So I hit up the big annual book sale here and scored a shitload of Sweet Valley (mostly SVU, a few classic SVHs) and BSC. It truly speaks for my mental and financial state that hitting up a used book sale is one of the highlights of my week. Anyway, as you can see from my stamp a few entries back, Stacey was always my fave BSCer. I find it only fitting that the first BSC book to grace this blog is a Stacey book, “Stacey’s Ex-Best Friend.” I have to say how much I love when a book’s title pretty much spoils the whole story. But then, unexpected twists and jaw-dropping surprises were never the draw of the BSC, right? One of its most beloved traits is its predictability, and the fun isn’t in figuring out what happens–it’s seeing how we get there. Frequently via copious descriptions of outfits, hairstyles, kids’ adorable shenanigans, and other details we don’t need to know to follow the story.
Cover art courtesy of the sublime dibbly-fresh.com
First off, let’s snark the cover. This scene actually happens in the book, although Hodgepodge messed up a minor deet, which I’ll explain in the recap. I am again annoyed by Hodgey’s refusal to depict Stacey’s perm, one of her central character traits. I know drawing curly hair is a bitch and he probably got sick of it after Laine’s ‘do, which is appropriately fluffy and perm-y and early-90slicious, but is it too much to ask for a Stacey perm? On a more positive note, I totally love Laine’s stankface here.
The opening to this one is rather dull in that it’s full of info dumping that I mostly skimmed. I mean, it opens by talking about the weather. Really, Stacey? I’d have thought you were more sophisticated than that. But by page 2 she informs us that she ♥ NYC. Yay for single defining personality traits! This is the BSC I know and love. It’s Wednesday, the day of a BSC meeting. Stacey’s got two hours free before the meeting so she’s going to crack open some homework. She just adores math, guys. Now, there are some subjects I liked more than others, but I’m not sure I would have ever said I adored them. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Stacey’s NYC BFF, Laine, calls to tell Stacey about her upcoming winter break. Her Stoneybrook visit coincides with Valentine’s Day, and o snap I got ahead of myself. Oh well, now you know what the end result of Laine’s call is.
Stacey’s like, totally pumped for Laine’s visit, which is going to be totally distant, you guys. Laine speaks for the readers and is like, “Distant? Whaaa….?” It’s BSCspeak, Lainie, just roll with it. Laine doesn’t seem nearly as excited about her sojourn in the ‘Brook as Stacey is, but Stacey seems completely oblivious to this fact. Laine’s also taken to calling Stacey “Anastasia” because it supposedly sounds more mature. I don’t really have anything to snark here because this kind of tomfoolery actually sounds pretty authentic–I can totally see some “I’m so grown-up now” tween doing that, although they’d probably abandon it after realizing the three extra syllables are not worth the effort. Stacey gives us some background about her and Laine’s tumultuous friendship–they have a pattern of fighting and making up. They’re totally the Paris and Nicole of BSC.
BSC meeting time! But wait–in typical Chapter Two fashion, Stacey has to stop and describe each member of the BSC in more detail that will ever be necessary, and I swear between this and SVH’s “soooo alike but soooo different!” spiels my childhood writing was completely corrupted. Seriously, guys. My first chapter stories, written at age 10 and before the insidious influence of BSC, got to the point pretty quickly and gave only brief descriptions of my characters. My post-BSC stories, however, saw a sudden shift to long, extravagant character and outfit descriptions before we even made it out of chapter two. It’s depressing, although the 80s-tacular outfit descriptions are comedy gold.
But back on topic, BSC meeting. Stacey shows up five minutes early, which means they still have time to act like normal kids before K.Ron lays the smackdown. Stacey announces Laine’s visit, and Mal declares,
“Distant!” It seems kind of random that Mal would be the most excited. She can’t get enough of that NYC sophistication, I guess. Anyone else suspect that if this took place in present day, Mal would be totally addicted to Gossip Girl and the new 90210? She’d probably spend all free her time playing Blair on online RPGs and write BSC notebook entries like, “While five P. siblings were making valentines together, where was little N? Why, in his room, making a special secret valentine for a special secret someone. But don’t worry–it won’t stay secret for long, not if I have anything to say about it! XOXO, Sitter Girl.”
So the BSC discuss the Valentine’s Day Dance, which just so happens to fall on–oh, noes!–Friday the 13th. Everyone’s paired off, including Mal and Jessi. I love how eleven-year-olds have boyfriends in BSCland. When I was eleven, nobody had boyfriends but the popular girls and all it meant was that you held hands at recess and slow-danced surfer-style to Paula Abdul’s “Rush, Rush” which they played at every damn dance multiple times. Somehow I don’t see Mal and Jessi leading SMS’s junior Plastics. Not to mention that Paula Abdul is way too contemporary a reference for BSC. They’d probably waltz to Buddy Holly or something.
Parents call, jobs are scheduled, blah blah. Kristy gets another one of her dibble ideas, which is to throw a Valentine’s Day party for all the kids. She seems more excited about this than the actual dance. Oh, K.Ron, don’t ever change. The other BSCers are just as pumped, of course. I’m not, because it means more baby-sitting chapters I have to skim in order to get to the ~drama~.
Speak of the devil, next we have… a babysitting chapter! Mal and Stacey are Pike-sitting and they kick off the chapter with one of those entries in which they conversate in the notebook. I never got these, even at age 11. I especially love how Stacey suddenly yanks the pen out of Mal’s hand. I could understand these entries if they’re like texting or twittering but this book came about fifteen years too early, so… argghhh, logic, BSC, brain go boom. Moving on, this chapter consists of more lovable Pike antics. Kids make valentines, Nicky’s got a sekrit crush, BSCers care way too much about little kids’ love lives, you know the drill.
Now we get to Laine’s much-anticipated arrival. Stacey gives her room a makeover to hide all her rag doll, kitten poster, and “childish” knickknacks such as her stuffed pig collection (the plush furry variety, that is, not taxidermy; if it were the latter… yeah, I’d hide that, too). She mentions her tape collection which is also a bit jarring. Don’t the BSCers listen to 45s still? I have to mention Stacey’s outfit, because it’s required in a BSC recap: “a purple shirtwaist top over flowered leggings, [her] cowboy boots (cowgirl boots? cowwoman boots?)”– Who the hale cares, Stacey?–”a purple hair ornament made from shoelaces, and dangly silver earrings.” Stylin’.
I love CSS, but sometimes I honestly wonder if lovefoXXX takes her fashion cues from BSC novels. Which actually might make her even more awesome, now that I think about it.
Laine arrives and is totally snooty about everything, and commits the cardinal sin of–gasp!-dissing Stoneybrook. I never quite got the BSCers’ loyalty to the ‘Brook. I grew up in po-dunk town and my friends and I were always bitching about how boring it was. Laine tells Stacey more about her fifteen-year-old boyfriend, King. His hair is purple, but only at the ends, and he uses gel and mousse to make it spiky. Otherwise it’s black.
Not even gonna lie, I kind of envy Laine, although I feel for her when she eventually finds King making out with another guy.
Even if that is kinda hot.
Stacey’s throwing a BSC sleepover to welcome Laine, and the BSCers begin showing up. They talk about the dance and Dawn describes a former date as a “boring dude,” to which Laine snootily replies, “that word went out in the sixties.” Laine disses the BSC’s sleepover activities–gabbing, beautifying themselves, eating–and is horrified when Mal mentions that she might otherwise be doing homework on a Friday night. Not to be Team Laine here but that is kind of weak, Mal. The BSCers want Laine to come to the dance, and her response is about as enthusiastic as mine would be to a Friday night root canal. Still, the BSCers eagerly undertake the task of finding Laine a date.
Match made in heaven, dude.
Laine has to check with King which makes Dawn roll her eyes, but harmony is restored when Claudia discovers a way to unscramble the Spice Channel. OK, I lied. They actually are watching To Kill a Mockingbird. Oh, BSC, how foolish I am to assume you like anything broadcast in color.
This book was getting interesting so of course that means it’s time for a babysitting chapter. Claudia’s sitting for the Arnold twins. They make valentines, Carolyn’s hot for an older boy (he’s in the third grade), and that’s pretty much the extent of it. Oh, Arnold twins. I can see your futures now.
Next, Stacey drags Laine to school with her. Sounds like a real bang-up vacation to me. A week off of school, but she gets to attend someone else’s school! Laine acts like a stuck-up bitchface all day, despite the fact that everyone’s pretty nice to her. It’s during this chapter that we get the scene depicted on the cover, at lunchtime. Stacey invites other kids to sit with the BSC at lunch, and I love the way she describes this–as if the BSC are deigning to let the plebes join them. The boys at the table engage in typical junior-high boy antics like making molecules out of prunes and pretzel sticks (fun fact: Hodgey painted twisty pretzels on the cover, which sort of defeats the purpose), but of course Laine’s above it all. Kristy’s pissed off because Bart reneged on the dance in favor of watching some game, and I can’t say I blame her. Isn’t that what God made DVR–excuse me, VHS–for? Laine does crack a smile when Pete Black tells her she has “gossamer hair.” Ooh, good one, Petey. Where’d you get that from–the back of one of your Mom’s Harlequins?
That night, Stacey gets the dibbly fresh idea that Laine should go to the dance with Pete, and that goes about as well as you’d expect. Laine writes Pete off as a “dweeb,” preferring instead the poetic stylings of King: “Awesome, Babe.” Yes, King calls her Babe. And she calls him “Heart” because he’s the King of her heart. Ahh, NYC sophistication in action. Laine calls King to talk about the dance and kicks Stacey out since she can’t exactly diss the ‘Brook in her presence. Stacey hears Laine say the word “childish” and assumes she’s referring to their babysitting clients. Um, sorry Stace, but not everyone’s as obsessed with kids as y’all are, just saying. Then Pete calls Laine and asks her to the dance. Laine tells Stacey afterward that Pete described her eyes as “limpid.” Moving on from Harlequins to bad Harry Potter fanfic, I see. This guy’s a catch. Laine just has to tell King, and Stacey eavesdrops on their phone convo. She’s bothered that Laine makes Pete out to sound like a total tool, but rationalizes that she and Laine always make up after their fights.
Babysitting chapter! Jessi’s sitting for the Hobarts. I love how BSC books make non-Americans sound like aliens. Sure, Aussies have different slang and pop culture and whatnot, but it’s not like they have no idea what life in the Western world is like. They didn’t grow up in Africa, guys. More kid hijinks–Hobarts want to wear suits to the party, Jessi talks them out of it, blah blah. Ben storms in early because his and Mal’s hot library date ended prematurely (teehee… yes, I am 12). Jessi leaves and finds out from Mal that they had a big fight over looking something up in the card catalog. I’m more hung up on the fact that SMS still uses card catalogs. This book came out in ’92 and by that time my school was using this newfangled computer system. I guess we were on the cutting edge.
Laine tags along to the next BSC meeting. Mal and Jessi are convinced the dance being on the 13th is a bad omen, because everyone’s fighting with their guys. Kristy and Bart are still on the outs and Mary Anne and Logan are quibbling over Mary Anne’s refusal to actually dance at… a dance. Laine points out how stupid this all is but K.Ron calls the meeting to order, shutting her down real fast. The meeting continues and the BSC get to talking about the V-Day kids’ party, speculating that Nicky and Carolyn might be harboring sekirt crushes on each other. Laine boggles that the BSCers are seriously interested in eight-year-olds’ love lives. I’ve got to go with Laine on this one. That’s just weird, guys.
Next chapter and it’s Friday afternoon, the day of the dance. Kristy has cancelled the BSC meeting (le gasp! I thought only a red terror alert or natural disaster could accomplish that). Stacey finds Laine reading a novel that sounds like a Mary Sue fic–something about two emirs fighting over an American chick named Spectra. Actually, I stand corrected. That sounds more like a porno. Stacey drags Laine away from Spectra–if it is a porno, I understand her reluctance–to get ready for the dance. Laine thinks wearing red to the V-Day dance is lame and is horrified to find out that Stacey purchases nail polish from a home shopping network. She tells Stacey about a girl in NYC who shops there and eloquently dismisses their merch as “J-U-N-Q-U-E.” Stacey’s like “Maybe she L-I-Q-U-E-S it.” I’m thinking ANM was on C-R-A-Q-U-E when she wrote this. Again, I’ve got to go with Laine. Who doesn’t mock home shopping networks? China clowns freak me out, man.
Laine thinks she’s too fat to eat popcorn and Stacey starts worrying if she’s anorexic. I start wondering how many clichés ANM can fit in one book. Stacey ruminates on what a massive bitch-yacht Laine is being and explains in detail what “it takes two to tango” means. Thanks for sharing that insight, Stace. Stacey worries that her friends will fight at the dance. Laine asks if there are usually fights at dances. Clearly, Laine has never been to Orange County. Now that would make this book interesting. Stacey brings her date, an alluring older man named Ryan Atwood, who’s from the wrong side of the ‘Brook. King shows up totally wasted and Ryan’s left hook sends him careening into the punch bowl while hip indie music plays in the background. Welcome to the S.B., bitch! This is how it’s done in Stoneybrook!
The remaining BSCers arrive at Dawn’s barn, the site of the kids’ V-Day féte, and began decorating. We find out that Bart’s taking Kristy to the dance after all and that Mary Anne and Logan and Mal and Ben are back on, too. Harmony is restored. Meanwhile, Stacey and Laine are getting ready. Laine is decked out in an outfit described as “Black leotard, long black jacket, black leggings over black stockings, black shoes.”
Laine and Stacey have a bonding moment over the tropical fish earrings Claudia made for Laine. Awww. Laine boasts that she’s been told she looks eighteen and Stacey and her Mom don’t understand why Laine would want to cut five years out of her life. So she can rent XXX movies and get away with it? Laine can’t believe their dates aren’t picking them up, to which Stacey sensibly replies that none of them can drive, not even King. Now I know exactly who Laine reminds me of! She reminds me of one of those kids on Bravo’s NYC Prep (if you haven’t watched it, don’t. That’s a half-hour or so of your life you’ll never get back). You know, the ones whose idea of hanging out his hitting up five-star Japonais restaurants and who think spending money and pretending they’re 30 is a good way to pass the time. Kids, I’m 30. Trust me, it ain’t that great.
Dance time! The BSCers’ meet up with their dates, who present them with corsages. I find it kind of strange that their dates bring corsages for a casual dance (I’ve never seen it done except at like, the prom or Winter Ball or something). Pete klutzes out and drops Laine’s corsage, which is promptly trampled by a bunch of kids walking into the gym. The rest of the dance is pretty much a train wreck–Laine disses the decorations, ignores Pete, and has a shit fit about sixth-graders attending a dance after one of them spills a drink within her general vicinity. Stacey snaps that Jessi is a sixth-grader. I find it a bit odd she didn’t mention Mal, but since Laine was talking about muscle control, maybe it was a reference to Jessi’s one personality trait (aside from being black) which is being a dancer? The evening comes to a predictable and bitchtastic close when Laine turns down Pete’s offer to dance, but immediately accepts an offer from a hunkier taker. Stacey is appalled, and I have to admit that is pretty rude. Typical for an insensitive kid, but rude. Stacey and Laine have it out, and Laine declares that she’s taking her toys and leaving–as in, going back to NYC.
Stacey calls her Mom and does damage control with her friends. The girls quibble even more in the car, with Stacey’s Mom refereeing. Stacey confronts Laine about how much she’s changed and it pretty much goes as you’d expect. As in, no resolution is really reached except for both Stacey and Laine insisting Laine go back to NYC tonight. Back at Chez McGill, Stacey’s Mom tries to talk some sense into the girls, but it’s not happening. So Ma McGill calls Laine’s Mom and even they get into an argument. Unlike their daughters, however, they at least remain civil, and arrangements are made to send Laine home on a late train. I can’t help but think about how much the world has changed since this was written. No way would I trust my daughter riding a train alone at 10pm to NYC, but maybe I’m just paranoid. I just feel that’s straight-up Natalee Holloway shit just waiting to happen.
The remainder of the book is pretty dull–Laine took the excitement with her when she returned to NYC. The BSCers attend the kids’ V-Day party, where they find out it’s not Nicky and Carolyn who are hot for each other. Nicky’s actually hot for Marilyn while Carolyn’s hot for James Hobart! Oh, those wacky, wacky kids. They even get some steamy hand-holding action for a while! Also worth mentioning is Stacey’s outfit. She decided to wear red in defiance of Laine: “red leggings, red ankle boots, bulky red sweater, and red barrettes.” Stacey worries she looks too much like an elf. I was thinking colorblind psych ward patient, but that’ll work, too. Or this guy:
After that, Stacey reflects upon Laine’s disastrous visit and concludes that they’ve just grown too far apart to remain friends anymore. It’s kind of sad, but the same thing happened to me when I moved back to my hometown after being away two years, so I can identify, sort of. Stacey wants some kind of closure but can’t work up the nerve to talk to Laine, so she writes are a letter and sends her back her half of their “best friends” necklace. Then Stacey calls Claudia and they bond over ordering China clowns from the home shopping network and painting their nails and eating popcorn. Now, I know Laine was a bitch and all, but this is what Stacey finds preferable? D: That’s really all I have to say to that.
So it looks like S and L are no longer besties, with S and C being tighter than ever. But how long will it last? Will S’s perm stay fluffy? Will little J retain her superior muscle control? Remember, you heard it here first!
XOXO, Recapper Girl