This episode is about R. L. Stine's Goosebumps: Attack of the Jack-o'-Lanterns. Topics include lies, people who deserve to be eaten, and PTSD from a fourth-grade party.
I’m a bookish nerd on a mission. I’m rereading the books of my ‘90s childhood: The Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street. I’m Amy A. Cowan and this is Rereading My Childhood - The Podcast.
For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I have written, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com. To listen to the official podcast, just visit the website or search for “Rereading My Childhood” in your favorite podcast app. For more information about me, Amy A. Cowan, visit my website AmyACowan.com or follow my Twitter: amyacowan.
Neon Laser Horizon by Kevin MacLeod
I’m a bookish nerd on a mission. I’m rereading the books of my ‘90s childhood: The Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street, and writing a summary and review. I’m Amy A. Cowan and this is Rereading My Childhood - The Podcast.
Rereading My Childhood is written by me, Amy A. Cowan. For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I have written or subscribe to the Substack, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com. To listen to the official podcast, visit the website or search for “Rereading My Childhood” in your favorite podcast app. For more information about me, visit AmyACowan.com.
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Links to Amy’s Social Media and About: http://AmyACowan.com
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Neon Laser Horizon by Kevin MacLeod
A few years ago, after learning that my partner’s parents took him to Disneyland while he was a baby, my partner and I decided to take a trip to Disneyland. I went when I was eight, but I hadn’t been back since. In the months leading up to the trip, I did what I normally do before a trip: I researched the hell out of the destination. I found myself steeped in Walt Disney history: the man, the park, the opening day problems. I explored the lore behind every attraction: the inspiration behind the Matterhorn and how it may be the first steel rollercoaster in the United States, the opposing ideas for the Haunted Mansion, the various iterations of the submarine adventure. I already knew the layout of the park before we left. I understood the Fast Pass system. I had reservations at what is considered the best restaurant in the park, Cafe Orleans, and the restaurant Walt Disney considered “his” restaurant, The Carnation Cafe. I was on the lookout for the lamp over the Firehouse Station.
This is not a story that leads up to my disappointment when I got to the park. In fact, the park exceeded my expectations and I found a new obsession in the Haunted Mansion. The Disneyland attention to detail is a real thing, the cast members are wonderful, and the park operations are no joke. I also got to see many parents yelling at their kids, and the juxtaposition of parents yelling at their children at “The Happiest Place On Earth” is, frankly, hilarious.
This is leading to my hatred of boats. Let me explain. The first BSC Super Special is split into two parts: the first part on a boat and a second part at Disney World. I realize that Disneyland is different from Disney World. The book features actual Disney World attractions, and while I did exclusively research Disneyland, Disney World is an important part of Disney Parks lore, and the parks aren’t that different, especially in 1989, without Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios (future Hollywood Studios), both of which had not been built yet.
I love Disneyland, but boy I hate boats. Have I ever been on a luxury cruiser? No. But I haven’t murdered anyone and I hate murder. Did I just compare cruise ships to murder? Yes. I did and I’m proud of it. Pooping over the side of a boat after eating expired shrimp and watching a fifty-year-old couple do a jazz cover of “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar does not sound like a good time to me.
Anyway, let’s get to the book.
Good-bye Stoneybrook! And good-bye, cohesive plot!
Super Specials are, well, super special. A normal BSC book is about 120-pages of one character’s story in first-person narration. A Super Special is about 220-pages of switching POV. It’s still first-person but now each chapter focuses on a new character. Each babysitter (and a few others) get their own story, that may or may not intersect with another story (and if it does, it’s in such a tangential way to make the paragraph pointless, we’ll get to that). So, as I go through the book beat-by-beat, I will put the POV character in italics. Let’s hope this works:
Baby-Sitters on Board! starts with Kristy explaining how every member of the BSC, plus relevant family members, got a trip on a cruise to Disney World. I should also mention that while the BSC timeline is nebulous, this book seems to take place before Stacey leaves. One clue is that Stacey is still a part of the BSC, hasn’t left, and Mallory, nor Jessi, is a part of the BSC. However, it is the Pikes who start this chain of events.
Basically, Mr. Pike won a naming contest/got off a crime boss at his job as a lawyer for a large company/mob. They invited Mary Anne and Stacey to go with them to watch over the children on the cruise. Watson, who you’ll remember is Kristy’s stepdad, can’t let this mob lawyer have all the fun, so he spends his riches to ensure that his family and the rest of the BSC comes along, minus Jessi, because she has not moved to Stoneybrook yet. This must take place before #13: Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye.
Anyway, the Pikes, the BSC, Watson, Kristy’s Mom (Elizabeth), David Michael, Karen, and Andrew all get on a plane, where there’s some barf bag talk, and arrive in Florida and we switch perspectives as we board The Ocean Princess.
Kristy, Claudia, and Dawn are sharing a cabin. Dawn complains that Kristy doesn’t wear dresses and that’s apparently a problem? I didn’t wear dresses when I was a kid, mostly because of crippling insecurity, but that’s for another entry. Anyway, I don’t think not wearing dresses is some kind of personality disorder.
Kristy and Dawn argue almost immediately because Kristy is a bit of a slob and Dawn is a clean freak — their words, not mine. Surprisingly, Claudia is the voice of reason.
“We’ve almost got the whole corridor to ourselves!” exclaimed Claudia. “Pretty cool!”“Well, let’s go tidy up our cabin,” I suggested brightly.“Now?” replied Kristy. “What’s wrong with it?”“Girls, girls,” Claudia jumped in. “Lighten up. This is our vacation, Dawn. We’re not supposed to spend it cleaning. It’s also only the first day on our vacation. I hope you two aren’t going to argue for the rest of the week. It’ll drive me crazy.”
It was a quick fight, but it’s really just the beginning. Dawn and Kristy will be trying to avoid one another for the rest of the book.
Dawn goes exploring on her own and finds a cute boy almost immediately. As I recall, most, if not all, of the BSC Super Specials had some kind of romance plot for at least one of the BSC members. This one has two.
Anyway, Dawn’s mystery boy is evasive in his answers and runs away.
Vanessa, Mallory, and Mary Anne are in one cabin while Stacey, Claire, and Margo share another cabin next door. In a terrible decision by the parents, the triplets and Nicky have their own room. But this chapter is about Mary Anne — the triplets will have their own adventure. For now, Mary Anne asks what the kids want to do.
“Go exploring,” said Nicky.“Go swimming,” said Claire.“Go eat,” said Byron, who’s always hungry.“Play video games,” said Adam“Look at the ocean,” said Mallory dreamily.“Find a candy machine,” said Margo.“Read,” said Vanessa.“Look for people wearing goofy bathing caps and laugh at them,” said Jordan.
I’m with you, Jordan. Who am I kidding? I would just read at the most stable part of the ship with a motion sickness bag next to me.
Nicky, Vanessa, and Mary Anne explore the ship together, where we get a complete overview of every deck on The Ocean Princess. In the spa, Mary Anne spots an interesting girl.
I was looking at a girl who was standing at the appointment desk, apprently waiting for someone to help her. She had masses of dark, wavy hair that cascaded over her shoulders and partway down her back, and she was wearing one of the skimpiest bikinis I’d ever seen. Even though she looked just a little older than me, she had a figure that filled out the top of the bikini nicely.
Whoa, Mary Anne. Who wrote this about a thirteen-or-fourteen year old? Roy Moore? (He’s running again — I can make jokes at his expense once more. In fact, everyone should make jokes at his expense. That’s your task for the day — make a joke at Roy Moore’s expense.)
Her name is Alexandra Carmody, and as she and Mary Anne have a chat, she is called away as she says that her parents were killed.
As they leave, Nicky and Vanessa spot a boy climbing out of a raft and they immediately think he’s a stowaway.
Mallory does something I did when I was a kid. Something really dumb and embarrassing. After reading Harriet the Spy, Mallory decides to spy on people. Oh, Mallory, I did that shit too after reading that exact book. It amounted to one terrible afternoon where I peeked into a woman’s kitchen three streets over and got chased out of her yard.
For Mallory, she just spies on everyone else and sees Mary Anne talk to Alexandra Carmody, where she learns that she’s an actress, I’m assuming of the Miley Cyrus during Hannah Montana days variety.
She spots Kristy and Claudia talking. Later, a boy named Marc in a wheelchair is very excited to see his room. Finally, she spots a guy with red hair, whom she believes is Spider from her favorite band The Insects. I imagine they are a doo-wop revival group who sings Kingston Trio covers, akin to Shanana. That’s what the kids in the ’80s listened to, right?
Yes, everyone’s favorite precocious child gets her own chapter! I don’t know why she got her own series (one that Ann M. Martin wrote more books of by the way) because she is, to put it nicely since she’s a kid, draining.
This time, she wanders off on her own, sees Alexandra Carmody at the spa, gets her nails done, and has it charged to her room, er, Watson’s room that she occupies.
At a cafe, she orders a Coke and has that charged to her room as well. Er. Watson’s room that she occupies. I’m sorry, but a child should not be able to charge anything to any room because they are not adults. This boat is filled with incredibly irresponsible staff.
Karen gets in trouble when she comes back to Kristy, but nothing really comes of it. Karen learns nothing and the ship staff don’t second guess a tiny child wandering around unattended. The lack of consequences will be a recurring theme.
Finally, we have our first Claudia outfit! What are you wearing today, Claud?
I got dressed quickly. This was because while I’d been laying in my bunk the night before I’d planned exactly what I was going to wear. I put on my new blue-and-white bikini and over that, a pink sundress with speghetti straps at the shoulders and big blue buttons down the front. Then I accessorized. I tied a pink-and-blue scarf around my waist, knotting it in the middle, added my snake bracelet and feather earrings, wound my hair on top of my head, and finally put on these white sandals with long laces that you crisscross up your legs and tie in a bow.
I was with you until you put on the unnecessary scarf, Claudia. But you know, I always look forward to reading what outfit you’ve put together, so you do you. Just don’t criticize others.
As Dawn and Kristy argue at breakfast, Claudia gets a secret admirer note. It turns out there will be two romantic plots in this Super Special.
Claudia goes to the mainland and tries to sketch and take pictures, but a “figure” keeps getting in the way. Claudia has a stalker! Of course, this is not taken as a stalker and Claudia thinks that it’s exciting. A person following you around and giving you gifts is not romantic or exciting — it’s cause to go to the police! We went through this in #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls.
Surprisingly, there is no romance in Stacey’s story. There is a young child who looks four but is actually seven. He is in a wheelchair and his name is Marc, the boy Mallory had seen earlier.
Marc and Stacey bond over Stacey’s diabetes, because there are really only two sides to Stacey: boy-craziness and diabetes. And since we already have two stories involving the former in this book, it has to be about the latter.
When Marc’s parents come back, Stacey goes back to her cabin and Margo throws up in a wastebasket. I don’t think the events are related, but you never know.
Kristy and Dawn are still fighting and Kristy is really the antagonist here. Dawn just doesn’t want to live with extra multilegged roommates and here’s Kristy just throwing candy wrappers around. So she goes off on her own.
While at the pool, she strikes up a conversation with an old man reading The Mayor of Casterbridge, which happens to be her “nannie’s” favorite book. His name is Rudy Staples and why Kristy can’t find friends her own age is anybody’s guess. Maybe they heard that if you become friends with that Kristy-girl, you’ll invade your cabin and leave pieces of candy wrappers all over your room, and you’ll have to clean up the wrappers until you go insane! They call her the Candywoman. That’s what that movie was about, right? It’s not an excellent horror film about the legacy of slavery or anything, is it?
Anyway, Kristy teaches Rudy-Rudes how to play video games, specifically Centipede, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong. When Kristy returns to the cabin, the room is, to Kristy’s horror, straightened up! Oh no! Dawn has done the basic human chores that Kristy should have done in the first place! That fair-weather bitch! Kristy asks her mom to switch rooms with Karen, but her mom refuses because Karen and Andrew are attached at the hip, and Claudia and Dawn probably don’t want to share a room with a six-year-old. She encourages Kristy to work out her differences with Dawn.
That’s right! One of the Pike Triplets gets his own chapter! Honestly, they’re pretty much the same person as far as I’m concerned, so Ann M. Martin could literally switch to one of the others and I wouldn’t know.
The triplets, Nicky, and David Michael see a pirate movie and endeavor to find treasure, especially since they are going to be landing on Treasure Cay and the boys see the name as a sign from the sweet Lord above that they’re going to find treasure.
While on the beach, they find some detritus.
“It’s — it’s a treasure map!” I exclaimed. I held out the small yellowed piece of paper. “Look! There’s a diagram and some funny words. They must be in another language. I wonder what language pirates spoke.”
English, if movies are to be believed. And they should be without question. (I saw a woman and her son murder a bunch of kids at a camp for multiple years and the police did nothing. What is this country coming to?)
The boys decide to look everywhere for the treasure, including the boat and Disney World, regardless of the fact that the pirates did not travel on cruise ships and Disney World opened on October 1, 1971. I bet one of them is probably a senator, making decisions about women’s bodies with bullshit science with that kind of treasure logic.
Aaaannnddd Dawn and Kristy are still fighting.
Dawn finds the “gorgeous guy” and they go for a walk. His name is Parker Harris. (Never trust a Parker, Dawn, haven’t you seen Buffy, the Vampire Slayer?). The next day (it moves that abruptly), they have breakfast together followed by a Ping-Pong tournament, which includes a match against Kristy and “her old man friend.” Miraculously, Parker and Dawn win the whole tournament because why the fuck not? They end the day at the arcade and they get into a photo booth.
At the end of the day, they decide to spend more days together at Disney World. Dawn decides that Parker is her “first true boyfriend” and she is in love.
The triplets had been running around the ship and were sent back to their cabin by the ship staff (or mates?), because kids can buy drinks and get manicures, but they sure as hell can’t explore the ship!
As punishment, Mary Anne has to accompany the triplets, Nicky, and David Michael, so really, Mary Anne is punished. Unless she’s getting paid. The book did not discuss Mary Anne and Stacey’s pay. If she’s being paid, it’s not a punishment — she’s doing her job.
The boys tell her about the treasure map and Mary Anne just plays along. In her words, “I have heard of stranger things, so I held my laugh in.” What “stranger things?” And don’t say the hit Netflix series. I have more pop culture references, and I’m not afraid to use them!
Mary Anne bumps into Alexandra, the thirteen-year-old with the rockin’ bod. The girl says that she’s on the trip with her “guardian” and her parents were killed in a car accident, making her an orphan. If I heard that, I would think that Alex is being trafficked and I would call the police. But this is a BSC book, and while the BSC tackles some heavy issues, human trafficking is just too much for the Scholastic audience.
While Claire and Margo are arguing over what to do, Vanessa is reading a book called Baby Island. Stacey does not go into detail as to what exactly Baby Island is about, but I wish she did. Is it an island of only babies, which sounds loud, poopy, and short-lived, or is it about an island of man-children who harass women online? It could also be about an island made of babies or an island for Baby from Dirty Dancing. The possibilities are endless!
Claire, Margo, and Stacey go to this famous video arcade that seems to be the only form of entertainment on this ship and see Marc, the wheelchair-bound kid that Stacey met the other night. Marc’s father leaves him with Stacey.
“I’m sure you’re responsible.” He was probalby thinking about my diabetes, and my diet, and my insulin shots, which we had talked about the night I met the Kubackis.
Stace, buddy, you don’t need to tell everyone about your insulin. It’s really none of his business. Not every person you meet needs to know about your endocrine system deficiencies. But I guess this allows Marc to have some fun without his father, so it’s okay.
The kids ask Marc about his wheelchair. He says he “has a bad heart,” which can describe many politicians I know. ZOOM! He also says he can’t go on rollercoasters, like Space Mountain, but he can go on “quiet” rides. Hate to break it to you, Marc, but every Disney ride is scary. Also, I did Space Mountain and it was enough. I do not like careening through space, even if Admiral Ackbar is there (I went during the Star Wars overlay). I’ll take my Haunted Mansion and the Matterhorn, thank you very much.
The kids and Stacey go to the ice cream parlor and see Claudia. They also see Claudia’s stalker paying for her sundae. Then he runs away and Claudia chases after him, and we switch POVs.
Claudia chases down her stalker and instead finds a boy who says he saw someone run by and is definitely not her stalker, even though he was right there where the stalker would have careened right into him. Claudia expresses disappointment in not catching him and the boy who is definitely not her stalker suggests that the stalker is shy. He is definitely, definitely not her stalker. Nope. No chance.
His name is Timothy and he is not Claudia’s stalker.
I found myself studying Timothy’s face. It was framed by curly hair. His eyes were dark, wide-set, and fringed with long lashes that I would have given my eyeteeth for. And he was the perfect height for me . . . Wait a minute! What was I doing? I had a Secret Admirer. I didn’t need Timothy, too. On the other hand, the admirer wasn’t showing his face. And Timothy was awfully nice. Plus he wasn’t in hiding.
Ignoring whatever the hell “eyeteeth” are, which sounds like something that triggers someone’s phobia, Claudia, you have a stalker/secret admirer who is definitely not Timothy, but you know what? Timothy is showing his face while your stalker, who is not Timothy, is hiding. They are definitely different people. Timothy and Claudia decide to meet up at Disney World.
The group arrives at their Disney World hotel. Martin fails to mention which hotel they are staying at, given the minutiae of details for rides, you’d expect a single mention of the hotel. There’s almost an argument after Claudia, Dawn, and Kristy realize there aren’t three beds, but two king-size beds. Claudia continues to play the part of “Reasonable One.”
“We are going to be here three nights,” she said firmly. “So we’ll switch off. Each of us will have a bed to herself one night. And I don’t want any more contamination wars or clothes battles. There are plenty of drawers and coat hangers. We have enough space to pull all of our stuff away, even mine. So let’s do it. And then you two,” she went on, glaring at Dawn and me, “are going to call a truce.”
It’s strange how sometimes when others are lacking a necessary trait, another person will step up and fill that need. Claudia calls out Kristy when she throws a snack wrapper on the ground in front of Dawn. Finally, Kristy and Dawn call a real truce and the conversation turns to if any of them have seen a rated R movie, to which they admit that none of them have. They’re, like, thirteen or twelve, right? I was eleven when I saw my first rated R movie (I Know What You Did Last Summer at a sleepover, starting a lifelong love of horror movies. But my extensive history with horror is for another review about a YA book that is really just an excuse to write and reflect on my own childhood. And I touched on it a little during my review of Stay Out of the Basement).
They are finally in Disney World — one of my Bucket List places (the others being Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland . . . and I guess Seoul and London and see the Philippines again, but they don’t have a Disney theme park).
Karen, Andrew, Watson, and Elizabeth meet Minnie Mouse. They buy some magic shop trinkets and Karen mentions the enormity of Cinderella’s Castle. If I said that in front of my father, he’d proceed to tell me all about perspective and kill the wonder of an actual castle in front of me.
Karen says that she really wants to ride the Haunted Mansion (which is the best ride at Disneyland, I say as I think about how I made Jon ride the ride five times in a day). At the end of the ride, when the Hitchhiking Ghosts “appear” in her car, Karen freaks out and that’s what she’s thinking about for the rest of her story.
Dawn is going on a Disney date with Parker and she wants to look her best.
This is the outfit Claudia helped me to choose: a white tank top under lavender overalls, lavender push-down socks, lavender high-top sneakers, and a beaded Indian belt, which we looped droopily twice around my middle. In my hair we put lavender-and-white clips that looked like birds. I thought they were just any kind of bird, but Claudia swore up and down that they were birds of paradise. Who knows? (I think she was making that up.)
The matchy-matchy ’80s. And what is the young master wearing?
He was wearing this blue-and-white polo shirt, white tennis shorts, and loafers with no socks.
So Parker is dressed as James Spader telling Andrew McCarthy that he shouldn’t date Molly Ringwald because she’s poor. Cool outfit.
Before they go to the Magic Kingdom, they have to discuss parking. That just comes with the territory when you date someone named “Parker.” Then they go to Tomorrowland and ride Space Mountain. Dawn almost throws up, which is exactly how I felt after getting off that ride.
Dawn finds a unicorn charm in the park and she promptly adds it to her great-aunt’s bracelet that she was wearing. Parker’s parents show up and leave his younger brothers with him and Dawn. They ride Big Thunder Mountain and then they go to Tom Sawyer Island, where Dawn realizes she lost her unicorn/great-aunt bracelet. She cries and Parker gives her a peck on the cheek.
Mallory separates from her family to do some more spying. She’s in the Happiest Place on Earth with the best rides and she still wants to play Harriet the Spy even though she has learned nothing interesting and has just wasted her time. At least my brief foray into spying only wasted two hours. But let’s see what Mallory writes in her spying notebook — the sordid details that are so integral to the plot and not problematic or boring at all.
Two old ladies walk by. They have blue hair.A family walks by with a kid in a stroller. The kid is crying.Another family goes by. The little girl drops her ice-cream cone. Cries.A big group of people goes by. They are wearing matching T-shirts. They are very loud (the people, not the shirts). I think the people are retarded. Having fun. Lots of smiles.A family goes by. Both kids crying.
Riveting and not pejorative at all, Mallory. I want to like you, I really do, but this doesn’t help. The less said about this the better.
Mallory does find out something. She finds Alexandra and it turns out that she is not an orphan but has parents who seem to be famous to old people.
The BSC holds a meeting where they discuss recent events like a “Previously On” written into a show. Kristy brings up giving Watson, Elizabeth, and the Pikes gifts for the trip. After the meeting, Mary Anne returns to her room and finds Mallory.
Mallory proceeds to tell Mary Anne about Alexandra Carmody. Of course, Mary Anne is upset that Alexandra lied to her about being an orphan. Mary Anne decides to confront Alexandra the next time she sees her.
She sees her at Disney World, yells that she’s a liar, and runs away. Great confrontation, Mary Anne. Confrontations always involve the confronter spouting four words and no response from the confrontee. Alexandra spends the day trying to explain herself to Mary Anne, but our BSC member will have none of it.
So the triplets, Nicky, and David Michael continue their treasure quest, but Stacey has to come along. Stacey says that they can do whatever they want “as long as it was legal.”
They go on some rides. There’s more awkward description of the rides. I wonder if Ann M. Martin didn’t actually go on all these rides and just interviewed children outside the exit, or it’s just awkward because it’s awkward to try to explain the ride experience to someone.
In one place, the pirates set some buildings on fire. The buildings really, really look like they’re on fire, too — all red and yellow and glowing. In another place, you pass under a pirate sitting on a bridge or something and you can see that he has hairy legs! There are drunk pirates, there’s a gunfight between two ships, with the exploding shells splashing the water all around your boat, and there are funny pirates in jail. A dog has the keys to their prison, but he won’t give them up!
I don’t need to go to Disney World and experience Pirates of the Caribbean myself! I have this description!
None of these ride descriptions ever come into play. It’s not like that dog had the key to their pirate treasure. The ride descriptions are just added for word count.
After the ride, the boys buy some pirate items. They go to Tom Sawyer Island and they finally find a treasure — an old bracelet with a broken clasp. Stacey tells them that it is Dawn’s lost bracelet.
The boys give up trying to find treasure, but Byron keeps the map.
Her last day at Disney World starts with a character breakfast. During the breakfast, a cast member asks if anyone is celebrating a birthday. A young boy comes up and the entire restaurant is forced to sing happy birthday to him. Instead of feeling pity for the boy, as I would, Karen is envious, she lies and says it’s her birthday, and before her father can stop her, she runs up and really shows off her narcissism.
I beamed. I loved it. I loved being right in the middle of things, with everyone thinking about me. I didn’t care that it wasn’t my birthday. It was probably my only chance ever to have a hundred people sing to me.
This is the kind of early behavior of someone who says something racist and doubles down on it on Twitter because they get hate clicks and attention.
Watson kind of chastises her but chooses not to punish her because they’re on vacation. Karen proceeds to blame her hitchhiking ghost, which is clearly a precedent for her to refuse responsibility. After she says the racist thing on Twitter and people call her out, she’ll blame Ambien or something. Also, I doubt Gus, Ezra, or Phineas would ever do something so fucking conceited as to force others to pay attention to them. They get all the attention they need at the end of the Haunted Mansion.
When the family goes out to the park, Karen figures out a way to get lost. I don’t care if she’s popular — I find Karen incredibly draining. She judges her neighbor and calls her a dangerous witch just because she looks different. She thinks it’s okay to wander off and charge things to her room with money she doesn’t have. She believes it’s acceptable to lie just to get people to pay attention to you. And when she’s called out, she blames another party, regardless of the consequences. Now she’s lost. If Karen were my child, Alexandra Carmody wouldn’t be the only orphan at Disney World.
Of course, Karen isn’t forced to pickpockets for Fagan — she finds Elizabeth a page later. So, really, Karen learned nothing and will continue to learn nothing.
Stacey, Claire, and Margo stumble across Marc and they spend the day with him and his parents. They go on a dinosaur ride and the awkward descriptions continue. They also watch Captain EO, and if you’re not familiar with Michael Jackson’s venture into Disney, there are many YouTube videos all about it. (I recommend Defunctland’s excellent episode.)
While the children eat, Stacey speaks with Marc’s parents.
The Kubackis glanced at each other. There was an embarrassing silence. Then Mr. Kubacki said in a low voice, “Marc is going to have major surgery in a couple of weeks. Heart surgery. It’ll be very risky.”I figured out what he wasn’t saying: that Marc might not survive the operation. I was stunned. “Does he know?” I managed to ask.“He knows about the surgery,” replied Mr. Kubacki, “but not the risks. There’s no need for him to know that. We took this vacation together . . . just in case. And we want him to be happy. If . . . anything happens, this is one of the good times Mrs. Kubacki and I will be able to look back on.” Mr. Kubacki reached for his wife’s hand.
That’s heartbreaking. I’m not going to be snarky here.
Claudia gets a letter from her stalker that says she is “as beautiful as ever.” But she can’t pay attention to that! She has a Disney World date with Timothy — the boy who is definitely a separate person from her stalker.
Timothy has a secret! Is it that he’s Claudia’s stalker? No, of course not. Those are two different people! The secret is that his older sister is Alexandra Carmody — the orphan liar with famous parents.
Mary Anne finally lets Alexandra explain why she lied and the answer is reminiscent of another character’s warped logic.
“To get attention,” Alexandra replied matter-of-factly. “And to make life a little more interesting. For the same reasons Timothy spies on people and hides in coiled-up rope and stuff. Makes things interesting. When you’re the children of Viv and Vernon Carmody, you tend to get lost in the shuffle. You have to find ways to . . . to. . .”
And then Mary Anne just accepts that answer and they all laugh about it. This is not a great message for impressionable youth. The way to get attention is to lie about your parents’ deaths or lie about your birthday or conjure lies about your neighbor. Basically, the way to get attention is to lie.
Also, Timothy reveals that he was Claudia’s secret admirer/stalker all along! I never saw that coming! I thought they were different people! Talk about a Shamalayan-level twist!
Then they kiss during fireworks, once again teaching young kids that the way to a girl’s heart is vague stalking.
Kristy calls a final BSC meeting. They reveal that they are going to take all the pictures they took during the trip and collect them into a proto-scrapbook before the term was really coined by white suburban moms with too much time in the early 2000s.
Dawn and Claudia are saying goodbye to their respective summer romances/stalkers. Mary Anne says goodbye to Alexandra Carmody. Kristy gives Rudy her grandmother’s phone number and address. And on the plane, a man approaches the triplets and Nicky.
“Pardon me,” he said with an accent.The boys looked up at him.“You are from Holland, yes?” said the man.All five boys shook their heads.“American?” asked the man in surprise.“Yup,” said Adam.“Oh. My mistake. I saw the copy machine diagram. With words in Dutch. I think you are from Holland, too. I am Dutch.”“Copy machine diagram?” repeated Byron. “Dutch?”“Yes,” said the man. He pointed to the paper. “My company, it manufactures copiers. That is a picture of — how do you say? — the insides of a machine.”“Oh, brother,” muttered David Michael as the man went on his way.
Cool treasure map, boys.
Two months later, the BSC learns that Marc survived his surgery.
Whew! That was a long one!
The thing about Super Specials is that they feature all the BSC members and have an overarching story that may or may not intersect with the other members’ stories. The overarching story is usually just a way to keep them all together however loose that connection may be. In this book, it makes sense to put them all on a boat together, but the extra part with Disney World seems a little unnecessary, and I didn’t like reading the passages about the ride events. They don’t really factor into the plots and just seem extraneous. It’s like Disney paid for this extended product placement, but not enough to make sure the rides contribute more to the plot.
That being said, some of the stories I liked and others I hated. In order of worst to best, this is how I feel about each member’s story.
Worst — Karen: I never understood the appeal of Karen and I still don’t. Why does this brat get her own series? She’s selfish, she doesn’t think about others, she just wants attention, she doesn’t put effort into anything, and she doesn’t learn anything. She just does whatever she wants and there are no consequences for her.
Claudia: Why is Claudia attracted to her stalkers? First the phantom phone call stalker and now this boat stalker. It would be one thing to have a stalker — that is a scary thing that women deal with. But the problem lies with these stalkers getting rewarded with dates and kisses. I want to like Claudia, I really do. She’s the only Asian-American member (maybe the only Asian-American in all of Connecticut, besides her family), and as an Asian-American woman, I want to like her, but it’s hard when she’s macking on shy boys who engage in questionable behavior.
Byron: They were running around with Dutch copier instructions. How am I supposed to be into that?
Mallory: This story makes me remember my spying days after reading Harriet the Spy — and I’d prefer not to remember that afternoon.
Mary Anne: Her story is interesting enough. I was curious about Alexandra Carmody for most of the book, but her third act reveal wasn’t satisfying. She was doing it for attention? It would be better if she was trying to hide the fact that her parents are famous because people only want to get close to her parents or something. Anything rather than “I want attention.”
Kristy: Okay, so she starts a fight with Dawn and then hangs out with an old man.
Dawn: Okay, so she starts a fight with Kristy and then hangs out with a young man.
Best — Stacey: Even though it seems like the first thing Stacey says is, “Hello. My name is Stacey McGill and I have diabetes,” this is still the best story in this inaugural Super Special. We have a new sympathetic and likable character in Marc. Stacey does some actual baby-sitting. She gets to facilitate a friendship between Claire, Margo, and Marc. It’s heartbreaking to hear that this kid is going to undergo risky surgery and this Disney World trip is a way for his parents to create good memories in case he doesn’t make it. I was relieved when I read he made it.
I enjoyed my first foray into the Super Specials, but there is room for improvement. I remember the other ones being better, and we will see if that’s the case as I continue this series.