First things first: Caroline from Sheep are In. You’re the lucky winner of the two Judy Blume books! Email me nhboisture(at)gmail(dot)com and send me your address. I’ll get you the books as soon as possible. Congratulations!
Maggie is a 16 year old girl living in NJ. She has a seventeen year old brother, Mike and a four year old half-sister, Courtenay. Maggie and Mike’s parents are divorced. Their dad got sole custody, then remarried Leigh, with whom he had Courtenay. Leigh and Maggie have some problems getting along. Maggie feels that Leigh is far too over-protective of Courtenay; not allowing her to eat sugary snacks, get dirty on the playground, etc.
Dad and Leigh had never taken a honeymoon. So four years after Courtenay’s birth (and five years after their wedding) the two are going to St. Bart’s. They are leaving Courtenay in the care of Maggie and Mike. Leigh is, naturally, very worried about this. But Maggie and Mike are good teenagers and are actually looking forward to caring for Courtenay. Because when I was sixteen, I totally wanted to spend a week playing mom to a four year old. But maybe that’s just me. Also, Maggie keeps getting weird phone calls from some guy asking if she’s in the house alone. But she doesn’t tell anyone about them.
Anyway, Dad and Leigh go away. Maggie and Mike have some friends over for pizza, and Mike’s girlfriend brings along her older brother, Brad, who is super creepy and hits on Maggie in front of her boyf, David. Brad also acts creepily affectionate toward little Courtenay. Come Monday Maggie puts Courtenay on her school bus in the morning, then goes to school herself. That afternoon, Courtenay doesn’t come home. Maggie calls the school and is told that Courtenay never showed up. She calls the police, files a missing persons report. And naturally, has to call Dad and Leigh back from St. Bart’s.
Upon questioning from the police, Maggie learns the truth about how her dad got custody. Mom is a nutcase and was horribly abusive toward the kids, but Maggie in particular. Dad was awarded sole custody, with Mom not being allowed visitation. Maggie is furious with her father, convinced that he’s lying. (He had been telling the kids that their mom was a “free spirit,” who had a case of wanderlust.) Maggie & Mike’s mom is the prime suspect, along with Leigh’s ex-husband, with whom Leigh had struggled to have a child. Maggie is convinced her mother is a kind misunderstood soul, and would never take Courtenay.
We get a bunch of public service announcement type speeches from the detectives about missing children. And a bunch of instructions on the best way to search for a missing kid (in the pre-internet, pre-Amber Alert days). The family makes pleas to the media. The neighbors form a search party. They are tied to the phone. And speaking of phone, did Maggie bother to tell anyone about her creepy caller? No, she didn’t. Because she’s just that fucking bright.
A couple weeks go by, no sign of Courtenay. Maggie and Mike’s mom seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth as well. Leigh’s ex has been cleared. One night, Maggie and David are out hanging posters in the next county when Maggie realizes she’s being followed by a green car matching the description of a car that was seen near Courtenay’s school the day she disappeared. Maggie can see that the driver is a woman and gets the license tag. The tag is traced to a car rental agency, rented to someone who gave a fake address and paid in cash.
One day, Maggie gets one of her creepy calls while the cops are in the house. They overhear it and are able to trace the call. It’s Brad. He’s all kinds of in love with Maggie and was pretty much stalking her. Does he have anything to do with Courtenay’s disappearance? Nope. He gets like a restraining order against him, or something like that.
Finally, Maggie gets a call one day from her mom, who asks her and Mike to come meet her at a diner about an hour away. Maggie and Mike, convinced of their mother’s innocence, agree to go. So they meet their mom, whom they hadn’t seen in about eight years, and mom is obviously off her rocker. She said that she has a surprise for them, that she “found” Courtenay after performing her own search after hearing about it on the news.
Then another patron comes over and arrests mom. It’s one of the detectives! Dad had overheard Maggie’s phone conversation with mom, alerted the police and they rushed to the diner, beating Maggie and Mike there. Courtenay was found in the motel room, having not been bathed for her entire 19 day ordeal.
Happy endings all around. Then Maggie and David go to Junior Prom and Leigh helps Maggie pick out her dress. Mom is committed to a psych hospital. Maggie goes to counseling and so does Courtenay.
- At the very least, the prime suspect turned out to be the one who did it. Thank you Occam’s Razor. I was worried that it’d turn out to be some lame deus ex machina.
- I know that for the whole book, we’re supposed to think it’s really Brad. But his behavior and the phone calls just screamed red herring.
- Also, why the fuck didn’t Maggie tell anyone about the creepy phone calls? She says she never told her parents so that they wouldn’t worry. Okaaaay. But once her sister was gone, she still didn’t tell the cops. Like it might not be even a little helpful for the cops to know that.
- Brad is uber-creepy. He hits on Maggie in really inappropriate ways right in front of her boyfriend. Then he is paying way to much attention to four-year-old Courtenay. In a way that Maggie and Mike make sure he’s never alone with the girl. But no one tells him to fuck off, because if they do, Brad will tell their parents about his brother (Mike’s BFF) failing a math test. Um….what? Evidently this isn’t the first time he’s ‘blackmailed’ the friends in this group. So thank god Andrew’s parents won’t find out about him failing a math test! I’m sure if Brad had been the one to steal Courtenay Andrew would have been so relieved that at least no one knows about that math test!
- In one scene, a detective tries to hint that Mike may be involved somehow with Courtenay’s disappearance. Then there is no follow through on that point.
- Where Maggie and Mike go to meet their mother is “so dangerous!” Because it’s full of poor people.
- Really, Maggie and Mike were eight and nine years old when their parents got divorced. Wouldn’t they remember being abused? Particularly Maggie, who evidently spent a good amount of time locked in a closet.
- Two reminders that this was written by the same woman who wrote the BSC: When Leigh is asked by a reporter how she feels, she snaps “How do you think I feel?” Much like Stacey’s mom in Super Special #4. Also, Maggie and Mike reminiscing about their mom. Like when she was bringing a chicken into the dining room, dropped it on the floor then said, “let me go get the other one,” then brought back the same chicken. You know, just like the Mimi story from BSC #26, Claudia and the Sad Goodbye. And I know these cause I’m a big loser.
- When Courtenay is returned, Leigh is very upset that her daughter’s kidnapper let her eat way too many Twinkies. Because she shouldn’t just be relieved to have a daughter who is not only alive, but survived a 19-day kidnapping without being sexually abused in any way.
- Also, Courtenay is the stupidest way ever to spell Courtney. Is there anyone who looks at that name and doesn’t want to pronounce it cour-ten-AY?
- The book is dedicated to some of Ann M.’s Kentucky cousins. Including one named Lyman. Which, in case you didn’t know, is the first name of Logan Bruno’s father. And I know that cause I’m a big loser.