Tagline: Only Jessi knows what's really wrong with Mary.
Cover: Jessi's leg warmers make her loooooong legs look pretty stumpy. The girl in front has lots of attitude...I think she's going to be a star! Also, it is really safe for the kids to be dancing in socks? Bare feet would be better I think? Oh, who knows. Also, Mary isn't even trying to hide the fact that she's pretty zombie-fied.
Plot!: Jessi gets involved with this program to give ballet lessons to underprivileged kids. One of the other students in her ballet class, Mary, is acting strange, and it's because she has anorexia. Jessi is able to get Mme Noelle on her side and convince Mary that she has a problem. Also, Watson gets involved and gives some of the kids scholarships so they continue ballet.
Points to consider:
- AMM thanks a doctor in the opening pages, so you know this is a serious book.
- Jessica Ramsey is not actually Jessica Romsey, in case you were wondering.
- Mary Bramstedt gets a mention on the first page, so you know she's an important character in this serious book. Also: is that a common spelling? The second T seems superfluous.
- Jessi's one of the best dancers in the class. But she's not conceited - she's just truthful. She's one of the first ones volunteer for the six week course for the less privileged.
- The other is - duh duh duhhhhhhh: Mary.
- There's a lot of retread of everything we learned in Jessi and the Dance School Phantom: ballet is competitive, Carrie is as old as the hills, Lisa is only a so-so dancer.
- Jessi says that Stacey is just as cool as Claudia, and in some cultures, even cooler.
- Kristy is avoiding Shannon because she doesn't have any time to hang out with her. So instead of like, telling Shannon to call some other friends (nicely!), Kristy avoids her. Good thing the BSC sets her straight. A little slow on the Great Idea Machine, Kristy.
- Jessi cheers when she hears that she doesn't have to wear her outfit, even though previously she said how happy she was to have to wear it. Maybe she changed her mind.
- Apparently, Jazzy Jo Dupre and the Fly Boys is a popular group. Or an amalgam of things that were actually popular.
- There's a very, very awkward part where Jessi talks about the 'sorrow' of the underprivileged parents.
- Hannie calls the bell captain in 'Let's All Come In' the Bill Capstin. I get like, a four year old saying that, but Hannie seems too old for that. Unless it's a leftover joke from when she WAS four years old.
- Shannon comes over to the Papadakises while Kristy is sitting. Can't these girls entertain themselves for an afternoon?
- Okay. So remember when Kristy was avoiding Shannon? And decided to tell her to talk to other friends and bother them? So Shannon does, and then Kristy feels left out.
- Meanwhile, Jessi is so anxious for outside friends that she even agrees to go eat at Burger King with the other volunteers from the Underprivileged Dance Class.
- Jessi wears a neon-green leotard and deep blue work out pants with yellow slouch socks. Hot.
- Some of the other volunteers, particularly Raul, jump to the conclusion that because the class isn't like the ones they had when they were little, Mme Dupre is racist and classist and doesn't expect anything from the Underprivileged kids. And while tacit racism is a real thing, I think it has more to do with the structure than actual racism. The volunteers were probably in real long-term classes - this is a six week program, where fun is just as if not more important than the actual skills. Also, this is what, the third class? Just because they're not dancing en pointe yet doesn't mean that they're not learning anything. In my early ballet classes, we did a lot of things like skipping in a circle.
- Mary pushes her fast food around, hiding it and making it look like she's eating when she's not. Years after I read this (and other tween books - not that they were called that then) the daughter of a friend of my mom's showed textbook signs of anorexia, as described in these books. Her mom already knew about it but she was doing it anyway - and I had to clue my mom in!
- Apparently Jessi has never heard of anorexia...? In the ballet world? Post-Karen Carpenter? Okay.
- Stacey reminds us that when she joined the BSC, before she told people about her diabetes, they thought she was anorexic.
- Stacey and Sam are in an awkward phase. I really think that they would totally have a fling or something when Stacey is home from university for the summer, when she's a freshman or sophmore and Sam is...well, two years older.
- Kristy asks Shannon if she's having problems at home, since she never wants to be there.
- I highly doubt that the ballet teachers aren't very aware of what anorexia looks like.
Especially Mme Noelle.
- Jessi asks Aunt Cecelia what she would do if she knew that someone else was hurting themselves, and Aunt Cecelia immediately wants to know if it's drugs. I know she gets a bad rap, but I think Aunt Cecelia can be awesome in her own way.
- She also calls Jessi Jessi. I thought she made a point of calling her Jessica. Or maybe that's a way of showing she's mellowed.
- Aw, Kristy feels left out, and because of that she's acting like a major jerk. It's like the reverse of Kristy and the Snobs!
- FINALLY, Jessi mentions to Mme Noelle that she's worried about Mary, and Mme Noelle talks to Mary, and the truth comes out. Why do all of these Jessi ballet stories involve someone quitting ballet?
- Watson ends up sponsoring a scholarship for two of the underprivileged kids.
- Aw. Jessi has a heart to heart with Martha (one of the kids from the class)'s Mom about being black in ballet that leaves them both feeling hopeful. This series is full of so many cringeworthy moments that I forget there are sort of nice ones, too.
- Kristy and Shannon make up, and the kids have their final routine, and the two kids with potential get the Watson and Elizabeth Brewer Dance Scholarships, and Mary, off screen, is allegedly getting help. Everyone wins!