[Book Review] Dawn and the Impossible Three (The Baby-Sitters Club, #5) by Ann M. Martin

As the newest member of the BSC, Dawn is eager to prove herself. So when a big job comes along, she jumps at the chance to show everyone what she's made of.

The Barretts are even more challenging than Dawn expected. The house is a mess, Mrs. Barrett is unreliable, and the kids are out of control. Dawn knows she's a great baby-sitter, but this is impossible! She only knows one thing for sure--a member of the BSC never gives up!

Dawn and the Impossible Three is the fifth book of The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin. It takes place toward the end of April in the girls' seventh grade year, and the main character this time around is Dawn Schafer, who was introduced in the previous book and became the fifth member of the BSC. Both of the plotlines from the last book are referenced and somewhat continued in Impossible Three; Mr. Spier and Mrs. Schafer, who reunited in Mary Anne Saves the Day thanks to their daughters' attempt at a parent trap, are dating, and there is still a hint of rivalry between Dawn, Mary Anne's possible future stepsister, and Kristy, Mary Anne's lifelong best friend.

Unlike the previous book, which had quite a few interconnected threads weaving throughout the plot, Dawn and the Impossible Three has a single core plotline and one minor subplot.

First, the briefer subplot. Though the book is narrated by Dawn, Kristy's the focus of this thread. Her mother's wedding to Watson is approaching, and she has some bad news to break to the club: she's going to be moving into Watson's house. She won't be next-door neighbors with Mary Anne and Claudia any longer... and since she's going to be living on the other side of town, she might not even be able to attend BSC meetings. So while Kristy gets to know her new house (via a chapter devoted to one of her baby-sitting excursions), the girls have to devise a plan for how to keep her an active member of the club.

How is there a chapter devoted to Kristy's baby-sitting experience in a book narrated by Dawn? Easy. The BSC keeps a book in which the girls record their jobs, and Kristy's chapter opens with her journal entry and then evolves into a more straightforward recap of what went down at the Brewer house. (As a side note, the handwriting fonts of the journal entries can be very hard to read, which I find odd, as I definitely don't remember it being so damn difficult to decipher when I was in the target audience.) Throughout this chapter, Martin introduces some of the recurring elements of the Thomas-Brewer plotlines: Karen's grade-skip from kindergarten to first grade; Mrs. Porter, the next door neighbor who Karen fears is a witch; and Karen's insistence that the attic of the mansion is haunted by her father's great-grandfather, Ben Brewer.

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Eventually, Kristy's subplot is wrapped up with the decision that the BSC will raise membership dues and use the money in the club treasury to pay Kristy's eldest brother, Charlie, to drive her to club meetings.

Now for the main plot. This is Dawn's book, so she's the sitter that gets the big ordeal this time around, and that ordeal comes in the form of the Barrett family. Mrs. Barrett is the mother of the titular "impossible three", but that title isn't particularly apt; if anyone's impossible in the story, it's the beautiful but careless Mrs. Barrett. She's so absentminded and reliant on Dawn's responsibility--Dawn being a twelve-year-old girl--that it verges on child neglect. And it gets to a point that even Dawn can't manage on her own; there's a scene in which Mallory, a ten-year-old, narrowly averts catastrophe by explaining Marnie Barrett's food allergy to Dawn, something that Mrs. Barrett herself completely neglected to do. (There's a bit of foreshadowing here that I would have assumed was unintentional if not for a later line about how, "Maybe one day the Baby-sitters Club will be a huge organization and Mallory will be a part of it.")

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Later, Mrs. Barrett goes too far even for Dawn; there's a kidnapping scare in which Buddy Barrett goes missing, having last been seen getting into a car with a man. As it turns out, the man is Buddy's father, and Mrs. Barrett simply forgot that he had custody that day. It truly boggles the mind. Ultimately, Dawn can't take it anymore and realizes she's becoming a surrogate mother to these children who aren't even that much younger than she is, so she tells Mrs. Barrett that the BSC won't work with her any longer. Mrs. Barrett vows to be a more responsible parent, and Dawn agrees to give her a second chance. It's a pretty mature thing for a twelve-year-old girl to do, and I'm fairly satisfied.

What I don't like, however, is how Martin communicates the hippy aspect of Dawn's personality. Again, this is really odd, as I don't think I noticed any of this as a child, but so far, Dawn is easily the most opinionated girl of the group, and unfortunately, it comes out in a super annoying fashion: Dawn has the audacity to confiscate one of her charges' toy guns on the grounds that she dislikes the real kind. Being far from pro-gun myself, I wouldn't expect to be so frustrated by this scene... but holy shit, who the fuck is this twelve-year-old girl that she thinks it's okay to lecture other people's children about gun violence and the psychological ramifications of toy guns all because she saw a toy ray gun in the kid's hand? I mean, yes, it's perfectly reasonable for a child on the cusp of puberty to fail to realize yet that it isn't okay to shove your politics down other people's throats... but I still don't like it, and damn did I not want to start disliking Dawn this early in the series. Unfortunately, I suspect it might just get worse in the future. Apparently she gets into the moralistic vegetarian thing in the later books, and if she's this pushy and outspoken before the Flanderization sets in, I can't imagine that she's going to be particularly subtle about her other beliefs.

That aside, I'm still enjoying these and looking forward to reading more. Once again, I recommend the series to fans of middle grade fiction, chick lit, and 80s fiction in general.

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