It's almost Christmas in good old Stoneybrook, and Mary Anne is busy finishing up her shopping. This year, her dad has given her his credit card to use to charge her purchases, and she goes a wee bit overboard buying cool stuff for everyone she knows. She thinks she has six weeks to earn the money to pay it off, but because of when the bill comes in and because Richard ALWAYS pays his bill as soon as he gets it, Sharon tells Mary Anne that she only has two weeks. Mary Anne kind of panics; she adds up everything she spent of gifts, and it's WAY more than what she had saved. There's also no way she'll be able to baby-sit enough to earn the rest of the money before she has to pay her dad. Then, Mary Anne remembers that Winter World at Washington Mall was still looking for holiday helpers the last time she was there, so she decides to head down there and apply for a job.
Mary Anne doesn't tell anyone what she's doing, since chances are pretty good that her dad wouldn't approve. She gets to the mall, and is filling out her application when the girl sitting next to her, Angela, points out that she can't let them know she's 13. Angela helps her turn the 13 into a 16, but Mary Anne feels bad about lying. She's ready to take off without turning in her application, but Angela does it for her. Before she knows it, Mary Anne is being interviewed, and is then hired. She shows up at 10am the next day, her first official day of work, and finds that Angela was hired as well. Both girls are handed bags containing their costumes. To Mary Anne's surprise, they're going to be playing Santa's elves (elfs?). That's just as well; no one will recognize Mary Anne if she's wearing a huge costume elf head.
Hiding her new secret life is pretty tough for Mary Anne. She runs into people she knows all the time, and she's afraid that they'll somehow recognize her (Hunter Bruno actually does, but Mary Anne swears him to secrecy). She has to lie about where she's going and why, and she's exhausted all the time. To add to the stress of everything, Dawn's visiting for the holiday, and she's acting awfully distant (not BSC distant, meaning awesome, but regular distant, meaning not connected to what's going on around her). The 8th graders at her school in CA are grouped with the high schoolers, and Mary Anne is really irritated by the way that Dawn in acting so superior. Also, something is going on with Angela; Mary Anne catches her crying in the bathroom after work one day, but Angela won't talk about what's wrong. Later, though, Mary Anne finds out the truth: Angela was kicked out of her house, and she's been staying at the local women's shelter. She's got some friends in California who rent a house together, but she needs to make some money before she can go out to see them.
Not long after that, Mary Anne finally confronts Dawn about her attitude. Dawn claims that she was only acting distant because Mary Anne was being so secretive, and that her superior attitude comes from feeling she has to act that way around the high schoolers. Mary Anne finally confesses what she's been up to all along, and things are a little better between the sisters. Dawn even suggests inviting Angela to their house for Christmas. Richard isn't thrilled with the idea; he's convinced that anyone who can't get along with her own parents must be trouble. Sharon, Dawn, and Mary Anne convince him to give Angela a chance, in honor of the the spirit of Christmas.
Mary Anne and Angela both work their last shifts as elves on the day before Christmas Eve. That's when Mary Anne finally confesses to the rest of her family and friends about her job. Richard isn't thrilled that she went behind his back, but he agrees to let it go since no harm was done, and the job is over. She's also able to pay the entire credit card bill in full, and Angela has enough money for her plane ticket to California.
Subplot: The BSC holds a Santa-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa Town fundraising carnival to earn money for the kids who are in the hospital at Christmas.
Thoughts and Things
- I SO love this book. It's far and away my favorite among the later ones.
- Mary Anne actually admitted to her interviewer that she didn't know what job she was applying for. That's a FANTASTIC way to get hired. Only in Stoneybrook....
- I love reading about all the presents Mary Anne buys for everyone. :)
- It would have been interesting if Angela had made another appearance in the series, or, better yet, in California Diaries. I like her, and I don't usually like the characters that show up for one book and then go away.
- I can't believe that a big place like Washington Mall was only getting their Winter World/pictures with Santa stuff set up two weeks before Christmas. I don't know how it is wherever you guys are, but at the malls in my area, Santa is ready to go the day after Thanksgiving, at the latest.