Being twelve was awesome, wasn't it? There you were, on the brink of teenagedom, feeling as though excitement lay just around the corner. You wanted to be independent. To run your own social life. To maybe make some cash of your own. If you were Kristy Thomas, maybe you even had a great idea. Since you were constantly getting lumbered with babysitting your kid brother, why not start a babysitters club with your three best friends? And get paid for your trouble.
Here's the thing: I was too old for The Babysitters Club the first time around. I say this because I was twelve (by the time the series hit the UK, at least) and picked up the first book, Kristy's Great Idea, from my kid sister's bookshelves one day out of sheer desperation for something to read. In fact, she'd probably outgrown it by then, but I loved it. It was twee, it had some bad localisation issues, but it also had a charm all its own. Heck, it even made me want to start a babysitters club. For a few hours, anyway. You know, if it weren't for the fact that at that time my kid sister and I couldn't be left alone together without a serious risk of bloodshed on either side.
Besides, The Babysitters Club wasn't really about babysitting. It was about friendship. It was about four girls with very distinct personalities who were BFFs regardless of their differences. My personal favourite was Claudia Kishi, because she was artistic, had a phone in her room, and had the guts to dress exactly how she wanted. She was the kind of girl I would've wanted to be at fifteen, let alone twelve. Except without the constant babysitting, of course. Major drag.
Reading Kristy's Great Idea as an adult, with the benefit of my wisdom and experience (who's that laughing at the back?) it does strike me that putting an advert in the paper giving strangers contact details for four twelve-year-old girls may not be such a great idea. I mean, random people ring this hotline, and all they have to say is that they need a babysitter, and then one of the girls will go alone to their house - apparently without telling their parents where exactly they are going? Sounds potentially more like Kristy's Dumb Mistake to me. Besides, we're expected to believe that Mary Anne's father won't even let her spend three dollars on a pizza without running it by him, so why he'd be happy for his only daughter to put herself at risk of stranger danger, I don't know. Bad idea, Kristy. Bad, bad idea. Had she not read anything by R.L. Stine?
This time around though, I actually warmed to Kristy more than any other character. Yes, she's bossy and she shoots her mouth off, but she's going through some serious s***. She misses her dad, who recently ran off to California with some floozy (we assume), and is pretty pissed about her mother's new boyfriend Watson constantly (in her words) 'horning in'. Understandable, when she puts it like that. As far as the other characters go, all I've got from book one is that Claudia possibly doesn't have a personality beyond her quirky clothes and interest in boys, Mary Anne is shy, and Stacey is cool because she comes from New York and has a perm. Ahem. Well, it was the eighties.
Verdict: Dated, unashamedly cheesy, and occasionally a little lame, I still love these. That's why there'll always be a place on my bookshelves for BSC. Right at the back, where visitors can't see them.