Friday, April 15, 2016

Fear Street: Final Grade (R.L. Stine)

Here's what you need to know about Lily Bancroft. She's up for a prestigious honors scholarship that goes to the valedictorian. She has a boyfriend named Alex. And she works for her uncle Bob in his drugstore. Oh, and she really, really hates her social studies teacher Mr. Reiner.

At the very beginning of the book, she goes to see him about changing her grade on a recent test. She claims she got all the multiple choices questions right and gave him everything he wanted in the essay section. I'm totally on her side until she says that some random girl in another class had similar results and got an A instead of the B that Lily got. He then points out that the other girl is in regular social studies class and not the honors section like her. Lily fantasizes about jumping over the desk and strangling him before running off when he won't change her grade.

After chatting with Alex and her friend Julie, who had an older brother killed in a robbery, she starts to work and runs into Graham. Graham is her leading competition for the scholarship. He offers her a ride and spends the whole time boasting about how well he did in all his classes. She then goes to work and has a robber show up.

The robber shoves a gun in her face and asks for all the money in the register. Bob comes out, agrees to his demands, and then pulls out a gun of his own. There's a minor standoff until the robber runs away and knocks down a guy on his way out. The guy is actually Rick, the new delivery guy. Bob calls the police, and Rick gives chase but can't find him.

Rick then thinks this is the perfect time to hit on Lily. After trying to flirt with her while she studies and pretty much ignores him, he actually asks her out. She turns him down because of her boyfriend, and he mutters something about the guy being lucky before just sitting and staring at her. Needless to say, she's pretty happy to go home. At least she is, until she hears someone falling her. Though she thinks it's the robber and starts to scream, it's just Alex.

Alex says he just wanted to see her and maybe walk her home. He tries to get her to sit outside and hang out with him him, but she claims that she has more homework to do. When he says he never sees her because she's always working, she promises to make more time for him. She then heads inside and gets a lecture from her dad for getting the dreaded B. He reminds her that both her older sisters were straight A students and that both won the coveted honors scholarship. Way to take the pressure off there, dad. She then gets a hushed and threatening phone call that night.

When she gets to school the next day, she tells Alex that she came up with a new plan. She'll just ask to do some extra credit to get her grade up. Alex warns her that Reiner is pretty particular about that kind of thing and that it might not work. Determined, she heads into his classroom and finds him dead. All we learn is that he's slumped over the desk.

Cut to the day after the funeral. Lily is all paranoid that people keep staring at her because they think she killed the teacher. During her tennis match later that day, Graham teases her about being a murderer to throw her off. After storming off, she stops by the magazine room because she's also on the school's magazine staff. Scott, one of the guys working there, offers to take her to the printing house to see the work in action. Alex shows up just in time to accuse her of flirting with the guy.

As if she isn't stressed enough, the phone calls in the middle of the night keep coming. The guy/gal eventually says that she should just let the caller help. She goes to the printing shop to find Graham there who once again teases her. An accident happens, which leads to them just going out for pizza. Yeah, because that will make Alex feel a lot better.

After a few more weird phone calls, it's time for the big trivia contest. It comes down to just her and Graham. Graham picks that moment to tell her how his midterm grades came in and how he's acing all his courses. Even if she manages to pull up her social studies grade, she'll probably get an A-, which will put her behind Graham. She then loses the last question, which disappoints her dad because, once again, both her old sisters won the same competition. On her way out, she runs into Rick. They talk and walk a little, but when he asks if he can help, she freaks out. She asks if he's been calling her at night, and he admits that it was him. By the way, that last trivia question? It turns out that the main occupation of the early settlers in Shadyside was farmer. Just in case you wanted to know. Rick isn't the phantom caller though, just some guy with a crush.

The next big thing happens when Lily goes to the printing shop. She wonders why there's red ink everywhere and then sees Graham's dead body inside the printing press. Lily passes out and wakes to find Scott, Alex, and Julie standing over here. The police say it was just an accident, but she once again worries that people will think she did it. Not only does she feel everyone staring at her in school, but she thinks his parents are staring at her at the funeral. She even imagines Graham's dead body coming back to life and climbing out of the casket to come at her.

When she gets home, she knocks her purse over and finds Graham's glasses. Just as she starts freaking out and wondering how the glasses got there, Scott shows up. He confesses that he put the glasses there and that he's the one who killed Graham. Apparently, Scott has been in love with Lily for a long time and wanted to do everything he could for her. He tells her that he loves her and that now they can be together forever.

Instead of immediately going to the cops, Lily makes up an excuse to make him leave. She then worries about what to do and decides to not go to the cops and to handle things herself. That leads to a meeting of the magazine committee. Scott announces that he wants to make an issue in memory of Graham and that he'll write the first article. Lily gets so upset that she races out of the room. Scott calls her later that night to tell her that he thinks she should dump Alex and be with him. She tries to that it's too soon and that people will think it's suspicious. Scott then warns her that they are now in things together. Yeah, except that you viciously killed someone and Lily is just too wimpy to tell anyone.

Scott convinces her to go out with him. On her way out the door, she runs into Alex and lies about having to study in the library. Since she doesn't want anyone to see them, she has Scott take her to a movie 20 minutes outside of town and then to a skeevy restaurant in a completely different town. They run into Rick, who acts friendly, but Scott demands that she stop talking to him. He then forces himself on her when she doesn't want to kiss him. Lily decides that the smart thing to do is kill him. Yep, totally smart.

At the next magazine meeting, Scott announces to everyone that he and Lily went out. She tries to say they were working, but he tells them what they really did. Alex storms out of the room, and when she tries to follow him, he dumps her. I can totally understand why. Scott once again tells her that they will be together forever and that it was time Alex knew the truth.

She heads into work and hears from Rick about how he didn't picture her with a guy like that. Julie then calls with some big news. Graham was her cousin, and she never believed that his death was an accident. The foreman of the plant called to tell her that someone left a message for Graham that night. She plans on going over the next day to listen to the message herself and find out who killed him.

Scott then shows up at the drugstore with a yellow rose. Lily tells him to leave because she's working, but he just laughs and tells her that from here on out, everything they do will be together. I'm sure her uncle will love you just hanging around his shop all day. She tells him it won't be forever because Julie is about to catch him. Scott just turns cold when she tells him about the message and says that they'll have to kill Julie together.

Uncle Bob tells her that she works too hard and that she should take some time off to hang out with Scott. Scott then makes her call Julie, claim that they can get into the printing shop, and for here to meet them there. He makes some more threatening comments before dragging her to the print shop. When Julie shows up, he waves around a gun, which makes her realize that he was the one who murdered Graham.

He tries to say that Lily was involved before going after Julie. Lily grabs him and holds him off, but he hits her in the face with the gun. You know a guy loves you when he punches you in the face with a weapon! Scott runs off, she yells at Julie to run, and she then hears a gunshot. She finds him and sees Julie's dead body on the ground.

They start struggling over the gun, Lily gets in, and Scott says she won't use it. When she tries to shoot, she collapses and realizes that she can't kill him. Suddenly, Julie gets up from the ground, grabs a metal bar, and smacks him over the head. They both start crying, and Julie says that she doesn't know what happened but that he didn't actually shoot her. Scott comes to, grabs Lily's leg, and keeps whispering that they'll be together before passing out.

Cut to the cops showing up. Uncle Bob comes by with Rick after her parents call him. He reveals that Scott stole the starter pistol he kept in the register and that he would never keep a real gun on hand. After they leave, Julie asks if Rick is single. Lily tells her there is more to life than guys, and Julie tells her grades aren't important either. Lily then tells her that there are four weeks of school left and that she will do whatever it takes to nab the valedictorian position. I guess some things never change!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sweet Valley Kids #8: Jessica's Zoo Adventure

Jessica is super excited because (a) her class is taking a field trip to the zoo and (b) Alice is the field trip mom/chaperon. As she explains to Liz, it means they get to lead the group and basically do whatever they want. That clearly isn't true though. Alice won't make Amy and Eve switch seats with them and makes them go to the back of the line when Jessica tries to cut to be next to her.

She eventually gets so ticked off that when they reach the zoo, she convinces Liz, who is her buddy, to ditch the group. Liz refuses and they fight for so long that Winston and Todd come over to see what's going on. By the time they finish explaining themselves, the group really is gone. That's okay with Jessica because a bunch of kids wanted to see the snakes that she hates and all she wanted to do was see the monkeys. The zoo closed down that branch because a baby chimpanzee went missing.

That doesn't stop her from convincing the others they should sneak over and see the monkeys anyway. The place is shut down and has big signs that say to keep out. Elizabeth finally convinces them to go back and find the group but then Jessica realizes she lost her name bracelet. They go looking for it, and Jessica accidentally stumbles onto the missing chimpanzee hiding in a drainage ditch. She and Winston stay behind while Liz and Todd go to get help.

Jessica gets Winston to give up the banana he brought for lunch to lure the chimpanzee out of its hiding spot. It winds up coming close enough to grab the banana but not close enough for them to grab it. Some adults show up and pull the chimpanzee out and thank the kids for helping. They meet back up with the group, get a mini lecture, and then go back on the tour.

The zookeepers invite them to come and see the monkey house. They also say that since the monkey didn't have a name, they decided to name it Jessica. Alice lectures them a little before basically saying she's glad they're okay. In the end, someone even finds and turns in her bracelet, so it's a perfect day.

*It's nice to know that even in the Sweet Valley Kids books that no one ever gets punished.

*This is a twist on that Out to Sea book from SVH. Winston starts to take credit for the banana thing before finally admitting that he just wanted to eat it and that it was Jessica's idea.

*I remember being so excited when my mom or dad was a field trip chaperon. In fact, I have big memories of my dad going to the science museum with us. I always wanted to be as close to my mom as possible too. That's why it's weird that Alice keeps lecturing them and basically ignoring them all day.

*Liz chooses a monkey pen as a souvenir, but Jessica can't make up her mind between a funny hat and a sticker with birds on it. She does the eenie meenie miney moe thing and gets annoyed when she gets stuck with the sticker. Damn kid, just buy the hat then!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Baby-Sitters Club #110: Abby The Bad Sport

You might remember Coach Wu from back when Kristy joined the softball team. It turns out that she also played soccer for UNC, which is where Mia Hamm went to school, and she's now the coach of the Stoneybrook Special Olympics soccer team. They take players with mental handicaps and partner them with other players. The handicapped kids are players, and the other kids are their partners. Abby signed up because she isn't getting the chance to play as much as she wanted.

Abby spends most of her first practice thinking about how she's so much better than all the other players. Erin, one of the handicapped players, is a lot better than Abby expected. When the coach assigns spots, she puts Abby in a defensive spot and gives Erin Abby's usual spot. Abby tells her that she's a striker and was the top scorer on her old team, but the coach remains unmoved.

Since she knows way better than anyone else, Abby decides that it's her job to show the coach how wrong she was. When that doesn't work, she says that Erin will just screw things up in the first game because she can't handle the pressure. Instead, Erin does a really good job. Erin works part time at an ice cream shop and takes the team there to celebrate. Abby spends the whole time pouting and thinking about how they all keep sucking up to her.

This makes her realize that she should implement something called total soccer, which is when all players take turns in different positions. Abby tries this during the next game, but everyone just stays in the positions the coach assigned. Even Kristy and Logan, who are watching from the bleachers, can't figure out what the hell she is doing. She approaches Erin after the game, brings up the whole total soccer thing, and Erin correctly points out that the other team scored because Abby was never in her position. That pisses her off and makes her storm away.

The two girls eventually have a fight where Abby uses the word stupid. Erin threatens to punch her and tells her not to call anyone stupid. The coach breaks it up and benches them for two games. Abby tells no one, but at the next game, Karen sees her on the bench and talks to her about how all players don't play all the time. Karen then goes to Erin, who tells her what happened. Karen runs back to tell Kristy, which embarrasses Abby.

Abby keeps trying to pretend that things are fine, even though she's extremely unhappy. The coach lets them play earlier than they should. They lose, but Abby realizes that she now watches the field like a defensive player. She goes for a run at Miller's Park and sees Erin running too. They turn it into a race but tie in the end. They actually talk things through, Abby apologizes for saying she was stupid, and they make up just in time for the season to end.

This one gets a few subplots. Abby's mom tells the girls that she wants them to spend the weekend with their dad's parent's and then visit his grave. Abby doesn't feel ready but acts like a huge spoiled brat about the whole thing. Even though she's benched, she lies and says she has to be there for the game. When her mom and Anna come back, Abby admits that she was upset. They talk things through, and they decide to go back in the future.

When they leave, she stays with Kristy. Kristy is so upset about Abby being benched that they barely talk. Even Mary Anne notices that they seem weird around each other. Abby finally talks to Kristy, and Kristy says she gets it because she wouldn't want people to know she was benched either. They talk things through and make up.

Since nothing can happen in Stoneybrook without the kids wanting a piece of the action, all the kids go soccer crazy. They go to all the games and start their own booster club. The team's sponsor dropped out at the last second, so they hold a car wash and somehow raise enough money to pay for all new uniforms for all the players. There's some talk about setting up a soccer team like the Krushers too, but we know that doesn't happen.

*Abby says that the coach made a mistake and that she should hasten to set her straight. Yes, you clearly know better than your coach.

*Abby makes a big deal out of the coach playing for UNC, but when she doesn't get her way, she says it was a long time ago and that the coach probably doesn't remember much about playing anyway.

*At one point, she says that on her old team, she would be right there in the middle of things but there's no room for her because of Erin. It's more like there's not enough room for her and her ego on the team. She also accuses Erin of being a show off while actually being a show off herself.

*When Mary Anne hears about the Special Olympics, she immediately wonders if Dawn knows and if they have a surfing team.

*Abby and Anna call their dad's parents grandmother and grandfather, which seems really formal to me.

*Their mom takes them out for dinner in NYC and orders an antipasto platter. It has some weird stuff on its like sauteed artichoke hearts and stuffed clams. I've never had an antipasto platter with that stuff on it.

*David Michael takes Shannon to a game, she gets loose, and runs out onto the field. The umpire laughs it off like it was a big joke, even though a player literally tripped over Shannon. It seems like it would be a much bigger deal.

*Abby gets off the bench and applauds for the goalie on the other team when the girl stops a shot. Given the way she acts in this book, it doesn't seem like something she would do.

*Claudia wears a green and blue crop top she sewed buttons on, black shorts, a blue sock, black sock, and Doc Martins with blue laces in one and green laces in the other. It gives me a headache.

*The BSC all show up in purple and white, the team colors. Claudia makes a shirt with purple and white soccer balls across the front and matching earrings.

*This book really makes me dislike Abby even more. I probably did a bad job of describing the way she acted, but she was really bad. She keeps hounding the coach about “her” position, whines every time there's a game, and is constantly pouting and avoiding her friends because she doesn't want to talk about how she feels.