just a ridiculous recycled plotline


I included both covers. I guess the first one came out and they realized that the people looked about 37 years old.

This is one of those examples of when the book was way better in my memory than in real life. As we know, Ann is a terrif writer, but she must have spewed this one out to fullfill a contract. It’s like a hodgepodge of discarded BSC plotlines. Here’s the scoop: Melanie’s family vacations on Fire Island every summer and she meets this boy Justin and they have the titular summer romance. He is all mysterious about himself and when the school year starts she finds out he actually is about to star in a sitcome and becomes a teen idol. Melanie is mad that he did not reveal this to her (yes, teenagers would be SO ANGRY if they were dating a teen idol) so she tracks him down and they live happily ever after.

Melanie is quite irritating. She is eternally chipper and chatty. When Justin asks her out, she runs home to her family and announces it and makes a big deal. Maybe it’s just me that thinks this is weird, because I was never one to reveal all the details of my dating life (what existed of it) to my whole family. Justin is like a combination of Tobey (Stacy’s boyf from Sea City) and Zac Efron. At least in my mind. They hang out on the beach, eat French fries, go clamming and walk around. I guess they have fun but it’s nothing extraordinatory. Except that they drop the l-bomb after three weeks. When they are out, Justin holds Melanie’s hands between his and calls is a “hand sandwich”. As soon as I read that again the memories of that line came flooding back. Justin is a tool.

The family who has the house next to Melanie’s on fire island has three kids the same age as the kids in Melanie’s family, and they all are “summertime best friends”. This is puzzling, because these are a lot of characters to introduce that are never heard from again. Mel’s sbff is Lacey, who is from New York City, so you know that means according to Ann M.- she is uber-sophisticated and hangs out at the Met and the Empire State Building and shops at Bloomingdale’s every day.

Also, Mel’s kind of a bitch for designating her best friends as her “summer” bf and her “regular” bf.

Lacey does keep it real- she gets a little miffed that Mel gets a boyfriend because Melanie won’t shut up about it she feels like it is going to change things between them. Lacey I hear you- I still kind of feel that way about my friends.

So back during the school year Melanie goes on bland dates with a guy PJ and he asks her to go steady, but she can’t because she just! can’t! stop! thinking! about! Justin! She and Lacey try to track him down by using the phone book. Yikes! How eighties of them! That’s the other thing- at the end of the summer, Justin did not give Melanie his contact info saying he moves around a lot and that he’ll take hers and call her when he gets settled. That’s his 1987 15-year-old way of saying “I’m just not that into you.”

Justin is on a sitcom that, by the way it is described, sounds like a cross between Family Matters and Step by Step. In other words, hilarious.

Melanie visits Lacey in the city during the school year and reads in a magazine that the cast of the show will be appearing at Lincoln center so she drags Lacey there, and I am sure that Lacey is fucking thrilled to be Mel’s wingman AGAIN. She sees Justin there and asks him for his autograph, and when he sees it’s Melanie, he writes “I love you” and his phone number. Even when my nine-year-old self was reading this, I found all the love talk weird. Maybe I was just really cynical about it then too.

So they meet up once again in the city and Justin gives her a bag of sand from Fire Island to remember when they met. Vomit.

Ann can totally do better- and has. What is with her obsession with Fire Island? That is where the Russo’s went in Eleven Kids, One Summer. And where the BSC go a couple of times.

25 thoughts on “just a ridiculous recycled plotline

  1. upstatestruggler says:

    the fire island thing is funny to me, ’cause isn’t it kinda a big gay hangout?
    and speaking of, I have been thinking lately about the fact that, when we were in school back in the early 90s, there were gay students, but they weren’t able to be as open as kids are today. I know the culture was different and all, so it is kind of like saying, ‘why didn’t little house on the prairie talk more about abortion?’, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes how different these ya books would have been if there had been openly gay characters. I know that I am glossing over Tom McKay here, but lets face it- he sorta sucked.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Not only did the Russos go to Fire Island in “Eleven Kids, One Summer,” but the oldest daughter met and made friends with Lacey, Mel and Justin. 🙂

  3. Tiny Pants says:

    Wait, Fire Island? Like, that, Fire Island? Don’t get me wrong — some of the most pristine beaches you’ll find within reasonable commuting distance of NYC. But like, not a family destination! Take your rugrats to the Jersey Shore, people (a.k.a. “Sea City”).

    Also, her best friend Lacey = Stacey from the BSC + Laine, Stacey’s NYC BFF. Not only are the plotlines being recycled, so are the names!

  4. Amber Tan says:

    Chiming in on the WTF re: Fire Island as the setting.

    And this:

    “Justin gives her a bag of sand from Fire Island to remember when they met.”

    What a cheap bastard.

    “…kind of like saying, ‘why didn’t little house on the prairie talk more about abortion?’”

    BWAH, upstatestraggler!

  5. Dwanollah says:

    Tom McKay was “gay” like Liz Wakefield was “smart”… that is, they TELL us, but I don’t think we-the-readers were all that convinced the the validity of said character traits.

  6. aaames says:

    You know, Ann Brashares, who wrote the phenomenal Traveling Pants books, wrote this “grownup” book (that I HATED) where the kids all met and hung out on Fire Island too! I kept waiting for the gay plotline AND NEVER GOT ONE. So disappointed. Why else set a book there?

  7. BartTempleton says:

    Wait. I honestly am blanking on Tommy boy being gay. What BOOK was this in? I can’t believe they let that in a SV. Date rape, drug abuse, suicide, psychosis, playing house, and Brucie untying Jessica’s bikini, yes.

    But everyone knows SV is always sunny, the student body is a glorious tanned 98.9% WASP (with a pesky few Asians, Blacks and Rosa thrown in for flava) , and restrictive gender roles and heternormative wish fulfillment rule with an iron crowbar.

  8. Kathryn says:

    aaames, I HATED Brasher’s grown-up book — The Last Summer (of You and Me) — too! I was so sure it would be awesome because the Pants books are awesome, but no.

  9. BartTempleton says:

    Thanks, IHW. I never read Amy’s True Love, so this makes sense. But I did read quite a few after it and don’t recall Tom ever being described as even bi/curious.

    Sorry to hijack this thread. I can’t really comment on this one because of its vast inferiority to Boy Crazy Stacey. Too much trauma there.

    Good call on Staine, Dwanollah.

    And maybe we’re just too young to remember Fire Island as a family spot. Maybe in Annie’s youth (60s?) it was, and she never bothered updating her fave beach locale.

  10. Jane says:

    “When they are out, Justin holds Melanie’s hands between his and calls is a “hand sandwich”. ”

    also known as a “handwich”

    I think I remember this one…

  11. Kate says:

    Back in the early ’90s I had a biography of Ann M. Martin, and it said that when she was first living on her own in New York, she and her friends got a summer share every year on Fire Island. Apparently it was such a great experience she had to write a million books about it.

  12. eejm says:

    Didn’t Tom McKay just have that one book that focused around his sexuality? By that I mean that by identifying Tom as gay, the team of Sweet Valley High writers/trained squirrels could say that they had a book that addressed real teen issues in a serious and “realistic” light.

    After that, Tom really couldn’t be mentioned again. A gay teen romance would have probably been too racy in a YA novel at the time, and OF COURSE he couldn’t have any other interests or aspects to his personality. I mean, once you’re identified as gay, that’s ALL you are…

  13. aaames says:

    Kathryn, I’m so glad to hear it. I mean, not only was it not good, it was WEIRD. The message seemed to be “if you can’t act like a grownup you are probably going to DIE”. WHAT!

  14. K. Renee says:

    I vaguely remember this book but the plot is so recycled I might be mistaken. Its almost as implausible as the BSC “mystery” where Kristy suspects her new BF is a counterfeiter but his dad is really a secret agent!
    I was also disappointed with Bradshere’s the last summer, I could *so* snark that one! It was so implausible!
    Great job ihatewheat

  15. Allison says:

    I forgot about this book. I REALLY loved it when I was a kid. I thought it would be super cool to go to Fire Island (that I had never heard of) and meet a boy and then fall in love 4-eva. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

  16. BadKat says:

    I am going with Ann’s rumored homosexuality may have anything to do with the never ending Fire Island references. It may hold some fine memories for her, being there with her girlfriends every summer and all…

    I never read any other Ann M. Martin books other than the Baby-Sitters and Little Sisters (yikes!) books.

  17. Eli says:

    Heh, I read this book, and I also thought I would look that old when I was 15. Thank God, I don’t even look that old now at 28.

    I’m glad other people hated Ann Brashearas’ (sp?) grown up book too. I thought it was terrible. I guess I expected it to be as good as some of Judy Blume’s adult books were (Summer Sisters, anyone?)

  18. greer says:

    Ann used to vacation on Fire Island with her friends. Yes, i read her biography, and yes, it is one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read.

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