I had this whole funny bit about how Natalie looks like a forty year old woman, but Noel looks just like a thirteen year old boy on the cover of Sister of the Quints. Alas, this is the only cover I could find online. So you don’t get to see Natalie’s fine feathered hair, or her and Noel’s tight-rolled jeans. But trust me, they’re fantastic.
Anywho. SotQ is the second book I’m reviewing by Stella Pevsner. It’s kind of meh, without the emotional punch or flowing story of And You Give Me a Pain, Elaine.
Natalie is thirteen years old. She’s a good athlete and is just starting to discover boys. Her parents divorced several years ago, and used to share joint custody of her. Now, she lives with her dad and step-mother because her mom moved to Colorado and Natalie didn’t want to move away from her friends. That was all well and good, because Natalie gets along remarkably well with Jean, her stepmother. But something changed about a year earlier — Jean gave birth to quintuplets.
It wasn’t terrible at first. The quints spent time in the hospital when they were tiny. Then they came home and didn’t do much. But now they’re all over the place. And Dad and Jean can’t keep a nanny to save their lives.
Which is where the problem lies for Natalie. She’s an athlete, both a soccer and basketball star and has a lot of friends at school. As the quints get more troublesome and they have a harder time keeping a babysitter, Natalie’s dad expects Natalie to drop everything for the quints. Natalie is ill-prepared to do this, but does try to appease her dad anyway. Usually.
There’s a new boy in town. His name is Noel and he’s from Canada. Natalie hearts him, but she’s pretty sure that Noel hearts one of her friends, Michelle, who is drop-dead gorgeous and a local model. Noel’s family and Michelle’s family are old friends, so it makes a ton of sense to Natalie. Even though most of us can see that Noel is way in to Natalie.
In addition to dealing with her pain in the ass father, and playing flirty pants with Noel, Natalie is also dealing with her friend Michelle’s increasingly bizarre and depressed behavior, as well as the behavior of Trish, the school bitch, who is hooking up with Natalie’s kind of ex-boyfriend Troy. And if both of those seem like throwaway story arcs, they aren’t.
As Natalie is having a harder time dealing with the quints, and dad actually makes her miss the first day of basketball tryouts, she starts to wish she’d chosen to live with her mother. She thinks back to the past summer when she spent a whole month with mom and how good a time they had. And realizing that her dad had guilted her in to coming back to live with them. When she called mom, her mother didn’t outright say no, but didn’t exactly say yes either, so it’s left up in the air.
Natalie has the grave misfortune of having a birthday only four days prior to the quints. When local media want to be there to celebrate the kids’ first birthday, Natalie’s own birthday is completely overshadowed. At first, dad and Jean adamantly refuse to allow the media to film or photograph the children. But they relent when they realize that it will be a good way to document this occasion, something they won’t have time to do themselves.
Natalie ends up having a decent birthday. Her awesome friends have a surprise lunch-party for her at school. And she goes to dinner minus the quints with dad and Jean and a few relatives. Mom sends a kick-ass cassette player. It was nice, which Natalie totally needed. Because she fails to make the basketball team and the coach admits that she’s a great player, but he questions her dedication after she missed soccer practices and the first day of tryouts to do quint stuff. A few days later a TV crew and paper crew are at the house for the quints’ birthday. Natalie turns out to be the star of the story though, when the reporter is talking about the quints’ names and asks Natalie if she has a special name for them. Natalie answers, “Pests.”
Everyone at school saw the piece on TV, and bitchy Trish is crazy jealous. That night, the family starts to get threatening phone calls. They keep coming and the police are notified but the caller doesn’t stay on the line long enough to get a trace. Dad and Jean invest in a burglar alarm.
One day, Natalie finds out that Trish has been making the phone calls, because she’s fucking psychotic or something. Natalie is actually relieved that they don’t need to worry about the quints’ safety. Until she gets home that afternoon at the same time as a frantic Jean, who’s been informed by the latest nanny that one of the kids, Alice, is missing. Searches are made and the police are called.
Guess who took the baby? Natalie’s friend Michelle. Who has been depressed ever since her over-bearing stage mother made her throw away all her childhood toys and forces her daughter to go to school in model clothes and makeup. Michelle is nearly catatonic and talking crazy when they find her cuddling with the baby.
Natalie and Jean take Michelle home. Natalie’s dad wants to give Michelle what-for, but when he goes to their house that night, he realizes she’s very sick and her mother is an out of control twat.
Then Mom calls Natalie and asks her to please come live with her. And Natalie thinks about the look on Jean’s face when she learned Alice was missing and she realized that is probably how her mom felt when she chose not to move to Colorado with her in the first place. So Natalie tells everyone, including Noel, that she’s moving. The end.
- Holy god, I need to start keeping better track of bad YA parenting. Because Natalie’s dad would totally make the list. He makes no secret of Natalie’s soccer practice interfering with her duties at home. And he’s not exactly sad for her when she didn’t make the basketball team. And the prior summer, he asked Natalie to move around her vacation schedule with her mom because one of the quints was very ill and re-hospitalized. And it took him a while to remember Natalie’s birthday was near the quints’. And he refuses to go shopping with Jean to choose the quints’ birthday outfits for the press (because his favorite TV show is on.) and grumbles about how much money the clothes will cost. Yeah, he’s just a dick all around.
- Despite it all, he was at least very reluctant to allow any media around the quints on their birthday. Which, it’s about friggin’ time someone isn’t anxious to pimp out their multiples.
- As much as I hated dad, I really liked Jean, the stepmother. She is constantly reminding her husband that their problems aren’t Natalie’s and that she should have her own life. And when Natalie confides in her that she really likes Noel, but he told her he considers her his best friend in this new town, Jean tells her that’s wonderful. That it means that Noel likes her for her, and that friends last longer than boyfriends.
- The quints’ names are Alice, Beth, Craig, Drew and Emma. A,B,C,D, and E. That was Natalie’s idea when she saw at the hospital before they were named that they were called Baby A, Baby B, etc.
- Stella Pevsner seems to have an odd idea of what one year olds are capable of. Most of the quints have somewhat of a vocabulary – even though they were preemies and their adjusted age is probably only nine or ten months. Natalie also mentions that they are nearly potty-trained. Oh, and they’re all eating table food. Which, yeah, most one year olds can do. But a lot can’t or won’t and most preemies definitely won’t at that age either.
- When Noel does ask Natalie on a date, she mentions that he dunks his french fries in vinegar, which he says is a Canadian thing. I dunno, I love french fries in vinegar and always have. I’ve never even been to Canada.
- If you want a great Stella Pevsner book, leave this one alone, but I really can not recommend And You Give me a Pain, Elaine enough.