Review: Mary Anne + Too Many Babies by Ann M. Martin

13 Dec

Mary Anne + Too Many Babies The tag-line for this book is “How much trouble can a bunch of babies be?” Oh, Mary Anne, you’re a professional babysitter. You know exactly how much trouble they would be. For those of you who don’t know who Mary Anne Spier is, she is the best friend of the founder of the Babysitters’ Club, Kristy Thomas, and one of its original members. What is the Babysitters’ Club, you ask? The BSC was a business venture hatched by Kristy Thomas when she saw how hard it was for her mother to find babysitter. Kristy figured, why call around looking for a babysitter when you can call one number and reach all seven at once? The original members of the BSC include: Kristy Thomas (the Innovator, softball coach, and lover of turtlenecks, jeans, and baseball caps), Claudia Kishi (junkfood junkie, slob, fashion plate, “not very good at school,” Token Asian), Stacey McGill (sophisticated, diabetic, fashion junkie, best friend to Claudia, New York native), and Mary Anne Spier (dead mom, best friend to Kristy, the first one in the BSC to have a real steady boyfriend, former wallpaper, suffers from self-esteem issues). The four of them are all thirteen years old, in the eighth grade, and attend Stoneybrook Middle School. They are FOREVER going to be thirteen years old and in the eighth grade. They will never grow up, go to college, get out of the babysitting gig and Stoneybrook… *sobs* The BSC later on expands to include Dawn Schaeffer (displaced Californian, dirty hippie, healthfood junkie, possibly token Democrat), who is Mary Anne’s step-sister; there is also Jesse Ramsey (ballet dancer, former babysitting charge, Token Black Girl), and Mallory Pike (redhead, braces, oldest child in a family with eight kids, loves ponies, best friend of Jesse). The members of the BSC meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 5:30 to 6 PM; the meetings are held in Claudia’s room because she is the only one with her own phone (with its own phone number and line), and every week, Stacey the club’s treasurer collects dues from the other girls, which they compile to buy things that the club needs like junk food, paying for Claudia’s phone bill, and replenishing the Kid Kits (another one of Kristy Thomas’ bright idea). They don’t have to share the money they get from their babysitting jobs, but they do have to pay taxes dues. Got it now?

In Mary Anne + Too Many Babies, Mary Anne has gone baby-crazy. She and her step-sister Dawn are convinced their parents Sharon and Richard need to have a baby, so they can have a little brother or sister to play with. They spend their free time looking through a mail-order magazine for baby furniture and clothes; they doodle baby names on their notebooks and pester their poor, beleaguered parents about getting it on and producing a child for them to treat as a living doll. When a new client the Salems calls for a babysitter for fraternal twin babies, Mary Anne practically jumps all over the opportunity. She dresses them up in cute little matching outfits before taking them out for walks, baby-talks and coos to them while they’re feeding, and inhales the sweet, sweet baby essence from their heads like it’s crack (Mary Anne lurves the baby smell). Mary Anne gets the chance to prove her love for babies when a class at school, Modern Living, gives her and her classmates a special project: after they fake-marry a classmate, they will each be given an egg that they will treat as their own child; at the end of the project, the couple must write a paper together detailing and analyzing the experience. Mary Anne pairs up with Logan Bruno, her steady boyfriend, of course. At first she believes everything will be perfect: her partner is her real boyfriend, she’s an experienced babysitter so taking care of the egg baby should be a breeze, and she’s very organized. But all of a sudden, everything begins to feel too real and Logan seems to be exhibiting the “control freak” tendency that made Mary Ann break up with him in Mary Ann v.s. Logan (they get back together in Mary Anne Misses Logan, five books later). Can Mary Anne handle her egg-baby, her babysitting charges, and her seemingly deteriorating relationship with Logan? Or will Mary Ann take her ten-speed to a nearby lake, drown her egg-baby, and go back into town, crying hysterically that a black man bike-jacked her 10-speed and took her egg-baby with him?

[Special side-note: When we did this project in the 8th grade, we were given a "real-fake" baby which was programmed to cry, coo, burp, pee, and poop at random times. If you dropped it or neglected it too long, it records that. It was an awful, awful thing. It even recorded when you yelled at it. It was heavy as hell, too. You even had to change the diaper. They gave you a bracelet that was coded to the baby to make sure you're not too far away from it at all times.]

The Heroine If you are familiar with the BSC books, you already know that Mary Anne’s defining characteristic is her timidity. Before Mary Anne Saves the Day, Mary Ann was content standing in her best friend Kristy’s shadow, unable to speak up for herself, and easily pushed around. When Claudia convinced her that it was time to ditch the Oshkosh for more fashionable clothing, Mary Anne discovered the “softer side of Sears,” much to Kristy’s dismay. In book #10, Mary Likes Logan, we see Mary Anne starting to grow into her own, blossoming and desiring a boy with a Kentuckian accent and incidentally, a dead ringer for her favorite country singer, Cam Geary. But the Old Mary Anne is not all the way gone. When Logan implies she is a bad mother and yells at her during a movie date, Mary Anne cries and storms out. She is flabbergasted when Logan tells her that he doesn’t trust her enough to leave her alone with the egg-baby, but does not fight back. She can be quickly overwhelmed, rattles easily, and as soon as she gets in trouble, she’s on the horn with Dawn, demanding help. And she’s definitely still too sensitive.

“You still don’t trust me, do you? Just because I lost her for five seconds. Logan, accidents happen.”

“I know.” Logan didn’t let go of Sammie, though.

My eyes filled with tears. “I’ll see you later,” I whispered, and ran out of the room without Sammie.

“Mary Anne!” called Logan.

I didn’t answer.

Logan and I had a long way to go before we reconciled our differences.

You should have belted him in the stomach, grabbed Sammie, and THEN stormed out, Mary Anne.

The Hero The trouble between Logan and Mary Anne began in Mary Anne + Too Many Boys. Mary Anne, while on vacation/babysitting gig in Sea City with the Pikes, finds herself attracted to Alex, a boy she had met the previous summer. This makes Mary Anne wonder about her feelings for Logan. After all, she’s only thirteen, has only had one steady boyfriend, and believes herself to be too young to settle down. In Mary Anne v.s. Logan, Mary Anne realizes that Logan is just too controlling; he steam-rolls over her, doesn’t ask for her opinions about anything, and has been known to order for her at dinner. In this book, it seems Logan might be the same domineering jerk he used to be. He doesn’t trust Mary Anne to care for their stupid egg-baby (on one instance, he actually calls Mary Anne not to see how she’s doing, but to check on the egg), makes decisions without consulting her, (i.e. “We’ll just have to live with your parents, then”), and when Mary Anne accidentally loses the egg-baby in the movie theater, Logan almost loses it. Mary Anne is a fragile, soft-spoken, sensitive creature. She doesn’t need a brute like Logan Bruno pushing her around, especially since he doesn’t trust her. A Kentuckian accent will only take you so far; you’ll need kindness, manners, and sensitivity… Logan.

Oh my word: As far as Mary Anne-centric BSC offerings go, this really isn’t my favorite. Like may Mary Anne-centric books, Mary Anne got lost in the shuffle. Too much emphasis was placed on explaining how the Modern Living class worked, as well as the “egg project,” that at times it felt repetitive. I think the chapter with Dawn and Mallory babysitting with the Pike children could have been excised because it serves only to explain how the “egg project” worked and that had already been taken care of in the previous chapters; Stacey’s chapter detailing her new babysitting charges the Gianellis were adorable, however (Stacey’s egg baby’s name is Bobby and the little boy she’s babysitting is named Bobby, so I have to say that the little “who’s on first” routine made me chuckle a little bit). I would have really liked to have seen Mary Anne telling off Logan. He is just too arrogant and presumptuous for his own good. If Mary Anne doesn’t watch herself with him, she’ll end up in a loveless marriage with Logan immediately after high school, stuck at home taking care of the kids while Logan worked at his construction job. I was, to say the least, a little relieved when Mary Anne reveals that she would like to move to New York someday and have a career there (the epilogue of her egg-baby Sammie: she moves to New York to become an editorial assistant for a major publishing company, which I think is Mary Anne’s secret desire). I think Mary Anne will be all right as long as she dumps Logan, which she might, once she sees what Stoneybrook High School has to offer. All and all, a “meh” grade because for a Mary Anne-centric book, we didn’t really get a “feel” for Mary Anne. We also didn’t get a lot of Claudia, my favorite BSC member, so boooo. And I wish the kids didn’t take the “egg project” so seriously; it was ridiculous. At one point, while Mary Ann was babysitting the Salem twins, she actually hesitated to go upstairs and tend to the real live baby because she was reluctant to leave her egg-baby alone. It’s just an EGG, Mary Anne!

What Was The Book’s After-School Special Lesson? Wait till you’re graduated from college and have a career of your own before getting married and having children, kids. Otherwise, you’ll end up living with your husband in your old bedroom in your parents’ house, miserable and broke, crying over the cold oatmeal that the baby won’t eat, and wondering how your step-sister Dawn is doing out in California. And wishing you hadn’t listened to your high school boyfriend when he said you didn’t have to go to NYU like you wanted when Stoneybrook Community College would serve just as well. You’ve never been really good at school, anyway. Not like your friend Stacey McGill. Or Kristy Thomas.

I also like to think that this particular BSC book deals with the issue of young girls wanting to have babies, just so they can have someone to love and for someone to love them in return. I believe Sally Jesse Raphael or Maury Povich have dealt with these issues sometime in the past in the vein of, “You can’t stop me! I’m a woman grown. I can do whatever I want!” OH HELPZ, MY TEEN IS OUT OF CONTROL!!

“You guys? What’s being married like?” asked Jessie.

“Yeah, what’s it like?” echoed Mal.

“Well,” Stacey began after a moment. “I don’t know what to compare it to. But a lot of it is communicating. With your husband or wife. You have to be able to talk about who’s going to watch the baby when, and who has to remember to do which things with the baby.”

“And you have to agree on stuff,” added Kristy. “And trust your husband. That’s important. You have to trust him.”

“Being married is expensive,” I added.

“Nobody has said anything about love,” pointed out Jessie.

The room grew silent.

“Yeah, aren’t you supposed to be in love?” asked Mal.

So What Was Claudia Wearing? There wasn’t much focus on Claudia or Claudia’s outfit this time around, I’m afraid. All we got is this: “A typical Claudia outfit might include a sequined shirt, stirrup pants (maybe black), low black boots, dangly turquoise earrings, and ribbons woven through tiny braids in her hair. And she wouldn’t forget sparkly nail polish.” Wow, that sounds pretty tame compared to what Claudia usually wears. I can actually see the outfit happening in my head. That’s a total fail, Ann M. Martin.

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2 Responses to “Review: Mary Anne + Too Many Babies by Ann M. Martin”

  1. Mags December 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    “Mary Anne lurves the baby smell”

    Babies smell of poopy. Honest. I’ve got one and she’s like the stinky monster in Spirited Away. (well, ok, sometimes she smells of baby shampoo but the poop will be back within 24 hours)

    These books sound terrifying.

  2. LG January 9, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    The BSC books were to me what the Sweet Valley High books were to some other girls. I read them voraciously, and not much else. It felt like I read them for years, although maybe I only read them for a few months. I remember that my bookshelves were filled with them. Then one day I gave them up pretty much cold turkey (I think I stopped in the middle of an environmentalist one probably starring Dawn). I maybe have moved on to Christopher Pike next, I can’t remember.

    So this kind of brings back warm, fuzzy memories. I don’t think I could bring myself to reread these books, though. Even reading this review was a little painful. I’ll do my best not to say a word if I ever find myself thinking that my niece is reading too much junk.