Happy Valentines Day, friends, followers, and lovers among you!
Valentines Day is often met with mixed reactions – for those in relationships, it is a holiday people love. Conversely, people who are not in relationships often feel the opposite way. And if you are cynical (like me), you refer to it as “the holiday Hallmark created.” I’m in a relationship, so I’ll be celebrating Valentines Day later this week, because seriously, have you ever tried to go out to eat on Valentines Day? I’m also not deadset on tradition, as long as my Valentine acknowledges that I am, in fact, his Valentine, then everything will be kosher.
I myself love the holiday, regardless of relationship status. I’m a cynical person, but I’m also one of those people who believes that everyone has a Valentine, even if it is their friends. Because I feel that way, I mailed my friend Melanie a friendship Valentine, and I bought the same Valentine card for my friend Amie (who works in the same office). Because Hallmark has everything, they even have cards girls can give their friends!
I’m pretty sure they even cards for cynics, given by fellow cynics!
Six months ago, I spotted The Baby-Sitters Club trending in my Facebook newsfeed. It was something that had managed to leave (but not entirely fall off) my radar 21 years ago, but always managed to circle once in a while. That said, I was curious enough to click on the title, and was surprised to find out that my favorite childhood book series was celebrating a birthday…30. The big 3-oh. I’m 34 years old, so was official that the series was old like me. It got me thinking about the books, about eternally thirteen-year-old girls (and a thirteen-year-old boy, plus two eternally eleven-year-old girls) who run a baby-sitting business out of a bedroom in a fictional Connecticut town that is near Stamford and New York City.
I had many “Shutup and take my money” moments reading this series, which consumed my intermediate school years between 1992 – third grade, and mid-1995 – the end of sixth grade. Though I wasn’t urged or told to give up the series, I sadly filed it away to recognize the end of elementary school. I was determined not to be in seventh grade and still reading the books. I started out reading the series as a child young enough to be baby-sat for, and by the time I left the series behind at book #88, I was starting seventh grade, baby-sitting for three boys, and was reading R.L. Stine novels (Fear Street, anyone?).
Flash-forward to 2016, when I was fondly looking back. I was two months shy of 34, a high school and college graduate, an aunt, and a blogger/writer with a full-time day job as a Secretary and a boyfriend and…
I’m like the early-thirties version of Mary Anne Spier with Mallory Pike’s mad writing skills, aren’t I?
When I stopped reading the books at the end of the summer of 1995, I was on book #88. All the members were the same ones whose stories I knew up, down, left, right, and quite possibly in my sleep. I could narrate Chapter 2 of every book, and I even did a book report in sixth grade on one of the books – I believe it was Boy Crazy Stacey. Of course, having a blog, I write lots of book report-type blog posts, but always about movies and television shows.
I’m veering off the subject. Same people, that’s what I was talking about.
When I began reading the series in 1992, all of the characters were firmly established, and there were no new members of the BSC, but with Dawn not in the books, the time had come for a new member. It turns out that Ann M. Martin was all too happy to introduce this new character right after I stopped reading.
That’s right, kids – I left off on book #88 and the newest BSC member was introduced in book #89 (Kristy and the Dirty Diapers). If that’s not timing, I don’t know what is.
I’ve covered the ground created by books #89 and on, and have even read the introductory book for the aforementioned new character.
The “new girl” of the BSC is Abby Stevenson, and she was introduced to the series after readers requested their wishes – the requests wanted to see twins and a girl of Jewish faith (to round out the diversity that Jessi and Claudia obviously don’t offer?).
Readers got the best of both – Abby is a twin (her sister’s name is Anna), and she is a girl of Jewish faith who, like Stacey, is originally from New York, but moved to Stoneybrook from Long Island. Like the majority of the group’s members, she is a thirteen-year-old in eighth grade at Stoneybrook Middle School. Like Jessi’s ballet prowess and Claudia’s mad art skills, Abby is an athlete – a soccer player, to be exact. Nothing – not even allergies and asthma – could stop her. Abby’s role in the club is Alternate Officer, so like Dawn, she fills in when a member is not present at meetings.
And in this Valentines Day-centric recap, she’s the focus of a Baby-Sitters Club Valentine story.
Without more ado than the ado you just read, I proudly present #127 of the original #130 Baby-Sitters Club, “Abby’s Un-Valentine”!
It’s Valentine’s Day (ok, two weeks before) and Abby is displaying all the cynicism of a trained professional as the holiday approaches. She makes it clear right off the bat that she only likes two things about the holiday, and love is not one of those things. For the record, the only love she has for the holiday is the chocolate part, and she recalls the time when her and her twin sister, Anna, bought their parents a heart-shaped box of chocolates, only for Abby to eat all of it before giving it to them. She wound up having to give Anna her share of the cost, but she seems to claim no regrets.
Those chocolates, she maintains, are still her favorite kind.
As the dance slowly creeps up, Abby realizes how much she dislikes English class, especially the reading of Shakespeare sonnets (and specifically Sonnet Number Eighteen). While some of the students in her class decide to really go all out with the love and hearts side of the sonnet, Abby takes the more cynical approach to it, by reminding her teacher, Mrs. Colley, that summer is short-lived, and that there are other seasons to consider. Her classmate, Ross, only adds to this by reminding the class that love has to be able to weather all changes, like the change in the seasons. I like the way these two think, and seriously wish I had been this cynical at thirteen.
When I was thirteen, I was not at all boy-crazy (unlike my childhood best friend at the time, who always wanted a boyfriend), and apparently was happy about Valentines Day because my parents gave me a present every year. My stance was obviously less “love is overrated, and boys are icky” (I’ve never felt that way about boys, just wasn’t interested in stuff like that) and more “mom and dad can buy me a better present than a boy can!”
But there is this Ross Brown guy, who has seemingly taken a liking to our protagonist (hey, even if she is a smartass with a cynical streak, she is still a protagonist!) and the way she thinks. He likes how she thinks so much, he even asks her to the dance, but Abby promptly shoots him down. Oh, Abby. You chose cynicism over a possible love that could be more than a summer’s day? I both admire and hate you – when a guy shows he is interested, is not a jerk, and can make you laugh the way you make him laugh, claim him as yours and hide him away from the other girls!
And as crazy as my thoughts may be, I remind myself of being thirteen. Not everyone wants to be in love, and not everyone thinks the whole world should be too. Why rush through childhood when it goes too fast already? Abby consults Kristy, which is rare for her, but it turns out they see eye-to-eye about relationships. Kristy relates her own relationship struggle when she was sorta seeing her rival softball coach and friend, Bart Taylor. Abby feels a kindred spirit in Kristy in this respect.
Meanwhile, Ross is quite amibitious in his attempts to woo Abby – he brings her roses (she’s allergic) to her home, tapes a carnation with a poem to her locker (she sneezes), and even tries to steer him away for good with her reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet One Hundred and Thirty. Of course, Ross interprets this as loving someone for who they are (true love), but that only aggravates Abby. Aggravated until she has a ah-ha moment…Ross fell for the wrong twin! He likes classical music and poetry, which means he’s perfect for Abby’s sister, Anna! And the brilliant plan is on – Abby will try to get Ross to pay attention to Anna!
But of course, the plan backfires in two terrible ways – a last-minute attempt to help Anna look ready to see Ross results in confusion between the two sisters, Ross feeling he has been deceived by the sisters, and the sisters not speaking. And it also doesn’t help matter when Abby tells the members of the BSC who have Valentine’s Dance dates that they have boyfriends/dates for the sake of having them. This results in even more hurt feelings and catastrophe, but of course, because all of these stories have happy endings, everyone makes up over apologies from both sides. It turns out that everyone’s approach to couples life, relationships, and the dance have two sides to consider.
And there’s the Ross thing – with a renewed sense of confidence following the making up at the Baby-Sitters Club meeting, Abby and Anna go to Ross’s house to apologize, which is accepts. Again, because all these stories have a happy ending, Ross invites Anna to a concert at the community center that afternoon…followed by asking Anna to the dance that night!
As for Abby, her and the equally uninterested in school dances Kristy see a chiller thriller called Pepperoni Man (the 1990s/childrens’ fiction were fun, kids), where in a random ticket drawing, Abby wins a – prepare thyself for this – a large box of Valentine’s chocolates.
Chocolate – sometimes it is all you need.
And like any Baby-Sitters Club novel would have, there is a subplot concerning other characters. In this case, it is the Brewer-Thomas blended family, and Scout, the guide dog-in-training they have been caring for until she is old enough to go through her official training. The knowing that this puppy will be leaving their family is having a major impact on them, specifically Kristy’s four-year-old stepbrother, Andrew, who doesn’t have a pet of his own. The sitters realize how Andrew feels, but the day comes (Valentine’s Day, no less) for Scout to be taken to the Guide Dog Foundation to begin her training. Of course, it isn’t without sadness, but Andrew soon finds out that he does have a dog that loves him just as much as Scout, and that dog is a permanent member of their family.
Happy, sappy endings all around, folks!
Until six months ago, I had no idea Abby existed, being that I was one – yes, one – book away from finding out who she was back in 1995. But the more stories I’ve read that involved her, the more I’ve liked her. Abby and her spirited personality were definitely a good fit for the Club, and the book series in general.
Pretty good for someone who usually hates change, even back then.
And there you have it, my first “book report” in about 22 years. Yes, it has been that long since I was in sixth grade. And now that I feel old, I wish all of you a Happy Valentine’s Day. Like Abby Stevenson, everyone has a different opinion of their relationship status and whether they want a relationship or not. If you’re truly a cynic, it is really just another day.
Oh, and on February 15th, clearance sale on unsold candy!
See guys, always a bright side!