We begin book #4 with a meeting of the Baby-sitters Club, in which we meet each character and learn a little bit about her. (But most of us are well-versed on the club members’ defining characteristics by now!) Mary Anne rhapsodizes about how glamorous Stacey is and how she wishes she could be her, “to have lived in New York City and to be able to dress up like a model every day” (page 6). Mary Anne, remember, has to wear her hair in braids every day and have her outfits approved by her father, who picked out her clothes in the first place. Mary Anne’s fashion life is pretty depressing.
At the meeting, Mrs. Newton calls needing a baby-sitter for Jamie and brand-new adorable baby Lucy, for whom everyone wants to baby-sit. I mean, a cute baby, come on! Kristy answers the phone and takes the job for herself without offering it around, even though Mary Anne had just been super nice and given her a job sitting for Karen and Andrew. Kristy would shit her pants if anyone else did that, but she is too excited about baby-sitting Lucy to notice.
The girls get on Kristy’s case about the job, so Kristy points out that Claudia has taken way more jobs that way, which Mary Anne and Stacey have to agree with. Claudia then gets defensive and kind of threatens Stacey to not bitch at her if she wants to keep her only friends in Stoneybrook. Stacey then reminds them all that she’s a tough bitch from New York and she calls Claudia a “stuck-up job-hog”, Kristy a “bossy know-it-all”, and Mary Anne a “shy little baby”.
Mary Anne has had enough. The girls continue to bicker and Mary Anne is like “HOLD UP, ASSHOLES!” She calls Stacey a “conceited snob”, Claudia a “stuck-up job-hog”, and Kristy “the biggest, bossiest know-it-all in the world” and tells them she doesn’t care if she never sees them again, before slamming the door and running out of Claudia’s house. RUH ROH.
Mary Anne has an awkward dinner with her father and then ruminates in her room, hating how babyish it is with its pink and white ruffly flowery decor. She longs to be allowed to grow up. She also longs to make up with her friends, but Kristy doesn’t show up for their 9:30 flashlight signals, and the next day at school no one in the BSC is speaking to each other. Mary Anne has to sit alone at lunch, but luckily a new girl with long white-blond hair asks to join her. It’s Dawn! (Duh.) I love how Mary Anne describes Dawn: “She wasn’t exactly pretty… but she was pleasant, which was much more important” (page 32). Harsh. Mary Anne thinks Dawn is nice but she also thinks Dawn is a good way to make Kristy jealous, so she agrees to hang out with Dawn after school the next day.
At Dawn’s house (an old, dim, small farmhouse), Mary Anne meets the disorganized but sweet Mrs. Schafer and finds out that Dawn’s parents are divorced. Turns out Mrs. Schafer went to high school in Stoneybrook so that’s why she moved back from California after the divorce. The girls watch “The Parent Trap” on VHS (how quaint) and Mary Anne tells Dawn about her mom dying, and that it doesn’t bother her that Dawn is a “divorced kid”. And then… it’s time for a super-awkward meeting of the Baby-sitters Club.
Stacey, Claudia, and Mary Anne have a nearly silent meeting, although they do manage to assign four sitting jobs. Without informing anyone, Kristy decides not to show up. After the meeting, Mary Anne and Claudia forge a truce and decide they need to talk to Kristy and Stacey and figure out what to do about the club. How can they keep it running if they aren’t speaking to each other and Kristy isn’t coming to the meetings? Mary Anne manages to ambush a sullen Kristy at school and talk a little bit of sense into her. Kristy comes up with the plan for each of the girls to take turns manning the phone in Claudia’s room during meeting times – the member answering can take as many jobs as fit into her schedule before she has to offer them up to others. Mary Anne agrees, but then invites Dawn over to her house in front of Kristy. Kristy returns the favor by boasting that her baby-sitting hours have been extended by her mother, so now Mary Anne has to be home earlier than any of the others. She feels even more like a baby. (Side note: Kristy is friggin’ RUDE in this book.)
Mary Anne baby-sits for Jenny Prezzioso, who is spoiled and whose mother always dresses her in frilly fancy dresses and calls her an angel. Jenny borders on tantrums a couple of times, but Mary Anne is able to handle it and they both survive. That night, Mary Anne tries to convince her dad to let her stay out until 10 on the weekends, but he’s in a bad mood from losing a case and she starts to get whiny and incorporate her dissatisfaction with her braids and her bedroom decor, and Mr. Spier is not having it. Mary Anne rants a little to hard and calls Mr. Spier her jailer instead of her father. Whoops, Mary Anne. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Mary Anne goes across the street to Claudia’s the next day to talk to Mimi, Claudia’s wise old grandma. Mimi assures Mary Anne that she is a mature and responsible twelve-year-old but that she probably didn’t go about confronting her father in the best way and that she will eventually find the right way to make him see the light. In the process, Mimi says “my Mary Anne”, which is about when Claudia bursts into the room, furious. She is the only one Mimi calls “hers” and she is deeply hurt by hearing Mimi say “my Mary Anne”. Claudia/Mary Anne truce effectively over? Probs.
On Mary Anne’s next turn to field the phone, she has to call Kristy three or four times, which is awk as fuck. Kristy is being a total brat, and Mary Anne is like “dude, if we’re going to sit for the Pikes together we have to keep it together”. Mary Anne even threatens to ask Dawn to sit with her instead. That shuts Kristy up. Mrs. Newton also calls and wants all four girls to be helpers and guests at Jamie’s birthday party. That sounds like a friggin’ disaster.
At this point I would just like to point out that there is not enough Stacey in this book.
Mary Anne and Kristy manage to baby-sit all eight Pike kids without having to speak to each other, but this whole book makes Kristy look like a big asshole. I mean, come on, Thomas, try to be a little more mature than the four-to-ten-year-olds that you’re baby-sitting, huh? Mary Anne gets home a few minutes after nine because the Pikes got stuck in traffic, and her dad is nervously waiting up for her. He still won’t agree to extend her baby-sitting hours. Either way, Mary Anne decides it’s about time that the BSC makes up. She writes a note to Kristy but isn’t sure how to get Kristy to read it.
Meanwhile, Dawn comes over to hang out with Mary Anne, and they poke through Mr. Spier’s high school yearbooks to see if their parents knew each other back in the day. Well not only did they know each other – they were high school sweethearts! Whoa. Sharon + Richie 4 ever. Dawn and Mary Anne freak out about the discovery all week but decide not to ask their parents about it yet.
Mary Anne goes to baby-sit for Jenny Prezzioso again. This time Jenny is quiet as a mouse, which sets off Mary Anne’s internal alarm. Jenny is also quite listless and doesn’t want to do anything. Mary Anne eventually starts reading a book to her, but Jenny falls asleep and Mary Anne realizes she’s burning up – she has a temperature of a hundred and four. Since she can’t get in touch with her father, her neighbor, or the Prezziosos, Mary Anne calls Dawn, who comes and helps her call 9-1-1 and get Jenny ready to go to the hospital. The girls keep their shit together, and Jenny is diagnosed with strep throat.
Mr. Prezzioso tells the girls how proud of them he is, and slips them each $10, which was big money for them back in the day! They happily retire to Mary Anne’s house for lunch and photo-searching (for their parents’ prom pictures). Mary Anne notices Kristy watching from her window, so she puts her arm around Dawn and sticks her tongue out at Kristy. Unfortunately for Mary Anne, Dawn notices and realizes what’s been going on. She is NOT pleased, and she basically tells Mary Anne to have a nice life. Mary Anne may have just lost her last friend. In better news, though, Mrs. Prezzioso calls the Spier house and tells Mr. Spier how amazing Mary Anne was that day and how well she handled everything. Mr. Spier finally realizes that Mary Anne is a pretty mature twelve-year-old and agrees to let her stay out until nine-thirty on weeknights and ten on weeknights, as well as to allow her to wear her hair down sometimes and redecorate her bedroom a little bit. Mary Anne is thrilled.
After her success with her dad, Mary Anne writes an apology note to Kristy and one to Dawn. Stacey has making up on her mind, too, as her entry in the club notebook will show:
(Finally, some Stacey up in here!) Mary Anne is able to make up with Dawn, who is also really excited that M.A. is wearing her hair down instead of in braids. The New Mary Anne Spier is here, folks! Maybe this book should have been titled How Mary Anne Got Her Groove Back. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.
It’s time for Jamie Newton’s birthday party, and none of the girls can fully get it together. Instead, they all act like jackasses and almost ruin a four-year-old’s party. Poor Mrs. Newton is like “DA FUQ” and doesn’t know what’s going on. Mary Anne calls an emergency meeting of the BSC for directly after the party. She takes charge for once, and convinces everyone to apologize to one another. The fight is finally over! And when Mary Anne gets home she gets a breathless call from Dawn – she found the prom picture of Sharon and Richie! Both of their parents admit having dated the other and seem a little dreamy about the whole thing. HASHTAG ROMANCE!
Mary Anne decides to have a BSC party to celebrate their making up, and her new less-rules lifestyle… plus, she wants the other girls to meet Dawn because she really wants Dawn to join the club. Mrs. Schafer drops Dawn off and sees Mr. Spier for the first time in a long time – and sparks fly. They make plans to have dinner the following night. Dawn and Mary Anne totally freak out. And Dawn totally freaks out later when the other girls (after grilling her) invite her to join the Baby-sitters Club. So now we’ve got five members in this club… how will Dawn fare on her first BSC job? We’ll definitely find out in the next book.