Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Babysitters Club #96: Abby’s Lucky Thirteen



Abby and Anna are about to turn 13 and are in the midst of planning their Bat Mitzvah. Abby is also freaking out because she failed a math quiz and her teacher sent home a note. She destroyed the note and kept it a secret from her mom. During her next class, she learns that they have another test coming up and this one counts for 25% of their grade. This really freaks her out because she’s so busy with studying for her rite of passage that she doesn’t have time to do anything else.

It doesn’t help that her mom finds out about the quiz anyway. Abby points out that she was sick and couldn’t study for the test and the teacher wouldn’t offer her any extra time. Her mom goes down and basically chews out the teacher. Abby feels bad because she missed two days of school, but she wasn’t actually that sick on the second day and spent it watching television.

Luckily a random guy shows up and offers her a great study guide for the test and for only $3. She buys it, reads through it and thinks it’s a great guide. Not only does it have the questions and answers, but it shows how to do each problem. She goes over it several times and feels prepared for her test. Then it turns out that her “study guide” was actually a copy of the test.

The teacher passes back the tests and Abby scored a 98. She checks the question she got wrong and realizes that the answer was wrong on the guide. The teacher has her and four other students stay late. All five students missed the problem in the exact same way, but no one confesses. Abby caves and tells the teacher that she bought a copy, but doesn’t know the kids name, so the teacher suspends her for three days.

Instead of telling her mom, she hides the letter from the school and fakes going to school every day. Her mom is home working on their party, so she hides out at the public library. On her last day of suspension, she ventures into a restaurant and her mom catches her. She grounds her for one month, but she can still sit, attend meetings and even do soccer and other sports. Nice grounding.

Abby finally gets the chance to make everything right when she sees Mary Anne buying a guide from the same guy. They take the copy to the teacher and she realizes that they were telling the truth. Abby’s mom shows up to raise some more hell, but comes in just as the teacher is praising them for doing the right thing. They finally have their Bat Mitzvah and enjoy being around the family.

The little B-storyline involves a bunch of parents in town growing tired of their kids watching television all the time. They make the kids stop watching TV or put on bans and the Pikes even turn off their cable. The kids mope around, until they decide to put on a play about their favorite TV star. They have so much fun doing it that they decide to keep putting on plays, instead of watching television.

*I thought Abby was supposed to be smart? Why would she not realize that her study guide was a copy of the test?

*I can’t believe that everyone would miss the same problem in the exact same way. Can you imagine memorizing dozens of math problems, complete with solutions and problem solving?

*How big is SMS? I get that Abby is new there, but I never really pictured it as a big school, yet she had never seen the guy before.

*All of the members attend their party and then, even though her mom grounded her, she gets to have a big sleepover, with all the members and some of Anna’s friends.

*This kind of felt like a PSA on Jewish traditions. I skipped big sections that read like a Wikipedia entry on Bat Mitzvah celebrations. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Execution of Innocence (Christopher Pike)



Mary is a teenage girl sitting in the police department, when the book opens. Cops Sharp and Riles are grilling her on a boy named Richard “Rich”. Mary reveals that they went out once and hung out a few times, but he wasn’t her boyfriend, she was actually dating a guy named Charlie. The cops announce that Rich is lying dead on a slab in the morgue and Charlie is missing. They make it clear that they don’t believe she knows nothing about the night because she can’t remember simple details and all she say is that she loves Charlie and doesn’t know where he went.

Mary then flashes back on how she fell for Charlie. She had a shitty car and heard he was a good mechanic, so she took her car to him. He brought it back that night and wouldn’t take any money for it. She gave him a ride home, the car broke down again and she exploded on him, blaming him for wrecking her car. He called her a bitch, but brought her car back the next day in perfect condition, so she asked him out. Later she discovered that he spent the whole night working on the car, just for her.

The cops discover that he was shot with a .38, which is the same type of gun that Charlie’s dad owned. They call in Dick’s sister Hannah and she admits that her brother loved Mary, but denies that Charlie could have killed him. She does let it slip that the two guys had a bad fight over her at school. Apparently Rich/Dick promised Mary that his dad would help her get into Stanford, if she went to the school dance with him. She agreed, as long as no one told Charlie.

The cops bring in this chick Linda, who’s full of bad stories. She swears that Mary threatened to kill Charlie and she overheard it. She also swears that Mary and Dick were making out on the night of the dance and that multiple people thought they had sex. Mary denies it because Dick nearly raped her on their one and only date. The cops then take her to the crossroads, a local hangout, to help them look for Charlie and the murder weapon.

Mary flashes back to the night of the dance and remembers Dick attacking her again. She went to see Charlie, but he already knew that she lied to him and went out with someone else. He called her a whore, broke up with her and walked away. Then she went to Hannah and discussed the whole thing, making the comment about wanting to kill him.

In the present day, the cops take Hannah and Mary to the crossroads, where they find the gun and it matches the one belonging to Charlie’s dad. They talk it over and decide that since there’s no blood, it means that he was killed somewhere else and left there. They arrest both girls, drive down the road a little bit and find a huge ass pool of blood. There are also prints left in the snow and both match the shoes that the girls are wearing.

The cops also discover that both girls dipped their hands in Lysol, making it impossible to find gunpowder residue or any other evidence. They also discover that Dick was high on PCP. After letting them go, Mary remembers what actually happened that night. Dick and Hannah agreed to help her pull a prank on Charlie, to get him back. Yeah, because he was the one who did something bad! Mary made plans to meet him and then Dick would pop up, wave around a gun and threaten him.

As soon as she sees him though, Mary backs down. Just as they make up, Hannah comes running out of the woods. She tells them that Dick is in the woods and coming after Charlie with real bullets, instead of the blanks she gave him. Charlie rushed to her aide, the two guys fought, the gun went off and somehow they both ended up dead. Hannah forced Mary to help her dump Charlie’s body in an old abandoned well and make it look like he disappeared.

The two girls go out to a restaurant and talk about what happened. Then they see Charlie wandering down the street. It turns out that he was wearing a St. Christopher medal, which absorbed the shock of the bullet. Hannah wants to kill him and takes him out to an old abandoned farm. Mary agrees to do it, but then hits her with a brick and grabs the gun. She shoots her in the heart and takes Charlie back to her house.

Of course Hannah isn’t really dead and she shows up at her house. The two cops show up too and just as they’re trying to fool them, Charlie walks in the room and tells them Hannah shot him. Apparently she hid in the woods and used night vision goggles to get a good shot on him. She also drugged Dick, so he’d act crazy and uncontrollable. All of this because she had a lesbian crush on Mary!

After a minor confrontation with the cops, Hannah raises the gun to her head and plans to kill herself. Mary asks to give her one last kiss before she dies and they do kiss. Then she moves the gun down and Hannah bursts into tears. She promises to take the blame for everything that happened and talk to her dad about getting Mary into Stanford. I guess Mary and Charlie live together happily ever after?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nightmare Hall: The Night Walker (Diane Hoh)



Quinn Hadley is a freshman at Salem University and a chronic night walker, aka sleepwalker. She’s had a few episodes in her life and the doctors always told her that it was just stress. She was also warned to watch herself at college because school was so stressful. When her boyfriend Simon dumps her right before the Spring Fling, she starts sleepwalking again.

Her roommate Tobie keeps an eye on her and keeps her from doing dangerous things when she sleepwalks. Tobie and some other girls from her dorm go to the dance together and everyone has a great time until the last dance. Suddenly an awful smell takes over the room and everyone panics, running outside. Several people are hurt and her friend Jessie gets her wrist broke. Someone apparently did a little chemistry experiment and set off sulfuric acid in the room.

When she wakes up the next day and hears about it, she notices a sulfur smell in the room. At first she thinks it’s Tobie’s clothes, but then finds that it’s her own clothes. She quickly hides everything away, but worries that she did it in her sleep. Apparently she had two bad episodes before. Once she had a fight with her sister and sleepwalked into her room, where she beat the crap out of her. She also attacked a girl’s tennis racket in her sleep, after the girl beat her.

Later that day, she tries to talk to Simon about their breakup, but he acts really distant and runs off. Quinn decides to start wearing clean socks to bed every night, to keep track of herself. A couple is attacked that night, when someone throws red paint on them from a balcony. Quinn checks her socks, which are clean, but then finds her clothes covered in red paint.

She does however make up with Simon. She confronts him over their break up and he shows her a letter that he got, signed with her name. Someone sent him a letter on pink stationary, breaking up and telling him that they didn’t want anymore contact. They make up and start dating again.

Then another couple is attacked. This time the attacker smashes their car doors with a hammer, when they’re parked together. Apparently it’s 1958 at Salem University. Then the attacker battered all the windows and raced off. Quinn discovers that her socks are covered with dirt and mud and so is her yellow rain slicker and hat. She visits the site of the incident and sees her friend Suze poking around.

When she pulls out a pair of jeans, she finds shattered glass in one pocket, exactly the same size and shape of the car windows. Suze claims she visited the site as a favor to Reed, the girl who was attacked, but Reed denies it later. She also makes a comment about how the attacker wore a yellow rain slicker and hat.

Quinn’s friend Tim also has an interesting story about Tobie. Tobie dated a few guys on campus, but never settled down. She tells Quinn that she has no interest in a relationship or being with one guy. Tim reveals that Tobie had a high school sweetheart. They were in love, made plans to go to college together and even talked about marriage. He was in a car accident the summer before college and died. To make things even worse, Quinn finds pink stationary in Tobie’s desk, just like the letter sent to Simon.

Instead of confronting her, Quinn opts to go out with Simon. Their friend Ivy is pissed because they’re skipping out on her sometime boyfriend Tim’s frat party. The restaurant and movie are both deserted because no one wants to be seen as a couple. The party turns out the same way. When she gets back, she finally confronts Tobie. Tobie denies writing the letter and tells her the story of what happened. Her boyfriend Peter was actually taking money out of an ATM, when he was attacked. He fought back, the attacker pushed him, he hit his head and died.

That same night, another couple is attacked. This time it was Ivy and Tim and they were attacked by a claw hammer. Quinn is shocked to discover that the claw hammer is hidden under Tobie’s pillow. She takes it to the police and finds an article about Peter’s death. The cop tells her that Tobie’s parents sent it to him, when all the weird stuff started happening. Apparently someone was with the attacker at the time, but he never gave up a name. A plus-size blonde came to the proceedings though and glared at Tobie when she testified against him.

Quinn finds out that the guy’s name was Gunther and that his girlfriend’s name started with an S. Simon is attacked and knocked out, which makes things worse. She goes to Ivy, wanting to tell her that she suspects Suze. She finds a ring on the table between the two beds and plays with it, while telling her what she knows. Then she reads the inscription and sees that it’s from Gunther! And it belongs to Suze! She and Ivy hatch a plan to trap the girl, but then Suze shows up.

While Ivy is in the bathroom, Suze warns Quinn about wearing the ring, telling her that Ivy is super protective of it. Quinn freaks out because that means Ivy was his girlfriend. She runs off, but Ivy follows her and nearly runs her off the road. She wrecks her car, jumps out and runs to Nightmare Hall, where she hides in the barn. Ivy follows and Quinn runs up to the hayloft.

Ivy explains that she dyed her hair, got contacts and lost weight to completely change her appearance. She and Gunther planned on running away together and he attacked Peter, trying to steal money for them to run away. He loved her so much that he kept her name out of the case. Ivy sprinkles kerosene all over the barn and then climbs up the ladder with a lamp. Quinn pushes the ladder over and when Ivy hits the ground, the kerosene catches fire and the barn goes up in flames. Quinn survives, but Ivy dies in the fire.

Quinn winds up in the hospital, where her friends talk about what happened. Tobie confesses that she’s now seeing a therapist and while she’s not ready to start dating again, she feels good about her progress. Suze confesses that she went out with the male from the second couple and left her psychology book in his car, which is why Quinn saw her there. She also explains that she found her sleepwalking once and brought her back, which is why her socks were dirty. Quinn realizes that Ivy kept doing the stuff, like splattering her clothes with paint, to make Tobie look guilty because she thought it was her stuff. She’s also happy and relieved that her sleepwalking days are behind her.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fear Street: The Stepsister (R.L. Stine)



Emily and Nancy’s mom just married a new guy Hugh and now his kids Jessie and Rich are moving in with them. Jessie is cool at first, but then she discovers that they have to share a room. I’m not sure why they would stick her in a room with her new stepsister, instead of putting the two actual sisters in the same room. She ends up kicking Emily’s dog Tiger and then yanking the head off her favorite teddy bear. Ok then.

Emily is currently dating Josh, who once dated Nancy. There are a few jokes about how he ditched one sister for the other and it’s pretty clear that Nancy still has feelings for him, but Emily blows it off. During their first dinner together, the girls realize that Hugh is kind of an ass. He makes rude comments about Rich spending all his time locked in his room reading and brags that he never reads. Emily also flashes back to her own dad’s tragic boat accident the previous year.

To top it all off, Hugh is happy that he lives with so many girls because now he doesn’t have to do dishes or laundry. Emily is disgusted by him, but her mom thinks he’s super cute. Emily is less than happy again when Jessie comes out in one of her sweaters and swears up and down that it’s her own sweater. Jessie then sits at her desk and somehow Emily’s huge (17-page) paper was erased. She kind of attacks Jessie and everyone thinks she’s crazy.

On the gross side of things, Emily has a date with Josh. She sees Jessie watching them and starts making out even harder with him. They finally have a good moment together, trying to make an icebox cake together. It turns into a huge whipped cream fight and then Jessie suggests she take the first shower. As soon as Emily steps out of the shower, she discovers that her hair is now orange. Her screaming causes the family to run into the shower and Hugh discovers that someone poured hydrogen peroxide into her shampoo. Would that even work?

Nancy gives her a haircut, to make the color less noticeable. Apparently these girls have never heard of hair dye. Emily goes to a dance with Josh and when she comes home, she finds Tiger laying dead on the floor, stabbed to death. Even worse, someone stuffs the poor dog’s body in her backpack, so she can relive that moment all over again. Emily is convinced that Jessie is trying to ruin her life.

One of the worst moments comes when Emily is in the bathroom at school. She hears someone come in and mess around, then hears the door close. She smells smoke and realizes they set the room on fire and locked her inside. She manages to get out and runs right into Jessie. She gets over it fast enough for the three girls to go to a concert. Unfortunately, someone shoves her down the stairs.

Hugh is out to prove that he’s both the worst father and stepfather in history, by forcing the whole family on a camping trip to South Carolina. They get there late and Hugh makes the girls go out in the dark to look for firewood. Emily notices an old cemetery and then runs off, thinking someone is following her. She falls into an open grave.

Someone hits her with an axe when she tries to climb out and when she looks up, she sees Nancy look down on her. Nancy blames Emily for their dad’s death because apparently she was on the boat with him and survived, while he died. She’s also stressed about the future and what she might do, plus her sister stole her boyfriend. Jessie pops up, knocks Nancy out and saves her stepsister.

Nancy gets shipped off to an asylum, where she can get “help”. Jessie and Emily are completely over it and bonding as sisters. Rich, who keeps reading Stephen King books, is now reading something entirely different. They can’t believe how much he’s changed and everyone giggles together, ending the book.