Mallory is fapping in English class because her teacher announces Young Authors Day, an event for which anyone can write a poem, short story, or fiction piece and enter to win a prize. There will also be a famous author coming to Stoneybrook Middle School to speak to the students. (Again?) Mallory, who is GOING TO BE AN AUTHOR, as she always tells us, is hyped. Also, Mallory describes herself as having chestnut brown hair, but before it’s been red, too. What the hell color is Mallory’s hair?! The cover image says ginger to me. I just want to know, what is the truth?
Mallory wants peace and quiet at home so she can concentrate on getting her work done and coming up with a prize-winning Young Authors Day idea, but she has seven pain-in-the-ass brothers and sisters who are yanking her in every direction, and her hippie parents are no help. She gets offered a lucrative month-long sitting job for the Hobarts (the siblings of her sometimes-date Ben) at the BSC meeting but she turns it down so she’ll have more time to write. But that doesn’t quite work out as planned, because her family seems to need her every second of every day to help out, so she gets nothing done. (What I don’t understand is… why doesn’t she just leave her house?! She could go to the library, or to Jessi’s, or an abandoned train car or something…)
Mallory is ten minutes late for a BSC meeting and, luckily, Kristy doesn’t defenestrate her right then and there. But then she turns down another sitting job and Kristy is getting piiiissed. Everyone in the club is wondering what the hell is up with Mallory. And when she’s baby-sitting for the Barretts, she doesn’t notice that Buddy’s riding his bike without shoes on until he cuts open his heel. Whoops. At the next BSC meeting she announces that she wants to be demoted to an Alternate Officer, and if the other members don’t agree then she’ll quit. Everyone is shocked. Eventually Kristy convinces her to just take two weeks off, finish her story, and then see how she feels. Damn, Mallory, you’re eleven – it’s a little early to be having a Jessie Spano caffeine freakout about your story.
Meanwhile, Kristy has a doozy of a day baby-sitting for her own four siblings, and understands what Mal’s life must be like every day. She doesn’t envy our ginger scribe. I mean, at least Kristy’s family is rich. Back at the Pike homestead, Mallory decides to go “on strike”, which basically means she’s telling her family to leave her the hell alone all damn day. (Why didn’t she just do that in the first place? It seems to actually work.) Mary Anne and Dawn come over to baby-sit the rest of the Pikes and Mary Anne talks Mallory into having a heart-to-heart with her parents instead of just making demands. She does, and they agree to try not to take advantage of her being the oldest and a good baby-sitter, and declare that she can have the next day totally off to do whatever she wants.
She decides she wants to go shopping with Jessi at the Washington Mall, so her parents take them there. They also get to have lunch at their favorite place, Casa Grande, and get big ice cream sundaes on the way home. (Sounds like a pretty good day for an eleven-year-old.) But Mallory realizes she misses her family. (Really?) She decides to plan a surprise for her brothers and sisters to make up for her few weeks of assholiness.
Young Authors Day comes and… well, of course Mallory wins Best Overall Fiction in the Sixth Grade. Her story, called “Caught in the Middle”, is about a girl who is caught between all of her siblings and misunderstood by her parents. Really reaching there, aren’t you, Mal? Well, I guess they say “write what you know.” (But if that’s true, why wasn’t her story called “Bad Hair, Big Nose”?) Mal gets approval from her creative writing teacher and an autograph from a famous author, giving her spank bank material for years to come.
The next weekend, Mallory and Jessi take all the Pike kids on “Explorers Day” around Stoneybrook. They make Explorer Hats out of newspaper, go to a “circus” put on by the Braddocks and Barretts, make paper bag puppets, go to a “Secret Garden” scavenger hunt at the playground that leads to a “treasure” (presents for each of them), and get burgers and fries and popsicles. She realizes she loves her family and she could never quit baby-sitting. She also decides to write a story about her special day with her siblings. She’s all “life is amazing!” (Okay, Mallory, calm down. You’re still Mallory.)