Eigth grade has just started again, and there's good news and bad news for the BSC. The good news? The club probationary period that Kristy instituted in #100 has gone so well that the BSC is now officially back together. The bad news? Everyone has a ton of homework; it looks like eight grade (at least, this time around) is going to be the hardest year yet. Claudia is having an especially terrible time. She studies, and she actually tries to do well, but she's still failing test and falling further and further behind. She's offered a place in a special evening art class at the Stoneybrook Community College, but she doesn't know how she'll get her parents to let her attend when things are going so badly at school. Finally, she promises that she'll do anything she has to in terms of bringing up her grades, and her parents say yes to the art class.
One of the the steps that the Kishis take to help Claud is to hire her a tutor. Rosa, a friend of Janine's from college, is pretty darn smart. The trouble is that she doesn't seem to be helping Claudia very much. As hard as Claudia is working, and as much as she WANTS to understand what's going on in her classes, it just isn't happening. Finally, Mr. Kingbridge calls the Kishi parents and asks them to bring Claudia to a meeting the next day with Mrs. Amer, the guidance counselor. That's when they drop the bomb; Claudia is going to have to repeat seventh grade, starting the following week.
On her first day back in seventh grade, Claudia is pretty bummed. She feels totally out of place with these immature kids, as she puts it. The fact that she no longer has a locker near her friends, and has to eat lunch alone since the seventh graders have a different lunch period, makes things even worse. Pretty soon, though, things turn around a little. Claudia finds herself a mini celebrity among her classmates; all the girls try and copy her style, and all the guys stare at her all day long. She's not lacking for people to sit with at lunch anymore, and she actually starts to do well in her classes. Then, disaster strikes; Claud is leaving class one day when she sees a poster advertising the Halloween Dance that she and her friends have been planning to attend for weeks.....a dance for eight graders only. Claudia goes to Mr. Kingbridge and asks for permission to go to the dance anyway, but it's a no go. Suddenly, seventh grade looks as a bad as it did when Claud was first moved back.
Claudia's attitude takes a nosedive at this point; she gets grumpy and pouty and feels like she doesn't belong anywhere. Not in seventh grade, not with her BSC friends...nowhere except her art class. She's the youngest one there, but age doesn't seem to matter since they all have art in common. At the end of the class, there's an art show for all the students. Claudia's piece wins first prize, but her teacher can see she still looks upset. Claud opens up about how awful she's been feeling, and the teacher confesses that she, too, was held back. That's when Claudia starts to see that being back in seventh grade is probably not the end of the world. She apologizes to her BSC friends for her bummer of an attitude, and decides to make the best of the situation.
Subplot: Jackie R. is still in the hospital after his head injury, but he's recovering quickly and is about ready to come home. There are a lot of other kids there who aren't so lucky, and they get awfully bored. That's when Kristy gets the idea for the Hospital Buddies program. She gets sitting charges to write letters, make cards, and even split their trick or treating candy with the kids who are sick or injured. They even throw a Halloween party for everyone.
Thoughts and Things
- I usually like Claudia, but she was so annoying in this one. She spent the whole book acting either pouty or superior and condescending.
- So...Dr. Johanssen is suddenly a pediatrician? She was always an ER doc before. Also, this is one of the books in which Charlotte is 9, not 8.
- There's actually some good consistency in this book. Mrs. Hall is still Claudia's English teacher (at least, her 8th grade teacher) and Mr. Redmont (Mr. Decorum from #1) is still a 7th grade social studies teacher. Good work, Ellen Miles!
- So...in this book, Ron Belkis is this anoying kid who'd had a crush on Claud for awhile, but earlier in the series, SHE had a crush on HIM, but didn't think she should date him because of his age.