Yay, someone is finally giving Claudia exactly what she needs! Claudia is at home, chilling and thinking about the 900th Halloween she will experience in middle school when Stacey calls. They chat for awhile until Claudia says she's having problems using a protractor. Stacey offers to help, but Claudia changes the subject.
See, Claudia doesn't want everyone to know that she's once again sucking at school. No matter how hard she studies or what she does, she just keeps failing. One of her teachers pulls her aside to tell her that she'll face some serious consequences if she fails again, which is why the principal calls a meeting when she does fail. Before she can fail, Janine and her parents offer to help.
Janine pairs her up with one of the girls from her class as a tutor. We know Rosa
is cool because it's the 90s and she wears a newsboy hat. She pretty much calls Claudia out on how she has horrible study habits and really needs to work harder. We also learn that Claudia is failing nearly all of her classes.
At the same time, her art teacher suggests that she enter her portfolio to the community college. Some famous artist is doing a special class and will pick the best students to work with. She naturally picks Claudia, and her parents agree to let her take the class as long as she improves her grades. When she keeps failing, the principal makes a drastic decision, but one he should have made years ago. Claudia has to repeat the seventh grade.
Claudia has a dream that she's in school and all her old friends ignore her. The only person who notices her is some seventh grade dweeb she knows. This makes her think that going back a grade will make her life miserable. She spends the first day sitting by herself and complaining about how dorky the kids in her class are.
It doesn't take long before things get a little better. The seventh grade boys all develop crushes on her, and the seventh grade girls all want to be her best friend. The other girls even start dressing like her. To make things better, she realizes that she's doing better in school. She gets an A on a test, gets called out for her work, and even raises her hand to answer a question. Unfortunately, she then sees a sign for the big Halloween party and realizes that it's only for eighth graders. She talks to the principal, but he went let her go to the party.
This turns Claudia into a mega bitch. She barely talks to her friends, gets really nasty with the kids in her class, and mopes all the time. All she can talk about is how those kids look like babies and how they are soooo immature. Luckily, she still has her art classes. The teacher keeps calling her out for being such an amazing artist. She does go to the party held for other students, but she practically screams as Jessi and Mal and makes them feel like crap.
There's some random art showing for the students in her class. She doesn't tell her family or friends because she acts like she doesn't care. Then, because she's clearly the most talented artist in the entire state, she wins first prize over people who are 2-3 times her age. Her teacher tells her that she had to repeat two grades in school and that some artists aren't good learners, which makes her feel better.
Jackie, who had that accident in the last book that led to the group breaking up, is still in the hospital at the beginning of the book. The BSC throws him a welcome home party, but Kristy can't stop thinking about the kids still in the hospital. They decide to throw a party for the kids and get their charges to donate some of the candy they go trick or treating. Claudia shows up at the party, apologizes for being a bitch, and everyone congratulates her and decides to check out her art show.
*Yeah, so one of the other students says she spent the last 15 years trying to get to the point where Claudia is at. So, why was she picked for the class?
*In her dream, Claudia sees Stacey wearing a plaid kilt, white over the knee socks, Mary Janes, and a baby tee. Someone watched Clueless!
*Oh man, this was easily the most annoying I've ever seen Claudia. She whines about how the boys try to get her attention and all this other stuff, but it's exactly what the guys in her former grade are like and exactly how the BSC acts.
*Ugh, how can sending a student back one grade and then forward a few months later really going to solve anything?
*Mal and Jessi want her to enter the pumpkin carving contest so they can show her off, which causes Claudia to tell them that she didn't care what a bunch of babies thought of her. That would make me punch her in the throat.
*Stacey goes as a flapper, Abby goes as a soccer player, Jessi as a ballerina, and Mal as Elizabeth Barrett Browning? Maybe some other famous old poet. Mary Anne and Kristy go as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, which is...odd.
*One Claudia outfit is moss green jeans, a brown sweater, and her hair up like Pebbles. It's totally the same outfit from the cover.
*Claudia also wore tie dye leggings, red high tops, and black overall shorts. Ah, anyone else remember those?
*Kristy decides that since the club has done so well recently that they're now off probation. That was fast.
*Abby super duper annoys me. She has a sitting job at the Pike house. They're all fighting about Halloween costumes when she gets there, and she somehow manages to solve everything in a single page.
*Claudia does wear a fake nose ring to freak everyone out at a club meeting. For some reason it made me think of those fake tattoo bracelets and how I wore one all the time. I even wore one to my family reunion as a teenager and had multiple people freaking out about how my mom let me get a tattoo LOL.
*There is a cute moment at the party where Jackie lectures everyone on wearing a helmet from now on. It's also cute that the BSC all freaks out over him being the walking disaster and how he's fine while everyone else screws up. They get paint everywhere, drop a baseball in the punch bowl, and almost knock over the food table.
*I want to punch them all at one point. They start bragging about how their teachers now treat them like they're adults and how much more freedom they have. Um, you're in middle school?
*Why does everyone treat her like she's some kind of queen? I can see the younger kids maybe thinking she was kind of cool, but they would have to giggle about her basically failing eighth grade.
*It's nice to know the Halloween Hop is over. Remember how in ALL the other Halloween books there is a dance that's open to all the kids and how everyone in the BSC went to the big dance in seventh grade? Nope, now there's one dance for eighth and one party for everyone else.