This book starts with Kristy and Abby packing for a school trip to Washington DC. The trip’s to some national debate competition for middle schools. Even though SMS didn’t have a debate team, some teachers decided to start one for the competition. Kristy and Abby were both picked for the team because they’d done well with some debate unit they did in English. After this I was totally prepared to hate the book because we were going to have to watch Kristy completely isolated from the rest of the BSC (again). But I ended up liking it because it was so ridiculous.
Anyway, Kristy’s rooming with Abby and this girl Melissa, who annoyed Claudia and Abby on a trip to Philadelphia. I totally remember that happening, but I’m not sure which book it was. When they get to the hotel they “run into” this guy Melissa dated at summer camp, and they’re all lovey-dovey with each other. And by run into, I mean got on the debate team specifically so she could see him on this trip. That parts annoying. But the interesting part is that the guy’s friend is Terry Hoyt. Only he tells Kristy that his name’s David Hawthorne and he never lived in Stoneybrook. Which makes sense, because his dad’s in the Secret Service and they were using aliases back then. But Kristy doesn’t know this, so she’s confused and weirded out at how much they look alike.
Amazingly, Kristy ends up assigned to the same debate team as David/Terry. They are walking through the hotel together when David notices someone following them. They start to run and this guy runs after them. He tells David how he’s going to get payback for something his father did, grabs him, and starts dragging him to the parking garage. Kristy manages to run and get a security guard to help and they get David back (but don’t catch the guy). David tells Kristy that he really is/was Terry and explains why he lied. He also asks her not to tell the police about the kidnapper’s payback comment. Kristy agrees, because she always trusts people who just admitted to lying to her. David’s living in DC now, so his father does show up and he hears the whole story about the kidnapping. He wants David to come home, but David refuses to abandon his debate team. His dad agrees to let him stay, but assigns a Secret Service agent to keep an eye on him AND one to watch Kristy (since she was a witness).
Kristy and David’s team does well in the debate and their team moves on to the final round (coincidentally against Abby’s team). The finals are at the Lincoln Memorial so it’s open to the public. After the debate, but before the winners are announced, the kidnapper shows up and seems to go after David again. Mr. Hawthorne’s there and he and this other Secret Service guy catch him. Then we find out Kristy’s team won the debate. Before they leave DC, David takes Kristy and Abby on a tour of his father’s office, which is….the White House. They don’t meet the president or anything though, so it’s not totally ridiculous.
There’s sort of a subplot about Kristy and Abby fighting the whole time, because they were assigned opposite sides of the debate topic (even though they didn’t actually debate each other officially until the end). The topic is the beginning level, so it’s whether cats are better than dogs. In their off time, they keep bickering about it and annoying everyone around them. When they have to debate each other, they each get a bit personal/emotional in their arguments, but get talked down by their teammates between rounds. After that, they talk and Abby admits she’d been feeling left out because Kristy was hanging out with David and their other debate teammate. She had been hoping to spend more time with Kristy. And Kristy apologizes. Then they laugh because they realize even though they’d been arguing pretty passionately about the cats vs. dog thing, they both thought the other person had the better side. For the record Kristy was assigned cats, and Abby was assigned dogs.
- Terry’s one of Stacey’s exes who I totally forgot about when I said almost all her exes were at the party a couple books ago.
- Kristy says that Stacey was closer to Terry than she was and that she thought she had a crush on him. But they were actually dating, so that seems like a weird thing to say.
- Terry gets to use his real name these days because his father has a “regular” post. But he’s still supposed to keep all their family’s’ past identities a secret. And Terry/David tells Kristy his father may not want people knowing some dude is out to get revenge on him. But having the Secret Service watch David after the kidnapping attempt kind of ruins any secrecy there.
- Also, his dad is in the Secret Service, not the CIA. And if it’s now public knowledge that he’s Secret Service, saying someone is looking for revenge isn’t going to give anything away. David wouldn’t have to reveal any past identities.
- The cop who interviews Kristy and David is Officer Michaels. What’s with using that name for cops in these books? That was the same last name as their cop friend in all the mystery books.
- The advanced debate topic is: “U.S. immigration policies contradict American ideals,” and the intermediate is: “Journalists have a right to protect confidential sources of information.” Kristy thinks they both sound hard, but I think they’re a lot easier to debate than whether cats are better than dogs, there’s so much more to say about each side. But I’m not 13. And I don’t like either animal.
- Kristy calls Stacey to ask if she remembers Terry, and Stacey’s all, “oh, yeah, I remember Terry. No idea where he moved to though….” Because she did end up knowing the truth about Terry, but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.
- So, on this trip the girls are allowed to have boys their hotel room as long as it was before lights out (10:00). It seems like an odd rule, since they could fool around in the day time just as easily as they could in the night time. I would think they wouldn’t allow that at all. But maybe I’m getting old and strict.
- Kristy offers David a drink out of their room’s mini-fridge and makes a comment about how Watson warned her to not eat stuff out of the fridge cause it’s so expensive. Which is like what he said on their trip to Disney World. But I guess this means Watson gets the bill for the school trip? Aren’t those things usually pre-paid? My school never had overnight field trips like that so I don’t know how it works. I’m assuming they at least removed the alcohol from all the kids’ fridges though.
- So, Melissa’s in a debate category called “extemporaneous speaking,” where the kids are given a statement and have to defend it by speaking for ten minutes on the spot. Kristy and Abby are both surprised that she’s really good, because they previously thought she was the type of person who said anything to go along with a crowd. I actually think that would make her a good debater, she can go with the flow. Kristy thinks that she and Abby are good debaters because they’re opinionated, but I think that’s only part of being good at debate. In a competition like this, they’re assigned things to argue. Being opinionated can hurt you if your opinion doesn’t line up with what you’re assigned.
- The statement Melissa has to defend is “The chicken came first” (as in, did they chicken or the egg come first). Which made me think of a comic similar to this one that I first saw when I was in college.
- Also, dinosaurs were laying eggs millions of years before chickens existed, so I don't know how anyone could argue that chickens were first. But whatever.
- Kristy and Abby both assume Melissa’s going to throw her debate when she has to go up against her boyfriend, and when they say something to her she’s all offended that they would think that. And she wins, so good for her.
- One night Melissa sneaks her boyfriend in to their hotel room after hours and they all play Scrabble. When their teacher knocks on the door, he hides in a closet and they get away with it. Kristy’s relieved and a little surprised that the Secret Service guy watching her doesn’t tell on them. But hey, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from movies/TV it’s that Secret Service agents cover for Presidents’ affairs. So, I wasn’t really surprised.
- A bunch of middle school kids compete in a debate at the Lincoln Memorial? And tourists stop to watch? Really?
- I can’t believe that an incident happens that leads to Kristy having a Secret Service person watch her and no one bothers to call her parents. They barely take time to tell her teacher. WTF?
- The guy who’s out to get Mr. Hawthorne was caught for computer hacking, but supposedly was freed on a technicality and never did time. So, why the hell is he out for revenge?
- At one point, Kristy, Melissa, and Abby get back from some museum and an agent comes up to them asking if they know where David was. Kristy says she has no idea. But if David’s missing, why wouldn’t they radio the agent watching Kristy and get him to ask her. It’s not the kind of thing that you should wait for.
- Kristy ends up finding David in the hotel lobby. Apparently he just went for a walk and wanted to be alone. Which seems incredibly stupid. Also, kind of mean, since the agent watching him got pulled off duty (and maybe worse) after he lost David. Of course, if a 13-year-old can outsmart a Secret Service guy, he probably SHOULD be taken off duty. Supposedly David said he was taking a nap, and when he looked out the door he saw that the agent had stepped away.
- As part of the trip they all go to some dance performance that gets us a mention of Jessi. It’s a tap dancing performance that Kristy thinks is interesting because it’s athletic dancing and she talks about how Jessi would have loved it. It’s nice to hear her mentioned. It’s also nice to see so much of Abby in this book. I would have preferred more of the other girls too though.
- If the winner of each preliminary debate moves forward, how do they guarantee that the final debate will have one team from each side? They should make the teams switch from one side to another. It’s more challenging.
- I think one reason I enjoyed this book was that even though it has kidnappers in it, we don’t have Kristy actively trying to solve any mystery. The only thing she does is try and look for David when he’s missing. But even then, she’s not looking for the bad guy, she thinks David may have wandered all on his own.
- When they announce the debate winners, the moderator says how they were disappointed to see that Kristy/Abby were showing personal conflict in the debate, but was pleased to see they both calmed down. But he also says this influenced their decision. If both teams did it, how did that influence who won?