Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #10 - Sea City, Here We Come!

Summertime is fun time, and what could be more fun than reading one of the Baby-Sitters Club summer-themed Super Specials?

Specifically, Super Special #10, Sea City, Here We Come!?

That's right. Nothing. So let's begin.

As the story commences, instead of the usual "Baby-sitter bookends the plot with the hopes of making a vacation diary" tactic, we are treated to a bunch of postcards written to and from the baby-sitters. We learn:
  • Jessi and Mallory will be watching all the Pike kids during their trip to Sea City this year (not to be confused with last year, when Stacey and Mary Anne had the gig; even though everyone's the same age as they were last summer and... oh nevermind.)
  • Mary Anne's boy toy from books #8 and #34, Alex, writes to ask if she'll be in Sea City again this summer. He'll be there. And so will Toby, who used to walk the ol' boardwalk with Stacey before he dumped her last year.
  • Stacey has been asked to sit for the Barrett kids, who are also renting a house at Sea City.
  • Claudia has earned herself a trip to summer school.
  • Kristy will be coaching her softball team.
  • Dawn and Mary Anne are going to have a day camp for kids. 
  • Then, during the second week of the Sea City adventures, Claudia, Kristy, Dawn, Logan and Mary Anne will go to Sea City to stay with the Pikes. (Good, because I wondered why they were all on the cover, clearly at the beach.)
The first real chapter officially goes to Kristy. She dives right into the old BSC book standbys of A) explaining how the club works, and B) Describing each club member.

Claudia, she of the luxurious black hair, blemish-free skin, and almond-shaped eyes, gets her fabulous outfit described in detail. Says Kristy: She was wearing ripped cut-off jeans held up by a frayed rope belt, a T-shirt with the collar torn off, huge white socks all bunched around the ankle, and old-fashioned black lace-up shoes. Apparently, Claudia is going for the recently mauled by a lion look.

Mary Anne, says Kristy, looks a lot like her (Kristy). After all, they both have shoulder-length brown hair. (COVER SAYS OTHERWISE.) 

Stacey, didya know, has Diabetes. But at least she's a super trendy dresser!

Dawn's a health food nut. Kristy admires Dawn because she stands up for what she calls her "alternate life-style." Is that like an alternative lifestyle? And does it involve anything besides eating a lot of tofu? Dawn has lonnnng blonde hair. This is mentioned in nearly every book, but the cover artists never seem to comply. Even Stacey's hair looks longer than Dawn's, here. That will never cease to bug me.

Annnnd finally, Mallory is white and Jessi is black. But otherwise... they are alike.

So off to Sea City they go (the Pikes, the Barretts, Jessi, Mallory, and Stacey, in this first wave).

Mallory isn't there an hour when she encounters Toby and Alex on the beach. And hooboy, Toby is cute. And he seems to like Mallory, too, even though she is eleven. Mallory notes: I could see Toby looking at me off and on during the afternoon. And smiling, too. Could it be? It didn't seem possible. He was so much older. Fifteen, probably. But I liked the way he was making me feel. I'd never felt that way before. 

There may be something there
that wasn't there before....

Stacey Chapter. The drive with Mrs. Barrett and the kids to Sea City was majorly miserable. Even more miserable was having to encounter Toby on the beach. Then to top it all off, Mallory tells Stacey that she thinks Toby likes her, and when Stacey expresses her disgust, Mallory accuses her of being jealous.

Eh, just throw her into the ocean, Stacey... it would take at least an hour for anyone to notice.

Next up, Mary Anne and Dawn are in Stoneybrook, working their day camp known as Mini-Camp. The kids are naughty and the chapter is boring.

Kristy chapter. Kristy's softball team is gearing up to go against their bitter rivals, Bart's Bashers, but oh no! So many of Kristy's players are going on vacation before the big game that they may have to forfeit! Not if Kristy has anything to say about it. In order to recruit more players, she goes around her ritzy neighborhood ringing doorbells, finding several possibilities, including a P. Archibald "Moon" Pinckney and a Sheila Nofziger. I can guess how this is going to turn out. (Yeah, they totally lose the big game. HA.)

Back at Sea City, Jessi sees a poster for a sand castle contest, happening on some forthcoming "Wednesday." She tells the little kids about it and they get all excited. Later, Jessi walks by the place where the real sand castle-builders are practicing, realizes her kids will never win anything more than a participatory ribbon, and proceeds to panic. The girls' castle was nothing compared to these. But I didn't want to insult them by saying they shouldn't enter. So far, my week had been great. I'd been a perfect mother's helper, just like I wanted to be. But this was going to be trouble. Feelings were going to be hurt. I had no idea what to do.

Several chapters go by in which nothing happens and THEN... everyone, all the baby-sitters, arrive in Sea City! Squee! Girly party! Well, mostly girly... there's Logan. And Logan is just a wee bit jealous over the fact that Alex (remember, Mary Anne's one-time summer fling) is staying nearby.

Time for another Mallory chapter. I find her plot kind of interesting in this Super Special. Not good, just interesting. I love how her infatuation with Toby is making Stacey all crazy and bitchy. Bwahaha. Toby asks Mallory out for Friday evening. All casual-like. Mallory's reaction: I flew to the house... I bounded upstairs, ran straight into the room, and slammed the door... I plopped on the bed and said, "Oh, Jessi Jessi Jessi Jessi Jessi Jessi!"

"What what what what what? Are you okay?"

"No." I shook my head and looked her straight in the eye. "I'm in love."

Several chapters go by. A hurricane named Bill is moving ever-closer. But will it strike Sea City, or fizzle out at sea? Meanwhile, a storm continues to rage within Stacey, who has had not one, but two tantrums over... wait for it... bathroom towels and shelled peanuts. Let's harken to what Kristy said about Stacey in the Introductory chapter: "Stacey's really beautiful. And sophisticated (but not snobby). And smart (especially in math.) And extremely volatile (especially when deprived of the pleasures of shelled peanuts.)"

Okay, I added that last part. But it fits. Stacey has clearly gone to the zoo.

But she's not the only one....

Hurricane Bill approaches. It will strike Sea City this night. The vacationing families decide to move inland. Mr. Pike instructs everyone to pack one overnight bag. Claudia runs upstairs to comply....

Kristy and I ran into the room we shared. Kristy threw a pair of underwear, some socks, and a T-shirt into a backpack. "Come on," she said.

I was having a dilemma. I was wearing the only long pants I had packed, these overdyed navy jeans. I was also wearing a loose black cotton sweater over a white tank top. So if I packed my big purple Hawaiian shorts, which were the next warmest pants, I'd be stuck having to wear an orange striped shirt, which was the only long-sleeved one I'd brought. Unless I wore the sweater again over it....

"Uh, Claud?" Kristy said. "Bill is a hurricane, you know -- not a fashion-show judge."

I ended up packing three oufits -- one in case it was cold and rainy, one in case it was warm and rainy, and one really nice one to change into if necessary (or if the weather cleared up). I thought that was very sensible.

And when Claudia finally meandered downstairs, she realized everyone had already evacuated without her.


Okay, no, they hadn't, but I think that would've been for the best.

The families pile into two large vehicles and begin to drive out of Sea City. When they reach the causeway (a bridge that connects Sea City to the mainland) they learn that it is underwater. They're trapped!! A policeman tells them to take shelter in the elementary school, so off they go.

Slowly we inched our way across town. The rain pounded like war drums on the roof. 

Or maybe that was the sound of my own heart.

Always with the drama, Claudia....

Inside the elementary school, they find cots to sleep on and canned food to eat for dinner. The power goes out. Soon, everyone is asleep.

Buddy Barrett gets a chapter. We learn that everyone survived the hurricane, safe inside the Sea City Elementary School gym. The storm is over. Time to go back to the beach houses and assess the damage.

As we drove along the main street, Mrs. Pike said, "Looks like we were lucky."

I didn't think so. The Ferris Wheel hadn't fallen down. The store windows hadn't broken. No cars had crashed. No houses had blown away. No dead bodies were in the street. Nothing had happened. It was boring.

Speaking of things boring, here comes another Logan chapter. Logan is planning some kind of surprise for Mary Anne's homecoming. Logan pines: I couldn't wait to see her. Especially after the week I'd had. It had been the absolute pits. Why? Well, let me come right out and say it. From the moment I left Sea City, I couldn't stop thinking about Alex.


Thinking about a guy CAN cause a lot of inner turmoil and... hey, wait a second.


Meanwhile, in Malloryland...

Mallory is getting ready for her date with Toby in 12 hours. And she is stressing. What would I wear? Should I put on makeup? Could I learn how to put on makeup in time? Should I practice what to say? Should I leave my glasses at home?

A) Why, nothing, of course. B) Yes. C) Is the makeover plot from Super Special #5 no longer BSC canon, or...? D) You should totally practice. Have Buddy Barrett play Toby. E) Not unless you want to go tumbling off the boardwalk into the sea, you goon.

While trying to help Mallory decide on an outfit for the big date, Claudia brings up Ben, an Australian boy who Mallory's been out with a few times. Mallory starts to miss Ben. So she calls him. And they have a wonderful conversation. And then... I realized something. There was no one I wanted to go out with but Ben. I tried to get excited about my date with Toby again. But I just couldn't. The thrill was completely gone.

Mallory decides to tell Toby that she has a beau back home, and that instead of going out with Toby tonight, she'd like to spend the evening with her family. Toby seems agreeable, but then asks Mallory to try and hook him up with another cute, single girl next summer, which ruffles her red feathers. She goes back inside to find Stacey sitting on Mallory's bed. Stacey is mournful and wants to apologize for her bitchery. They make up; all is well.

The end.

Well, almost...

It's epilogue-ic postcard time!

Mary Anne writes to Alex in her slanty-to-the-point-of-collapse handwriting to tell him about the romantic welcome-home present that Logan came up with: a horse-drawn carriage ride! Whyyyy is she telling Alex this? "Look what my awesome boyfriend did for me! What do YOU have to compare, Alex? Write back." I mean, what?

Buddy writes to his father and alludes to the fact that Stacey and Mrs. Barrett had a long, serious talk on the way back from Sea City, and now seem friendlier toward each other.

Jessi tells Cousin Keisha that being a Super Sitter really wore her out. (Jessi had mentioned cooking the entire family's breakfast on several occasions. Eeshk.)

Robert Thompson, manager of First Glass, Inc. Glaziers & Window Design, writes to the Pikes to let them know that his company will be coming to fix their hurricane-damaged windows on Saturday at 10 am. Annnnd yawn.

And finally, Toby writes to Mallory to say:

Dear Mallory,
I just want you to know, I'm not mad at you at all. In fact I'm kind of glad you did what you did. If you hadn't, it would have been an uncomfortable date. You have a steady boyfriend and that's cool. So I guess you wouldn't mind sending me the address of your friend Jessi? She seemed very nice. How old is she? Is she seeing someone?
Hope to hear soon,

In conclusion:

Not the best Super Special, but not terrible. The writing was fair to good; the descriptions were especially noteworthy. I felt the coldness of the beach before the hurricane.

Most of the plots were reasonable/relatable. None really stuck out for me as being that interesting. Maybe the Mallory-Stacey one. And Hurricane Bill's. Everyone else's was pretty forgettable.

I didn't like how half of the book took place in Stoneybrook and half in Sea City. A lot of the early Super Specials kept all the baby-sitters in one location, although they often branched out and did their own things in that location. The later Super Specials seemed to drift away from that concept. This one seems especially disjointed, perhaps because of this choice. Or maybe it's just hard to write a book where eleven different characters get chapters (all the regulars, plus Logan, Buddy Barrett, Karen Brewer, and Margo Pike).

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a rousing Baby-Sitters Club adventure, and 1 being a book I'd send straight to Good Will, I give this one a 4.7.

All right, well, back to reading Harry Potter for the eighth time....

* * * *

Also be sure to check out:
BSC Super Special #6, New York, New York!
Analyzing The BSC Members' Family Portraits

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