she didn't bring her up. When Richard got to the point that he felt like he could talk about her, Mary Anne never brought it up. So, he may have felt that she didn't talk about it because she didn't want to. In book #4, it seems that their relationship is a little on the cold side - they love each other, but they just kind of live in the same house and do what needs to be done.

    3. Azalea, you're probably right. It just seems really weird.