Friday, August 22, 2014

The Baby-Sitters Club #16: Jessi's Secret Language


Let's go way back in time. It's 1988 according to this book, which means that I was eight years old and just discovering the BSC books and a young girl named Jessi Ramsey just moved to Stoneybrook. In case you didn't know, Jessi is an amazing ballerina, which this book lets us know on page one. By page three, we also know that she's black and a transplant from New Jersey, which is okay because at least in Connecticut, she has her own barre to practice moves in her basement.

At the next BSC meeting, a new client named Mrs. Braddock calls in for help. Her son is deaf and she needs a regular sitter willing to learn the language. Mary Anne and Dawn want to keep their schedules free, Claudia has an art class, Kristy lives too far away, and Mallory has to sit for her siblings, so Jessi gets the job. Even though she knows it will be hard, she looks forward to it.

Jessi has to go over for a few hours to learn some signs and meet the kids. I sincerely hope that Mrs. Braddock actually pays her for this. She gets a copy of the ASL illustrated dictionary and learns some of the basic signs that she needs to work with Matt. Haley makes it clear that she isn't that happy. Jessi makes a comment about how she can't get to know him if he reads all the time, and Haley basically asks, "what about me?".

While all of this is going on, Jessi auditions for a role in Coppelia. She worries that she won't get a role because she's too black or not good enough but she lands the lead role. Katie Beth and some of the other girls talk about her behind her back. They say she only got the role because she's a teacher's pet or because she's the newest girl in the school.

Jessi is of course a natural with ASL. She basically teachers herself hundreds of signs in a few days and learns the whole alphabet in one night. Mary Anne brings over Jenny P one day, who makes fun of him, calls him weird, and demands they leave. To make Matt feel better, Jessi takes him to meet the Pikes. They all love him and start learning sign language too. Claudia teaches Karen, Andrew, and David Michael about signing, and Karen asks Jessi to teach her some words. Pretty much everyone in Stoneybrook wants to learn ASL, and Jessi ends up teaching the entire club, including Logan, some important words.

After a rehearsal for the show, Jessi meets Katie Beth's little sister. It turns out that she's deaf and goes to a special school. Since she only comes home for holidays and special events, none of her family knows any signs. Jessi talks with her and teaches KB some simple signs. The two girls start getting along.

Jessi takes Matt and Haley back to the Pikes. Haley finally admits that she hates her brother sometimes because he gets so much attention and is so different and that she sometimes wishes he was normal or was never born. Jessi tells her how she sometimes feels that way about her own siblings and how it's normal, which makes Haley feel better about herself.

She then arranges for Matt's school to receive invitations to her big show. Haley and Mrs. Braddock do sign language for the kids in attendance, and of course Jessi does a great job. Matt brings her a big ass bouquet of flowers, and another kid walks up on stage. It's KB's little sister bringing her a bouquet too. The whole BSC shows up to support her, and her grandparents bring a surprise guest: Keisha. She gets to introduce the club members to her best friend and cousin. The Ramseys then decide to take everyone out to eat to celebrate her big moment.

*I think it's funny that in the later books, we always get a description of Dawn, even after she permanently moves back to California. This book never even mentions Stacey and she comes back in a few books.

*Jessi mentions on page one that she wouldn't have gotten the job if she wasn't so good at languages, but she actually gets the job because no one else wants it or can take it.

*Apparently being good at picking up a foreign language makes you good at sign language. Jessi supposedly was nearly fluent in Spanish after a single vacation. Uh-huh, sure.

*Haley has a rat tail! Is this every mentioned again in the other books? Jessi describes it as a short haircut in the front with a long tail in the back, which is totally a rat tail. I can't remember any girls I knew having one, but all the cuties in third grade had them LOL.

*The Braddock house looks just like Mallory's house. Jessi says that the same guy designed most of the houses in the neighborhood. Um, so the same house can comfortably hold four people or ten people?

*Kristy is shocked to learn that at 37, her mom is still young enough to get pregnant. Given that I'm 34, that made me feel very, very, very sad. On the other hand, am I the only one who figured Elizabeth was a lot older than that?

*Why do these YA books always use Coppelia? I know it was the ballet Jessica and Elizabeth did in SVT, and I'm pretty sure it was in some other chapter books too.

*Jessi has an insane schedule for a kid. She now sits for the Braddock family and has a BSC meeting on Monday and Wednesday, goes to dance class and a meeting on Friday, and has dance class again on Tuesday, plus she has homework every night too. When does she have time to breathe?

*We find out that most of her classmates in her ballet school are 13 or 14, which makes her getting all these leads even more ridiculous. Then again, I seem to remember in one of the later books that Hillary (or another girl?) only has one last shot to dance the lead before she has to move to another school, so it's probably a continuity error that older girls were in this class.

*I love that SVT used an actual doll as Coppelia. When KB gets the role of the doll in this book, she literally says that someone could just use a doll in her place.

*Don't forget that Jessi tots doesn't want to be a professional ballet dancer! Of course in the later books, which according to the continuity of the series is like two months later, all she wants to do is become a professional dancer.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sweet Valley High #15: Promises

After what was supposedly several months but only feels like a few weeks, Tricia Martin is finally ready to die. Since her family sucks totally and completely, only the Wakefield clan is on hand to bid her goodbye. Jessica tells her to "take care" because she doesn't know what to say to a dying person, and Tricia makes a big deal out of how Steve is one of the good ones and how his parents raised him right. Wonder if she would feel the same way after learning how fast he moved on.

When the rest of the family leaves, Tricia makes Steve promise that he'll look after her sister Betsy. Betsy is just super troubled and has a good heart, but she doesn't show it very often. After he agrees, she pretty much dies. Cue Betsy running into the hospital, screaming, crying, and drunk off her ass. She manages to sober up when Ned decides that she should come home with them for a bit.

Since Steve feels some weird sense of obligation, he goes out of his way to do whatever he can for Betsy, and since Jessica doesn't care about anyone but herself, she constantly whines about what people will think of her when they learn that a drunken slut moved into their house. Hm, doesn't seem like people say much about the slut already living there, do they? Betsy pretty much just mopes around the house when Steve isn't there and lights up like a bulb when he is there.

Elizabeth butts her nose into Betsy's business and discovers that she's a hugely talented artist. Of course she is. And that she can draw incredibly lifelike images of people. Of course she can. Steve convinces Betsy to come out to the club with him one weekend, and he introduces her to his friend Jason. Jason clearly has a crush on Betsy, but she acts like she just scraped him out from underneath her shoe.

Betsy agrees to go to an art class that he teaches, but she tells Liz that he's just like all the other guys. Apparently, he had the audacity to tell her she had talent and the nerve to suggest she let him help her in class. He clearly only wants one thing from her! Jason stops by for breakfast the next day, and when he mentions an art contest, Betsy seems wary but slightly interested. The winner will get a scholarship to some art school in LA. As soon as he offers to help her put together her portfolio and application, she freaks out on him and storms away from the table. Jason, Liz, and Steve decide to enter her in the contest anyway.

Jessica cannot handle people talking about her, so she decides to get Betsy kicked out. She goes through her stuff, assuming that she has pills or "dope" hidden, but she can't find anything. She then plays the nice sister card, claiming that she's oh-so-worried about her big brother and all the time he spends with Betsy. Jessica lets it slip that he made a promise to Tricia, which causes Betsy to snap. She packs her bags and takes off.

Jason and Steve show up all excited because she won the contest. Of course she did. Jessica tells them that Betsy went back to her old tricks, while strategically making sure that she doesn't reveal what she did. Jason and Steve rush off to track her down, heading to a bunch of shady bars that sound like my favorite bars, before they find her with Crunch and Charlie. Betsy pretends like she's having a lot of fun, drinking and making out with both guys.

Jason kind of snaps when the guys start calling him names and taunting him. One of them throws a punch, and he puts them in their place. Turns out that he's actually a black belt or something. Of course he is. Betsy hears that she won the art contest and completely does a 180. No more drugs, drinking, or slutty behavior; she's an artist now! Someone should tots teach Jessica how to draw.

Cut to a big party at the Wakefield house. Steve learns what Jessica did and yells at her, but she points out that he didn't tell her about the art contest, so they're even. Whatever. I really don't care. Betsy freaked out and went back to her bad behavior because Steve made a promise to her sister. Who cares? He was still trying to help her. Plus, it's funny that she's literally throwing herself at him in this book, but she later gets angry when he even attempts to move on with someone else. Blah.

There are kind of two B-plots in this one. One is all about Winston. He eats a shit ton of mini pizzas in the cafeteria and decides to break the record for most pizzas eaten at one time. He eats a bunch every day to enlarge his stomach, and then goes to Guido's for the big event. Liz lets us know that they have the best pizza in the state and that even people from out of town think so. Did you know that she often brings out of town guests by for the pizza? Anyway, he has to eat seven pizzas, but he only gets through 6.5 before puking. Jessica has a chance to celebrate though, because her arm was on the television report about him.

The other story is about Roger. Remember when he was poor, back before he oddly died in an off-screen way in SVSY and then came back to life in SVC? His mom has heart problems and winds up in the hospital. Hank Patman steps up to the plate and agrees to pay her medical bills, claiming that it's all because she used to work in one of his factories. After she dies, everyone learns that Hank's much richer brother (I thought it was all old school family money; how was he richer? And isn't Bruce's mom super rich too? How rich was this guy?) was actually Roger's father. He died in some tragic accident, she remarried, and they raised Roger to believe that dude was his dad. He's now the richest guy in Sweet Valley and moving into the Patman house.