Before there was the Baby-Sitters Club, there were four girls named Kristy Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, and Stacey McGill. As they start the summer before seventh grade (also before they start the BSC), each of them is on the cusp of a big change. Kristy is still hung up on hoping that her father will return to her family. Mary Anne has to prove to her father that she's no longer a little girl who needs hundreds of rules. Claudia is navigating her first major crush on a boy. And Stacey is leaving her entire New York City life behind...
...in order to find new friends in Stoneybrook, Connecticut.
The Summer Before . . . is a sweet, moving novel about four girls on the edge of something big - not just the Club that will change their lives, but also all the joys and tribulations of being twelve and thirteen.
I must have read at least fifty of these books as a child and after coming across them in a charity shop at the age of sixteen and rediscovering the joy of the adventures of these preteen babysitters, I started to recollect the books. I now have half a shelf full of these colourful little novels sitting on my bookcase that I revisit when I'm in need of some light relief to destress myself. So when I heard that a prequel was being written I was naturally excited at the premise of it. Although many BSC fans would like to hear about the lives of the characters as adults, writing about children is what Ann M. Martin does best. The Summer Before did not disappoint.
Martin seemed to slip back into the voices of the characters very easily. I particularly liked Stacey's story as it showed her as a normal girl, dealing with the problems of broken friendships and moving house. A lot of the BSC books focused on Stacey's diabetes or her boyfriends or how "sophisticated" she was. In The Summer Before she was just a regular preteen girl and I felt that she was very realistically portrayed. I also enjoyed Claudia's story and the excitement yet disappointment of having your "first love." This was also very natural, although it would have been nice to see more of Claud's relationship with her sister Janine. Mary Anne has to cope with convincing her dad that she's old enough to babysit, and although she came across as less mature than the other girls this was in fitting with her character in the regular series. It was nice to watch Mary Anne grow and become more confident with babysitting and talking to her dad. Kristy's story was my least favourite as it seemed a bit out of the blue for her to suddenly expect her dad to visit, but it did kind of tug at heart strings. I could never imagine what it would be like to be missing one parent and have no way of contacting them, but her emotions seemed believable to me.
All in all, this was a fantastic book and was definitely worth waiting for. I only wish Ann M. Martin was creating more new Babysitters Club books as she definitely hasn't lost her touch. 10/10