[Book Review] The Truth About Stacey (The Baby-sitters Club, #3) by Ann M. Martin

The truth about Stacey is that she has diabetes. Nobody knows... except her friends from the Baby-sitters Club.

But even they don't know the real truth about Stacey. Stacey's problem is her parents. They won't admit she has the disease, and they drag her to practically every doctor in America!

Seeing so many doctors made Stacey lose one friend, and she won't let it happen again. Especially now--when the Baby-sitters Club needs her more than ever!

In The Truth About Stacey, the third book of the Baby-sitters Club series, the BSC is now almost two months old. Both the club and the girls' friendship are still going strong, but Stacey is still keeping her illness a secret for the most part. Though the other BSC girls learned about Stacey's diabetes in Kristy's Great Idea, Stacey still refuses to let them see any signs of her sickness; she won't even inject her insulin when they're around. It's this anxiety about her disease that fuels the story's B plot.

But first, the A plot: there's a rival baby-sitting club in town! *over-dramatic gasp* And it's comprised of undesirables! According to Claudia, "they have smart mouths, they sass the teachers, they hate school, they hang around at the mall. You know, that kind of kid."

Yeah. That kind of kid.

Except that their plan is actually pretty brilliant for a couple of fourteen-year-olds. Liz and Michelle, the two girls running the Baby-sitters Agency have set up a system in which parents can call the two of them to put in a request for a sitter. Then Liz and Michelle call the various baby-sitters who've signed up with the Agency, pick one who's available, and connect him or her with the parents in need of help. They get a bit of commission, and the sitter gets to keep the rest of the money. So these are some business-savvy freshmen we're dealing with here, and Kristy is reasonably worried about the fate of her club.

But as the plot proceeds, her worries increase--Kristy Thomas, in all her bossy, sporty tomboyishness, cries twice throughout the story from the sheer stress of thinking her club is about to go under. I never realized middle-school baby-sitting politics were such serious business, and holy crap must the club mean a lot to Kristy. I'm honestly a little concerned for her. Are things okay at home, Kristy? (Fridge Brilliance: She's so upset about potentially losing the club because she already thinks she might lose her home, school, and friends--i.e., a twelve-year-old's entire life--when her mother marries Watson. She's crying about possibly losing the club because she's so worried about possibly losing everything that's important to her.)

Anyway, Kristy's rather brilliant herself, so of course she and her friends implement some ideas to make them seem more desirable to the local parents. The most important thing to come out of it is the Kid-Kit; each girl will from now on bring with her a box filled with books, games, and crafting supplies to entertain her charges and make them want to specifically see the BSC girls instead of the BSA girls.

Unsurprisingly, this plotline gets a rather dramatic wrap-up. There's some inter-club spying and sabotaging going on--like I said, serious business--and eventually the BSC has to intervene on behalf of the kids who've been subjected to some truly and dangerously irresponsible BSA-affiliated sitters.

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Ultimately, the BSA folds, and Liz and Michelle launch a make-over business instead.

But while all this is going on, there's the B plot, which explores Stacey's illness. As the story goes, she was in sixth grade when sudden weight loss, insatiable hunger and third, and some extremely embarrassing bed-wetting incidents (one while she was sharing a bed at a sleepover, the poor thing), Stacey's parents took her to a psychologist because... reasons, I guess. (Wouldn't a pediatrician make more sense as a first step?) Luckily, rather than simply dismissing her symptoms as "anxiety", the psychologist recognizes the symptoms of diabetes. ...but it's come at a pretty terrible time, as Stacey's parents have recently found out that they're not going to be able to have any more children, and they are currently in the perfect position to overreact and smother their daughter with misguided and counterproductive "affection".

Now, that all seems reasonable, but it doesn't quite explain why Stacey's so secretive about her illness... until we get back to that bed-wetting. Turns out, Stacey's New York BFF, Laine Cummings, was the unfortunate friend who got to witness Stacey's most humiliating symptom first-hand, and when none of the McGills are forthcoming with an explanation, Stacey's strange behavior starts to freak out Laine and their other friends. According to Stacey, by the time it's over, "Laine called [her] a baby, a liar, a hypochondriac, and a bunch of other things that indicated that she thought [Stacey's] parents and [Stacey] were making a big deal over nothing." Harsh, but understandably so... Laine was eleven at the time, as well as confused and scare for--and of--her best friend.

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Unsurprisingly, Stacey and Laine patch up their relationship by the end of the book.

But that's not quite all there is to Plot B. Even bigger than Stacey's troubles with Laine are her troubles with her parents. They have too much money on their hands and are perfectly content to waste it on nonsense "specialists" and "medicines" that won't actually help their daughter but will definitely upset the stability of her life. And because they're parents in a MG novel, they pull out the "I'm doing what's best for you" excuse while clearly doing what's best for them. Frankly, based on their actions in The Truth about Stacey, I'm going to go ahead and say that the McGills are some pretty terrible parents in need of an immediate wake-up call. (They're not, like, "dealing drugs and beating their children" terrible... more like "domineering and dismissive helicopter parents" terrible. Still terrible, but not obviously not as.)

Click to view spoiler!
Thankfully, Stacey has the balls to actually ask a doctor about what her parents are doing to her, and the doctor confirms that they are indeed being scammed. She even manages to set up an appointment with a famous specialist that both she and her parents will be satisfied with, and I am so impressed by this twelve-year-old's resolve that if she weren't a fictional character, I'd hug her.

Anyway, it's a solid story with an entertaining set of plotlines. Children struggling with a diabetes might find Stacey's story particularly sympathetic, and I highly recommend the series (or at least the beginning of it, before it became a franchise zombie) to any fans of MG who somehow haven't already given it a go. I definitely look forward to getting around to rereading the rest of the books. (I'm particularly excited to get to the mystery spin-off series... but I don't expect to get there for quite a while.)

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