The Brewer Brigade is swinging south, the Schafer Shift, North….or BSC Super Special #14, BSC in the USA

This is the first BSC book that I’m reading first time through since starting my blog project a year and a half ago.  All the others have been re-reads.  I gotta say…this isn’t the worst BSC book out there.  (Of course it helps that it’s Lerangis).  Maybe it’s just that I’ve always entertained the idea of traveling cross-country.  Or maybe it’s that there are a couple of very effective story lines.  But, yeah.  For a BSC book, it kind of works in its own weird way.   I’d also like to point out, that this is the first ever book with Abby that I’m reading.  I’d decided a while ago to boycott Abby books on principle alone (hey, I may not be a huge Dawn Schafer fan, but that doesn’t mean I want her usurped!), but a post someone wrote on LJ recently about an Abby book changed my mind. 

The cover?  Also not the worst as far as BSC books go.  Kristy and Mary Anne have the exact same faces and different haircuts.  I can actually tell Stacey and Dawn apart, mostly thanks to Dawn’s earth-friendly shirt.  Mal’s eyebrows are way over-plucked.  Maybe she’s trying to make up for not being allowed a nose job.  And I actually think I owned that exact Kristy outfit back in 1997, when this one was published.  And maybe because this is a Super Special and there are inside illustrations, but it always strikes me that Jessi is light-skinned on the covers, but darker skinned on the inside illustrations.  Hodges Soileau always makes her look more bi-racial than black.

So we start off with Dawn in Stoneybrook for the summer writing letters to Sunny. (1997? Shouldn’t they have been emailing?)  Dawn gets some big news.  In an amazing plot contrivance coincidence Dawn’s dad has a friend who is moving from New York to L.A. and has asked Jack to fly to New York and take his RV cross country back to him in the L.A. area.  Jack agrees and wants to take Dawn and Jeff with him.  The rest of the BSC are super-jealous that Dawn gets to have an adventure.  Also, Watson hears about this and is all “What?  I’m richer than Jack Schafer, I wanna do it too!” So he rents an RV for the Thomas/Brewer clan (minus Charlie, Sam, Nannie and Emily) and naturally all the BSC tag along.

The RVs are taking two different routes to Palo City.  The “Brewer Brigade” is headed on a southern route and includes Watson, Elizabeth, David Michael, Andrew, Karen (shudders), Abby, Jessi, Mal.  Kristy was originally supposed to go in that RV, but ended up switching to the “Schafer Shift.”  The Schafers are taking a northern route and includes Jack Schafer, Dawn, Jeff, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Kristy.  Each person on the trip gets to choose one destination.  So everyone (the babysitters at least) gets one main story line and one kind of secondary storyline.

  • Kristy – Her choice is to visit as many major league ballparks as possible.  She goes to Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Seattle, and finally San Francisco.  Her secondary storyline is that at a San Francisco Giants game, she sees her dad on the jumbotron.  (His last postcard was from Sausalito).  She has mixed feelings about being in the same stadium as him, but does look for, and find him.  He’s an ass, as per usual. 
  • Claudia – Her destination is the Chicago Art Institute, home of the biggest collection of Impressionist paintings.  Her minor story lines are that she accidentally opened Stacey’s journal (thinking it was her own) and Stacey saw her, thought she was snooping and spent the whole trip mad at Claud.  Also, Claud buys a sketch in Wall, SD only to unframe it and learn it’s an early Georgia O’Keefe. 
  • Stacey – She chooses to go to Seattle, so she can meet up with Ethan.  Also, spends the majority of the book acting like a total cunt to Claudia. 
  • Dawn – wants to go to a Ghost Town, so they find one in SD, but she’s disappointed to find it touristy.  Though she ends up having fun.  She is also extremely militantly vegetarian in this book.  Going so far as to lecture a bratwurst vendor at the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium.  
  • Mary Anne – chooses to go to Maynard, IA to visit her Grandmother.  Though Grandma’s house is in a shambles from renovations, so they end up meeting at the Mall of America.  Also, she deals with Jack acting like a dick and making fun of Richard and Stoneybrook, etc.  She ends up being surprisingly not so passive-aggressive about it. 
  • Abby – wants to visit Graceland because she’s an Elvis nut, where she sees a bunch of Elvis impersonators.  But her secondary storyline is the best.  Elizabeth’s choice had been to go to the Grand Canyon, which is an emotional choice for Abby because her dad was supposed to have taken her and Anna camping there.  But he died right before their trip.  So Abby initially doesn’t want to go, but once she gets there, she feels an instant connection with her father.  
  • Jessi – Wants to go to Dalton, MS, to a plantation where her ancestors were slaves.  She takes a tour of the plantation and visits the slavery museum, which she has to quickly leave when she’s overcome seeing pictures of a lynching.  In a lame secondary story line, she gets stuck in a twister in Lester, OK. 
  • Mal – Wants to visit Chincoteague, and is initially disappointed by how touristy it is.  Then they go off the beaten path and gets tears in her eyes seeing the wild ponies.  Later, she discovers they are in Zuni territory and they all stop to visit the Zuni school they’d helped to rebuild.  

The non-baby sitters:

  • Jeff – wants to go rock climbing and rappeling.  Does so in the Grand Tetons. 
  • Karen (yes, we suffer one Karen chapter)- wants to go to Four Corners.  She does and faces east to wave to Stoneybrook.
  • Jack – San Francisco.  He insists in the greatest city in the U.S.  (And I agree.  If money was no object, it’s where I would choose to make my home.)
  • Watson – wants to visit his old college buddy in Lester, OK, where they get caught in a twister.
  • Elizabeth – Grand Canyon.
  • David Michael- wants to go to a rodeo, but gets there and is sickened by the idea of calf-roping.  Thank God  Dawn wasn’t there.  

In a nutshell, that’s the book.

  • Jack Schafer acts like King Dick at the beginning. He’s at Sharon and Richard’s house before leaving on the trip and complains about the food.  Shut up Jack – you’re a guest in their house.  Also, Dawn says this was Jack’s first trip ever to Stoneybrook.  But don’t you think he’d have gone sometime when married to Sharon, at least to visit his in-laws?
  • I’ve always assumed that Jack and Sharon’s divorce was extremely ugly and contentious. 
  • It really disgusts me that Watson and Elizabeth are leaving Emily with Nannie for two weeks.  Jesus Christ, could you just fucking parent your kids?
  • In Oakley, Jessi says that her Grandfather isn’t a fan of Elvis because he stole his moves and music from older black singers.  Abby is skeptical, but anyone who is supposedly that big a fan of Elvis should know that!
  • Claudia is disappointed that U4Me isn’t in the “rockin role” Hall of Fame.  Neither is Blaid. 
  • When they’re on Chincoteague, they meet up with a girl who’s a real know-it-all of the Karen Brewer variety (though that comparison is being made by me, not by anyone actually in the book).  The girl says she’s also been to Assateague, and “isn’t that a funny name?” I seriously wish that Lerangis had mentioned that the island is on Assawoman Bay.  Actually, I bet he probably did, but it was cut by Ann M.  You can’t say Assawoman in a kids’ book! 
  • At the Mall of America, Dawn convinces everyone to eat at a health food restaurant.  She convinces Mary Anne to try a seitan cutlet after Mary Anne admits she’s back on red meat since Dawn moved back to California.  It was gross.  Jack teases Mary Anne about Richard, calling him “a real meat – and-potatoes” guy (you see where Dawn gets it?) and Mary Anne’s Grandmother points out that Richard doesn’t have quite the gut that Jack does.  Sweet – go Grandma!
  • At the plantation, Jessi blanches when the tour guide talks about how the Dalton’s were known for their ‘humane treatment’ of their slaves.  And just….yeah Jessi.  I’m totally with you on that one.
  • At the rodeo, David Michael yells “Yippie-ai-o-kai-ay,”  though he neglects to add motherfucker. 
  • The Jeff chapter is awesome.  Mostly because it’s a Jeff chapter, but also because he admits that the only girl on the trip he even remotely likes is Kristy.  Also, Dawn lectures everyone that Old Faithful isn’t so faithful anymore and it’s because of environmental damage.  To which Jeff says, “But that’s what Dawn says about everything.”  
  • At the Zuni reservation, the new school has a plaque in front thanking the following people for their contributions to the new school building.  The first name is “The Children of Stoneybrook, Connecticut.”  To which Karen complains to the principal that it wasn’t all the children of Stoneybrook, just those from one particular school.  The principal’s response? ‘When you’re given a beautiful mosaic, you appreciate all the stones, not just the mother of pearl.”  Oh.  So that’s how you shut Karen up. 
  • Later on, Karen cries to get her own way.  And dear god do I hate that fictional little girl. 
  • Stacey’s cuntery is unbelievable.  First she gets mad at Claudia over the dumbest shit.  Then she has an awesome time with Ethan in Seattle.  And since she had a good time and needed her bestie to talk over her date with, she conveniently forgot to be mad at Claudia anymore.  And Claudia fucking fell for it. Girls, if you don’t stop letting Stacey treat you all like shit, she never will! 
  • It’s the Abby at the Grand Canyon chapter that really makes the book work.  For all the stupid shit in it, there is this one little chapter that is so nice and with a great sentiment.  Abby, I’m sorry I refused to read any of your books til now.  I promise my next BSC book with be Welcome to the BSC, Abby.
  • Mary Anne grows a spine and talks to Jack Schafer about how much his jokes bother her.  Though she lies and says she has a good sense of humor about herself.  
  • Also, the chapter where Kristy sees her dad on the jumbotron and runs around the ballpark looking for him is kind of touching.  She’s all mixed up about whether or not she even wants to find him, which is probably pretty accurate.   
  • I have a new idea of what Richard Spier looks like: Rowr. 
    Yes, I have a ridiculous crush on both Ripper AND Richie Spier.  The hell is wrong with me?

    About nikkihb

    Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
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    13 Responses to The Brewer Brigade is swinging south, the Schafer Shift, North….or BSC Super Special #14, BSC in the USA

    1. Sadako says:

      You'd think Abby would've known that…then again, the girls' idea of racial issues is, "Some people hate black people. Jessi is black. She is my friend."But yeah, I recently found the original version of Hound Dog (written by Leiber/Stoller, two white dudes, but for a black blues/R&B singer–take that, Elvis): have a soft spot for this one b/c this was one of the last I read before I "put away childish things"…not realizing that you never actually have to put those away.And dear god, I forgot about Karen Brewer. I kind of want to smack her. Was she feeling upset that day because she didn't go to that school and thus wasn't a part of the effort? Does it HAVE to be about her all the time?Love your vision of Richard! He's so much better than Jack Schafer.

    2. I've never read any Abby books either. This one sounds not too bad!Man, Jack sounds like a complete douche bag. It really seems like Karen should be his kid, not Watson's. Watson is kind of stupid, but he's not a jerk.I am amazed no one met some totally cool boyfriend at one of these stops. The super specials always used to try to toss in a racially appropriate boyfriend (Quint, that one Japanese guy Claudia dated).

    3. Amiee says:

      This one always looked lame to me too, but it was good to read a non biased review. Still don't know if I can jump on the Abby bandwagon just yet!

    4. carissajaded says:

      OK so I am so behind. 1997?? They still made these in 97!??? Where was I? Probably reading Sweet Valley High books I gues… Weird.

    5. Kathryn says:

      This was one of my all-time favorites. So happy to it (more or less) stands up to a re-read! I was so happy when Mary Anne finally spoke up about her feelings, because I would have let Jack continue to humiliate me.And wasn't this the one where Kristy admits to washing her hair with soap because it's quicker? Even as a child, I thought that was gross.

    6. RMb says:

      i started losing interest in the bsc when they introduced abby, and therefore dont really know too much about here. this sounds like an awesome book (its too bad you cant give commentary when i read it). :)great post!

    7. Catherine says:

      Hi Nikki, I'm an intern at Entertainment Weekly, and working on a story about YA blogs. I would love to talk to you, but I can't find your e-mail anywhere on your page (sorry if it's clear as day and I just can't see it!). If you're interested, would you please e-mail me at Thanks so much! :)Also, what a great recap! I totally remember reading this book and hating Karen (as usual), especially for her stupid comment to the principal in New Mexico. Ugh.I'm

    8. Everyone was so fucking annoying in this book. Was this the one where Jessi thought Mal was racist because she was uncomfortable meeting her family? And David Michael being so annoying at the rodeo. I'd be pissed if I were one of the adults. But not as pissed as if I'd had to drive a kid to another state to meet with some stupid boy she barely knows. Also, crying over the wild ponies? Seriously? From what I've seen, the Chincoteague ponies are a ratty, ugly lot.Aaaand of course the Zuni principal speaks in "wise" proverbs. All Native Americans do, don't you know.

    9. Sadako says:

      Coulrophobic–yes, it was. Jessi was insane in that section.Agree with the wise old Zuni principal. SO cliched!

    10. Katie Fries says:

      I've never read this one but I kind of love that Kristy ditched her family and Mallory and Jessi to ride with the other group. I wouldn't want to ride with Karen, Mallory and Jessi either.I had Abby's exact outfit. I do believe I was wearing it the day I met my husband. Which would have been in 1996. (Yeah, we're *that* couple who met in high school and stayed together.)

    11. HelenB says:

      I LOVE Abby, and totally think you should read her books. I mean, some of them aren't great, but that's more an issue with the whole series by the time that she turned up, rather than Abby just being particularly awful.

    12. charmecia says:

      im with helenb also,i too am an abby fan and if you want some really good books with abby, read welcome to the bsc, abby because i thought it was a very good introduction book, abby's lucky thirteen because i like the bat mitzvah thing, abby's un valentine(especially if your a valentine's day hater). But my ultimate favorite is abby in wonderland.omg you'll love abby's family life, sister hating the other sister, plus the alice in wonderland costumes are to die for, and i love the seriousness between abby's grandmother and her health(and learning she'll get breast cancer.dont be surprised about karen. i cant stand karen and i always thought the bitch was annoying. omg was jack such a jerk in that book. no wonder dawn is such a bitch, SHE GETS IT FROM HER FUCKING FATHER.i actually felt sorry for jessi, considering the fact that i dont like jessi, not because she's black(because im black myself), but because she went from nice to just fucking bitchy and pushy. and racist in a way too i mean come on.way to go mary anne for sticking up for her father. jack really should show respect and stop being such a jealous prick just because sharon moved on with a much better dad than you jack schafer.damn stacey is one pushover bitch. and gosh is claudia so fucking gullible.i love jeff and my love for jeff will never die.i feel sorry for kristy and man is patrick thomas(that's her father's name) such a fucking douchbag. glad elizabeth moved on with a much better dad.

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