Welcome to Wacko Jr. High: Betsy Haynes’s The Fabulous Five

Please note: This review is a part of my countdown to the release of Gabrielle Moss’s book, Paperback Crush (out in October from Quirk books). This countdown is a great chance for me to relive some of my youth and get all the nostalgia feels. 

I have a confession to make: when I was a young girl, The Fabulous Five by Betsy Haynes was not a series that I read a lot of. I did read some – back then, it seemed that girls read everything and anything – but I didn’t particularly like them and they definitely aren’t memorable. In my opinion, the series is just an attempt to cash in on the fame and success of The Babysitters Club.

Of course, making the claim that The Fabulous Five was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of The Babysitters club is problematic.

Some backstory: The Fabulous Five recounts the adventures of five girls (and the surrounding students at their school that make reoccurring appearances) that are reformed bullies. In the previous decade, the girls had been the antagonists in Betsy Haynes’s Taffy Sinclair books. Ignoring that almost 15 years has passed since the events of Taffy Sinclair, the girls are now moving on from their years in elementary school tormenting classmates. These girls are now in seventh grade.

The first book in The Fabulous Five is called Seventh Grade Rumors. Overall, the series includes 31 book (including some super editions). In a mere 119 pages, the first book manages to introduce the reader to the main characters and pack in a lot of teenage drama. There is friend drama, and bully drama, and family drama, and boy drama. It is kind of hard to pick a plot to start with.

Friend Drama

The Fabulous Five is a club of girls (reformed bullies) that take their friendship very seriously. They even have meetings. When I was a kid, this was just called “hanging out” but what do I know? Anyway, the book starts with the girls and their ridiculous fantasies about how great seventh grade will be and how popular they will be because they were popular at their elementary school. The girls share gossip about the popular kids that will be going to junior high from other elementary schools. Gossip, at least in this book, seems to be the preferred mode of information gathering.

The girls that make up the Fabulous Five each have very distinct personalities:

  • Jana Morgan – the designated leader. Seventh Grade Rumors is told from her point of view. The lead bully in the previous Taffy Sinclair series.
  • Christie Winchell – the smart one of the group. Also, tall and athletic. She is the “quiet and caring” member of the group
  • Beth Barry – the attention-seeker and dramatic actress of the group
  • Melanie Edwards – the red-haired romantic who believes everything she hears.
  • Katie Shannon – described by Jana as a “pint-sized feminist, announcing her views to anyone that would listen”

On the surface, these girls literally have nothing in common other than the fact they bullied the same girl and have known each other since kindergarten.

The friend drama makes up the major plot of the book, as Jana makes friends with one of the members of a rival group of girls that call themselves the Fantastic Four. This new friend seems nice and her nickname is so weird (Funny Hawthrone) that it is hard to take this seriously as an adult reader.

Bully Drama

Funny Hawthrone is the best friend of Laura McCall, the snobby girl from another elementary school and the leader of the Fantastic Four. Laura is snobby and rude, and kind of a bully. She doesn’t really do much though, just spread some rumors that Jana doesn’t want to be a part of the Fabulous Five anymore. Oh, and Laura tries to steal Jana’s boyfriend. It totally backfires.

Family Drama

The heart of this book is the plot that involves Beth. Early in the book, Beth starts to withdraw from the group and is often found crying by the fence outside school. Jana tries to find out why it seems that Beth doesn’t want to be friends with the Fabolous Five anymore and Beth refuses to tell her. Beth is seemingly rude and mean for no reason that the girls can figure out. Beth eventually runs away, and Jana organizes a search party to find her. Once Beth is found, she reveals that her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and feels guilty for some of the bad things that she said to her mom before she got the news. Jana and the group convince her that this isn’t her fault and Beth is reunited with her mother. The group reunites too, and the first couple weeks of seventh grade have come to a close.

 

I’m not even going to get into the boy drama because it just involves a lot of painfully awkward junior high flirting and kissing talk. Ew.