Goodreads Review: “The Summer Before”

My latest Goodreads review is up!

The Summer Before (The Baby-Sitters Club, #0.5)The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I’ve mentioned in several places, I originally read “The Baby-Sitters Club” from 1992 (halfway through third grade) until late summer of 1995 (right before starting seventh grade). I was familiar with the numbered series (I read up to #88), the Super Specials, Reader Requests, and to a lesser extent, the Mysteries. I also read the “Little Sister” spin-off during that same time (I think I read about 50 of those books). I loved “The Baby-Sitters Club,” and the only reason I stopped reading them was because I was 12 (almost 13), and felt like I was “too old” and ready to move on to bigger and better things/readings.

Last year, I found an article about Ann M. Martin and the 30th Anniversary of “The Baby-Sitters Club,” and was naturally intrigued. As a nostalgia geek/buff and writer, I was so happy to find out something of my childhood was being celebrated, especially something I held in such a high regard at a critical time to develop a love of reading. I never knew how much existed in the years after I stopped reading the books, and that the series, which started right before my 4th birthday in 1986, was published up until the fall of 2000. To give you an idea of how long 14 years is, I was in pre-school when the first books came out. By the time the last book (“Graduation Day”) was released, I was filling out my college application and writing the essay to go with it. I didn’t have a book series (or book) of choice during that time (so much school reading!), and hadn’t in probably four years at that point. So to find out how long the series ran, the cynic in me said “Wow, it took them 14 years to finish middle school?!”

I don’t say this to be all long-winded and such – there is a point to all of this. I never knew how much existed beyond the books released up until August 1995, and I certainly didn’t know there was a prequel book that lays it all out. I am, of course, happy that Ann M. Martin decided to revisit the series 10 years after the last book was published, and go all the way back to the beginning. I bought it for my Kindle last fall (when it was released digitally), but only got to it recently.

“The Summer Before” flashes back to the summer before Kristy had her great idea, and is told from the points of view of the Core Four as they spend the summer between sixth and seventh grades in their different lives. Kristy and Mary Anne are best friends, and their ways and personalities don’t always play well with their friend Claudia, who desires to grow up a little faster than she perhaps should. Meanwhile, Stacey is still living in New York City, and is looking forward to a fresh start in a new town, away from the stigma her diabetes diagnosis has caused.

All the chapters are first-person point-of-view (like all the books have been), but each character gets a certain number of chapters to tell their story. It is the stories you haven’t heard already, but leads up to the story you know and love, moving toward the Great Idea that set the whole fourteen years (seriously, fourteen years!) worth of books in motion.

My Take: I really enjoyed this one. Again, from a nostalgic standpoint, this tickled my nostalgic love and appreciation for something I fondly remember. I knew the backstory of each character going into this, but it was refreshing to see what life was like pre-BSC, and how the rift between Kristy and Mary Anne with Claudia finally gets patched up, and how Stacey’s life was about to change in a big way. Ann M. Martin recaptured the series us 80s/90s girls knew and loved, and gave the beloved characters their familiar voices once again.

In short, I loved this book!

Now, if only we could see a “revisited” book that shows them graduating from high school, or perhaps their lives ten years after the final book…

Might be alot to ask.

Do I recommend this book? Oh yes, and not just for kids currently reading it (do kids read the series these days?), but for the nostalgic adults who loved the series growing up. Say hello to your friends once more, and see before it all began!

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