Mallory is pretty excited when her creative writing teacher, Mr. Dougherty, tells her class about the school's upcoming Young Authors Day. She's planning to enter a story into the "Best Overall Fiction for the Sixth Grade" category, and has big plans to devote herself completely to the project for the four weeks prior to the big day. From day one, though, things don't exactly work out the way Mal would like them to. As soon as she walks in the door after school on the day that Young Authors Day is announced, she has to solve one family crisis after another. She can't even get to her homework, let alone start on her story, before rushing off to a BSC meeting.
The next day, Saturday, Mal gets up really early to finish her homework so she'll have the rest of the day to work on her story. Once again, her plans are foiled. Mal pays Vanessa to stay out of their bedroom so she'll have privacy, but it's her parents who keep interrupting her with requests. By the end of the day, she's no further along in her writing than she was when she first sat down at her desk after breakfast. When Mr. D. asks to see what she's written so far in class later that week, she doesn't have much to show and feels awful for disappointing her teacher. So it doesn't happen again, Mallory makes a schedule for herself from that day up until Y.A.D.
Sticking to the schedule proves to be tough. That Friday, though, she manages to write five whole pages without being interrupted...until she looks at the clock and sees that it's 5:30 on the nose. Mal resents having to stop writing in order to go to the meeting; she doesn't even apologize when Kristy scolds her for being late. She even turns down two jobs in order to have more time to write, and gets another scolding from Kristy about not being available to sit 100% of the time. After a disasterous sitting job at the Barretts (one that was scheduled before Mal knew about Y.A.D.), Mallory decides she needs to be demoted. She doesn't feel like she's qualified to be a full club member anymore , and wants to be made an associate member...or she'll quit. Kristy is a heck of a lot more understanding than she was when Mal turned down the jobs before; she suggests that Mal take a leave of absence until Y.A.D. is over, and Mal agrees. She's sad, but she knows it's the right thing to do.
That weekend, Mallory decides that enough is enough; she's not going to put up with another whole day of interruptions, requests, and family stuff. She makes herself a sandwich board, and announces to her entire family at breakfast that she's going on strike. Miraculously, the rest of the Pike crew actually leave her alone. In fact, when her parents have to leave for a little while, they call Dawn and Mary Anne to come over rather than bother Mal. Mary Anne suggests that Mallory have a talk with her parents once they get home and tell them how she's been feeling. Mal does just that, and her parents apologize for taking advantage of her. They even offer to give her a day for herself, to do whatever she wants. She chooses the next day, and decides that she wants to spend her special day at the mall with Jessi. They have fun, but Mal actually misses having her brothers and sisters around. She decides to come up with a special surprise for them, to make up for being so cranky lately.
It's finally Young Authors Day, and Mal is nervous. She sits through a talk by a famous author, a puppet performance, and the rest of the awards before finally learning that she's the big winner. For days, people come up to her at school and congratulate her on her award, making it one of the best weeks in Mal's life. She's also back in the BSC, and some things have changed at home. Her parents have decided that she can work at the desk in their bedroom if she needs private time, and that she can put a "do not disturb" sign on the doorway. Mallory and Jessi also take the Pike kids out for their surprise adventure: a day of fun that finishes up with a scavenger hunt in the park.
Thoughts and Things
- Mal's creative writing class doesn't make sense. She mentions that there are ten people in it, but one page later, when Mr. D. asks everyone who's writing something for Y.A.D. to raise their hands, Mal says that "ten of us" did so. Then, Mr. D. writes everyone's name down. The way that Mal states how many people raised their hands, and the fact that Mr. D. had to write everyone's name down, makes me think that Ann forgot how many people were supposed to be in the class. :) Otherwise, Mr. D. could have just handed over the class list rather than writing everyone's names down. Also, the class meets only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What does Mal do on the other three days? Does the class meet after school or something?
- Young Authors Day was also a little confusing. Were there "Best Overall Fiction" categories for 7th and 8th grades, too?
- I actually participated in my very own Young Authors Day when I was younger. It wasn't a contest like Mal's was; we basically got to go to a bunch of workshops, and then we broke into groups and each of us read the story we'd brought. Mine was about unicorns getting lost in a shopping mall. I'm totally, completely serious about that....
- This book makes me want to go write something in the same way that Claudia and the New Girl makes me want to go do something aritistic.
- I don't blame Mal at all for being resentful about the way her parents relied on her. Doing chores and helping out at home is fine; expecting your 11 year old to help you run the house is not.
- When she's older, I can totally see Mal writing books like Ann's earlier ones. Think Ten Kids, No Pets, Me and Katie (the Pest), etc.