This book was the best, because Mary Anne is, still, The Worst. Oh, wow, what a difference after the sweetness of Jessi’s Secret Language. There was bitchiness, rival girls, school dances, emergency BSC meetings, and a Mary Anne tantrum.
Generally, I try to vastly summarise these things, because the bulk of the books are kinda…drab. But this review? I think it’ll be quite long. So many gems. So many lols.
We start Mary Anne’s Bad-Luck Mystery (why is bad luck hyphenated?) in the school cafeteria, where the 8th grade portion of the Baby-Sitters Club are discussing what’s most important to them.
To Kristy, it’s what the hot lunch looks like when mushed together (sadly, we never find out; Mary Anne makes her stop). To Logan, it’s pretending he’s not interested in what Kristy’s talking about. To Claudia, it’s the Halloween Hop (and the boy she’ll be asking out – let’s here it for our favourite automobile making a cameo, Austin Bentley!). Dawn’s just “there”, eating birdseed (that’s how Mary Anne explains it).
And to Mary Anne – well, it’s all internal, really. What the rest of Stoneybrook seem to perceive as shyness, and what Mary Anne perceives as sensitivity – a thing she shamelessly claims is why people like her and why she’s the only one of her friends with a boyfriend (even though she can barely say the word aloud), I perceive as…well, narcissism.
We’re treated to some token descriptions of the BSC members – and then this, when she comes to Logan:
On to Logan. It’s a little hard to describe him because I like him so much. Do you know what I mean? I mean that I think everything about him is incredible and handsome and wonderful, and that probably isn’t entirely true. So I’ll have to try hard to be realistic. In terms of looks, Logan is perfect. Well, not perfect. Maybe more like unbelievable.
We have the return of Claudia outfit descriptions with this amazing ensemble:
It was her vegetable blouse: an oversized white shirt with a green vegetable print all over it – cabbages and squashes and turnips and stuff. Under the blouse was a very short jean skirt, white stockings, green anklets over the stockings, and lavender sneakers, the kind boys usually wear, with a lot of rubber and big laces and the name of the manufacturer in huge letters on the sides. Wait, I’m not done. Claudia had pulled the hair on one side of her head back with a yellow clip that looked like a poodle. The hair on the other side of her head was hanging in her face. Attached to the one ear you could see was a plastic earring about the size of a jar lid. Awesome.
And a moment where Mary Anne mentions how good looking Dawn is – which is a far cry from when Mary Anne first met Dawn in Mary Anne Saves the Day where she noted that:
[Dawn] wasn’t exactly pretty, I decided, but she was pleasant, which was more important.
Looks are of enormous importance to Mary Anne. Especially looks from other people. It just so happens that another table of girls, including the school bitches, Grace Blume and Cokie (Marguerite) Mason, are pointing in their direction, snickering. After assuming initially that they’re laughing at Kristy (because she has been wearing the same outfit for the last seven weeks), Mary Anne goes all self-conscious and checks she hasn’t been dribbling food down the front of her sweater. Nope? Fine. They must be laughing at Kristy then – phew!
It’s a really weird moment. Mary Anne overhears Grace saying “stuck up”, but I just don’t get it. All the moment really does, apart from introducing those characters, is send Mary Anne into another musing, about how they have abandoned their previous lunch buddies, the Shillabers, and how Claudia and Dawn no longer sit with Rick Chow, Dorianne Wallingford and Pete Black.
I guess the twins and Rick and Dorianne and everyone will have to be their own groups.
So, 10% of the way into the book (thank you Kindle), and we’re still not sure what this book has to do with Bad-Luck (*eye-twitches*) or Mysteries.
The plot does arrive soon enough though, in the form of a chain letter that Mary Anne receives in the post, which instructs her to send the letter to 20 other people (“I don’t think I even know twenty people.”), else:
‘Bad luck will be visited upon you, the recipient of this letter, and your friends and loved ones. Harm will come your way.’
The 13-year-old members scoff at this; the 11-year-olds kind of freak, aghast that Mary Anne is even considering breaking the chain. By the end of the BSC meeting (where Mary Anne opened and read and then discussed the letter for several pages), she’s thrown it away in Claudia’s bin.
Naturally, everything starts to go wrong, and Mary Anne blames everything from clumsiness to forgetfulness on the curse of the chain letter. At lunchtime, Mary Anne has a bit of a tantrum – snapping at Logan (because she has dropped a plate of macaroni and cheese in front of the cafeteria and he was trying to tell her that not many people saw it), storms off from lunch and retreats to the library to try find Little Women. She doesn’t find it, but it’s the first thing she goes for when she gets home from school:
I opened the book to the scene where Beth dies. Maybe I would feel cheered up if I read about someone who was having a worst time than I was.
Within a few days, Mary Anne receives another package in the post, this time a letter addressed to:
Ok, what the hell kind of magazine did they get these letters from?! Not one single font matches and most of them are WAY too decorative to be of any true, readable use in print media! Bonkers [/end aside].
After initially panicking that it’s a ransom note and that Tigger has been kidnapped, she dashes off to the BSC meeting and, under the watchful gaze of the BSC, opens the package.
I began to peel back the paper as slowly and as carefully as if a bomb might be inside. (And these days, who knew?)
The “bomb” turns out to be a necklace on a delicate gold chain. The pendant is a glass ball and inside the glass ball is “a seed – a small, blah, yellowish-brownish thing”.
Claudia likes it; nobody else does – and then Mary Anne notices another note, with the necklace.
Screw that magazine’s typesetter, seriously.
After much screaming and panicking, the BSC tell Mary Anne that she has to stop putting them all at risk of bad luck and wear the bloody thing. They all start revealing that since she broke the chain letter, they’ve all been having bad luck; a Jackie Rodowsky sitting job that was worse than usual (Dawn); a failed spelling test (Claudia. Lol); falling in ballet class (Jessi: “That never happens.”); losing a watch (Kristy); and getting in trouble for talking in math (Mal). Stacey even gets a mention, when Claudia chimes in that she recently broke her dad’s favourite paperweight. They resolve that Mary Anne has to wear it, or something worse than bad luck will come:
“Evil,” said Mal in a whisper.
After Mary Anne starts wearing the necklace, the bad luck keeps coming. Jamie Newton falls down the stairs while Mary Anne is sitting for him (“But a Band-Aid helped. Jamie likes Band-Aids.”), there’s an explosion in the science lab at school, and Miranda Shillaber twists her ankle in gym class (though I don’t know why this makes it to the list; the abandoned Shillaber twins can’t count as friends or loved ones any more, can they?).
At lunch, Mary Anne proclaims “In fact, there’s bad luck wherever I am.”, and after the girls and Logan all edge away down the table from her they decide they need to try ward off the evil forces that are coming to get them.
So they pull a Hermione and head to the library, to look up spells and stuff. They each check out a book – On Witchcraft, Witches Through the Ages, Strange Phenomena, Charms and Spells – and send them home with Claudia, to deal with later.
“This,” said Kristy somberly, “is an emergency meeting of the Baby-sitters Club. You all know why you’ve been called here.”
They do. Because of Mary Anne. “Because I had tempted fate, thrown away a chain letter, and then been sent a bad-luck charm, which I was forced to wear or else.”
“So,” said Kristy, “something must be done about Mary Anne’s, um, problem.”
The girls get to reading through the spell books.
“Hey, Claud,” I said, “have you noticed these books doing anything weird? Like flying around your room at night, or glowing in the dark?”
Claudia started to laugh, but Kristy glared at both of us. “You cannot,” she told us, “afford to take this lightly. Mary Anne, you got us into this mess, so you sure better help us get out of it.”
Seriousness follows – with a brief Tootsie Roll interlude c/o Claudia –
– until Mary Anne finds a more interesting spell than one to cure all the bad luck she’s brought down upon them:
Hey!” I exclaimed a moment later. “Here’s a love spell!”
“A love spell?” repeated Dawn.
“Yeah, you know, to get a guy you like to fall for you. All you need is a lock of his hair, a fingernail clipping, one of his eyelashes–”
“MARY ANNE!” shouted Kristy, and we all jumped.
Mary Anne seems to constantly flip-flop around the place – on one page she’ll be moping and sulking that she’s caused her own doom and woe be to everything, and the next she’ll be completely distracted by the thought of making a guy fall in love with her.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: RUN, Logan.
After working out that the spells are all either too complicated or too lengthy for them to do, they resolve to try figure out who sent the charm, but then get bored with that and start discussing the Halloween Hop again instead. Kristy reveals that she’s tired of going places with Alan Gray —
“He’s too much of a jerk.”
Which turns to Claudia mentioning how lucky Mary Anne is to be going to the Hop with Logan – apparently “half the girls in our grade would kill to go out with him”. People like Grace Blume – remember, bitchy girl #2 from the cafeteria at the very beginning?
“…I bet she hates you, Mary Anne. She probably hates our whole club for taking up so much of Logan’s time.”
While Claudia is this close to joining the dots, Mary Anne just mopily dismisses the news about Grace as just being more bad luck.
Emergency meeting over and Mary Anne’s bad luck unresolved, they all hop along to the Hop. Mary Anne and Logan have decided they will dress up as cats for the dance (I’m sure Logan had a lot to do with this decision…):
I’d taken a black leotard and a pair of black tights and painted some gray tiger stripes on them, like Tigger’s. I was wearing gray-striped black gloves on my hands and (plain) black ballet slippers on my feet. I have to admit that Logan and I had cheated a little on one part of our costumes: we’d rented fur headdresses from a costume place in town. But we planned to make up our faces ourselves.
Logan had refused to wear tights and a leotard like me (I couldn’t blame him), so he had bought a few yards of this cheap furry fabric at a sewing store (he had also refused to go into a sewing store by himself – I had to go with him), and he and his mother had made a fur suit for him. He was wearing a fur top, fur pants, and even fur-covered shoes. His hands and face were painted tiger stripes like mine. And then, of course, he had put on the fur headpiece.
Mrs Bruno started laughing as we got into the car.
Nothing goes wrong at the Halloween Hop. They eat, they dance – and then Cokie (dressed as a punk rocker) approaches Logan and Mary Anne with her date, and asks if they can switch partners.
As we did (to my complete dismay), Cokie leaned over to me and said, “Cute costume. And nice bad-luck charm. It really completes the outfit.”
If Claudia, Dawn or even Kristy were wearing the necklace, I’m certain they would have put two and two together. How does Cokie know it’s a bad luck charm?
But our Mary Anne – no, she just crestfallenly notes that her father was right – the necklace spoils the costume. Woe.
Let’s have another Claudia outfit, to lighten the mood, hey?
There were Claudia and Austin. They were not in costume, either, unless you’d consider Claudia’s wild floral outfit, gigantic hair dip, and armload of silver bangle bracelets a costume. Most people would. Claudia didn’t.
Austin, who was wearing a suit and tie, looked more like her father than her date.
(Yes that’s right; hair dip.)
Anyway, Logan and Mary Anne dance the night away, next to “chickens and gorillas, space creatures and storybook characters, not to mention the usual hoboes and witches and goblins. Someone was even dressed as a stick of gum.”
Sorry, but all I could think of at this point was:
The night is, however, ruined, when Mary Anne gets home and finds another magazine-cutout letter taped to her door.
I really wish Mr Spier had found this letter before Mary Anne. He would have taken it down, called the police, and instead of the BSC deciding to stake out a graveyard on Halloween, it would have been the Stoneybrook Police Department and it would have been hilarious. He may have even grounded Mary Anne in the process, which would have resulted in more Mary Anne woe, which also is hilarious.
But no. Emergency Meeting #2 is called, and the girls spend it trying to think up ways to sneak out of their houses at midnight, and how to get to the graveyard. Kristy ends up suggesting they get Charlie to drive them around, and if they don’t die at Old Man Hickory’s tombstone at midnight, they’ll head back to her place afterwards for a good ol’ BSC slumber party.
Neat idea, Kristy – I’m sure eighteen-year-old Charlie Thomas has nothing better to do on Halloween night than drive four thirteen-year-old and two eleven-year-old girls around town.
Kristy’s last words before she adjourned the emergency meeting of the Baby-sitters Club were, “Tell no one about tonight.”
Poor Charlie. I don’t know how Kristy cons her brother into doing this thing for them, but for PLOT REASONS he just does.
But before the fateful night, Mary Anne partially reveals what’s got her so jumpy to her dad – at least, the part about the necklace. She lies that she bought it – and that someone told her it was a bad-luck charm, and that now she’s too afraid to take it off.
With a whip of the horn-rimmed glasses, Ritchie Spier inspects the necklace, and reveals his grandmother used to have one just like it.
“This isn’t a bad-luck charm, Mary Anne. You know what’s inside the glass? It’s a mustard seed, which is a symbol of faith.”
After this reveal, Mary Anne goes on Trick-or-Treat duty – handing out Almond Joy bars –
– Ritchie Spier turns on the jazz music (awesome) and we’re treated to more confused Mary Anne musings. She finally joins the dots, realising that if the necklace isn’t a bad luck charm, then why did Cokie call it that at the Halloween Hop?
I could hear the cogs of her mind – from within the pages of the book – go CLUNK.
Suddenly, answers to the mystery began to fall into place as easily as the pieces to a jigsaw puzzle when only five empty spaces are left.
After that, it’s simple really. Instead of Charlie picking up a pack of six terrified girls and driving them to what they are certain is their doom, Charlie picks them and their props up, and takes them to the graveyard to scare the bejeesus out of a bunch of bitchy girls from school.
“Pull up over there,” Kristy commanded Charlie, “and wait for us. Remember everything I told you. Be prepared to go for help, okay?”
“You girls are crazy,” was Charlie’s only reply.
The girls don masks, set up sheets in trees on lines and ready a tape recorder running a Haunted House sound-effects tape (baby-sitting money well spent). When Cokie, Grace and “three or four of their friends” turn up, the BSC flip the switches, release the sheets, and then:
“Now!” ordered Kristy.
She jumped out of the tree, and the six of us surrounded Cokie and Grace and the others. We were all holding flashlit masks before our faces. Really – I’m surprised nobody had a heart attack.
The next few moments were pure panic and confusion. The other girls tried to run away, but we wouldn’t let them.
WHAT THE HELL, GUYS.
After this – and gods know what Cokie and Grace (and the other three or four) thought was going on – the BSC drop their masks and reveal it’s only them. Lol!
Before Cokie and Grace (and the other three or four) can start telling them off, Logan appears, wondering if what just happened was what was supposed to happen.
Turns out someone (Grace) had called Logan and told him to go to the graveyard at midnight if he wanted to see something really amazing. But all he found was Charlie Thomas.
Charlie told Logan that the others were at Old Man Hickory’s tomb, and he mozied on up there to witness the whole thing.
And now, he wants to know what’s going on.
Eventually, Grace speaks up. They wanted to make the BSC look like jerks in front of Logan, so he’d get fed up with them, because:
“You spend most of your time with Mary Anne and the girls in the Baby-sitters Club. There are other girls at Stonebrook Middle School, you know.”
“Of course I know,” replied Logan. “I’m not blind. And when I see anyone I like as much as Mary Anne and her friends, maybe I’ll do something. But right now Mary Anne is – is my…”
Now Logan and I were blushing. I think he wanted to say girlfriend.
“Plus, I like baby-sitting,” Logan finished up.
“So there,” Kristy said to Cokie. She turned to the rest of us. “Come on. Let’s go. Charlie’s waiting.”
The BSC slumber party proceeds, and after a moment’s mystery dissection, Mary Anne realises that she never found out who sent the original chain letter to her, and that maybe the bad luck from breaking the chain was Cokie and Grace. They dismiss it fairly quickly, though, and the six girls return to eating popcorn, drinking sodas, and trying on each other’s make up.
Mary Anne decides that she’s going to keep wearing the necklace, because “It reminds me of Logan and me. We’re faithful. Especially Logan. He’s been very faithful to me.”
The book closes with Mary Anne dropping some of Claudia’s eye makeup on a mirror, and shattering it. Seven years of bad luck!
“Well, I can take it. I’ve decided that since my mustard seed is a symbol of faith, we’re protected…. Because I have faith that we’re protected. So, go ahead, you guys. Break all the mirrors you want!”
Fantastic advice, you looney.
Next we get to travel to New York, with Stacey’s Mistake. Hurruh! I’ve missed Stacey.
If you buy one book in the BSC to re-read and re-live the insanity, buy this one. Mary Anne’s Bad-Luck Mystery can be gotten for Kindle for under $5 here.