Nostalgic Bookshelf

Snarky recaps of nostalgic media, including Making Out, Baywatch, Blyton and Baby-Sitter's Club
7
Mar 2018

The Baby-Sitters Club 3: The Truth About Stacey by Ann M. Martin

Title: The Truth About Stacey

Summary: The truth about Stacey is that she has diabetes. Nobody knows… except her friends in the Baby-sitters Club.

But even they don’t know the real truth about Stacey. Stacey’s problem is her parents. They won’t admit she has the disease, and they drag her to practically every doctor in America!

Seeing so many doctors made Stacey lose one friend, and she won’t let it happen again. Especially now – when the Baby-sitters Club needs her more than ever.

Tagline: Stacey’s different … and it’s harder on her than anyone knows.

Initial Thoughts

Growing up, I was always annoyed by this title, because we learn Stacey’s big secret, which is that she has diabetes, at the end of book one. I think, now, that the real secret is how much she’s struggling to deal with her parents and their frantic desire to find a new way to help her and their terror that their only child will die. That is a much sadder story.

[Dove: I have no initial thoughts on this book. I’m still just getting into this fandom, and haven’t really bonded with any of the characters, except for Janine, thanks to her queries over apostrophes.]

[Wing: Janine is great, and I love that you’ve bonded with her already.]

Recap

We open with Kristy Thomas making a motion that the BSC figures out what to do when Mrs Newton goes to the hospital to have her new baby, because of course the Newtons are going to call a bunch of twelve-year-old girls first, rather than, say, their family, or if they don’t have family nearby, then adults.

Requisite summary section, which gets longer and longer as the series continues, but not in a way that is actually necessary: Kristy, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill, and Mary Anne Spier make up the BSC, which meets three times a week in Claudia’s from 530 to 6 to take calls from their clients.

Stacey is struggling with the transition to a small town in Connecticut after living in New York City. There’s only one middle school in Stoneybrook; there were about a billion in NYC. A billion of everything, really, and all sorts of exciting things to do. Stoneybrook has basically nothing, and even though the McGills moved there in August, Stacey didn’t make any friends until she met Claudia at school in September. She still feels like an outsider because everyone else in town seems like they’ve known each other since they were babies. (Sometimes in very literal ways; Claudia, Kristy, and Mary Anne grew up basically next door to each other and have been playing together since they were babies.) This is all super realistic and sad. It’s an interesting look at Stacey from the inside, too; so far, we’ve only seen how other people react to her, how beautiful and sophisticated and smart she is, and here we’re seeing that she’s lonely and struggling and as perfect as she looks on the outside, there’s a ton of turmoil inside.

I love this.

(Also the requisite “friends even though they’re all different!”: Kristy is a tomboy, Kristy is shy, Claudia is artistic.)

We also get a fun couple lines about friendship after that: But they’re my friends, and I belong with them. Which is more than I can say about certain traitors I left behind in New York.

Now, back in book one, we learned that people reacted badly to Stacey’s diagnosis, and this is super intriguing, even knowing what actually happened. It’s a nice little piece of interest that keeps people reading.

Anyway, Kristy suggests that one of them stay free each afternoon so that Mrs Newton is guaranteed a baby-sitter, a special server for her, because the Newtons are such great customers. Stacey, Claudia, and I all think this is a waste, because babies can be super late, and also, who says Mrs Newton is going to give birth in the afternoon?

This leads to the girls talking about when they were born:

Stacey: 2:22 a.m.
Claudia: 4:36 a.m.
Kristy: 4:00 a.m.
Mary Anne: … awkward.

Mary Anne’s mother died when she was little, and she’s not super close to her strict dad. Mimi to the rescue, though! (Mimi is Claudia’s wonderful grandmother. She came from Japan when she was 32, which sounds like it would be a difficult time to transition to a new country. Mimi is a sweet rock star.) Mimi has to think for a moment, but then remembers that the Spiers left for the hospital around dinnertime, and Mary Anne was born around 11 p.m. This pleases Mary Anne to no end, because she’s a nighttime baby, too. UGH MY HEART. Mr Spier is doing her such a disservice, refusing to talk about her mother and therefore about her childhood. I know he’s struggling now and even worse back then (without going into spoilers, we learn more about this later in the series), but that poor girl.

Janine interrupts this warm moment by bursting into Claudia’s room shouting for Claudia even though she never raises her voice. She’s come with terrible news: competition. [Dove: How much do I love Janine? Well, she and Claudia aren’t BFFs, but still she comes bursting in to tell them something that’s important to them. ILU Janine.]

The flyer: Need a reliable baby-sitter? Need one fast? Then call THE BABY-SITTERS AGENCY. Liz Lewis OR Michelle Patterson. And reach a whole network of responsible baby-sitters! Ages: 13 and up. Available: after school, weekends (until midnight), weeknights (until 11). Low rates! Years of experience! CALL NOW!

Kristy changes the meeting to an emergency meeting, and Janine and Mimi go to make dinner so they have privacy to do their work. All the girls are absolutely shocked and upset, and on the one hand, I know how much the BSC means to them, and this reaction is emotional and wonderful.

ON THE OTHER HAND, Kristy is supposed to be so smart about business, she should know that competition happens. How did she not see this coming?

They all feel like they’re doomed, because the other baby-sitters are older than they are and can stay out later than they can. These are super valid concerns. Claudia’s freaked out enough that she passes around a roll of Life Savers from her hidden junk food stash and actually offers Stacey a piece because she’s not thinking about what she’s doing.

Only Claudia knows who Liz and Michelle are; they’re eighth graders at SMS, and she doesn’t understand how they can be baby-sitting, because they’re terrible and untrustworthy. “They have smart mouths, they sass the teachers, they hate school, they hang around at the mall. You know, that kind of kid.”

Mary Anne points out that none of those things mean they’re not good baby-sitters, but Claudia is having none of that. Mary Anne makes a great point, though. You can be grumpy and angry at school and yet still be great with kids or whatever.

Then Mary Anne suggests that they call the agency and pretend they need a sitter, so they can see how the process works. Stacey’s impressed, and tells us that Mary Anne may be shy, but she has some really daring ideas. This is such a nice detail, and it’s something that gets lost in later books, I think. (Not that Mary Anne doesn’t have any daring ideas, necessarily, but that the other characters don’t acknowledge them.)

Kristy calls Liz and pretends to be Candy Kane. (YES CANDY. KANE. OH MY GOD, KRISTY, YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE IDEA GIRL, DO BETTER. [Dove: That is the stripper name of one of Jessica Wakefield’s rivals.]) [Wing: CROSSOVER.] She’s calling for a baby-sitter for her little brother Harry Kane (oh my god) because she was just asked out on a date. Liz explains some things to Kristy, and wants to know who “Candy Kane” is dating. Kristy answers “Winston Churchill,” taking a chance that Liz wouldn’t know who he is. I’m not sure I believe that an eighth-grade student in Stoneybrook wouldn’t have heard at least enough about him to remember the name, but whatever, rolling with it, I guess. [Dove: You say that… but I once told a work friend, who was 17 at the time, that my hometown was where Winston Churchill lived, and she just gave me a baffled stare. And she’s English. And never heard of Winston Churchill.] [Wing: Fair enough, then.]

The rest of the girls are struggling not to laugh and give things away; in fact, Stacey has to leave the room she’s laughing so hard.

Everything’s worth it, though, because now they know how the agency works: a client calls Liz or Michelle with a job. Liz and Michelle call around and find an available sitter. Maybe they baby-sit sometimes, too, but mostly they just connect clients and sitters and take a part of the money the sitters earn.

WHICH IS FUCKING AMAZING.

Look, the BSC is a great idea (with some weird planning. Do you know what is not super useful to parents? Having to call between 530 and 6 p.m. on weekdays, which is pretty much dinner time for a lot of families, or at least right after the parents get home from work and are dealing with that transition), but the agency? SMART. AS. HELL.

This explains how they can have so many older sitters, and Kristy is grumpy that she didn’t think of it herself. And that is the crux of this book and why the B plot doesn’t really work for me: what this boils down to is that someone has improved upon the BSC idea (whether or not Liz and Michelle based it on the BSC isn’t clear, but I guess we can assume so, considering how small Stoneybrook is at this point in the series), and Kristy is mad she didn’t do it herself.

Yes, they’re worried about losing jobs, and yes, Stacey in particular is worried about losing this great way of meeting people in Stoneybrook (…though not her peers, just adults and little kids, so I wouldn’t think it all that useful for her loneliness), but in the end, this is just competition. This is how business works in a capitalist society.

A few minutes later, Liz calls back to give her the choice of three available baby-sitters, two were thirteen, one was fifteen, two were girls, one was a boy. These options are devastating for the BSC, because they don’t offer age ranges or boys or late nights. Again, all valid worries.

Mary Anne has to leave then, before they figure anything out, because she’s supposed to be home at 6 p.m. on the dot, which seems unlikely, considering the meeting runs until 6 p.m. Even though she’s just across the street, she still has to, you know, leave the house and cross the street and enter the house. I would say 6:01 at the earliest.

(Also, her dad is a lawyer. I’m not sure I buy him being home at 6 on the dot himself.) [Dove: In law, you round up to the nearest six minutes, so Mary Anne is good until 6:06pm?] [Wing: … why do we have so many conversations about billable hours?!]

Stacey tries to reassure Kristy as they leave, but neither of them feel better. Stacey’s taking this particularly hard because the BSC isn’t just a project or a business, it’s her friends, it’s the only good thing that happened to her in the horrible year she’s had, and she will do anything to save it.

UGH STACEY MY HEART.

After forcing down dinner (because she has to eat at specific times and specific amounts due to the diabetes), she thinks about how, a year ago, she didn’t know she was sick. She was hungry and thirsty all the time, but her parents wrote it off as a growth spurt (and she had grown an inch and a half). When she starts losing weight and feeling weak all the time, they started to get worried. Then she wet the bed twice (and the second time, she was sharing a bed with her former best friend Laine Cummings, which is terribly humiliating and makes me feel even more for Stacey), and her mom dragged her to a psychiatrist. He actually realised what was going on, based on the bed wetting, the losing weight, and watching her drink three sodas during their first appointment.

Two weeks later, she had an official diagnosis and was learning how to give herself insulin and monitor her blood sugar level.

There’s a brief, simplistic breakdown of what diabetes actually is, and at the time, this was such a huge thing. Around the time I started reading these books, my best friend was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and these books helped us deal (her with, you know, having the disease, and me with my worries about my friend). Representation is important, but also, there wasn’t a lot of information easily available to us about diabetes, and this was a great basic introduction at the time.

(My brother-in-law, Canary’s husband, grew up with type 1 diabetes around the same time as these books were being published. I’m going to try to arrange a short Q&A with him about his experiences and how the details of Stacey’s life align with how he had to handle it in the 80s.)

(One of my younger brothers and one of my nieces were also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the recent past, even though it is fairly unusual for an adult to receive a type 1 diagnosis; it’s usually caught when you’re young, like with my niece. Things have really changed since my friend was diagnosed in the early 90s.)

Stacey’s had a lot of responsibility thrust on her, because she has to watch what she eats and make sure she gets the right amount of insulin, because her parents can’t always do it for her, so she had to learn fast and focus a lot. And it is hard.

Sometimes, she hates having to check her blood sugar or inject her insulin in front of her friends because she doesn’t want them thinking she’s sick. And this is one of the most relatable things, even as an adult, in a series that has a (maybe surprising) amount of relatability. I still, to this day, have a hard time talking about the bipolar, because it is a constant illness, and I don’t want people to see me as sick. But I am, and I struggle, and I think it is important to be open about it, so I talk about it anyway. It still sucks, sometimes, and I hate people feeling sorry for me (or worrying about me, but that is more because I don’t like making my people worry).

(Not too long ago, one of my friends was filling out some paperwork, and in it, the disability section specifically mentioned bipolar. She asked me after if I thought of myself as disabled. This led to a good, long conversation about it [which is not unusual for us; she’s one of the big reasons I survived law school when I was newly diagnosed and struggling with medication and treatment (and lack of access to both)], and it made me think hard about the question. I don’t think of myself as disabled, but most of the people I know who have bipolar are on disability because they absolutely can’t work, and I can easily see a future where I can’t, either. It is getting worse as I get older, and even when everything is perfectly balanced and going well, that can (and does) change in a heartbeat. I’m actually dealing with that right now. I was on a long manic streak for me, for several months, but this past week or so (end of February 2017 as I’m writing this), I started to crash into the depression side of it. Everything is a struggle. I’ve been cancelling art classes because not only can I not handle leaving the house except when I absolutely have to for work, I feel so raw right now that I can’t handle the slightest error without starting to lose it, which makes pottery and my new glass art classes not really doable. I’ve been cancelling social activities. I’m not responding to texts or emails. I’m struggling to write, and my daily numbers have dipped into double digits, when a couple months ago, I wrote nearly 90k in three weeks.

This is a really long aside to say: chronic illness is a complicated bag of horribleness.)

Back to Stacey. Until her diagnosis, she had it easy. She’s an only child, lived in a large apartment in a safe building with a doorman on the Upper West Side (I know real estate prices weren’t quite as bad in NYC back then as they are now, but damn, her dad was making bank), she went to a private school, her parents were pretty cool and lenient for parents.

Then her mom found out she couldn’t get pregnant again right before Stacey’s diagnosis, and things exploded. No more biological kids, their beloved daughter has a serious illness and is struggling to get it under control, PANIC TIME. And while I think her parents do her a huge disservice in how they deal with her diagnosis in this book and previously in NYC, their worry and frantic reactions are completely understandable.

(There is a real shit line in here: Suddenly, they were faced with the possibility of no children — no children of their own, anyway.

Now, on the one hand, at least this is subtly nodding to adoption as an option. On the other hand, FUCK OFF WITH THAT ADOPTED/FOSTERED CHILDREN AREN’T THEIR OWN CHILDREN.) [Dove: I read that and flinched and I knew Wing would mention it. It’s such a casually spiteful line.]

Stacey’s parents became overprotective of her at all times and started dragging her to doctors to find either a miracle cure or a better treatment, which made everything worse for her, not just because of her health, but also because she’s dragged out of school all the time to try these new doctors.

Plus she’s losing friends fast, in part because of the whole bed wetting thing with Laine and in part because no one knows what’s going on. Her parents aren’t telling their friends, and so Stacey feels like she has to keep it a secret, too. (God, her parents handled this in such a shit way.) Laine seemed scared of her, and so she avoided her. And their other friends did the same, because Laine was their leader. She was Stacey’s leader. And they were her followers.

(It’s just struck me that this bit is picked up much later in the series in ways that both expand upon it and contradict it. I hope I can remember to come back to this when we get there.)

Stacey was relieved to leave NYC for Connecticut. The story is that her dad wanted to transfer to a different branch of his company, but she knows they’re moving at least in part because of her, to get her away from the dirt and the noise and the bad times and bad memories. She thinks they’re overreacting, but at this point, she doesn’t care, because she’s so desperate for an escape.

Not to worry, though, we don’t linger in this sadness forever. Eventually, Stacey’s thoughts turn to boys. She thinks all boys are interesting, but she likes two in particular: Sam Thomas (Kristy’s big brother, 14, freshman at Stoneybrook High School), whom she knows liked her when they first met and had that fun game afternoon while she was baby-sitting, but nothing has happened since; she’s not too worried about him, though, because she has a “sort-of boyfriend” (adorable) her own age [Dove: This must be a thing in this particular age group, because Elizabeth and Jessica each have a “sort-of boyfriend”.], Pete Black. I definitely forgot that Stacey was the first to date Pete Black. After the Halloween Hop a few weeks ago (continuity!), they always sit together and sometimes they talk on the phone. God, you kids are adorable.

(Oh, wow, this is also early enough in the series that the girls don’t always sit together and refuse to spend time with other friends; Stacey and Claudia always eat lunch with Dori, Emily, Rick, Howie, and Pete.)

These fun thoughts are interrupted by her mother coming in to check on her because she didn’t eat much at dinner; her mom (who we eventually learn is named Maureen, though I’m not sure when we learn that) is panicked that she snacked at Claudia’s, because god forbid that she trust Stacey. (I say that, because right now that’s Stacey’s perspective, but, vague spoilers, that trust will backfire eventually.)

We get a quick rundown of Stacey’s doctors: the specialist is Dr Werner in NYC, but she also has Dr Frank because they needed a doctor in Stoneybrook, and Dr Werner recommended him. Stacey prefers Dr Werner, even though she and Dr Frank are both nice.

Oh, and then Maureen breaks the news that they’ve scheduled a series of tests with a new doctor in NYC at the beginning of December, someone Uncle Eric heard about on tv and who is allegedly working miracles with diabetes. Maureen did some research into him, and found two articles about him in medical journals and a long interview in Profiles magazine, which certainly sounds like a medically sound publication. Stacey immediately wants to know if Maureen has even mentioned it to Dr Werner or Dr Frank, and she has not. Of course she hasn’t. Searching for that miracle cure, still.

Stacey’s upset because she’ll miss a ton of school and be dragged back to NYC even though she’s finally managed to start over in a new place, and it will be a bunch of pain for nothing, because it is always nothing.

After some more shouting with both parents, they leave her alone to get used to the idea. I get that they’re scared for her, but god, this is really harming Stacey far more than it is helping.

When she gets a phone call, she hopes it is Pete or Sam, but it is Kristy, calling a special planning session the next morning at Claudia’s house.

Kristy is already there when Stacey arrives, and instead of sprawling on the floor like usual, she’s sitting very tall (well, for Kristy, who is one of the shortest girls in her grade) in the straight-backed chair at Claudia’s desk, and she’s wearing a visor and holding a clipboard and pencil. (Make note of this! I think this is the first time the visor comes into play during meetings, but it will last for a long, long time. As will her sitting all serious like that.)

Mary Anne and Claudia are entertained by how serious and intense Kristy is being, but Stacey is not amused. She’s just as serious as Kristy, and still wants to do whatever it takes to save the club.

Kristy’s list of ideas: (1) housework at no extra charge [Claudia grumbles about hating housework, but she also doesn’t want to start losing jobs to Liz and Michelle]; (2) special deals for their best customers; (3) they will bring a kid-kit with them whenever they baby-sit, which is a box of stuff for the kid to play with, because it’s always exciting to get to play with things that aren’t yours, like when you hang out at your friends’ houses, so they will fill this little box with games, toys, and books they own, plus paper and crayons that they will pay for out of the club dues; (4) lower rates, just enough to undercut the Baby-sitters Agency [Stacey points out that they don’t know how much those sitters earn, but Kristy is determined to find out]; and (5) bring in older baby-sitters just like the agency, maybe Sam and Charlie and Janine.

Claudia doesn’t even let her finish that thought, but for once it doesn’t seem like it’s because she and Janine have such a complicated relationship, but because she doesn’t want to see the club change like that. The kid-kit is a good idea, but the lower rates and the housework and giving away their jobs are not, and she doesn’t want to be a part of it if that’s what the club is becoming. Neither does Mary Anne.

Power to you, girls. I like that they’re standing up for what they want, and pointing out that Kristy is reacting in ways that change the very foundation of what they are as a company. If they bend to all trends and spend their time reacting to competition instead of acting to make themselves better, that’s a bad sign for the longevity of the business, and not a great look for them as people.

Stacey freaks out because she can’t handle the idea of the club falling apart. And again, I don’t blame her, not after everything she’s gone through with her old friends in NYC and how much she is struggling to fit in here. [Dove: This is adorable. I really liked Stacey’s attachment to the group, the business, and – oddly – Kristy. To my mind, they haven’t gelled very well so far.] [Wing: You’re not wrong. That’s one of my favourite things about this book, that people who haven’t really gelled start caring deeply and working together.]

Claudia and Mary Anne agree that the BSC needs to succeed, but not the way Kristy said, not all those things all together, because that’s degrading. Kristy gets angry over this, both because she’s frantic to save the club and because she is absolute shit at taking criticism. Claudia thinks they should implement the kid-kits and the special deals, and save the other things, especially outsourcing their jobs, as last resorts. Personally, I’d take the free housework and low prices off the table completely.

They spend the rest of their time making kid-kits and trying to be the best they can be. Oh, girls, I hurt for you and your fears right now.

Next up is a beautiful, warm day that feels more like May than the middle of November, and Stacey has a job sitting for Charlotte Johanssen, a seven-year-old girl who is one of Stacey’s favourite charges. Her mother is a doctor, her father an engineer, and Charlotte is a super smart only child who is shy and doesn’t have many friends. Stacey sympathises with her loneliness.

Charlotte is excited to explore Stacey’s new kid-kit, which is decorated with blue flowered fabric and has white rickrack around the borders and green felt letters. She has Chutes and Ladders, Spill and Spell, The Cricket in Times Square, crayons and chalk and paper, a jigsaw puzzle, jacks, and Colorforms in her box, and I’ve been picturing something much smaller than a box that lets her carry around board games. Huh.

Instead of playing with things in the kid-kit, though, they decide to walk downtown, do some window shopping, and go by the playground, though Charlotte makes her promise she’ll bring the kid-kit back. Their walk is sweet, with Charlotte collecting acorns so that if she ever got a pet squirrel she could feed them to it; she wants to talk to a pet squirrel, even though she already has a schnauzer dog, Carrot, to talk to, because it would be nice to have more than one person to talk to.

CHARLOTTE. You are breaking my heart, kid.

They talk about how the kids in her class don’t like her, and Charlotte, super uncomfortable and sad, sucks her thumb for awhile as they walk, which seems like far too young a thing for a kid her age to do, but I have no idea. Parents? Thoughts? [Dove: I sucked my thumb into secondary school – only when I was trying to fall asleep, not in public. My mother and my dentist got at me for years to stop. I even managed to continue with a brace in, which generally stops most people. Then one day I stopped. No reason, I just did. I just woke up one day and realised that I used to suck my thumb, but couldn’t remember the last time I did so.]

Once they get downtown, they head straight to Polly’s Fine Candy, which always has fun displays in the windows, and this time of year has holiday decorations that are spectacular. The only bad thing about it is Polly, who runs the store with her younger sister, and they both hate kids.

The windows do sound amazing: one is decorated for Thanksgiving, with a giant chocolate turkey, smaller turkeys, and a bed of candy corn and gumdrops, and the second is, of course, Christmas, with a tree and Santa and presents. This makes Charlotte hope that Christmas is soon, but they still have about 5 weeks, which is a long time for a kid her age.

The outside of the store smells like chocolate, but the inside smells of that and more, “ginger and cinnamon and licorice and marzipan and cream and raspberry filling and roasted nuts and raisins and cherries and spun sugar.” Hungry there, Stacey? (It does sound delicious.)

Inside, there is a display of elaborate gingerbread houses, and I really should have saved this recap until the holidays at the end of the year, because oh, damn, how much do I want to do some holiday baking and decorate a gingerbread house and maybe even bake one this year (Ostrich took a bunch of home ec classes back in high school, and would be good at it). Alas, we’re not 5 weeks from Christmas, which would not be nearly enough time for me to finish all my holiday prep, but it is far too early to start doing anything. (HALLOWEEN FIRST YES.)

Charlotte begs for one piece of candy for each of them, and Stacey is so, so tempted by bite-size white chocolate. Oh, Stace. I feel you on that craving. Almost, she buys them some, but then the cuckoo clock chimes 4:30, and she puts away her money, because it is too close to dinner, and also, Dr Johanssen doesn’t like Charlotte eating sweets anyway.

They stop by the playground on the way home, but as they get there, Charlotte immediately wants to leave, because there’s a group of kids on the monkey bars. They start teasing her about being a teacher’s pet the second they notice her, and Charlotte takes off running for home.

Finally, she opens up to Stacey a little, and they talk about how Stacey was teased back in NYC, but in the end, neither of them really want to talk about the details of their teasing.

They’re almost home when they run into a girl maybe a 14 or 15 who is carrying a giant bunch of helium balloons. It’s Liz Lewis advertising for the Baby-sitters Agency. She thinks Charlotte is Stacey’s little sister, and though Charlotte is delighted by the balloon, Stacey is cold through and through and knows she’ll be calling Kristy a lot that evening.

EXCEPT. It is Monday. And Dr Johanssen will be home no later than 530. WHICH MEANS YOU’LL BE AT A BSC MEETING, STACEY.

Skip ahead to Sunday, November 23, and Kristy has written in the club notebook (where they are supposed to write up their jobs so that they can share knowledge and experiences), because in the week since the flyers first went out, they’ve had 9 jobs instead of the usual 14 or 15 jobs.

Turns out, Kristy also ran into Liz and her balloons, but Kristy took it one step farther (shocking) and actually told Liz she was the president of the BSC and the agency’s biggest rival. She’s also shaken up because they never thought about balloons, which is super clever.

(Still no acknowledgment that Stacey’s job took place on a Monday, and therefore they should have talked about all of this at the BSC meeting, and then it skips to Sunday, and the timing is all really weird. Also, this chapter is written as if the job and the balloon situations took place on that Sunday, because then it talks about them discussing the balloons the evening it happened and then skips to Monday. Again. This is annoying me to no end, though I know that’s mostly because I’m recapping it. As a reader, at this point in having reread it so often, I just let it go. Most of the time.)

Monday after school brings something wonderful that takes their mind off if it — for a brief while, at least. They all walk home together, but then Claudia heads off to work on a painting for her art class, and Mary Anne goes home to bake cranberry bread for Thanksgiving (she and her dad are going to have dinner with Kristy’s family, including Watson and his little kids, who will soon be her stepfamily), so Kristy and Stacey end up hanging out together. We don’t see a ton of this as the series continues, but I love this stage, where the girls really can be friends with each other without just being slotted into Kristy and Mary Anne are best friends and Stacey and Claudia are best friends and that’s that. Part of the reason Stacey goes, of course, is to have a chance at even catching just a glimpse of Sam, but it’s still adorable friendships, new and struggling and a little awkward, and still great.

They find Jamie Newton at Kristy’s house, though, because Mrs Newton is having the baby! Mrs Newton and Elizabeth made plans that if the baby came during the day or late at night, Elizabeth would take care of Jamie, which makes perfect sense. Poor kids, though. I know they really wanted to take care of him and help the Newtons.

Jamie’s not super excited about being a big brother, so Stacey suggests they throw him a Big Brother Party, which is a fantastic idea, and also a little weird seeing it from her, because she’s (a) an only child and (b) telling this to Kristy, who is the Great Idea machine. (I really do love these early books, before some of the rigid rules fall into place). [Dove: This was hella adorable.]

Guests: Claudia, Mary Anne, Charlotte, and Mallory Pike with two of her younger series, Margo and Claire. Is this the first introduction of Mallory?! I didn’t realise it happened so early. (Of note at this point: There are eight Pike kids, Mallory, the oldest, is ten right now, and the youngest is Claire, who is four.)

Activities: Musical rug (easier than musical chairs), egg and spoon races, a contest to see who can make the funniest paper mask, and reading time with Mary Anne, because she does all sorts of funny voices when she reads The Little Engine That Could.

(Random Wing facts: I love that book, and still sometimes quote “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” at people. Also, at one point we lived near train tracks when I was very small, and I liked the sound of the train so much that sometimes, after we moved, when I couldn’t sleep, my mom would come in and talk me to sleep by talking about train noises. I can still, so many years later, hear the exact way she said “clickety-clack.”

Someday, I’ll tell a story about her reading a specific book series to me, but that will wait until we recap that series.)

Charlotte is a little shy around everyone else, but she does enter the mask contest and seems to have some fun. Right after they’re done with some of the games, Mr Newton calls, and everyone runs into the kitchen for the phone call. He talks to Kristy and Jamie, and of course all the baby-sitters (and some of the kids) are obsessed with finding out the sex of the baby, because sex obviously = gender and what genitals they do or don’t have is exactly what you base your treatment of babies on, good lord.

Jamie is disappointed to have a sister instead of the little brother he wanted, and Stacey and Jamie end up talking about it when he disappears from the party to cry. He’s sad about the changes in his family, but also because it means Kristy, his favourite baby-sitter, can’t baby-sit for him anymore, because he heard Mrs Newton calling to get an older sitter for the new baby. Oh, kid. That’s heartbreaking.

(Adorably, Louie, the Thomas family dog, cuddles against them, trying to cheer them up, because dogs are the best.)

Stacey tries to keep herself calm, because Jamie is three and he overheard part of a phone conversation and even if he heard correctly, that doesn’t mean Mrs Newton will never call the BSC again — but Stacey’s still feeling horrible about this.

She quickly turns from fear to anger, though, and flat out tells Kristy that now, it is war.

Kristy and Stacey are ready to race forward with every single plan from before, but Claudia and Mary Anne still refuse, and while they’re trying to decide what to do (“wasting time,” Stacey calls it), the Agency gets another step ahead the very next day (Tuesday): Liz and Michelle are handing out flyers and balloons to everyone, because they’re trying to recruit new baby-sitters. Their flyers talk about earning “fast money the easy way,” which, of course, infuriates the girls. (Kristy calls Liz crazy for it, which is a shit response, Thomas.)

We get confirmation of how the Agency works (pretty much exactly as the girls speculated earlier, that Liz and Michelle get a cut of every job they find for someone), and how this is going to appeal to all sorts of older baby-sitters, from eighth graders all the way through high school, and of course, a senior could stay out until 2 a.m. or even baby-sit all night or all weekend. Which is true, and something I’ve done, though at a much younger age than senior year.

They do point out one of the flaws, which is that Liz and Michelle really don’t know anything about their baby-sitters, who could be really irresponsible. What do Liz and Michelle care, though, Kristy says, as long as they get their cut.

Is this foreshadowing? I think it could be foreshadowing, when you combine this worry about irresponsible baby-sitters with the Newton thing.

When they see an actual table for people to sign up to join the agency, they’ve had enough and rush off to the bathroom to talk. Even Claudia and Mary Anne are willing to do anything now, and Kristy has a new idea, but there’s no time to talk about it before the bell rings, so she calls a triple-emergency club meeting after school, and she doesn’t care what any of them are doing.

Gee, I guess it’s a good thing they don’t have any jobs lined up, or this would be a shit thing to do. (Oh wait, no, it’s still a shit way to handle it.) (Well, Kristy is watching David Michael, but they can all come to her house for the meeting. God forbid anyone else have something to do.) Kristy won’t have another meeting at school because she’s afraid of spies, considering how active the Agency is there.

Kristy’s new idea, and the one to implement first, is to recruit older members for the BSC, which will allow them to have a wider range of ages without copying the Agency by working in the same way.

So it’s decided: they’re out to find some eighth graders.

… considering you literally just worried about eighth-grade spies, Kristy, I have some concerns about your logic here.

But before they can do that, Thanksgiving break hits! It’s not a great time for Stacey, who is frustrated with why they’re adding new members, though not opposed to having new members which could lead to new friends for her. She spends the first half the four-day weekend mad at the Agency and the second half mad at her parents.

Originally, they promised her they’d go back to NYC for the weekend, but the weekend before Thanksgiving (which is always on a Thursday), they decided to stay in Stoneybrook, tempting her with a meal she can eat and a fire in the fireplace and a nice, cozy day in their new home. Stacey likes this idea, which doesn’t surprise me. I was more startled by how this originally sets it up that she’s mad they aren’t going to NYC, which doesn’t ring true, considering how angry and hurt she is toward her old friends and how frustrated over the doctors.

And then they go Black Friday shopping at the Washington Mall, which is the biggest mall around, with 5 levels, 4 movie theaters, and a fucking petting zoo. Goddamn, that is a lot for a mall (unless it is, oh, the Mall of America). Stacey goes off on her own for awhile, and buys two Christmas gifts (striped leg warmers for Claudia and a book about New York for Mary Anne), as well as a dinosaur pin for herself. (I love you, Stacey.)

After meeting back up with her parents for lunch and a movie, they go up to a little French cafe on the top floor. (This mall just gets fancier and fancier. The malls around here generally are not like that, though I’ve been to a fancy one in Chicago.)

Of course, this is to break the news to her that they’ve scheduled those tests with the new doctor Maureen mentioned a few weeks ago. (Stacey first guesses that they’re moving again and that they’re having another baby, so the doctor thing would be even more of a letdown, to be honest.) They’re going for five days near Christmas, and though Stacey will only miss three days of school, they’ll be gone five days total. They tempt her with some things, visiting her cousins and going Christmas shopping and looking at the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center and tickets to Paris Magic, a musical she’s dying to see — and Stacey is tempted, because she does love Christmas in New York, but she’s still not cool with this new doctor, especially when she learns they still haven’t talked to Dr Werner about this new guy, Dr Barnes. When she says she’d like to check with Dr Werner first, her dad reminds her that she’s not in charge, he and Maureen make the decisions.

Decisions, she rightfully points out, about her and her body. Preach it, Stacey!

Dr Barnes turns out to be a holistic doctor, which Stacey first thinks is a faith healer, but really is about dealing with the whole body, with the person as a whole, mental, emotional, environmental, and nutritional aspects, etc.

Stacey does not ask where they’re staying. Spoilers: she really, really should have done.

On Saturday, Stacey baby-sits for Charlotte again, her first job in over a week, and she knows that the Johanssens are using the Agency in the evenings because they don’t have to worry about being home early. That’s totally logical of parents, and I can absolutely see trusting an Agency to find responsible sitters, even if we know that’s not necessarily what is happening, but Stacey is super sympathetic throughout this. I love her.

Stacey takes some time to talk to Dr Johanssen after her job ends, and Dr J warns her that Dr Barnes practically is a faith healer, and she doesn’t think he’s more than a quack, a fad doctor who has a ton of publicity right now, and he’s giving good holistic doctors a bad reputation. [Dove: This is when I wanted to flip the table on Stacey’s parents. They should have asked the opinions of qualified professionals before signing their kid up for days of tests.]

Dr J reassures Stacey that he won’t hurt her, he won’t change her insulin and he likely won’t make any changes to her diet, but if he does, they will be small. What he will do is recommend expensive programs and therapies, recreational therapy, exercise programs, psych treatments, maybe even changing schools to get individualized instruction. Stacey hates this idea, and begs Dr J to help her. Dr J is leery because she barely knows the McGills and though she is a doctor, she is not Stacey’s doctor. She promises she will do something before Stacey leaves for NYC, she just needs some time to think about what. Which is a really decent response. I like Dr J.

Back to Agency vs BSC, Stacey makes a list of the unusual clothing and accessories her parents have seen her wear to school: that dinosaur pin on her beret, red sneakers covered with beads and glitter, leg warmers covered with footprints, plastic butterflies in her hair, red lace gloves with no fingertips. (NONE of that sounds particularly unusual, and the plastic butterflies were pretty much everywhere.)

But they’ve never seen her wear anything like what Kristy makes her (and the rest of the BSC) wear to school on the Monday after Thanksgiving. They are wearing sandwich boards. On the front it says “join the best club around” and on the back, in those iconic block letters, “The Baby-Sitters Club.” Based on the phrasing on the front, everyone is going to think you’re a school club, Kristy.

All of them (except maybe Kristy) are embarrassed over it, but do it without complaint. (Though Claudia does tell Stacey she hopes they don’t run into Trevor Sandbourne, who has been Claudia’s sort-of boyfriend since he stalked her leading up to the Halloween Hop, because boys will be boys, AMIRITE?)

They don’t see Trevor (or Pete or Sam, for Stacey) at first, but they do see a bus full of high school students who catcall them. Awesome.

At the middle school, they split up, much to Mary Anne’s disappointment. While a ton of people stare at Stacey, only three people talk to her about it. One sixth grade student baby-sits a lot, but only watches tv while she sits; one, a boy, can’t fit the three meetings a week into his schedule; and one, an eighth grade girl who hates Liz Lewis, talks about the charges and the meetings and then says it is too much work.

Three strikes and you’re out, Stace. Poor girl.

Only Kristy has good news when they meet back up, but she still refuses to discuss it at school for fear that the Agency will overhear, but she certainly hasn’t considered any other type of sabotage, oh my god.

Kristy makes them wear the signs in the hallways between classes, and Stacey passes Pete Black twice, getting more and more embarrassed each time. Though, he’s great at lunch, when he helps her take it off (…that sounded less perverted before I typed it) and admits that he’s a little embarrassed by it, but mostly he thinks she has guts for wearing it.

AND THEN HE ASKS HER TO THE SNOWFLAKE DANCE. Stacey is thrilled. Claudia is thrilled. Pete is thrilled. Hell, I’m thrilled.

At the meeting that afternoon, Kristy’s announcement is that she has two new eighth grade members, Janet Gates and Leslie Howard. Claudia points out that they were friends with Liz, but Kristy claims they dropped out of the Agency because they didn’t like having to give Liz and Michelle part of what they earned and Liz kept all the good kids for her and Michelle and only gave the other baby-sitters the bad kids.

On the one hand, this sounds like a believable enough story, especially when they already think badly of the Agency and are excited to see signs that it is already imploding. On the other hand, YOU ALREADY FEAR SABOTAGE AND ESPIONAGE, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU TRUST PEOPLE YOU KNOW WERE AT ONE TIME FRIENDS WITH LIZ AND A PART OF THE AGENCY?! WHY?! [Dove: I don’t think I can like Kristy any more. She’s obsessed with being overheard, but let’s invite Elizabeth’s BFFs to join our club and steal all our secrets. WTF, Kristy?] [Wing: It has just struck me that Liz’s name is probably short for Elizabeth and your theories about how all Elizabeth’s but Bat are terrible are coming true, AGAIN. (Though I like Kristy’s mother.)]

Mary Anne then points out the other issue, which is that they’ve always wanted a club of good baby-sitters and put Stacey through a bunch of questions before they asked her to join. Kristy has already brought Janet and Leslie in without asking any of those questions or, you know, talking to the other members of the club. She’s uncomfortable with these questions, and Stacey’s statement that it seems risky, but she refuses to back down, which is pure Kristy. (Actually, all of this rushing headlong into this and making unilateral decisions is pure Kristy, and part of why I disliked her a lot growing up. Not because I hate those things, but because I saw too much of me at my worst in her and though at the time I didn’t have that sort of understanding of the situation, I do now.)

They get no calls during that meeting, and I am sad for them even while I’m judging Kristy on this whole Janet and Leslie thing.

The next day, they all go to visit Mrs Newton because they have gifts for the baby and Jamie and they have nothing else going on, what with the whole no jobs thing. First, though, they hang out at Claudia’s to wrap them with fun things.

Gifts:

  • Kristy: toy car for Jamie, duck-shaped rattle for Lucy
  • Claudia: toy dinosaur for Jamie, painting of kittens for Lucy’s nursery
  • Stacey: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel for Jamie, Pat the Bunny for Lucy
  • Mary Anne (and the best gifts of all, per Stacey): red ski hat for Jamie, pink hat for Lucy, and she made them both, because Mimi’s been teaching her to knit. AND Mimi tells Mary Anne about her mother while they work, which is just utterly sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.

Over at the Newton house, Jamie is having some jealousy because Lucy keeps getting presents and attention. He’s thrilled that the BSC brought him gifts, too, and he immediately puts on the hat and tries to play with the toys and read the book at the same time. Adorable. [Dove: This was adorable. Kid me wouldn’t have thought of something like that (being an only child) so it was very sweet that the BSC made a fuss of Jamie as well as cooing over Lucy.]

Lucy is asleep in a blue bassinet, and the girls absolutely coo over her and how tiny she is. Stacey never realised just how little a newborn baby is, and that sort of tiny delicate part of a baby is a huge part of why I don’t want to hold them. I’ll break them. (I know they are sturdier than they look. I still feel like I will break them.)

They have a good visit for awhile, and then Kristy brings up the whole baby-sitting thing. The other three freak out, but I think Kristy does the right thing here. They’re all obsessing over it, and they want to make their business better. Feedback is important.

Mrs Newton is gentle with them, but firm. Because newborns are so delicate, she’s more comfortable with an older sitter, but she still wants the girls to baby-sit for Jamie when he’s on his own and when Lucy is older, for both of them.

Wednesday is the first meeting with Janet and Leslie. Though they’re already members thanks to Kristy, Stacey grills them a little (and also judges them for wearing a lot of make-up). They don’t have great responses to the questions, until Kristy brings it around to what she knows will impress the others, which is that they can both stay out until 11 p.m. on weekdays, Janet can stay out until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, and Leslie can stay out as long as she wants on the weekend as long as she tells her mother. (Leslie is 14, Janet is 13.) Even Stacey is starting to be impressed, and they make plans to pass out flyers with the new information.

By the next Monday, though, things have fallen apart. Leslie and Janet don’t show up, but before they can call to check on them, they get a call from Mr Kelly, a new family for whom Leslie was supposed to sit for on Saturday night. She flat didn’t show up for the job and didn’t bother to call the Kellys. Mr Kelly is understandably upset, talks to Kristy as the president, and when they hang up, Stacey can’t tell if she’s angry, scared, embarrassed, or maybe all three.

AND THEN. Ms Jaydell calls, another new client, the one Janet was supposed to sit for, and, of course, Janet didn’t show up either.

(Very convenient that it is only new clients we’ve never heard of before and will never hear of again after this book.)

When that call ends, Kristy bursts into tears, which freaks Stacey out, because she’s never seen her cry before (in the, what, three months she’s known her?). Kristy wants to confront the girls in person, and they agree to do it as a united front.

And yet none of them, none, can figure out why Janet and Leslie would have done this on purpose. Despite everything I pointed out before. NONE OF THEM FIGURE IT OUT. COME THE FUCK ON.

They wait for Leslie and Janet outside their homerooms, which are conveniently across the hall from each other, until the girls come sauntering up with Liz Lewis. IS IT BECOMING CLEAR YET, BSC? IS IT?

“I thought they didn’t like Liz.”

CLEARLY IT IS NOT BECOMING CLEAR YET, DAMN IT.

[Dove: To be honest, I don’t get why they didn’t show up, do an awesome job, and then say, “Actually, I belong to the Baby-Sitters Agency, so can you call this number instead?” or just take the clients with them directly. It has the same effect – ruin morale and steal jobs from the BSC, but my way means they look responsible as well.] [Wing: … fuck, you are a genius.]

Sure enough, Janet and Leslie are still members of the Agency, and they completely fooled the BSC. They all exchange some words, and then Kristy ends up crying once the BSC is alone again. Kristy is understandably upset because it was a rotten trick, and it was. She has every right to be upset. But she’s also angry that they stole her idea of a baby-sitting club and the BSC worked so hard on the club and when the Agency started, they never tried to hurt them.

Are you … are you kidding? You came up with plans to undercut them at every turn and insulted them from the beginning. Yes, this trick was shitty. You haven’t been all sunshine and roses.

ALSO, the rest of that stuff you are mad about? THIS IS HOW BUSINESS WORKS. Businesses have similar ideas. There is competition. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, things fall apart. It’s probably a good thing you’re learning this lesson young, so it doesn’t stop you in your tracks later in life.

(I am so, so annoyed that the Agency turns out to be terrible and irresponsible, because having competition is not a bad thing in a capitalist society. Monopolies are dangerous.)

This does inspire Kristy to try more advertising for the club, and to drop her plans of lower prices and free housework. That’s not the kind of club she wants to have, and they will survive by being the best at what they do.

Stacey has a sitting job for Jamie on a Wednesday afternoon while Mrs Newton takes Lucy to a check-up. As soon as Mrs Newton leaves, Jamie goes and flings himself down in front of the television, which surprises Stacey because normally he only watches Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She assumes that it’s tough having a new baby around, but in reality, he’s sad because baby-sitters aren’t fun anymore. His new sitters never play games with him, but watch tv and have “accidents” like burning a hole in a chair cushion with a cigarette and talk on the phone to their boyfriends.

Stacey encourages him to talk to his parents about how he’s feeling, and especially to show them the chair cushion, which is truly a dangerous sign, and then they go play with her kid-kit.

[Dove: I can’t believe the parents didn’t immediately notice the stink of cigarettes. I smoke heavily, but I can still smell easily if someone’s been smoking in a room. Non-smokers, especially with a newborn, would usually be ON THAT SHIT. (I always use my smoking to avoid holding or interacting with babies, because I just don’t have an interest in doing so, but that’s offensive, so I always say, “Oh, I smoked not long ago, and did you know the chemicals cling to your clothes until you wash them? I couldn’t possibly go near your baby.”)] [Wing: You are so much politer about it than I am. I have perfected my deadpan stare.]

In between her job and the BSC meeting, Stacey gets a call from Dr Johanssen looking for a sitter that night for Charlotte, because Charlotte has been asking for Stacey. Stacey’s happy to be asked to sit, both because she’s glad to have the work and because she has a plan for how to handle the new doctor and she wants Dr J’s help. Her plan: to go along with the meetings with the new doctor, but then to tell her parents that she’s been doing her own research and has a doctor she wants to see. That’s where Dr J comes in, because Dr J can recommend someone sensible to Stacey, someone like Dr Werner, someone with a fancy office and lots of diplomas.

Clever girl.

Charlotte is super grumpy, and it turns out that she thinks her new baby-sitters are only in it for the money and they aren’t her friends. Charlotte hasn’t been asking for Stacey to come baby-sit her, she wanted Stacey to come visit because she wanted to know for sure that they are friends. OH MY HEART.

Stacey decides one thing she needs to do is introduce Charlotte to some more kids her age, because she’s not made any friends at school, and now that someone at school (the younger sister of one of her new baby-sitters) said her baby-sitters aren’t really her friends, she’s hurting a lot and could use some friends her own age. Stacey also encourages Charlotte to talk to her parents, just like Jamie, and particularly to talk about Leslie having her boyfriend over.

Dr J can get Stacey an appointment with a very sensible doctor, and had, in fact, been thinking along the same lines, and she agrees to write a note to Stacey’s parents instead of explaining things to them before they go.

On Thursday, Stacey is the first member besides Kristy to ever call an emergency meeting of the club. Go Stacey! They go outside to the playground where they can see anyone getting too close, even though there is snow on the ground and they are freezing, and Stacey tells them about Charlotte also being upset (she had already told them about Jamie at the meeting), and that she’s been encouraging them to talk to their parents. It looks like bitterness if the BSC brings up this stuff, but the kids can do it.

That afternoon, there’s something even worse that happens. It’s terrible weather, cold and windy, the streets are unplowed (…I don’t believe for a second that they were unplowed, but whatever), and as they walk home together, they find Jamie playing on the narrow strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street and not wearing mittens or a hat. Of course, one of his new sitters is there. They tell him to go inside and get his hat and mittens and then to stay in the backyard to play because it’s dangerous out front.

Then they try to figure out what to do about this, because it is the most dangerous thing yet and they can’t just leave it to the kids to tell their parents. Kristy suggests they talk to their own parents (or at least her mom), and Claudia wants to immediately start calling all the kids’ parents. Stacey thinks this will look bad, still. Mary Anne agrees that they should talk to their parents, and everyone splits up.

Stacey does talk to her mom about it, and of course her mom immediately jumps to child abuse since Stacey is being super vague about it. Her mom’s advice is that if a kid is really in danger, there’s no question about what needs to be done, even if it is difficult, even if it might make the person telling look bad.

Stacey checks in with Kristy, and Kristy’s mom said the same thing, though she had all the details (I love that Kristy is so open with her mom), and Mimi said the same thing to Claudia. Mary Anne hadn’t been able to get ahold of her dad yet.

They meet up at the Newton house shortly after, and they just break it down very simply for Mrs Newton about what they saw. And when Stacey apologises for being tattletales, Mrs Newton stops that dead, because they are doing the right thing. Stacey goes on to tell her about what Jamie said the other day, too, and Mrs Newton says that she clearly won’t be using the Agency anymore, though they did find a seventeen-year-old boy they liked a lot, AND she’s going to call other parents and the Agency.

Kristy asks to be the one to talk to Liz and Michelle because they have a score to settle, and apparently Mrs Newton agrees, which is bullshit. She’s the client, she should be the one who gets to talk to the Agency. The BSC could always approach them at school after the fact anyway.

They do confront Liz and Michelle, and put them through a series of questions about the kids they’ve been baby-sitting for, and for some reason, Liz and Michelle stick around for this instead of telling them to get fucked.

This exchange isn’t actually any more satisfying for the BSC than it is for me, and all they want to know is what happens next now that Mrs Newton was going to call parents. Stacey’s off to NYC for a long weekend, though, and FINALLY learns where she’s staying for the weekend, which is with neither set of cousins, but instead with the Cummingses. As in Laine Cummings, former best friend turned bully.

Things are awkward between them that night, of course, and I note a difference in this version (I bought an ebook for ease of recapping), which is that Stacey keeps her insulin pump out of sight. NO SHE DOESN’T, SHE GIVES HERSELF A SHOT IN PRIVACY, THERE’S NO INSULIN PUMP. I’m a little weirded out by how viscerally I reacted to that change.

Stacey and her parents are off to see Dr Barnes the next morning. (Still weird that this is happening on a Saturday.) Lots of tests, and she hasn’t even met Dr Barnes yet, even though she was there for hours. Her parents met him, and now they seem confused, and Stacey takes advantage of this. Because she is awesome. [Dove: Stacey was a badass in this. I’m so used to the Sweet Valley twins doing everything wrong until they get caught and have to come clean, that this was so damned refreshing. Stacey spoke to a medical professional, came up with a smart plan – the same one the same medical professional came up with – and then got this sorted in a mature way. Stacey, any chance you could visit Sweet Valley and give Elizabeth Wakefield some tips?] [Wing: CROSSOVER!]

She talks about the importance of taking care of herself and doing research and then breaks the news that she has an appointment with Dr Graham before giving them the note from Dr J. It’s sealed, but Dr J let Stacey read it before she sealed it, and it talks about Stacey coming to her confidentially which is why she didn’t reach out to the McGills personally and highly recommends Dr Graham. Mr McGill is leery because they don’t know how much it will cost (at the most, comparable to Dr Barnes, I’m sure), but Mrs McGill is impressed because she recognises the name from her research and knows it is nearly impossible to get an appointment with him.

Dr Graham is a tall black man who is very smart and nice, and I am utterly delighted. (Well, mostly. It’s rare for the white characters to be described as white, while the characters of color always are described, and that makes white the default, which is shit.)

It’s a consultation only, so he doesn’t examine her, just asks some questions. And by some, Stacey says he asked a billion, which made me laugh. They talk about school and health and the move and what treatments they’re using and her doctors and on and on, and then he sends the McGills out and asks her questions about how she feels about her doctors, her disease, and her parents.

Once it is all done, he tells them they must be proud of Stacey and lucky to have her, and they are. He says that, without doing any tests, he only sees one problem: she’s unsettled about her disease, and though she wants to have some control over it, she’s a little afraid of it, too.

Stacey is nervous about telling her parents this, but does admit that every time they go to a new doctor, that doctor shakes up all the things she thought she understood, and she doesn’t want Dr Barnes to make her change schools, she wants to stay with her friends. Dr Graham speaks highly of Dr Werner, and he flat out says that Dr Barnes is a load of bunk. What Stacey needs most is stability and the opportunity to understand her disease, and she can’t have that if each doctor tells her something different.

God, Dr Graham is amazing. [Dove: Seconded. A+]

They agree to let Stacey have more of a say in her treatment, and she decides not to see Dr Barnes any more, to get in with Dr Werner if possible, and then to go back to Stoneybrook and hold off on any new doctors for awhile.

That night, they go to dinner and a movie with the Cummingses, and Laine and Stacey end up by themselves in the back row because it is so crowded. Laine goes to get a soda and M&Ms during the previews, but doesn’t offer to get Stacey anything. They bicker over it and about how Laine would know what Stacey can and can’t do if she ever talked to Stacey; Lain snaps that Stacey never talked to her, either, and didn’t even tell her the truth about the diabetes. They keep getting shushed, UNDERSTANDABLY, and Stacey goes to the lobby to get a diet Coke and a popcorn.

But she doesn’t have enough money, because she’s forgotten how expensive things are in NYC. Laine comes up with the 75 cents she lacks, and they end up sitting on a bench in the lobby and talking. Laine admits that she was jealous of Stacey because she was getting all sorts of special treatment and got to miss school, and of course, Laine didn’t actually know what was wrong because Stacey’s parents made such a big deal of keeping it a secret.

They talk all the way through the movie and then all night until they fall asleep at 230 a.m. They get up early to go to breakfast together and walk in Central Park and talk talk talk. The McGills go to Paris Magic that night, and it ends up being the best musical Stacey has ever seen.

Laine and Stacey want to talk all night again, but Laine has school the next morning, so they have to stop by 10 p.m. On Monday, Stacey briefly sees Dr Werner who says Stacey’s doing fine, and then the McGills go home.

As soon as school is out, Stacey calls Claudia for an update, and goes over to Claudia’s house early for the meeting to catch up. On the way, she passes Sam Thomas, and realises she’s barely thought about him lately, with everything going on, and she’s excited to be going to the Snowflake Dance with Pete Black. Aww, Stace, you’re moving on. I love it.

The job calls start coming in at 430, an hour before the meeting even starts. Mrs Newton is one of the first, and she gives Stacey an update and a job watching Lucy and Jamie (though while Mrs Newton is hosting a book club in the house). Taking that job is, of course, against the rules, and Claudia calls her on it, but forgives her quickly, because Claudia breaks that rule often, what with it being her phone line and all.

From no jobs to being far too busy, they’re excited to be taking calls all the way through 6 p.m., celebrate with some junk food (and healthier options for Stacey), and try to come up with a club cheer.

Stacey and Laine talk on the phone regularly now, and we all get an update on Liz and Michelle. They’ve started a new business, Makeovers Inc.; clients call them and for $5, they show the clients how to put on make-up, figure out the best way to fix their hair, etc., and for another $5, they will take a client shopping and pick out new clothes and jewelry.

I would have paid so much for that, good lord. I still don’t know much about make-up and fashion and things. (I go to my younger sister, Canary, for help with clothes, and to my grad school friends, who also taught me about make-up. And Ostrich has a ton of training with hair and make-up and stuff, because his mom was a beauty school teacher for a long time, so he’s actually better at all that stuff than I am.) [Dove: I once straightened Wing’s hair. It took two WWE pay-per-view matches to straighten all of it. It was fun. During the same holiday, Ostrich shaved Raven’s head.] [Wing: Until you put it like this, I did not realise how much that holiday revolved around doing hair or cutting hair or getting hair done.]

We also learn that Charlotte is going to be skipped up to third grade because the work in second is just too easy for her and it’s made things rough with her classmates. Rock star Charlotte! I hope things work out for her.

They go back and forth with that not wanting to hang up and you hang up and I miss you, and y’all, I could ship Stacey and Laine so easily right now. I’ve seen plenty of fic that ships Stacey and Claudia and Stacey and Charlotte (once Charlotte is older), but I’ve never seen fic that pairs her with Laine. Any recommendations?

Stacey decides that if Laine ever comes to visit, she’ll make her an honorary member of the BSC. MY HEART.

There’s a note from Ann M. Martin at the end, about why she wrote a character with diabetes; she says she thought it would be interesting if one of the characters faced physical or medical problems, and chose diabetes because it affects a lot of kids and she had friends with diabetes. She also wanted a character who copes with that disability in a positive way. … as opposed to what, Martin? And you were doing so well here, too. And she got a ton of responses from kids who had diabetes and how much Stacey means to them, which is wonderful. Representation matters, and disability representation is just one of those ways.

Final Thoughts

God, these early books are so much fun. I really do still love this series as an adult, but I’m aware that later books get super formulaic and everyone becomes a stereotype of themselves. These early books are so refreshing and entertaining, and they’re making me fall in love with all of the characters, not just my normal faves.

I love Stacey’s story here with her parents in particular, and how she tries to get some control over her own body (which she absolutely deserves), and how deeply the friendships between the girls run, even the girls who aren’t called BFFs at this point. They seem like well-rounded characters at this point, and I hope that in reading through everything in order, which I’ve never done, actually, will help me enjoy all the books more, because I’ll carry this happiness with me. We’ll see, I guess.

[Dove: This is the first book I really enjoyed. Not because I have any particular tie to diabetes, or because I felt any particular connection with Stacey’s situation and my own disability, but just because I cared about Stacey full stop. She was much more engaging than she has been in the previous books, she seemed to be reaching out for Kristy’s friendship more than before. And OMG, Stacey well done for your mature plan on avoiding being treated and unsettled by Dr Barnes.] [Wing: Stacey is wonderful here, and engaging, and I’m so glad that you enjoyed this book.]

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2 Comments

  1. MrToddWilkins
    Posted 31st March 2018 at 12:26 am Permalink

    You guys cited Four Minutes Older. I’m dying.

    • Posted 3rd April 2018 at 11:16 pm Permalink

      I’m just delighted someone else got the reference! 🙂

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