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Review: The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

0-545-16093-6Before there was the Baby-Sitters Club, there were four girls named Kristy Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, and Stacey McGill. As they start the summer before seventh grade (also before they start the BSC), each of them is on the cusp of a big change. Kristy is still hung up on hoping that her father will return to her family. Mary Anne has to prove to her father that she’s no longer a little girl who needs hundreds of rules. Claudia is navigating her first major crush on a boy. And Stacey is leaving her entire New York City life behind…

I really wanted to love this book. Despite the fact it was written over a decade after I put down my final Baby-sitters Club book, I had high hopes that this might be a great way to have a new BSC experience. This is especially important as I will have over 70+ books to read before I find one I haven’t yet read.

First, the good. The book itself isn’t terrible. It’s based the summer before Kristy’s Great Idea and it’s focused primarily on the fact Kristy, Claudia and Mary Anne felt their friendship had almost fallen apart that summer. It also helps to give you some insight on some matters that aren’t addressed often or at least not thoroughly throughout the books. For one, Kristy struggles with maintaining reasonable hope that her father will remember her birthday. This is an unreasonable expectation as Mr. Thomas is well documented for being forgetful with all of his children during big holidays and birthdays. Of course, at the core of all of this, Kristy is truly just struggling with her mother’s new (serious) relationship with millionaire, Watson Brewer. It’s almost as if she feels she’s betraying her father and the memory of the family she once had, if she dares to show one ounce of acceptance towards Watson.

Mary Anne also finds herself looking to the past as she delves into a box of her mother’s belongings. One specific thing she finds is a set of four dolls that she feels kinship to as well as a desire to design and sew new clothes for. This helps bring into light a statement Claudia makes during Mary Anne Saves the Day about Mary Anne and Kristy still playing with dolls. Not only that, but Mary Anne begins her baby-sitting career in this book. Even this seems to be a struggle at first as she is overly worried and cautious and her father requires that she only sits if it is with another baby-sitter.

Claudia spends the summer falling for an older boy. This shouldn’t e surprising to anyone who has read the series before. However, the fact her sister, Janine also had feelings for him is a surprise. She also struggles with the distance she feels between herself, Kristy and Mary Anne in regards to maturity and interests.

And onto the bad…

You would think something would have actually happened during this story to justify that their friendship was almost destroyed that summer. But the truth is, besides mainly Claudia’s observations of how immature Kristy and Mary Anne are and passing notice that Claudia’s always busy, there’s no real conflict in this story. The way Claudia treats Mary Anne when she comes to ask for help with designing clothes for the dolls, should have set Kristy off. There should have been a true falling out and there wasn’t. So them “making up” at the end of the summer, held no real significance as they never had a falling out.

Also, this book includes Stacey’s point of view from that summer and while I loved this character, her story didn’t add anything to the book. If anything, it was just filler. Forced filler at that, if I’m being honest. Anyone who read Stacey’s book about her past knows the extent of her falling out with Laine. So for this book to claim Laine suddenly underwent a Mean Girl personality makeover after camp, but before Allison entered the picture is a bunch of crock. It’s as if Laine’s jealousy over Stacey befriending someone new wasn’t a good enough excuse for the initial tension. Nonetheless, regardless what happened, this point of view was unnecessary and these pages would have been better spent describing the missing fall out the above girls should have had.

Maybe Martin waited too long before writing this prequel. Or maybe this was a story left untold? Nonetheless, it definitely could have been better.


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About Kristine

As an aspiring author, avid bookworm, fitness fanatic and dedicated mother, there just aren't enough hours in the day. I write or post about things I'm passionate about and spend my time trying to make the most of every day. Life may be a tough journey, but I have my ruby red slippers and am content on skipping along this yellow brick road until the end of the line.

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