Mallory's English class has been assigned a huge project. They're supposed to think about a career they're interested in, and come up with some sort of written project centered on that career. Mal knows she wants to write about being a writer, but she's having trouble coming up with a project. Since she wants to write for kids eventually, Kristy suggests she write a play and have the Kids Can Do Anything Club at SES perform it. Mallory loves the idea, and she's sure her teacher will, too. Imagine her surprise when Mr. Williams asks Mal to stay after class to talk about her project proposal. He doesn't feel that it's really career-oriented, and that Mal probably won't learn anything about being a writer just by putting on a play with the kids.
Mallory is pretty bummed when she gets home from school that day, but her mood quickly changes when she sees the mail that's waiting for her. She'd written her new favorite author, Henrietta Hayes, not long before that, and Ms. Hayes had already written back! Mallory's excitement is short-lived, though, when she reads the letter more carefully and realizes that it's just a form letter. She notices that the letter is postmarked Stamford, which gives Mal a new idea for her project: she's going to compare and contrast the life and experiences of Henrietta Hayes with her own life. Mal quickly writes another letter, explaining her project and asking for a real response. It doesn't work; she gets another form letter. Mallory writes a third time and gets yet another form letter. Does Mal give up? No; she looks up Ms. Hayes' address in the phone book and decides to pay her a visit. Mallory is pretty nervous about just walking up to her house, but she sucks it up and goes. Ms. Hayes invites her in, apologizes for the form letters, and even offers her something to drink. She even agrees to help Mal with her project, and when the interview is over, she offers to hire Mallory as her assistant for the next couple of weeks. Mal accepts.
Meanwhile, the Kids Club is pretty excited about working on Mal's play. At least, they are at first. Mallory has become convinced that every author HAS to write from their own life, so the play she writes is based heavily on the Pike family. Well, sort of: everyone but Mal ends up looking bad, and Mal writes herself as the long-suffering angel of the family. The other Pike kids are understandably NOT happy, and their friends who are acting in the play are on the verge of quitting. Mal convinces them to stay, until her mother has a chance to see the play. If Mrs. Pike thinks the play is insulting, then she'll let them quit. Mallory is confident that her play will pass the "mother test".....but it doesn't. Mrs. Pike suggests a rewrite, but not only does Mal not think the kids can learn a new play in only a week (Jessi points out that they don't know all their lines from the original one at the point), but she doesn't want to write an untrue play and make herself into a liar.
Mal's Henrietta Hayes project is going pretty well, but her teacher thinks she needs more biographical information. Mallory heads to the library, and Mrs. Kishi shows her the file she keeps on Ms. Hayes (the library has them for all local writers). Mallory is pretty surprised and dismayed by what she learns; Ms. Hayes' life doesn't at all match up with the lives of her book characters. Mal feels betrayed, as if her favorite author has been lying to her all along. The next time that Mallory is working for her, she bascially calls her a liar and tells Ms. Hayes that she's not being fair to the readers. Obviously, Ms. Hayes is mad. She suggests that Mal look up the meaning of the word "fiction," and then retreats into her study. Mal leaves Ms. Hayes a note, saying that she won't be returning to work and that she was wrong about how much she could learn from the job. What a brat! Mal eventually realizes that she was WAY too harsh on Ms. Hayes, and goes to her house to apologize. They talk things out, and Ms. Hayes helps Mal to see that good writing can be autobiographical, but it doesn't have to be.
Mal ends up rewriting her play, and the new version is much gentler than the old one. The audience, including Henrietta Hayes, seems to like it, and Mallory gets a fantastic grade on her project.
Thoughts and Things
- The audience may have liked Mal's play, but it sound AWFUL to me. Also, where does she get off making herself look like such a saint in the first version she wrote?
- Um, Mallory? Writing three letters and then going to someone's house when you don't get the answer you want isn't determination, it's stalking.
- I'm surprised Mrs. Pike didn't stop Mallory from taking off for Henrietta Hayes' house. You think a parent would have some sense of appropriate boundaries when it comes to stuff like that, and Mrs. Pike was right there when Mal announced where she was going.
- Almost everything about this book irritated me; Mal was annoying, her stupid play was annoying, her disorganization when she worked with the elementary school kids was annoying, and the cover is annoying. Seriously; Mal looks like she's pushing 40!
- I must be losing my mind, but I could have sworn that this book was written by Nola Thacker, especially considering how many references to past books are in it. It's actually Suzanne Weyn, though.