Original Publication Date: 1997
Ghostwriter? Yes, Suzanne Weyn
Stacey almost literally runs into a new student: Tess Swinhart accidentally walks into a papier-mache project Stacey's working on with Barbara Hirsch (whose best friend, Amelia Freeman, is the one who was killed by a drunk driver in Mary Anne and the Memory Garden). Stacey's impression of Tess is someone who's very nice but a little awkward. Her physical awkwardness leads to her spilling some papier-mache gunk on Alan Gray, who starts making pig jokes ("Swine-heart"; she dresses in pink a lot, etc) behind her back. Soon half the school is in on it. Stacey and Tess end up working together on an English project, which Stacey takes as an opportunity to "fix" Tess. While Stacey is trying to do something nice, she fails to take into account how Tess actually feels about everything. Then there's this awful part at a pep rally: the school wants to elect a new mascot and someone slips in a poster nominating the cartoon version of Tess that so many students have been laughing about. In her embarassment and the crowd's confusion, Tess slips off the bleachers and sprains her wrist and breaks her ankle. Stacey tries to help, but Tess refuses, confronting Stacey with the fact that Stacey hasn't been a real friend. When Stacey goes to apologize and see how Tess is recovering, she finds out what she'd been missing by ignoring Tess in her quest to fix her: Tess went to school in Paris, and her odd clothing and accessories are actually quite fashionable there. Stacey redeems herself a bit by working with Tess and the BSC to foil a nasty prank that some guys are plotting against Tess to embarass her. The book ends with Tess no longer upset at Stacey, but without them really being friends.
There's a subplot about Jackie Rodowsky having a bully and Nicky Pike protecting him. The bullying started from a misunderstanding about a missing jacket, but Jackie sorts it out.
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: popcorn, M&Ms
In a strange bit of continuity, Stacey would still like to be a large cat like a panther if she were to be an animal.
I like that Mary Anne and Claudia are the first to note that Stacey is treating Tess as more of a project than a friend. Mary Anne is supposed to be sensitive, and was forced to wear clothes she didn't like by her father. Claudia is something of an oddity in her immediate family and worries that her parents prefer Janine to her.
Apparently, Claudia is back writing her personals column for the SMS paper again. She references working for the paper in present tense.
Their Families: nothing stood out.
The Club (and clients):
Mrs. Rodowsky has a cell phone! And email was mentioned a few books ago. Is the BSC moving into the 1990s?
Time for school to start...again.
The SMS mascot is now a jaguar, when it used to be the Chargers. On the other hand, it's mentioned that the papier-mache panther Claudia helped with looks good because of Claudia's help, and in Claudia Kishi, Queen of the Seventh Grade, Claudia doesn't help with a papier-mache lion and it looks terrible. So...some good continuity.
New student: Tess Swinhart (8th grade). Several students who were introduced in previous book show up, too.
Mr. Peters, a math teacher, is called Mr. Peter in this book (it's pretty clear that it's the same person).
PSA Time: nothing stood out.
"Panthers" don't exist as a separate animal. They're just all-black (melanistic, as opposed to albino) jaguars, leopards, and mountain lions.
You can too feel mascara, Stacey. Especially if you wear glasses and your eyelashes are long enough to get little dots or even streaks on the glasses.
Starting 8th grade: 10
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 3
Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate, not just reference): Christmas-3, Hanukkah-1, Kwanzaa-2
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 3
Summers after 8th grade: 10
BSC Fights: 11
SMS Staff and Faculty: 67
Students (other than the BSC): 210: 120 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 26 7th graders, 47 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 37 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 130