Finally, a look at Stoneybrook through the eyes of the shy, scarf-knitting, braid-wearing baby-sitter with the over-protective father, Mary Anne Spier!
Mary Anne Saves the Day starts out dramatically, and within the first few pages the girls are practically clawing each other’s eyes out at a cold, January afternoon BSC meeting.
Kristy sort of causes it (are you surprised?) by accepting a baby-sitting job for Jamie and Lucy Newton (Lucy is the new baby) without checking who else is free – a mistake, she’s quick to point out, that Claudia has made many times in the past.
Matters escalate, and insults are thrown around (such as “dumb diabetes” – easy, girls). Claudia is (rightfully) furious that Kristy’s pushed her mistake back onto Claudia somehow, Stacey snaps when Claudia snarks at her for talking about New York all the time, and Mary Anne remains largely unscathed, until Stacey calls her a shy little baby.
At this, lower-lip trembling, Mary Anne stands up:
“Maybe I am shy,” I said loudly, edging toward the door. “And maybe I am quiet, but you guys cannot step all over me. You want to know what I think? I think you, Stacey, are a conceited snob; and you, Claudia, are a stuck-up job-hog; and you, Kristin Amanda Thomas, are the biggest, bossiest know-it-all in the world, and I don’t care if I never see you again!”
The Fight carries on for about a month. Claudia and Mary Anne make up for a few days, before Claudia absolutely loses her shit when Mimi calls Mary Anne “my Mary Anne” one afternoon when they’re having tea together (this is clearly Mary Anne’s fault).
The war continues all the way to little Jamie “Hi-hi!” Newton’s fourth birthday party, at which Mrs Newton hires all four girls to help her. After much “accidental” foot-stomping and chair scuffling, Mary Anne pours punch into Kristy’s lap and Claudia and Stacey start smushing napkins in each others faces (buh?). A single tear rolls down Jamie Newton’s cheek (no, seriously) and a cheery Mrs Newton walks into the room holding the candles-a-fluttering birthday cake. Freeze frame.
Naturally, the girls are embarrassed, can’t even remember what they were fighting over, and that’s that.
The REAL story of Mary Anne Saves the Day is discovering that the 12-year-old we’ve only seen through Kristy, Claudia and Stacey’s eyes so far is (cue the theme song to Dawson’s Creek) –
– desperate to break free of Richard “Richie” Spier’s shackles and put posters of kittens on her walls. She yearns to be able to wear skintight turquoise pants, Stacey’s “island” shirt with the flamingos and toucans all over it, and maybe bright red, high-top sneakers.
I’d like to create a sensation.
…I’m not sure sensation is the right word.
Mary Anne attempts, several times, to discuss changing the rules – from the braids she has to keep her hair in, to the picture of Humpty-Dumpty framed in pink on her bedroom walls, but her father wants none of it.
Poor Mr Spier. Yeah, I’m back to sympathising with the adult of the book, but you can’t help have your heart go out to the poor guy. We learn, through a few conversations that Mary Anne doesn’t really listen to where he tries to tell her about his day that he’s a lawyer. His wife died of cancer eleven years earlier. His parents died when Mary Anne was starting school. He has nobody else. His rules seem dated, but to be honest? It simply seemed like a combination of rules applied to a much younger girl that he hadn’t had time to properly reassess yet, and him telling himself that if he can just keep things the way they are, time will stop moving so damn quickly. I hear you, bro.
But never fear, Dawn is here! How is that even relevant to Mr Spier’s, or Mary Anne’s, plight? Well!
During the BSC fight, Dawn Schafer introduces herself to a lone Mary Anne one school lunch time, asking if she’s new too, because she’s sitting alone (“Um, no. It’s just – my friends are all…absent today”). Mary Anne passes judgement on her appearance immediately;
She wasn’t exactly pretty, I decided, but she was pleasant, which was more important.
Mary Anne is stunned to be talking to anyone other than Kristy, Mariah and Miranda Shillaber (…who?), or Claudia and Stacey, but recovers swiftly, realising that she can use this new, lonely girl with no friends to her advantage during the fight to make Kristy jealous.
Yes, good plan – this will end well.
Anyway, Dawn and Mary Anne have a few lunches together, and then start going to each other’s houses after school. Mary Anne pointedly ensures that both Kristy and Claudia will see her with another person as frequently as possible. Kristy is open-mouthed and very jealous as Mary Anne and Dawn spend more and more time together, but Claudia doesn’t care or see her over Trevor Sandbourne’s um, poetry.
Dawn, oblivious to Mary Anne’s machinations and grateful to be talking to anybody, tells Mary Anne that her parent’s have just divorced, and that they moved from California, since her mum grew up in Stoneybrook. Out of the blue, Mary Anne wonders if their parents knew each other, since her dad grew up in Stoneybrook, too. Gee, I wonder? Then they watch The Parent Trap. Uh-huh.
After looking through Mr Spier’s old yearbooks, Mary Anne and Dawn discover that Sharon Emerson (seriously?!) Porter – Dawn’s mum – and Richie Spier not only knew each other, but were desperately in love during high school. That Mr Porter, who was a banker, tragically hadn’t approved of the Spiers, because they didn’t have much money, or something (…is this why Richie Spier became a lawyer? *sobs* Oh, you poor, lovestruck fool). The girls read the two once-lovers private messages to each other in their yearbooks –
To S.E.P: Don’t walk in front of me – I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me – I may not lead. Walk beside me – and just be my friend. – Camus
Trevor Sandbourne, eat your heart out.
Dearest Richie, four years weren’t enough. Let’s start over. How can we part? We have one more summer. Hold on to it, Richie. (Love is blind.) Always and forever, Sharon.
– but don’t actually believe they were an item (…?!) until they find a photo from senior prom of the two of them. Dawn’s mother is wearing the same rose with the white ribbon that is still pressed between the pages of her yearbook! Squee!
It’s only a matter of time before Richie and Sharon are reunited, and are both stunned into silence.
And with that, it’s outfit time! No Claudia outfit, again (boo!), apart from a pair of big yellow clips shaped like flowers. But we are treated to a Stacey description:
She’s very sophisticated, and is even allowed to have her hair permed, so that she has this fabulous-looking shaggy blonde mane, and she wears the neatest clothes — big, baggy shirts and tight-fitting pants — and amazing jewellery, like parrots and palm trees. She even has a pair of earrings that consist of a dog for one ear and a bone for the other ear.
And then, this, regarding Kristy:
Kristy doesn’t care much about her appearance. Her brown hair is usually sort of messy, and she wears clothes only because it’s against the law to go to school naked.
…was this an actual conversation that happened between Mary Anne and Kristy? Or something Mary Anne came up with all by herself?
Because the girl’s spend the majority of the book at each other’s throats, there’s only one point – near the start of the book – where Claudia reveals hidden junk food; something called Ring Dings, from her pyjama bag:
This book surprised me, for the wrong reasons. My memory of Mary Anne was of a more quiet, shy and caring, and less whiney and catty little girl. It’s not a great introduction to her, particularly since she’s supposed to be the series’ Mary Sue. Perhaps this is why, in Mary Anne’s next book, we are introduced to Logan – in an attempt to make her more likeable (because if someone else likes her, we must like her?).
Do the plots magically align in Mary Anne Saves the Day? On the one hand, we have The Big Fight, and on the other, Mary Anne’s wish to be taken seriously by her father. The resolution to both, the book would have us believe, is for Mary Anne to face her fears and take responsibility.
By the end of the book, Mary Anne starts wearing her hair down, is able to stay out sitting until 10 on weekends, and removes Humpty Dumpty from her walls. Mr Spier’s loosening up is attributed to his realising exactly how responsible Mary Anne is, after she calls an ambulance for the extremely bratty 3-year-old Jenny Prezzioso, who’s running a fever one fine baby-sitting afternoon. I suppose a 12-year-old would think it was all about them, and reject the alternative, but we readers can face the facts: Richie Spier, clearly, got laid, and that was all it took.
Oh – and through the power of sleepovers, the club is introduced to Dawn, and after Kristy glaringly interrogates her (run, Dawn. RUN), they welcome the fifth member of the BSC with a “pizza toast”. Hurruh!
Next is Dawn and the Impossible Three. Yay! A Dawn book!
Relive the great BSC cat-fight with me – you can get Mary Anne Saves the Day for Kindle for about $4 on Amazon!