I’ve missed Stacey. There’s a long time between re-reads and reviews these days (thanks, real life!) and it feels like Stacey has been missing from Stoneybrook and the Baby Sitters Club for much longer than four books.
In Stacey’s Mistake, not only are we in Stacey McGill’s world again, but we’re also taking a break from suburban-soccer-mum Stoneybrook and going on a sort-of holiday crossed baby-sitting job in New York.
Stacey invites the older BSC girls – sorry, Jessi and Mal, but as Stacey points out, she doesn’t really know you – to New York to help her with a big baby-sitting job one weekend. There’s a community meeting that all the parents are going to, to discuss how to help the homeless in their community –
– mostly because of this one homeless lady called Judy who lives on their street corner, who goes from being relatively pleasant and calling Stacey “Missy”, to shouting expletives whenever she feels like it.
Anyway, this means all of the kids in Stacey’s apartment block need looking after. Remembering Watson and Kristy’s mum’s wedding and the week leading up to that where they looked after a ton of kids as a group, Stacey suggests the BSC be shipped in to take the job.
(Are no other sitters in NYC?)
Claudia, Kristy, Dawn and Mary Anne arrive and get hopelessly lost at Grand Central Station, making me wonder just how small a country town Stoneybrook really is.
When Stacey finally tracks them down, she’s greeted with Claudia’s suitcase:
[Claudia] had a suitcase the size of a boxcar with her…She reached out for a handle on the end of her suitcase and began pulling it toward the stairs. The suitcase was on little wheels. I wanted to die. How embarrassing. Why hadn’t I noticed the wheels before? Only grandmothers pull around suitcases on wheels.
Dawn is all flighty and panic-stricken, and Kristy (who seems ready and waiting to have a go at Dawn – nervous habit, Kristy?) thinks it’s hilarious:
“Dawn? You okay?” I asked her.
“Oh, sure. It’s just that I’ve never been to New York before,” she reminded me. “And it’s not as if I lived in a city when we were in California. We lived outside Anaheim – in this teeny little suburb…But last night? I was listening to the news and I heard about these two murders in New York, and then this building collapsed and crushed someone.”
“And then,” added Kristy, “someone fell down an open manhole and was attacked and eaten by alligators and sewer rats.”
“Really?” said Dawn, her eyes widening.
Then there’s the walking travel guide:
“Well,” Mary Anne spoke up instantly, “I’d love to see Central Park. It’s eight hundred and forty-three acres of fun. Or maybe we could go to South Street Seaport, located in the Wall Street area of lower Manhattan and featuring nineteenth-century buildings, three piers, and a maritime museum.”
All in all, four-fifths of the original BSC end up acting like your stereotypical country-bumpkin American tourists. All that was missing was Kristy wearing a very bright red bomber jacket – though she was wearing a baseball cap with a picture of a collie on it.
So. To lunch:
“How about the Hard Rock Cafe? It features all kinds of–”
“The Hard Rock Cafe? Is that in a safe neighborhood?”
They do head to the Hard Rock Cafe, with the four visitors being loud and touristy the whole time, finishing their lunch by buying everyone they know and themselves matching Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts.
“These can be, like, our club uniform!” exclaimed Kristy. “We can wear our shirts to meetings.”
“Oh, wow, that will be so cool!” said Mary Anne.
I looked around for a place to hide, but there was none.
So did I, Stacey. So did I.
With only time to go to one more place before heading back to Stacey’s, they go shopping at Bloomingdale’s.
The next thing I knew, this store detective had come after Mary Anne. He demanded to look in her purse. When she opened it, he pulled out a half-used jar of eye shadow.
“I believe this belongs at the Clinique counter,” he said.
“I th-though it was a sample,” Mary Anne stammered.
(Everyone was looking at us.)
“You’re supposed to try the makeup at the counter, not pocket it,” I told her.
The man was very nice and let us go, saying not to let it happen again. I’m sure he thought we were tourist kids from the sticks. (He was four-fifths right.)
Eventually they go back to Stacey’s, visit the kids they’ll be sitting for the next day (all of the kids in the building – and who cares who they are, we’ll never see/hear from them again after this book), then go to get ready for the party Stacey’s hosting that night – one that’ll include all of her NYC friends so they can meet her Stoneybrook friends.
Thus we arrive at the important topic of what to wear to a New York party. Mary Anne flips from tour guide to dictator mode –
“Oh, no,” said Mary Anne. “No way. This is New York. I want us to dress New York so we fit in.”
“Maybe we should wear our Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts,” said Kristy. “They’re as New York as you can get.”
Mary Anne scowled at her. Then she added, “You especially, Kristy. You wear what Stacey says.”
And then we start getting descriptions:
Claudia had on the black outfit we’d talked about over the phone so long ago. And she was wearing her hair simply, for once – brushed back from her face and held in place by a white beaded headband.
Kristy was wearing a white turtleneck with little red and blue hearts all over it, a red sweater, jeans, and sneakers.
Dawn had chosen and oversized peach-colored sweater-dress, lacy white stockings, and black ballet slippers.
I was wearing a short, short yellow dress that flared out just above my hips, white stockings, yellow push-down socks, and these new shoes that my parents hate.
[Mary Anne] looked like she’d walked right out of the pages of Little House on the Prairie…a ruffly white blouse, a long paisley skirt, and these little brown boots.
Then Laine, Stacey’s New York best friend arrives:
Laine was beyond chic. She had chosen a short black dress, black stockings, and simple black flats. On one wrist was a single silver bangle bracelet. On her dress was one of those silver squiggle pins.
And the introduction is so incredibly awkward, thanks to Claudia’s jealousy – her reaction to Laine has to be read to be believed:
“So you’re the members of the Baby-sitters Club,” said Laine, smiling. “Stacey’s told me a lot about you.”
“She’s told us about you, too,” replied Claudia, and added, “You’re the one she had the big fight with after she found out she was diabetic, right?”
That was true – Laine and I had had a fight – but what was Claudia doing? I looked at her, aghast.
“And you’re the one she had the fight with when your little club almost broke up,” Laine countered.
The party goes…swimmingly (only, the opposite of swimmingly). Mary Anne embarrasses everyone including the reader by recalling facts about New York to groups of people she just wanders up to. The other Stoneybrook girls…don’t talk to anyone. Until Stacey makes them.
She leads Kristy over to a guy called Coby Reese – and, amazingly, they hit it off (naturally, they have sports in common).
Dawn opens her mouth once to ask a girl called Read (okie dokie) where the fire escape is.
Mary Anne continues to babble to groups of people she hasn’t been introduced to – finally finding a topic that doesn’t get her “weirdo” looks from Stacey’s friends in return. Which ends up being, in true Mary Anne bitch fashion, making fun of Dawn being afraid of everything.
And Claudia…well. After her snipe attack on Laine, we hear nothing from her. That is, until she sees that Kristy is actually having a good time at the party.
Guess who’d been dancing longest of all? Kristy and Coby! I couldn’t believe it. At least one of the Connecticut girls was fitting in with my other friends.
A fast song ended and a slow one started. Kristy wrapped her arms around Coby’s neck and they smiled at each other. And Claudia chose that moment to tap Coby on the shoulder and say, “May I have this dance?”
Kristy drew back in horror. If looks could kill, Claudia would have been dead and buried.
CLAUDIA, what the hell?!
The party ends, and everyone except the BSC and Laine leaves. Laine was invited to stay the night but isn’t sure she’s wanted – and Claudia continues being a dick and pipes up that Laine should only stay if she wants to.
The girls agree that they want Laine to stay – with the exception of Claudia, who sullenly remains silent when directly asked.
“What’d I do to you?” Laine asked Claudia sharply. “I didn’t do anything and you act like you hate me.”
“You did too do something,” Claudia replied haughtily.
“Don’t you know?”
“Well I’m not going to tell you.”
“Oh, that’s mature. You’re a jerk.”
“And you’re a stuck-up snob.”
“You know something?” Kristy spoke up. “Laine’s right. You are a jerk, Claudia.”
Laine decides she’d rather not stay then. Stacey apologises quietly as she sees her out, and Laine – rather maturely after the way she’s been treated – tells her to genuinely not worry about it, and that she’ll call her tomorrow.
Furious at how her friends have been acting – in her own home – Stacey storms back in and separates the girls – Kristy and Dawn in den, Claudia and Mary Anne in the living room – and with that, she calls a truce.
“Because tomorrow, we’ve got ten kids to sit for, and we can’t do that if we’re not speaking. So, truce?”
The next day the girls get ready to baby-sit the kids we met the previous night and don’t really care about. They go to the Museum of Natural History.
They keep the kids together on the walk to the museum by pretending that they’re from the story Madeline. They see dinosaurs.
They lose a kid. They find him again. They go to Central Park and go to the zoo, get ice cream, and walk home. End boring sitting job with kids we’ll never see again.
There’s a moment that gets Stacey thinking though – after Stacey exclaims over an old man with a flowing white beard, riding a tricycle and pulling along a red wagon with three fluffy white Persian cats in it.
(If anyone can find anything remotely like this on a google image search, you’ll be my hero.)
“It’s nice to see you get excited about something,” said Claudia as we walked along. We’d almost reached the zoo.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, you act like there’s nothing new or exciting in this city. Like you’ve seen it all before and so now nothing really matters anymore.”
“I do?” I said. That was something to think about.
This simple comment from Claudia gets Stacey pondering whether her friends are as exasperated with her as she is with them?
Stacey! Stop blaming yourself for other people’s dickish behaviour toward you!
That night Laine calls, and asks Stacey if she and the rest of the BSC want to go to Starlight Express (Laine’s dad is a producer so apparently gets free tickets to shows all the time).
Laine says she feels awful about the previous night and wants to start over – by offering a night out, including dinner, stretch limo for transport to the show and house seats to a Broadway show.
The Stoneybrook nutters of the BSC really don’t deserve this from her. If I were Stacey I would have just told my “friends” I was going out and gone to the show with Laine myself. They would have deserved it. But no – in BSC land, friendship forever, blah blah blah. So with all forgiven and practically forgotten, they all go out and enjoy themselves.
After Laine and the limo (sounds like a band) drops them back off at Stacey’s apartment, they decide to have a late-night meeting of the BSC – which just turns into a catch-up session for Stacey. They tell her about the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant, about Jeff leaving, about how Tigger (Mary Anne’s cat) is doing, and all seems well again.
Pretty soon the BSC are back at the train station and with a tearful good-bye, are gone.
Ok, so – all four of the visiting girls end up acting in a way that riles and embarrasses the ever-patient Stacey, and while I could totally believe Kristy being obnoxious and stubborn (no change there), Claudia being a bit of a pest with too many clothes and being jealous of Laine, and Mary Anne being a pain in the ass, I’m kind of mad that Ann M Martin turned Dawn into a fraidy-cat.
What – she had to have a reason for Stacey to be annoyed at all four girls, so she took our usually calm, sensible and confident Dawn and turned her into a snivelling wreck? I mean, Stacey even comments on how out of character this is for Dawn. What would have been a more believable would have been to have Dawn compare everything in New York to something that’s “better” in California – you know, play off the whole east-west coast rivalry that I’m assuming exists – which would have been enough to both piss Stacey off and keep Dawn relatively in character. American tourists do this all the time, so it even would have fit in with the other cliche tourist things the rest of the girls did when they arrived.
One of the main things that has surprised me about Stacey during this re-read is how much I misjudged her when I was a pre-teen. My favourite characters, when I was ten, were Dawn, then Mary Anne (I…I’m sorry world), then probably Claudia, because art and clothing descriptions. Stacey always felt like…this rich, far-too-cool for me to relate to pretty girl. For this reason I guess a lot of kids considered Stacey their favourite character; someone they wanted to be; but for me, I found Stacey a little intimidating.
But she’s not. From considering the homeless woman on her street one of her friends and always saying hello to her, to putting up with the mortifying shenanigans of the Baby-Sitters Club girls while they’re in New York (despite wanting to throttle them – she only snaps at them once, in private, and then almost immediately calls a truce), Stacey has a level of kindness and patience that I either missed or forgot about entirely from when I was a kid.
Bravo Stacey – the BSC don’t deserve you! Stay in New York and away from those other crazies for as long as you can!
Book 19 is titled Claudia and the Bad Joke. Hmm. That could have almost been the title of this book. I hope that with Claudia’s (and the rest of the BSC’s) return to Stoneybrook, the dickish behaviour is dropped.
Want to read about the BSC’s antics in New York for yourself? Stacy’s Mistake is on Amazon Kindle for around a fiver.