Mary Anne has never been a leader of the BSC. So when a fight breaks out among the club's four members, Mary Anne feels a little lost, unable to depend on Kristy, Stacey, or Claudia anymore.
Sitting by herself in the cafeteria is bad enough; when Mary Anne has to baby-sit a sick child without any help from the club, she knows someone has to take action. It's time for Mary Anne to step in and save the day!
Mary Anne Saves the Day is the fourth book of The Baby-sitters Club, and the girls are now halfway through their seventh grade, with the story taking place sometime in January or February; Lucy Newton, who was born in the previous book, is not quite two months old in this one. As for the plot itself, there's a lot going on here. There are two major conflicts: Mary Anne versus her father and a rift in the BSC. Each one has a subplot of two within, and since they both heavily deal with Mary Anne's personal struggles, there's a lot of overlap between the two.
So, let's start with Conflict A: Mary Anne versus Mr. Spier. Mary Anne's fed up with her dad's attitude; she's getting ready to turn thirteen years old, and he still treats her like she's five. As she explains, "I have to wear my hair in braids (that's a rule) and [Dad] has to approve my outfit every day, which is sort of silly since he buys all my clothes." And frankly, that creeps me right the fuck out. It is not appropriate to micromanage your pubescent daughter's appearance, and it is definitely not appropriate to do so in order to pretend she's a young child. But then... maybe he doesn't even realize she's in puberty at all; at a certain point in the book, he gets her grade wrong. As in, he does not know how old his daughter is. What the flying fuck. I certainly hope for Mary Anne's sake that she has a stepmother in her life before her menarche; otherwise... that poor girl.
So, obviously, Mary Anne struggles with how her father treats her. Even at twelve-going-on-thirteen, she has less freedom than even her closest friends; not only does her father have complete control over her appearance, but he also seems to have ultimate veto rights over her extracurricular activities and free time. Remember how Kristy's Great Idea involved her fears that her father wouldn't let her in the BSC? She's still fretting over it; even four months later, her father doesn't have any trust in her... until the Prezzioso job. When Mary Anne is baby-sitting Jenny Prezzioso and the little girl comes down with a sudden and dangerous fever, Mary Anne's quick thinking and mature response to the emergency sets her on the path to gaining her father's respect, as well as earning more freedom and opportunity to take on responsibilities that she thinks she can handle.
There's a bit more to the subplot involving Mr. Spier, but more on that in a minute.
The second conflict is, as I said, is the BSC's fight. Towards the beginning of the book, Mary Anne's stress about her father's insistence upon infantilising her leads her to practically explode at a BSC meeting, which ultimately results in a huge fight between the girls. The club doesn't outright break up, but the members are definitely going their separate ways for the foreseeable future. And since Kristy and Mary Anne share a set of friends, Mary Anne finds herself evicted from her normal cafeteria clique and ends up befriending the new girl, Dawn Schafer.
Dawn's a California girl living in a creepy-cool 1795 farmhouse, and she's just what Mary Anne needs to make Kristy jealous. But she also proves to be a great friend... and then it turns out that she's actually the daughter of Mary Anne's father's ex-girlfriend; Mrs. Schafer is Mr. Spier's own "The One Who Got Away". So on top of the Spier conflict and the BSC conflict, there's a bit of The Parent Trap thrown in throughout both.
All in all, it's a reasonably entertaining story that contributes a lot to the BSC universe. Dawn, unsurprisingly, becomes a major recurring character by joining the BSC, becoming Mary Anne's step-sister, and eventually getting her own spin-off when she moves to California. I'm liking her so far, and her dynamic with both Mary Anne and Kristy are fairly interesting so far; I'm looking forward to reading one of her books to see how it evolves. Like I said, there's kind of a lot going on here, but it all contributes to the overall plot of the series, so I totally don't mind.
I highly recommend the Baby-sitters Club books to fans of MG and anyone looking for a just a touch of 80s nostalgia.