It's almost Valentine's Day, and Pete Black has roped Stacey into helping with eighth grade's Valentine-gram fundraiser. Basically, students will have a chance to pay a dollar, write messages to other students, and then they'll be delivered later along with some candy. It's pretty fun for Stacey to watch who sends messages to who, and how they act when they approach the table to send those messages. One day, just as Stacey is closing up for the day, Andi Gentile shows up and slips her a note. It's says, "we have to talk about Robert." Stacey isn't thrilled about talking to Andi, even though neither of them are dating Robert anymore, but she calls her anyway and arranges to meet her the next morning before school. It turns out that Andi is a bit worried about Robert. He's been acting a really down lately, and he doesn't seem particularly engaged in life anymore. Andi asks Stacey to talk to him since she knows him so well, and Stacey agrees to try.
That same day, disaster strikes the Valentine-gram table. Just as Stacey is getting ready to leave, she notices that the bag containing the finished grams is gone. She calls Pete, thinking that he might have taken it, but he didn't. She then calls all the other 8th grade class officers, but none of them have it, either. Pete and Stacey decide not to tell anyone that the bag is missing, in the hopes that it'll turn up before anyone finds out about it. The secret's out by the following morning, though; whoever took the bag posted little fliers around the school, stating that while Cokie had bought her boyfriend 12 Valentine-grams, he hadn't bought her any. Cokie is furious; she thinks Stacey did it on purpose. Stacey has to admit that they were stolen. Soon, it's all over the school, and no one's happy. That afternoon, copies of yet another note are all over the school; this one is for Jacqui Grant, and addresses the fact that Robert doesn't, in fact, like her. Jacqui REALLY thinks Stacey is involved, and that she did it because she wants Robert back for herself. Jacqui won't listen to any sort of explanation, and stomps off before Stacey can defend herself. Robert is nearby, and hears the whole thing. He believes Stacey, and offers to walk home with her. Stacey takes this chance to talk to Robert, and ask him if anything's wrong. He tells her that he's just been feeling bored with everything: friends, school, sports, tv, etc. He says he feels better after talking to Stacey, and she says she's glad. What she's NOT glad about is the fact that Robert is a definite suspect in the theft of the Valentine-grams; he was one of the last people she saw before the bag went missing, and he seems awfully happy to have Jacqui off his back.
Stacey finally enlists the help of the BSC (and the mystery notebook). The girls toss around names of possible suspects, including Cary Retlin. He was supposedly at the dentist when the bag went missing, but they figure they should check him out anyway. Mary Anne also suggests that it might have been Pete himself; after all, he'd be in a perfect position to take the bag, and he has a crush on Emily Bernstein and isn't sure she likes him back. There's also Cokie and her boyfriend, and Rose Marie Montey and Brian Hall, another SMS supercouple that happen to be on the rocks. The club members split up and so dome spying on all of the above suspects, but don't really come up with anything conclusive. By the end of the day, though, the thief strikes again by posting valentines all over the school from Rose Marie to Clarence King, and from Clarence to Rose Marie. Rose Marie claims she never sent him one, though....
Meanwhile, Stacey has managed to narrow down the suspect list a little. She comes right out and asks Robert is he was responsible. He claims to know nothing about it, and since he's a bad liar, Stacey knows he's telling thr truth. Next, she realizes that Pete wouldn't need to steal the whole bag if he wanted to take back his valentine to Emily; he could just rummage through it and find it. Cary's dentist story also checks out. Just as soon as Stacey confirms that, she sees the new Valentine-gram that's been posted up all over the school. It's from Jim Poirier to Sabrina Bouvier (the 8th grade one, not the pageant one), and it's pretty embarrassing. Stacey notices something about the copies, though; part of a sleeve was copied, too, and the sleeve is striped. She enlists the help of the BSC, and they scan the school looking for stripes. No one finds the exact stripes that they're looking for, until Claudia remembers something: Cary Retlin was wearing stripes that day. Stacey tracks him down in the school basement, and once again accuses him of the crime. He denies it taking the bag (he really was at the dentist), but he admits that he helped afterward. The real culprit was Alan Gray; he had sent a Valentine-gram to agirl he liked, but then found out that she and a bunch of her friends were going to send them to him as jokes. All the people who were targeted by the public postings were people who were in on the joke.
Later that evening, Stacey heads to Alan's house. She doesn't come right out and accuse him of taking the bag; she just tells him that she knows who did it, and that if that person doesn't return the bag, she's going to go to the principal with what she knows. The next morning, the bag is waiting for Stacey by her homeroom door. She never does find out, though, who it was that Alan liked so much....
Subplot: the BSC works with the children's room at the library to plan a Valentine's Day party for the kids.
Thoughts and Things
- As mysteries go, particularly later ones, this book wasn't bad!
- I'd kind of like to know who it was that Alan liked. I don't think it was Claudia this early on, because the girl that he liked was supposedly one of the ones who was sending him fake Valentines. Claudia wasn't in on that, as far as we know.
- This is the book that totally makes me think that Cary Retlin=Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl.
- Stacey wonders at one point if the Hobarts celebrate Valentine's Day in Australia, and if they'll even know what it's supposed to be about. Too bad they've already had a few V-Days in Stoneybrook....