Mallory's gym class is just about to start a volleyball unit. She's well aware of her lack of talent in all things sports, which makes the idea of volleyball pretty distasteful. To make matters even worse, Mal's class is going to be combining with a boys' gym class. Mallory is sure she'll end up humiliated, and...that's kind of what happens. She gets stepped on, yelled at, made fun of, and when the other team realizes that she's the weak link, they serve the ball to her every single time (and that's just the first class...). The next time that Mallory has gym, things are even worse. The teacher, Ms. Walden, keeps picking on her and correcting her game in front of the whole class, and she gets hit in the face with a volleyball. That's when Mal kind of loses it; she calls the guy who hit her an idiot, and yells at Ms. Walden for scolding her. Ms. Walden benches Mal for the rest of the class. Not the worst punishment for someone who hates volleyball, but whatever.
Mal gets to thinking, and she realizes that if she keeps getting herself benched, she'll never again have to embarrass herself by playing volleyball. So, the next time gym class rolls around, Mal benches herself. It gets her detention, but she doesn't care. The same thing happens again during the next class, and Mal kind of has to scramble to get the detention notices out of the mailbox. She's even forced to wash the nasty, sweaty pinnies that they have to wear during class, but that doesn't "inspire" her to go back to playing. Eventually, Mal doesn't make it to the mailbox in time to get one of her detention notices, and her mom finds it. There's no yelling or anything, but Mrs. Pike does make it clear that she doesn't want to see another one of the letters, ever again. When Mal goes to her next gym class, Ms. Walden offers her a deal. If Mallory tries her hardest to play, she'll ask the boys' gym teacher to talk to them about going a little easier on her. Mallory survives the rest of the volleyball unit, but is pretty happy when it's all over. They move on to archery, and Mal ends up being a natural at it. Ms. Walden encourages her to try out for the school team, and Mallory is one of the ten students who make it.
That takes care of the gym part of things: let's move onto boys, shall we? The BSC has been having a lot of trouble with some of their male charges. The girls are behaving well, but not the boys. Mallory is the first to notice it, and at first, the other members think she's crazy. Then, they realize that she might be onto something. Mallory even gets Ben to agree to switch brothers with her for the night, since she thinks the Hobarts are wonderful compared to the Pikes. She gets a big surprise when James, Mathew, and Johnny ends up being kind of difficult, but her own brothers give the Hobarts no trouble at all.
Thoughts and Things
- Volleyball seems to be the universally traumatizing P.E. sport. My experiences with it were just as bad as Mal's, if not worse, and I know I'm not the only one. It's probably a good thing that I hadn't read this book back then; I would totally have pulled a Mallory and benched myself.
- Ms. Walden was being a little dramatic when she told Mallory that quitting at volleyball would make her a quitter for life. Seriously....I highly doubt that would happen.
- Normally, I can figure out who ghostwrote a book within the first few pages, but I never would have pegged this one as a Suzanne Weyn book. She tends to write in a more introspective, feminine style, and her plots involve more thinking and feeling than acting and doing. She tends to write Mary Anne very well. This book, though, has a lot more attitude than I'd expect from her, and a lot more boldness.
- I got two bulls' eyes in archery at summer camp once. :)
- Is it really common to have separate boys' and girls' gym classes? Mine were always mixed, from elementary school up through high school.