Lizabeth Bracken is quiet and introspective and thoughtful. She is also a follower. It is her good fortune to fall in with the V.I.Gs and Bs (Very Important Girls and Boys), the cool group of sixth graders at her school. The V.I.Gs and Bs are very much like you would expect them to be, always acting above the more socially challenged of their peers. The gang has decided to put on a 1920s themed musical act for the school's annual variety show. All the students are supposed to participate and everyone wonders what class outcast C.D. (Creepy Douglas) could possibly contribute.
|discovering the house|
Lizabeth goes to Woolworth's, a staple for 1970s book characters, and buys cleaning equipment, an ugly neon picture, and some fabric samples. She sneaks back into the house and finds...C.D., the boy in her class whom everyone hates. C.D. immediately acts apologetic for his presence in the house, though he has every bit of right to be there as Lizabeth, which is none. We learn that C.D., like most bullied kids who don't go on to blow up the school, is pretty awesome. He is kind and considerate to Lizabeth, who gives him very little reason to be so. Lizabeth doesn't want a thing to do with C.D. and makes this clear through her actions. Eventually, though, Lizabeth relents and they go exploring the house together. Lizabeth worries about facing C.D. at school the next day.
She need not have worried, though. C.D. goes out of his way to avoid Lizabeth so she won't have to decide whether to continue ignoring him or not. This shows that, like most bullied kids, C.D. also has very little self-esteem. This leads me to wondering about what makes some kids outcasts. With some it's little more than a lack of hygiene. Others are too shy, too loud, have something physically or mentally that sets them apart. But most are awesome, though they don't realize it. Okay, back to the book.
Lizabeth finally slips C.D. a note, signed Nutsy the squirrel, asking him to come back to the house, which he hasn't done since his run-in with her. The next time Lizabeth comes to the house, C.D. is there. He tells her she can call him Loren, which is his middle name. Lizabeth says this is a good name, but I think if this had been a modern book, Loren/Lauren for a boy would sound too feminine and be another reason to make fun of him. Loren and Lizabeth agree to fix up the upstairs living room (so the younger neighborhood kids won't see in the window and interfere). Loren suggests that Lizabeth keep their friendship a secret so she won't become a target of the other kids, and she reluctantly agrees.
|ready for the performance|
The VIGs, also known as The Pop-Pop Girls, put on their homemade flapper dresses to perform in the school variety show. (Would 1970s kids really have been into this stuff?) Before they go on stage, the VIBs make fun of Loren, who is acting as stage crew, one taking a wet paintbrush to the back of his sweatshirt. You probably already saw something like this happening. And predictably, Lizabeth says nothing to defend him.
At the house, Lizabeth asks to meet Loren's grandmother, whom he has lived with since his parents died in an accident. Loren complies, but acts strangely. Mimi, Loren's grandmother, turns out to be a super perceptive person and soon wheedles out of Loren that he is keeping a secret from Lizabeth. He confesses that his Mimi actually owns the house and that he didn't want to tell Lizabeth because he knew she wouldn't come back to a house owned by Creepy Douglas. She quickly forgives him and they resume decorating the room.
|kids egging Loren's house|
In an unfortunate coincidence, Loren's birthday falls on the same day at Sharon's, Lizabeth's snooty friend from the V.I.G.s. Lizabeth chooses to spend the day with Sharon fixing up her basement for Sharon's birthday party and plans to celebrate Loren's birthday the next day. During Sharon's party, the kids decide to take an outing and egg Loren's house. Lizabeth balks at the idea, but doesn't reveal her friendship with the boy. Sharon insists that Lizabeth come along, though Lizabeth gets lucky when they run out of eggs so she never has to throw one.
Loren doesn't show up at the house the next day. Lizabeth assumes it's because he's mad about the eggs, but actually Mimi has had a stroke. Lizabeth tells Sharon, who has been coming to Lizabeth's apartment pool to swim, that she'll be babysitting all day every day so that she can spend more time with Loren until Mimi gets better. Loren reveals that he and Mimi will be moving to his aunt's and uncle's apartment in New York because Mimi needs constant care. Lizabeth is devastated at this news, and Loren seems way too upset to be leaving a place where all his peers treat him like crap. When Sharon calls, having found out Lizabeth hasn't been babysitting, Lizabeth hurts Sharon by saying they were never best friends in the first place.
|Lizabeth and Sharon|
Loren and Lizabeth have a going away party in the house. Lizabeth confesses that she and Sharon have fought because of her friendship with Loren. Loren encourages Lizabeth to make up with Sharon, but not to tell her about him for fear the other kids will gang up on her. Loren explains how he became "Creepy Douglas." His parents died when he was in the fourth grade and a well meaning teacher gave him extra attention, which made the other kids jealous. Three boys started bullying Loren on a daily basis and when they found out he never fights back, the other kids joined in on the tormenting.
At Loren's urging, Lizabeth goes immediately over to Sharon's house while he waits at the house. Sharon accepts Lizabeth's apology and confesses that she only laughed about the summer house because she lives in an old house and doesn't consider it anything special. Sharon tells Lizabeth that she envies her for several reasons. Right when Lizabeth is about to leave to go back to Loren, she invites Sharon to come with her and meet him.
And so the story ends. Sad for Lizabeth, because she lost a great friendship and is stuck with a sub-par one she isn't that excited about. But happy for Loren, whom it is assumed will fare better at his new school in New York.