It's once again summer in Stoneybrook, which means that Mary Anne is just chilling and reading the latest issue of Teenzine while playing with Tigger. When she comes across a contest to find the country's best sitter, she thinks about why all the other girls should win. She then tells the club about it and gets all embarrassed when they suggest she enter. Even though the contest clearly says sitter singularly, Kristy decides that they should enter as a group. Charlotte “helps” them get testimonials from their charges, Mary Anne agrees to write the club history, and Kristy decided to do the “why I like to sit” essay portion.
A few nights later, Mary Anne wakes in the middle of the night to Tigger freaking out in bed. She eventually realizes that the house is on fire. Mary Anne gets to the hallway, her dad helps her get outside, and Sharon is already there and has called for help. Firefighters arrive, but they quickly inform them that the house is pretty much toast.
Even though she wants to cry, she just can't. She doesn't cry when Stacey shows up to talk to her, when neighbors drop by, or when Kristy shows up with her mom and Watson. Lots of people show up with clothes for them or stuff for them to eat, and Mrs. P even lends Richard a cell phone so he can make some phone calls. Since this is Stoneybrook, he apparently didn't lock his car because he gets inside and finds the number for the insurance company. Sharon calls her kids, and Dawn hops on the first flight out. They wind up going to Kristy's house and staying with her family.
The Thomas-Brewer house is a little too much for them though. The kids are always running around like crazy and they never get any privacy. Once Dawn shows up, she starts crying a lot, which makes Mary Anne feel even worse because she still hasn't cried. They start going through their house to find whatever they can, but all she really finds is a few random melted or burned things plus her mom's pearl necklace. They do find some of Dawn's stuff, including her entire dresser and a bunch of clothes they can save.
Richard finally gets the kids alone when they sneak outside and hide in the kids' playhouse. He tells them that he recently got a job offer in Philadelphia. Sharon apparently hates her job and really wants to quit. She wants to become an architect or an interior decorator, but she can only take classes for either one in a big city like Philadelphia. Dawn pretty much goes along with them because she doesn't live there and doesn't really care, but Mary Anne can't believe her dad is even considering leaving Stoneybrook.
The Pike kids, especially the younger ones, are super worried about Mary Anne. Jessi and Mal arrange for them to go to the firehouse, where they meet the firefighters and play with the firehouse dog. A bunch of the kids then hear about the best sitter contest and come together to help out. Haley and Matt interview Kristy and use her responses to write the club's history. Kristy then gets inspired to finally finish the essay. It's kind of lame, but when she reads it the adults, they get all misty eyed and what not.
Mary Anne finally tells the BSC about her dad's idea, or at least she lets Dawn do it. Abby points out that based on her own experience, you sometimes need a fresh start. Later that night, Mary Anne can't sleep and gets up to take a bike ride. She goes back to their house, goes inside the barn, and finally starts crying when she sees what little they have left. Dawn woke up when she left, figured out where she went, and shows up. They cry in each others' arms for awhile. Mary Anne finally decides that she needs to just see what happens and that no matter where she goes, she'll always have her family.
*This contest is stupid. Kristy literally spends weeks trying to write a short essay on why she likes to sit and even titles it that, despite the whole club entering the contest together. Plus, it's in an issue with articles on like 10 tips for getting him to like you and how to win his heart.
*Richard tells her to stop, drop, and roll when they get near the front door, so Mary Anne literally rolls across the floor with Tigger in her hands. I hate whoever wrote this so much for not realizing that only applies to cases where you are actually on fire. She could have easily just crawled across the floor, especially with Tigger in her hands.
*Stacey is kind of a shitty friend. While she does show up as soon as she gets the news because she lives the closest, she doesn't really stay very long. When Mary Anne says she isn't tired, Stacey's all like, “oh well I guess I'll just go home and take a nap then, later!” It actually pissed me off.
*It's nice that Sharon's scatterbrain way of thinking applies to a future career too. If she's going to go back to school, she should really know what she wants to do, especially if she's going to move her family because of it.
*I love seeing this side of Kristy's house. We always see her taking control and acting like a grown up while the adults do whatever they want. This is one of the only books where they seem like an actual family.
*I'm not too crazy about Dawn being in this book. Even though it was “her house” first, she totally took off and left them. It's also not fair that so much of her stuff survives while Mary Anne pretty much loses everything. Given that Mary Anne felt like an outsider when she first moved in, it's kind of crappy.
*Sharon supposedly works for a woman who runs an accounting firm and is flipping out early in the book because she has to have a report done by Monday. First of all, that's like a week away at that point and second, what kind of report is she doing for an accountant when she has no accounting experience?
*Dawn opens a drawer in her bureau and sees a dark layer of clothes on top. They go through the drawer and find that the smoke damage is almost nonexistent on the bottom, but she claims everything smells bad. Yes, that's why they make special cleaners that remove that smell.
*This book made me cry like a baby for a few reasons. I never mentioned it on my blog, but I lost my mom a few months ago. It was completely unexpected and I had just talked to her a few hours beforehand. Whenever Mary Anne brought up how she didn't know her mom or how she wanted something to remember her by, I completely lost it.
I also cried because I survived a pretty bad fire myself. My apartment caught fire, and I woke to find it on fire in the middle of the night. Had to literally pick up and move my bed, throw my arm through my window to break it, and scream for help because the fire was right outside my bedroom door. My mom was the first person I called when I could call anyone and the person who was there for me when I picked through the rubble. Reading this book was like a double threat for me...