When Mary Anne is woken up in the middle of the night by her cat, Tigger, she immediately knows something's wrong. Then she smells the smoke … and hears her father yelling her name. Mary Anne's house is on fire – and she makes it out right before everything burns down.
Now Mary Anne doesn't know what to do. All of her possessions are … gone. Her house is … destroyed. Will Mary Anne be able to get her old life back? Will her family move away from Stoneybrook … for good?
Early one morning, Tigger wakes Mary Anne up. At first, she can't figure out why. Then, she hears the smoke alarms, and her dad yelling for her. Their house is on fire! The place is totally filled with smoke, but everyone (including Tigger) makes it outside safely. Sharon managed to grab the cordless phone on her way out, and she's already called for help. The firefighters get there quickly, but all the family can do is watch their house and everything in it go up in flames. Pretty soon, the neighbors start arriving. Stacey tries to get Mary Anne to go home with her so she doesn't have to stand their watching the fire, but Mary Anne doesn't want to leave. She's sort of frozen in place...and she can't cry. Eventually, Sharon starts making calls to everyone who needs to know about the fire. Many of them want to talk to Mary Anne, but she refuses until Dawn is the one asking. She'll be heading to Connecticut as soon as possible to be with the family.
Eventually, the Thomases and Brewers show up with an invitation to stay at their house until other arrangements can be made. Richard, Sharon, and Mary Anne accept, and Mary Anne heads there for some rest while Richard and Sharon start searching through the rubble for anything salvageable. After her nap, Mary Anne heads back where her house used to be. They've managed to find a few things, including Sharon's wedding ring, but most of their stuff is gone. Mary Anne still can't cry, though...even when Dawn finally arrives and is crying herself.
Things at the Thomas-Brewer house are a little overwhelming for the Spiers and Schafers. They even have to resort to sneaking out to the kids' playhouse in the backyard in order to have a family meeting about what to do next. Richard wants them to see the fire as an opportunity to start a new life. In fact, he wants them to start a REALLY new life...in Philadelphia. He's been offered a great job there, and Sharon wants to go back to school. She'd have her pick of schools in Philly. Mary Anne is in shock; she's lived in Stoneybrook all her life, and she doesn't particularly want to leave.
One night, Mary Anne wakes up and can't get back to sleep. She sneaks out of the Thomas-Brewer mansion, borrows Kristy's bike, and rides over to where her house was. She goes into the barn, which is where they've been storing everything that might be able to be saved. Mary Anne starts to feel really, really alone, and that's when she finally starts crying about everything. Dawn finds her, and they have a nice cry together.
Subplot: The BSC enters themselves in a baby-sitter of the year contest hosted by Teenzine Magazine. Clients went around and got testimonies from each other to submit as per the contest rules. When the BSC doesn't submit the entry on time because of the fire, the clients do it for them.
Ann M. Martin's Dear Reader Letter
If you have just finished reading this book, then you know about the big change in Mary Anne Spier’s life that may be one of the biggest crises any of the BSC members has ever faced. Mary Anne doesn’t know where her family is going to live, or even if they’re going to stay in Stoneybrook. Her life is going to change ... and so is the Baby-sitters Club.
Next month will mark the start of the BSC Friends Forever series. The BSC is going to get a whole new look — and a lot of big things are going to happen. I don’t want to give away any of the surprises, so keep an eye out for the BSC Friends Forever Special: Everything Changes, followed by BSC Friends Forever #1: Kristy's Big News. I’m very excited about the new changes and hope you will be too!