Original Publication Date: 1999
Ghostwriter? No. Ann dedicates to honor the birth of her goddaughter, Harmoni.
This book starts the short-lived Friend Forever series of the BSC. As the title indicates, the members are dealing with some significant changes.
Kristy has recently decided to start keeping a journal, inspired by Mary Anne (who lost all but one of hers in the fire). We get to read a lot about her concerns that the BSC isn't going to fare well over the summer, when she, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and Abby will be away (Kristy, Abby, and Mary Anne at Camp Mohawk, Claudia on a family vacation, Stacey in New York with her dad). She's not sure that Mallory and Jessi can run it alone, especially since Logan and Shannon have been even less available than usual and Dawn will be in California until August. Then Logan calls to drop out of the BSC, citing sports commitments. Then Jessi calls to tell Kristy about a new ballet school opening in Stamford which will be on the same level as the one she attended in New York...and will meet six days a week, which doesn't really leave time for the BSC. She is accepted, and quits. Then Abby quits. Remember how she'd been feeling burnt out? She just has too much on her plate and the BSC has to go. Finally, Shannon tells Kristy that she won't have time to even be an associate member once school starts.
Mary Anne is worried that her dad will accept the job offer in Philadelphia. She's still suffering from a lot of turmoil after the fire, and elects to skip Camp Mohawk. She's also feeling smothered by Logan, who is trying to help but not actually helping. Her grandmother comes to visit, and brings some things that belonged to Mary Anne's mother. She also gives Mary Anne an heirloom ring that she never had a change to give her mother. It's a pretty sweet moment when she shares the things, and it helps Mary Anne heal a bit from the fire. Her dad also decides he'd rather not take the job in Philadelphia, which makes things yet easier. Even better: the family is able to rent out the house next-door to Claudia (the Goldmans') for a year while they renovate the barn to be a house.
Stacey is mostly enjoying her stay in New York, as she gets to spend lots of time with both her dad and with Ethan. However, her dad is concerned that Ethan might be too old for her (he sees him late one night outside a club "for adults"?). He limits Stacey to only spending fourteen hours a week with Ethan. A few days later, he tells Stacey that he is seriously considering asking his girlfriend, Samantha, to move in (without being married! Shock! Horror!). Stacey's not happy with the idea, but some encouragement from Claudia and a talk with Ethan go a long way in convincing her to not hate Samantha just because she's newer in Stacey's life. Stacey's dad is also more willing to give Ethan a chance after hearing that he helped Stacey look at the other side of issue.
Claudia is not looking forward to her family vacation to small, isolated island off the coast of Maine. Her parents want the family to embrace a simpler lifestyle during their stay: no internet, no TV, no dishwasher (that last one is too much for me; my husband and I had no dishwasher for the first two years of our marriage and I like to bake from scratch). It's not long before she catches Janine with her laptop and internet cord, her mom reading a trashy romance novel, and her dad watching a baseball game on the neighbors' TV (with the neighbors' permission). She and Janine take an art class together (apparently the island is a popular destination for artists) and they have a great time together with it. Claudia ends up loving the stay, and wanting to go back a lot in the future.
When they meet up again after the vacations, Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Claudia admit to each other that they enjoyed the free time they had over the last month. They decide that since the BSC is down to its four original members, they'll cut back on meetings--maybe just once a week--and not try to recruit any more clients. It's still important to them, but it won't be the main focus of their lives anymore.
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: none mentioned since she's not at home, but the descriptions of all the lobster are making me hungry
Claudia likes lobster, so she is happy about that part of the trip.
Stacey decides to take up needlepoint...despite already knowing how to do it.
According to Kristy, Abby likes the chicken tetrazzini at camp. Interesting, since it calls for butter, cream, and cheese, and Abby's allergic to dairy.
Jessi, Mallory, and Shannon come up with a thoughtful gift for Mary Anne: supplies to make a scrapbook.
Claudia likes Salvador Dali. He's my favorite painter.
Mary Anne's family is renting a house in Stoneybrook for now.
This is not the first family vacation for the Kishis, nor the first one during the summer. They went to New Hampshire during the events of Boy-Crazy Stacey.
Given Stacey's experience with a "back-to-nature" vacation (written about in her Portrait Collection), I'm surprised she didn't have tips for Claudia.
Abby's mom cries when she leaves on the bus for camp. Didn't really expect that.
Stacey's dad has a fax machine in his apartment. Guess that's fitting for a workaholic.
Mary Anne's grandmother describes her mementos as some of "what remains of Alma," which makes me think of her physical remains. Which would probably be not in the best condition.
The Club (and clients): aside from what's mentioned in the summary, nothing new.
SMS: summer vacation.
Did you know that whole lobster comes with the intestines still in it? Because I didn't when I ordered it a few years ago. Fun surprise, that. Ever since then when I've had lobster I just get lobster tail.
One of the campers at Camp Mohawk is named Harmoni, presumably for Ann M. Martin's goddaughter. She's written to be a nice girl who everyone likes.
Kristy and Mary Anne are amused by an eight-year-old who brings eyebrow tweezers to camp. Thing is...I'd probably do that. I have brown eyebrows and the stragglers show a little too well against my skin. Probably wouldn't have done that at eight years old though.
Starting 8th grade: 11
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 4
Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate in the plot of a book, not just reference): Christmas-5, Hanukkah-2, Kwanzaa-3
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 5
St. Patrick's Days in 8th grade: 1
Summers after 8th grade: 12
BSC Fights: 13
SMS Staff and Faculty: 68
Students (other than the BSC): 213: 119 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 30 7th graders, 48 6th graders, 16 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 38 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 149