-This was always one of my favorite Trixie books growing up. I am not surprised to learn that ghostwriter Nicolete Meredith Stack was originally an Iowegian, because the Iowa sheep farm setting always seemed like it must be someone's personal interest.
- All of a sudden everyone makes a lot of Biblical references. This wouldn't be strange if it weren't the first time that any of them had done so. Well, aside from the characters who are new in this book, and were presumably making Biblical references before the Bob-Whites arrived.
- The Obligatory Romance Subplot is at least handled a little more subtly than in The Mysterious Code. Trixie has obviously internalized the idea that being a tomboy is bad and reproaches herself for it all the time, which makes me sad, but I like that she tries some new things and then decides what she's comfortable with. When a local boy she meets tries to police her from the opposite perspective and says that he was interested in her until she started acting like a girl and makes unfavorable comparisons with Honey and Di, Trixie shuts him right down. Jim, by contrast, affirms her choices and is a much better Obligatory Heterosexual Love interest, even though the scene with the ID bracelet is weirdly possessive and ends the book on a sour note to me.
- Unlike Trixie/Jim, Honey/Brian and Di/Mart are completely implausible pairings and I don't seriously believe they would really date each other.
According to this article examining the Trixie Belden Authorship Question, the unknown ghostwriter who penned this particular volume never contributed any further efforts. Which is probably for the best.
- It's got to suck when you're forced to leave New York City for a small town in the Hudson Valley and then all those hicks you look down on make fun of your cowboy boots.
- Wait, cowboy boots? Yeah, Dan Mangan belongs to a gang called…The Cowhands. They wear cowboy boots and have their gang name painted on the back of their eponymous black jackets. It's pretty embarrassing. To be fair, The Mysterious Visitor's depiction of Skid Row was also pretty embarrassing, so it's not just ghostwriters perpetuating bizarre depictions of the criminal underclass.
- All of a sudden Trixie and Honey have always had penpals in Mexico. And sent them books for their school library. Which subsequently burned in a fire. It's ice carnival time!
- Actually this book reads as though its plot elements were drawn directly from the previous ghostwriter's maiden effort: the gang element, the fundraising event, the one boy in particular who bickers with the Bob-Whites throughout the book. Unlike Tad Williams, however, Dan Mangan gets rushed into full-on club membership, and equally quickly shuffled offstage at the beginning of nearly every subsequent book. I bet the editors really wished they had penciled in a change to the ending of this book.
First of all, this book is really poorly titled; a more accurate version would be Friends with Your Siblings, or, even more accurate but completely unwieldy Friends with Your Siblings and Also New People Whose Only Friends are Their Siblings. (I can see why they didn't go with that one.) All the strengths (and weaknesses) of the book stem from its use of semi-autobiographical detail, and pitching it so broadly with such a generic title just sets up expectations that won't be met for a lot of readers.
Unlike many of those readers, who don't believe that such a thing is plausible, I was also homeschooled until I entered public high school! This is actually pretty common among homeschoolers who do it for reasons other than to hermetically seal their children from a sinful world; high school is when having specialist teachers for upper-level subjects outweighs the benefits of individual attention and personalized curriculum for your average homeschooled kid. I really liked the bits about Maggie being at a new school and new to school, especially her hand-drawn and annotated maps of the school building. It's always great when people say your actual life experiences are unrealistic! What they probably mean, and what I don't entirely disagree with, is that the author doesn't always sell you on those details in a believable way.
Contre the title, Maggie only makes friends with one boy at her new school, and it's a boy who has unresolved history with Maggie's oldest brother and whose only other friend is his own little sister. The importance of your siblings as your primary social circle is at the core of the book, and it's very sweet.