Reviews

Abby and the Secret Society, by Ann M. Martin

chicafrom3's review

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dark mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5

xtinamorse's review

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Read my recap at A Year with the BSC via Stoneybrook Forever: https://www.livethemovies.com/bsc-blog/abby-and-the-secret-society

ssshira's review

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2.0

this is my first time reading this book!

okay, I’m finally starting to agree with most bsc fans: ghostwriter [a:Ellen Miles|286072|Ellen Miles|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/u_50x66-632230dc9882b4352d753eedf9396530.png] needs to be stopped. this book is almost as much a piece of work as [b:Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall|433230|Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall (Baby-Sitters Club Mystery, #14)|Ann M. Martin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1387748656s/433230.jpg|422173]. the bsc is having a babysitting lull, so they decide to work part time helping to restore the greenbrook club, a new community center-y country club that’s opening in the space where a true old school melvil dewey style country club used to be (now do you understand why in the dewey decimal system christianity takes up like all of the 200s but other religions combined only get the 290s? sorry, librarianing out for a bit). nikki, the new owner of the greenbrook club, is the child of someone who was a member of dark woods (the exclusive club), and she was upset with its exclusivity, so she decided to buy greenbrook and make it inclusive in part because her husband is korean and she has a half-korean, half-white kid named stephen. her dad won’t even see her since she married a korean man, and he has no relationship with stephen. on the grounds of the club is a garden maze, and the caretaker mr. kawaja (who never speaks) is very protective of it and never lets anyone into it. someone in a white car keeps hanging around and following stephen. at one point sergeant johnson (who is essentially a member of the baby-sitters club now, considering he appears in all of these mysteries and seems to be bff with them) tells the bsc that his friend growing up, david follman, was a reporter investigating dark woods and its possible ties to an evil secret society (because being racist and anti-semitic isn’t evil enough, they have to also masturbate in coffins or something to seem evil to these people). but his investigation was mysteriously cut short when he died in a tragic car accident. sgt johnson seems to think that it wasn’t an accident and that david knew too much, so the secret society silenced him. the clue he gives the bsc on behalf of long-since-dead david is “watch your step.” they take this to mean looking at the ground, where they find the first clue in a scavenger hunt that leads to the reveal: yes, there was a secret society, and mr. armstrong, who was the mayor decades ago, was involved: buying votes, buying laws, sketchy sketchy stuff. all of david’s notes were hidden in the secret bomb shelter inside the hedge maze. mr. kawaja didn’t know about it, but was overprotective of the maze because HE THOUGHT ALL THESE KIDS WOULD MESS IT UP. that’s a little bit too much of a coincidence, but we’re told to believe it, so whatever. the guy in the white car is stephen’s grandfather who has decided to not be racist anymore (and by that I mean he’s probably like panama jackson’s mom: he loves his half-POC blood relative, but he still voted for trump and is still therefore the devil). there is a kind of powerful scene where mr. armstrong threatens stephen and stephen’s grandfather basically says that he’ll come clean about the secret society if armstrong doesn’t let go of stephen. so maybe he HAS learned: his grandson’s half-korean life is still more worth protecting than the reputation of a jerk he knew decades ago. okay, that was sarcastic, because SERIOUSLY WE HAVE LOW STANDARDS FOR WHITE MEN. in a subplot, stephen doesn’t think he’s going to fit in anywhere because he’s too korean for white town and too much of a white kid for korean town. the pikes make their own version of the country club and don’t want stephen in it, but it’s not because he’s half-korean, it’s because he’s the new kid. he tries to start a club with claire pike and jenny prezzioso (both not allowed in the pike club because they’re too young) but eventually the clubs get merged at greenbrook. oh, and armstrong DID tamper with david’s brakes which led to him crashing his car and dying, but he didn’t MEAN to KILL him, just to scare the living daylights of him. this armstrong’s really not that bad a guy, when you think about it. (yes, more sarcasm).

highlights:
-abby and mary anne start singing girl group songs while pruning in the garden at greenbrook, adding choreography (mary anne is okay doing it because no one is around). I love abby and her influence on the ol’ bsc fuddy duddies.
-stephen has no friends since he just moved, but he doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere because he is mixed race. I think he doesn't fit in anywhere because he has a rat tail and it’s 1996.
-okay but for real I appreciate that they attempted to tackle the internal conflict that mixed race kids experience. some kids ask him "what are you?" this is pretty real and brutal.
-cary retlin leaves the bsc a note that they think is part of the scavenger hunt but really just to mess with them. it's about penguins so they waste a whole day looking everywhere for penguins. ah, cary retlin. what a perfect troll for the bsc.
-jordan pike's sportscaster narration for the triplets: "pike pivots, takes the layup--but pike blocks the basket. pike passes to pike..."

lowlights/nitpicks:
-anna says something about how she's shy around a guy she likes and abby clarifies that she likes him just as a friend. then why is she shy around him?
-steven has a rat tail. I just think these ghostwriters don't follow hair trends. rat tails just weren't cool anymore in 1996.
-everyone seems surprised that dark woods had had a policy of exclusion of jews, poc, etc. abby is particularly offended and surprised. but, like, really? do you not know about country clubs? also, do you not remember that this is the town of the people who are awful to jessi in [b:Hello, Mallory|48915|Hello, Mallory (The Baby-Sitters Club, #14)|Ann M. Martin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1387730819s/48915.jpg|3057077] and jessi and claudia in [b:Keep Out, Claudia!|371094|Keep Out, Claudia! (The Baby-Sitters Club, #56)|Ann M. Martin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1387703421s/371094.jpg|527364]? or the town that talked about how european settlers “civilized” the native population in [b:Claudia and the First Thanksgiving|371065|Claudia and the First Thanksgiving (The Baby-Sitters Club, #91)|Ann M. Martin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1387713856s/371065.jpg|361032]?
-one time nikki brought a friend to dark woods and everyone gave them weird looks because the friend was jewish. how did they know she was jewish? the whole gentleman’s agreement thing hinges on the fact that jews can pass as gentiles and gentiles can pass as jews. I’m sure her female friend didn’t have a kippah and peyis and tzitzit.
-abby narrates that the nastiest thing cokie ever did was to try to steal logan from mary anne. uh, I'm pretty sure logan and mary anne had broken up and logan was the one who agreed to date cokie (while working on a group project together with mary anne -- see [b:Mary Anne Misses Logan|371100|Mary Anne Misses Logan (The Baby-Sitters Club, #46)|Ann M. Martin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1174229863s/371100.jpg|1937044] for more about how logan was a total jerk)
-when did all this dark woods stuff happen? sgt. johnson doesn’t seem that old (he has dark hair that is not described as salt and pepper and he is never described as wrinkly -- in bsc books, older people are always described as having a crinkle in their eyes or something), so david wasn’t that old. but ovaltine was his favorite food, which means he was a child in the 1940 or 1950s, because nobody after that would say ovaltine was their favorite food. so david was born in the 30s or 40s, so sgt johnson should be in his 50s or 60s? that makes sense timeline-wise, but they act like he’s younger and hipper and not really a dad figure to the bsc.

the steps of the scavenger hunt:
-watch your step: they find a stain under a loose carpet piece made with wine that says 1954
-1954 in wine: means that the next clue is in the 1954 bottle of wine in their wine cellar. it's a golf tee that says “open wwii”
-open wwii: means the dark woods open (golf tournament) that happened during WWII. incidentally, armstrong won that year. inside the trophy they find the last note with keys. the note says "shelter favorite food."
-shelter favorite food: in the secret bomb shelter inside the garden maze, the investigation notes are hidden in an ovaltine can (ovaltine being david’s favorite food).

snacks in claudia’s room:
-pringles (n.s.)
-hershey's hugs (n.s.)
-twizzlers under the mystery notebook on her desk
-pretzels in her desk drawer
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