Friday, April 2, 2010
The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club is one of my guilty pleasures. The first one I ever read was Boy-Crazy Stacey. My favorite sitter was Dawn. I inherited a large collection from my cousins and I used to get new books at Meijer's when I got my allowance for feeding the dogs. Let's just say, I have a history with the series.
As difficult as it may be to believe, I am an adult now. It's comforting to read the BSC. Everything is predictable and formulaic and wholesome, but I love every word. I sometimes sneak BSC books into my piles at library sales and Goodwill, willing to feign ignorance if confronted about my young adult book trash habit. So when I heard news of a BSC prequel, I was very excited.
The Summer Before is the story of the summer before four girls came together to create a baby-sitting super conglomerate. There are four separate story lines, each narrated by the different original members of the club. The highlights of each line are as follows:
Kristy eventually starts the BSC. Her father left their family years ago. She still wishes he would come back, and in spite of her better judgment, believes he will visit on her birthday. At one point, Mary Anne mentions how much worse Kristy has it because even though Mary Anne's mother died when MA was still a baby, she doesn't have any memories to really know what she is missing. Kristy has the memories, plus the pain of a parent voluntarily leaving and voluntarily staying away. Honestly, this is enough to make me tear up.
Mary Anne feels overwhelmed by her father's many rules. He is very strict because he raises Mary Anne all by himself. She is trying to get him to let her become a babysitter. Mary Anne also spends a lot of time looking through a box of her mother's things and trying to feel closer to someone she never really knew.
Claudia has been growing up faster than Kristy and Mary Anne. She is more interested in boys and clothes and this makes her detach from friends she has known all her life. Her summer is spent with an older boyfriend and first love.
Stacey was recently diagnosed with diabetes. She has been dealing with a case of the Mean Girls, worst of all being her former best friend Lane Cummings. Her family decides to move from New York to Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Stacey is excited to get away from her old life and escape to a place that can only be better.
The Summer Before was just as satisfying as reading a regular BSC book. I enjoyed the switching narrators. There were interesting insights revealed, such as how Claudia may have felt that Mary Anne and Kristy were acting like babies, but Mary Anne and Kristy were far from oblivious to these feelings. There were some inconsistencies that make the flowing from this to Kristy's Great Idea a little choppy. It's not horrible, but it is noticeable to a perfectionist like me. There aren't any monumental revelations and nothing new is revealed. Still, I did enjoy a new visit with old friends.