I can't even begin to explain how excited I was to read this book! This one came way after I stopped reading BSC books, but since Abby and are both Elvis fans, I did a little happy dance in the thrift store.
Dawn and Jeff are back for the summer in Stoneybrook. Since their dad cares not for custody agreements or the fact that they were supposed to spend all summer there, he randomly decides to pick them up a few weeks early. Since his art dealer friends needs an RV driven to California, he wants to take them on a cross country trip. I strongly dislike Mr. Schafer. Watson hears about it and decides to take a trip too. He invites some of Kristy's friends, and since Dawn's dad doesn't want to feel left out, he does the same thing. At the last minute, they realize there are too many people in one RV, so Kristy decides to go with Dawn's family instead of her own family. Each BSC member gets to pick one thing they want to do.
Stacey: Let's get Stacey out of the way because she's the most boring! She sees Claudia holding her journal and immediately thinks she stole it and read it, which leads to them not talking for days. Out of all the things in the world they can do, she really just wants to see Ethan who is on vacation in Seattle. They meet at a coffee shop, go to the Space Needle, and she makes up with Claudia. I so want to punch her in the face for picking Ethan over 9 billion other things.
Jessi: Jessi decides that she wants to go to Dalton, Mississippi where her ancestors were slaves. They stop by her grandparents' house first, and she thinks Mallory is racist because she looks uncomfortable and isn't talking. Her grandmother points out that she's just nervous around new people and later sees her laughing and playing. Way to treat your best friend! She gets really depressed at the plantation when she sees a picture of a lynching, but then she meets a graduate student researching slavery who might be related to her and is fine.
Mallory: Mallory wants to go to some random island that was the setting for the book Misty. I don't really know. It turns out that it's now some huge tourist trap, they get stuck in traffic, and nothing looks the way it did in her books, which were published 40 some years ago. They take a drive around the island and see no horses, but then they stop for lunch. Somehow, several wild horses appear and they all get teary eyed.
Abby: Abby is a girl after my own heart! She wants to go to Graceland and ends up telling the kids all about how some people think Elvis is still alive. They see Elvis and stalk him all around town, but he's just an impersonator meeting up with some other impersonators. Elizabeth's choice for the trip is the Grand Canyon. Turns out that Abby's dad called it his favorite place in the world and planned a family trip out there but died right before they left. She keeps making up excuses for not wanting to go and trying to get everyone to change their mind. Once they get there, she ends up crying and thinking about how her family needs to go there.
Karen: The Brewer/Thomas family ends up stopping by Watson's old roommate's house in Oklahoma, which is right in Tornado Alley. Since no one bothered to pay attention to the weather, they arrive five minutes before a tornado hits. They all have to take shelter in the biggest bathroom in the world and survive. Her choice is Four Corners, and she manages to stand in all four corners and wave to Stoneybrook.
Jeff: All Jeff wants to do is repel down a mountain. They finally find a place to do it, and no one else will go with him. It's a super boring chapter.
Mary Anne: Mary Anne gets stuck with Dawn's dad who constantly makes jokes about her dad working too hard and generally being a huge dick. She wants to see her grandmother, who somehow decides that it's easier for her to drive from Iowa to the Mall of America to meet them for lunch. Good old grandma calls him out on his shit, but he starts right back up again later. At the end of the book, Mary Anne finally confronts him and he kind of apologizes for it.
Claudia: Claudia wants to go to some art museum in Chicago, but her major story involves Wall Drug. She buys a sketch that looks a little like a Georgia O’Keeffe drawing and buys it for a few dollars. When they get to California, it turns out that it's a real piece. The art dealer guy offers her $500, but she turns it down so it can get lost in the mess of art supplies and candy in her room.
Kristy: Kristy doesn't just want to see one place, she wants to see every ballpark she can, which somehow doesn't seem fair because they go to like six of them. While in San Francisco, she sees her dad on the jumbo tron. Claudia and Mary Anne convince her to find him and talk to him. He's just as much of an ass as he always was, and he even has a new girlfriend, but he does give her his new address. She ends up walking away before he can see her cry.
Dawn: Dawn wants to see a real life ghost town, but they never come across any. She finally finds one and makes everyone go to it, but it turns out to be some tourist trap with actors, condos, and rides. She thinks everyone will make fun of her, but they all end up having a fun time. At the end of the book, Carol throws them a welcome home party, and Watson's group somehow manages to get there at the exact same time.
*Why the hell would Waston and Elizabeth agree to let Kristy spend her summer family vacation with another family instead of traveling with them?
*Also, why did Nannie and Emily Michelle get stuck at home? They explain that Charlie and Sam had obligations and that EM was a little too young. Please, my parents had me camping without electricity or running water when I was six weeks old!
*Jessi's whole plantation thing irritated me. I get that it would be a powerful experience, but she acts like she knew nothing about slavery until she got there.
*Why wouldn't Abby just speak up and tell everyone what was on her mind? I'm pretty sure if Elizabeth knew about it, she wouldn't have made her go.
*Jeff's best moment comes when Dawn tells him that Old Faithful used to go off more often but pollution changed things, and he says that she says that about everything.
*Dawn's group get stuck in the Badlands at night when they run out of gas. Granted it's a creepy place, but it's not quite as creepy as she makes it out.
*I call BS on Dawn! My family took a road trip from Ohio all the way out to Custer's Last Stand and Devil's Tower down to Salt Lake City and back home again. I know for a fact that there are multiple ghost towns in that area, including a super cool one that they filmed some movies at. You can literally just wander around for hours.
*It was fun reading about Wall Drug! My roommate and I just saw a bumper sticker for that place on a car the other day and he had no idea what it was. I do call BS on Claudia finding that sketch there though. We were there one year before this book came out and there weren't flea market vendors or even anything cheap.
*They also meet this mean little girl named Liz on that weird island, and they later run into her at the San Diego Zoo. It was Andrew's pick because he wanted to see the pandas. Liz acts really snotty about how the pandas went back to China, talks over the tour guide, and is a major pain. She then pitches a fit because she finds the BSC kids boring and makes her grandparents take her away.
*As an Elvis fan, I've been to Graceland four different times, including once a year after this book came out. Watson and Elizabeth actually leave all the BSC members and kids there while they take off. That is incredibly insane! It is in a pretty bad area of Memphis, and just a few blocks away is a truly scary area. Abby and the other members take the kids across the road for lunch. Across the road is a strip mall with multiple museums and overpriced souvenir shops. If they did buy lunch, I don't want to know how much they paid!
*I seriously hope that Mr. Schafer paid for a lot of the things they do. They end up going to at least three different baseball games, and there is no way I would pay for tickets to games if I wasn't interested. Do you really think Stacey, Claudia, and even Dawn to an extent give a crap?
*Dawn gets kind of rude at the end because Watson bought deli meat and brought it to her house. She talks about "animal carcases" on the table. I would so make a messy sandwich, eat it right next to her, and keep breathing on her.
*I got a kick out of Dawn's dad driving his RV all around Seattle and even finding parking spots right on the street. Yeah, that would definitely not happen.
*Stacey complained quite a bit about Ohio and how flat it was. I want her to go to Cincinnati and tell me that. Plus, we do have quite a lot to offer LOL.
*I kind of want to know where everyone sleeps. I've been in RVs with like 5 or 6 people and it was cramped. Now imagine it with 7 to 8 people.
*Almost forgot, but they manage to stop by and see the Zuni kids too. It's funny though because only David Michael really has a connection with them. He gets to meet his pen pal and everyone in town comes to meet the BSC and thank them for helping rebuild their school.
*They also go to a rodeo, which is David Michael's choice. Before it even starts, someone explains cattle roping to him, he fakes being sick, and Elizabeth takes him out. Everyone else decides that it's too gruesome for them and leave too. They spend the whole time in the midway.
*I've been to a bunch of places mentioned in this book. Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, Laura Ingall Wilder's homestead, the Badlands, and even the Mall of America, which made me fall in love with the Sanrio store. It made me want to call up my parents and tell them we needed to take another road trip.