Saturday, January 31, 2015

“I’m not very good at guy things”……..California Diaries # 15: Ducky Diary Three

Recap
It’s summer and Ducky’s spending his time working at Sunny’s dad’s bookstore and hanging out with Sunny.  They’re getting along well, but Ducky starts to think Sunny’s acting weird/different.  He can’t figure it out, but then Brandan (Amalia’s boyfriend) asks him if they’re dating. Ducky laughs it off, but then realizes that maybe that explains these looks Sunny has been giving him.  Sunny asks Ducky to go to the movies, and says they shouldn’t invite anyone else.  At the end of the evening, Sunny kisses him, and Ducky completely freezes.  Sunny goes home and Ducky freaks out for the rest of the book. 

It turns out that it was Ducky’s first kiss, and while he really likes Sunny as a friend, he just wasn’t into kissing her.  Sunny tries to act like it was no big deal, but Ducky can tell she’s hurt and things get a little weird between them.  Ducky tries talking to his brother and then Brandan about the situation and they’re both like, “if you aren’t attracted to her don’t force it,” but Ducky still feels really guilty about it.  He talks to Dawn too, who says it’s too bad, but that she thinks Sunny will get over it and they’ll be friends again.

Eventually Ducky does talk to Sunny and she tells him she wishes she could unkiss him because she hates how he looks scared every time he looks at her now.  Ducky says he was just worried about hurting her feelings and he thinks they’re meant to be best friends.  And it looks like Sunny’s okay with that and they’re on track to get back to how things were.

Meanwhile Maggie has been having a rough time because of her mom’s drinking.  Her dad’s out of town for work, and one night Maggie calls Ducky late and asks him to come pick her up.  So, Ducky does and when he gets there he hears Mrs. Blume screaming and smashing things inside, and so he takes Maggie and her little brother back to his place.  The next day Maggie calls her dad and insists he come deal with things.  He actually does, and arranges an intervention for Mrs. Blume, which ends with her going to rehab.  Now her mother’s issues are one thing I don’t blame Maggie for complaining about, so I guess it’s nice that progress was made.  But I’m sure Maggie will find something new to complain about that’s annoying.

The book ends with Ducky having an end of summer party at his place with the girls and Brandan and they all seem really happy.  So, I guess that’s a nice way to end the series.

High/Lowlights
  • Ducky says how it’s weird that he’s a 16-year-old boy who likes shopping.  He mentions how he didn’t intend to go shopping, just hang out at the mall, but Sunny dragged him into stores.  But isn’t hanging out at the mall basically shopping anyway?
  • Ducky thinks there’s no right way to answer the question, “Do I look fat?”  I’m pretty sure there’s always a right way to answer that. “No.” Always say, “No, you don’t look fat.”  I’m sure women ask plenty of questions with no good answer, but asking about fatness isn’t one of them.
  • Brandan and Ducky seem to be developing a friendship, which is nice because Ducky was previously upset about losing his childhood male friends, one who turned into a douche and one who tried to kill himself (and who’s still off in whatever hospital he went to in Ducky’s last book). 
  • When having lunch with Brandan, Ducky thinks they should be talking about sports (because that’s what guys do), so he asks about the WNBA.  It makes me wonder if he knew he was asking about a womens’ league because it seems like a weird thing to talk about when trying to be manly.  But luckily Brandan’s not into sports either.
  • Sunny apparently dreams of finding a retro bowling shirt with her name on it.   That’s a sad dream.  I guess it must be annoying to have a rare name and never be able to find stuff like that, but as someone with a very common name, it’s also annoying to always need to include your last name as an identifier.
  • Sunny does find a retro gym shirt, but the name on it says “Elaine.” She wears it anyway.  I’m not sure what a “gym shirt” is but I’m guessing it’s ugly.
  • Ducky wonders if his brother Ted went to school to be an obnoxious big brother.  I’m pretty sure that obnoxiousness is just an ingrained trait of being an older brother.  Ted’s a lot nicer than my brother ever was.
  • Maggie and her brother Zeke don’t understand why their father’s always away and think they should matter more than his movies.  But I have to say, I never got the sense that Mr. Blume was an absentee father, more that he always wanted his kids to do exactly what he wanted. 
  • But speaking of actual absentee parents, Ducky’s parents are still off somewhere for work and haven’t been around for months. They still call a lot, and once mention that they’re thinking of a cooking class vacation.  Now, I don’t mean to judge, but if I had a job that kept me away from my family for 11 months of the year, I might use my vacation to see my kids.  I mean, I don’t have kids so I can’t be sure, but I like to think I’d be a decent person like that.
  • Ducky and Brandan’s friendship means we get a bit of an update on the Amalia/Brandan relationship.  Amalia has been distant since Brandan got back from camp, and he’s worried about it.  It turns out to be because she thinks he’s too good for her, and Ducky helps her see that isn’t the case, and things seem to get better for them.
  • I really wish this wasn’t the last book, because I’d really like to hear Sunny’s side of the story about her kiss with Ducky.
  • There’s surprisingly little Dawn in this book, considering it’s the last one and she was the person who started the spinoff.  At the beginning she’s back in Stoneybrook, but she returns pretty early in the story.  There’s only one really decent scene with her and that’s when she’s talking to Ducky about Sunny. But I’d like to have heard more of her perspective on things too.
So….this is the last California Diaries book, and I was planning on ending my reviews, mainly because I have no time anymore.  But it just doesn’t feel right, so I am going to try and recap the BSC TV series.  I think it will actually be more fun because I watched most of those episodes back when I was a kid, so I’ll be able to go back to doing memory reactions versus current reactions.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

“I forgot who I was on that Friday outside the cineplex”…..California Diaries # 14: Amalia Diary Three

Recap
It’s approaching the end of the school year and Amalia’s feeling a bit pressured.  She’s trying to study for finals, thinking about a summer job, and is working with her sister to plan a surprise anniversary party for their parents.   She also has the painful job of being Maggie’s friend, and having to listen to her complain about her poor little rich girl life.  Maggie spends a lot of time at Amalia’s house to get away from her fighting parents, and it starts to get on Amalia’s nerves.

Amalia’s out on a date with this guy Brandan, whom she met in her last book.  After the movie they are waiting outside for Amalia’s sister to pick them up.  The sister’s late, and the theater’s locking up for the night, when Brandan runs back in to use the bathroom.  The usher offers to let Amalia wait inside, but she says she’ll wait out front.  It’s late so not many people are around when a group of teenage girls walk up and start making racist comments to Amalia for being Latina.  They start pushing her around and one girl actually spits in her face before the usher comes outside and breaks things up.  Then Brandan comes back and her sister shows up and they hear what happens.  Everyone is appropriately concerned.

Anyway, Amalia deals with this for the rest of the book.  She doesn’t want to call the police even though others encourage her.  But she is pretty miserable for awhile.  Her sister tells her about a similar event that happened to her before they moved to Palo Alto and how she regrets not telling anyone about it at the time.  This helps Amalia see that she still has her dignity and that no one can take that from her. She even sees one of the girls who attacked her on the beach one day, and is fine with it and continues enjoying her day.

Amalia and Maggie also get into a fight because Maggie’s father offered both girls summer jobs working on some movie set and Maggie thinks this is just awful of him.  Amalia’s all “WTF, I’d take that job” and it leads to a bigger fight.  But they make up at the end.  However, Amalia acknowledges that they still have some differences that they don’t understand about each other.  Mainly that Maggie thinks her rich white girl problems are worse than any stress Amalia will ever deal with.

At the end, Amalia does well enough on her finals, cements her relationship with Brandan, and has a great time at her parents’ anniversary party.

High/Lowlights
  • Amalia has the worst luck.  First she dates an abusive guy then she gets beat up and spit on by a bunch of racist girls?  I think she ranks right below Sunny in terms of problems the people in this series deal with.
  • Brandan’s going to camp for most of the summer, in Massachusetts.  He grew up in NJ and has gone to the camp every year and is going to be a CIT.  For some reason I was hoping they would reveal the name of the camp was Camp Mohawk (even though I can’t remember what state that was in).
  • I forgot that Amalia’s diaries have all these annoying cartoon-y drawing to illustrate things that are happening instead of just writing everything.  They are more annoying than Maggie’s “poetry” because with those poems, you can skip them and still get the story.  But Amalia’s cartoons explain key events.  And she kind of sucks as an artist.
  • I mentioned this in the book where he was introduced, but Brandan’s from Short Hills, NJ, which is like two towns over from where I grew up.  That makes me smile for some reason. 
  • It’s a plot device to make Maggie and Amalia fight, but I kind of can’t believe that a movie producer would just hire 13-year-old girls to work on set.  There are strict laws about child actors, so why would they want to hire more kids? Especially when they can use college students as “interns” to get totally free labor.
  • So right after the incident with the racist girls Amalia’s annoyed with Brandan for taking so long inside and leaving her alone.  But afterwards she’s surprised to hear Brandan has been blaming himself for what happened.  I guess the initial reaction was just her first irrational thought and later she’s seeing it more objectively?
  • The story Amalia’s sister tells about what happened to her isn’t nearly as bad as what happened to Amalia.  It was really just that the sister’s ex-boyfriend was joking around with some other girls about how he was on “vacation from white girls” until she moved.  Which is a really crappy thing to say, but it’s not physical or anything.
  • I can’t believe Maggie has the nerve to tell a girl who got hit by random girls on the street she doesn’t have problems as bad as an eating disorder and a dysfunctional family.  I wouldn’t even call Maggie’s family that dysfunctional.
  • Maggie insists that her limo driver always pick her up around the corner from school so she doesn’t have to get seen being rich.  As though everyone in that school doesn’t already know who her dad is.
  • There’s also a subplot about how Sunny and Ducky are planning a going away party for Dawn (who’s going back to Stoneybrook for the summer).  But their surprise plans keep getting leaked to Dawn before they can carry them out.  In the end they just kidnap her and take her to the beach.
  • At the beginning of the book they are talking about the party as a going away thing, but at the end Amalia starts talking about Dawn’s birthday present.  So, that’s a weird continuity mistake I think.  Like they forgot what they were doing by the end of the book (or like two different people wrote it).
  • Amalia’s annoyed because her English teacher tells her that their final exam’s going to be essay questions selected at random from everything they did that year.  And Amalia doesn’t like that it means she has to know everything.  I guess I’m old, because I just thought that was the whole point of a final.
  • I guess Maggie has been making progress with her therapist because after finals she thinks she aced all of them, rather than assuming she failed only to get a 98 like she used to do.  But I still wish there wasn’t so much Maggie in all of Amalia’s books.
  • Amalia’s nervous about failing her tests and having to repeat 8th grade. I guess she’s new to this never aging thing in the BSC-verse.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

“How can I complain about anything when I have so much”….California Diaries # 13: Maggie Diary Three

Recap
Maggie has the most annoying problems ever.  Her father’s producing a new movie, a teen romance starring the hottest teen heartthrob of the moment, Tyler Kendall.  He makes Maggie go to some party with the cast of the movie where she’s surprised to find she actually likes Tyler.  He invites her to come visit the movie set, and then to have dinner with him.  Some paparazzi takes a picture of them so all her friends and others at school keep trying to talk to her about him. 

At the party where she met Tyler, her father told people on the crew that Maggie was a musician and gave a tape of her band to his assistant director.  She loves it and decides to use Maggie’s band in the film in a scene where the main characters are dancing/hanging out/falling in love.  Maggie also gets to have all her friends be extras in that scene.  Then she acts all annoyed that people at school keep talking to her like it’s a big deal to be in a movie.   She figures it will be a really short scene and people shouldn’t be excited about it. 

Anyway, Maggie angsts about dating a movie star because she can’t tell if he really likes her and doesn’t like that reporters are following Tyler around.  She also doesn’t like seeing Tyler and his costar act like they’re in love for the movie, even though she knows they’re just acting.  Later, Maggie has some party and he shows up really late because filming went long and she’s annoyed about that.  But she decides she really does like Tyler and that he isn’t a typical shallow movie star.
 
High/Lowlights
  • Maggie’s father gives her a “Handy palm” computer, which I guess is the BSC version of a Palm Pilot.  She all embarrassed at the idea of taking it to school and using it in front of her friends.  What an awful problem to have.  Seriously, she has such a rough life.
  • We also see Maggie angst because that Justin guy she used tolike is dating someone else.  That could actually be a relatable problem, but she annoys me so much in the rest of the book I don’t care.
  • Maggie gets embarrassed because she’s the only one of her friends who can afford to shop at some expensive store.  But she was the one that brought up going there and she’s totally cool with the salesperson catering to her after she realizes who she is and how much money Maggie’s mother spends there.
  • The first time Maggie visits Tyler on set, his manager thinks she’s a fan and tries to keep her from Tyler, so she says who her father is.  Then she says she’s never name-dropped him like that before.  Even though earlier she was perfectly fine with Sunny telling the salesperson at the expensive store who she was.
  • I like Maggie’s therapist.  Early on she tells Maggie that liking a movie star doesn’t make a person shallow and that movie stars aren’t necessarily bad.  Maggie doesn’t seem to believe her though.
  • Maggie’s band playing in the movie means we also get to hear her be all nervous about how she’s a crappy singer despite how often people say how great she is.
  • Maggie’s mother tells her she’s crazy to date any Hollywood person, and Maggie whines about her being an alcoholic.  Okay, I’ll give her that an alcoholic mother’s a legitimate problem.
  • But don’t complain about the advice when Maggie herself would normally say the same thing.
  • Jill’s one of the people at school super-excited about Tyler, so Maggie’s nice and includes her as an extra in the movie.
  • At Maggie’s party she gets out ice cream bars and everyone’s super into eating them.  Even Dawn and Sunny.  I guess we really are supposed to forget that they were all into health food before?
  • Maggie decides she’s all in with Tyler after she learns he wants to be a veterinarian someday.  Because I guess the fact that he doesn’t want to be an actor forever makes him a better person?  Maggie’s pretty judgmental like that.
  • Does anyone watch the show Scorpion? It’s about this super-genius that helps solve crimes/help the government with stuff.  I mention it because in the show’s weekly intro, the main character says how his IQ is 197, the 4th highest ever recorded.  Every time I hear it, I think how Janine Kishi’s IQ was 196, so does that make her the 5th highest ever recorded? If so, why do people think it’s so great she takes community college classes? The Scorpion guy was hacking into NASA at age 11.  Maybe that’s what Janine was secretly doing on her computer all the time?


Sunday, November 23, 2014

“I guess I’ll just have to take things as they come”…..California Diaries # 12: Sunny Diary Three

Recap
This book’s kind of a downer, as I expected.  Sunny’s mom’s dying. We know this, because her cancer has been discussed in every single book in the diaries series, but now she’s days away from death.  Sunny, her dad, and her Aunt Morgan (her mom’s sister) are sitting in the house with her mom just waiting for the death to finally happen.  A bunch of people come by to say their good-byes and everyone keeps crying.  Sunny gets annoyed that people keep showing up when she just wants to be left alone with her grief.

It’s actually pretty well-written and I feel for Sunny.  I may have teared up at one point.  She writes a lot of details about how her mom’s doing and alternates between doing that and writing about how she must be a horrible person for not handling all this better.   She’s a mess, but I find her sympathetic.  There’s not a whole lot to snark about when the entire book’s a chronicle of someone’s death.

Anyway before she dies, Mrs. Winslow says her good-byes to Sunny and gives her the journals she kept for years as a teen/adult.  She tells Sunny and her dad to take care of each other, and tells Dawn and Sunny (who are now friends again) to take care of each other.  There’s lots of crying. Afterwards, Sunny really just wants to be left alone or with her friends.  She calls Dawn, Ducky, Maggie, and Amalia her “cocoon” because she thinks they’re protecting her.  A few days after the funeral Sunny, Mr. Winslow, Aunt Morgan, and Dawn go to the beach where the Winslows got married and spread Mrs. Winslow’s ashes.  Sunny starts going back to school and actually trying to catch up on the work she’s been blowing off for 12 books.  She still writes about how much she misses her mom though, cause that kind of angst doesn’t go away easily.

High/Lowlights
  • Since Sunny’s home during the day she watches some trashy talk show about people in a situation where a woman is married to her ex-husband’s brother.  Sounds like fun. I remember being home sick as a teenager and watching trashy talk shows. 
  • Sunny and Ducky do make up for their fight from the concertin the last book.  Sunny says she didn’t mean what she said and was just trying to convince Ducky to drive them home.  She apologizes and Ducky accepts, and then he shows up a lot to be there for Sunny.
  • I think there are a couple pages missing from the book I have.  It’s hard to tell because these books are annoying and don’t have page numbers, but there is a jump in the action. One page ends with Mr. Winslow asking Sunny to pick out flower arrangements for the funeral and the next one starts with Sunny in the middle of a conversation with Carol about how it’s okay if she wants to be alone sometimes. 
  • After Mrs. Winslow dies, Dawn, Ducky, Maggie, and Amalia are all at Sunny’s house.  Sunny wonders when the last time the five of them were together outside of school.  She thinks it was when they met Ducky at that party. But that means they’ve never all been together as a group outside of school? Some friendship. (Although, I’m pretty sure that isn’t really the case, because I think they were all together at some other party in an earlier book).
  • Sunny also refers to the night they met Ducky as being “months ago,” but since that was in the fall and we have gone through a summer, two Christmases and are now in March, it should be a year-and-a-half ago. 
  • Sunny worries that she’s missed so much school this year she’ll have to repeat 8th grade.  She hasn’t seemed worried the other 10 times she’s had to go through 8th grade, why does it matter now?
  • Dawn and Sunny remember a time when they were little and Mrs. Winslow took them downtown where they left pennies face-up for people to find and have good luck.  My first thought was that I would never even bother bending down to pick up a penny.  My second thought was that it seems nice, but also a little cliché to make Mrs. Winslow this wonderfully giving person.
  • We get a Jill mention.  She apparently saw Sunny at school and asked if she misses her mom.  Which…..is a really dumb question for someone who’s mom just died.  I thought these girls were too hard on Jill before, but maybe I was wrong.
  • Sunny reads her mother’s journals.  Some interesting facts about Mrs. Winslow:
    • She dressed up as a hippie for Halloween.  I’m pretty sure she was a hippie so this seems like a lame costume.  It’s like when I was a little kid and my father told me he was dressing up as “a dad” for Halloween.
    • She had some big fight with her parents about something in high school and Sunny’s not really sure what.
    • She was a cheerleader in high school and in the Young Republicans.  This surprises Sunny, but we later find out that was just to please her parents.
    • Her parents pretty much disowned her when she decided to go to UCLA instead of Townsend for college.  She didn’t talk to her sister for years either, but those two made up in time for Mrs. Winslow’s wedding.  She never made up with Sunny’s grandparents because they died in a car crash before Sunny was born.
  • I’m surprised Dawn went along when they spread the ashes. It seemed like it was a family only thing, and I would have felt weird intruding on something like that for one of my friends.  But Sunny does seem to want her around for comfort, so I guess it makes sense.
  • Sunny’s surprised to learn that her father proposed to her mother, she didn’t think they were that traditional.  But, someone has to propose. What did she think they just woke up one day and got married without thinking about it?
  • Sunny decides she will never go back and read the journal pages from this time period.  She was going to get a whole new book, but decided it would waste too much paper. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

“But it’s so uncomfortable being with her”……California Diaries # 11: Dawn Diary Three

Recap
Dawn’s kind of bored with how things are going in her life, and is missing being close with Sunny.  But she’s still pissed at Sunny for how she’s handling her mom’s cancer.  Because Dawn is super-judgmental and insensitive. Mrs. Winslow’s in and out of the hospital throughout the book and doing pretty badly.  Dawn keeps visiting her and is understandably upset at how she looks. 

There’s an upcoming concert for some band called Jax, and Dawn’s completely obsessed with the lead singer Pierre X.  She and Amalia try and get tickets, even though the concert’s going to be at 11:00 at night at some club and Dawn doesn’t know if she’ll be allowed to go.  However, they don’t get tickets because the group is the hot new thing and the concert sells out.  Dawn’s upset, but it turns out Ducky was able to get 4 tickets.  He wants to take Dawn, Amalia, and Sunny.  Dawn’s thrilled until she realizes she’ll be spending the evening with Sunny.  She tries to get Ducky to un-invite Sunny or find her another ride.  But Ducky just tells her to get over it and make up with Sunny already.  Thank you Ducky.

Dawn does try to talk to Sunny, but Sunny’s kind of a bitch about it and won’t talk to her.  We finds out that Mrs. Winslow has decided to stop getting chemo, since it’s not helping.  Dawn tries to talk to Sunny again after this, but Sunny says she doesn't want to talk about it.  Carol tells Dawn that Sunny’s handling her mom’s cancer in her own way and Dawn shouldn’t judge.  Carol also thinks that Sunny is pushing people away because she doesn't want to feel the pain of losing them the way she’s losing her mother.

Dawn needs to beg her dad and Carol to let her go to the concert.  They’re understandably nervous about Ducky driving them so late at night and worried there may be alcohol around at the concert.  But they agree to let her go.  Once they get to the concert, they run into a friend of Ducky’s brother who offers to get them drinks.  Sunny jumps at the chance for this, but the others just ask for sodas/seltzer.  The friend insists on getting Ducky a real drink though, and then later gets them several rounds of shots.  So, after the concert Ducky’s still a little drunk and also claims to be tired from dancing too much.  Dawn gets him to admit he isn’t up to driving, then she calls her dad to come pick them up.  However, Sunny refuses to be picked up and lectured at and decides to take the bus.  She wants Amalia and Ducky to go with her, but they don’t want to leave Dawn alone while she waits for Mr. Schafer.   In the end, Amalia goes with Sunny on the bus and Ducky goes home with Dawn.  Sunny’s super pissed at both of them.

Later, Mrs. Winslow comes home from the hospital for the last time.  They’re going to get around the clock nursing care to help make her feel comfortable at home.  So, it’s basically a matter of waiting for her to die.  Which sucks, obviously.  Dawn and the others decide to be there for Sunny despite her recent behavior, but can’t find her at school.  Later, Dawn sees Sunny in her yard.  They talk and pretty much make up.  The next book’s Sunny’s, so I assume this is when Mrs. Winslow will die.

High/Lowlights
  • In this book Sunny lives next door to Dawn, but I’m pretty sure in the past she lived several houses down the street. It seems to be for plot convenience, so they can have them interact more despite the fight.
  • I know people dislike Dawn, but I was really excited to get to a Dawn book.  Dawn and Sunny drama is way more interesting than any of the other characters.
  • When Dawn kisses Mrs. Winslow good-bye, she says a tiny part of her always wonders if she can catch cancer (even though she knows she can’t).  It sounds silly,  but I thought the same thing when I was seven and my friend’s brother had leukemia.  But, you know, seven is a lot younger than 13.
  • While Ducky’s visiting Dawn, Carol starts to breastfeed Gracie in front of them.  And Dawn says how Ducky didn’t bat an eye or even look.  I think this confirms some things that have been said about Ducky.
  • Carol’s telling Dawn how she shouldn’t judge Sunny because she isn’t in the same situation as her.  And Dawn’s says she’s in the same situation because she cares about Mrs. Winslow too. But Carol’s all, no.
  • The book starts on Groundhog Day, and Dawn wonders in her journal why seeing a shadow means a longer winter, since seeing a shadow means it’s sunny.  I’ve always wondered that myself.
  • Sunny makes fun of Dawn, because Mr. Schafer insisted on talking to Ducky about the concert and made Dawn call him when they get to the club and when they were leaving at the end of the night.  But this seems pretty reasonable for a parent of a 13-year-old.
  • Ducky’s angsting about whether tried to Alex kill himself because he wasn’t a good enough friend, and Dawn tells him he’s being self-centered.  Which is actually pretty decent advice and one of the better things Dawn does in the book. Alex clearly had much deeper issues.  It also makes Ducky laugh.
  • When Carol gives Dawn the advice about Sunny trying to push people away, Dawn says “she needs a shrink.” I can’t tell if she means that nicely or not, but I thought it was funny that Carol’s response was that Sunny probably should see a therapist.  Way to state the obvious.
  • Dawn mentions how if she was in Stoneybrook she’d be busier because she has more close friends.  But it was her choice to move, so she should stop bitching about that.
  • Dawn and Maggie go to some square to go shopping, and go to a tea shop to eat.  Dawn says you can get a lot of things other than tea there and she doesn’t just mean food.  My first reaction was that she meant some kind of drugs, because I can’t figure out what else that could mean.
  • Dawn also says she considers dying her hair black.  That seems out of character for her.
  • Maggie had never heard of the band before Dawn brought up the concert, so don’t feel bad that Ducky didn’t invite her to the concert (even though Ducky did feel bad).  He could only get four tickets though.  However, if Maggie’s so into music I think she would have heard of the new popular band everyone loved.  She might not like them, but she would have heard of them.  Even Jeff had heard of them and thought Dawn was lucky to be going.
  • This singer, Pierre X, plays a song about a guy who cheats on his girlfriend because he’s in love with two people.  And by the time he realizes he loves the first one more, she finds out about the cheating and ends it.  Dawn’s reaction to this is that she wouldn’t have broken up with him.  What happened to her independent feminist side?
  • Dawn tells her dad Ducky can’t drive them home because he’s so “tired.”  Mr. Schafer’s not an idiot though, he knows Ducky was drinking and lectures him on it.  He even brings a bucket in the car in case Ducky gets sick.
  • It’s really kind of uncool of Ducky to get trashed when he’s with three other people who can’t drive and are dependent on him to get back to town. 
  • Dawn has lots of really lame fantasies about this Pierre X dude.  They involve buying produce, drinking coffee, and “going steady.”
  • When Dawn finds out about Mrs. Winslow at the end, she says she never thought she would actually die, even after she stopped chemo.  Which, really? Talk about denial.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

“I’m not sure I’m up to being Good Old Ducky just yet”…….California Diaries # 10: Ducky Diary Two

Recap
Ducky’s parents come home from their trip to Ghana, which he has some mixed feelings about.  He’s annoyed because them being home kind of puts a cramp in his and his brother’s style.  He’s expected to be home for dinner and say where he’s going and keep the house in better shape.  But, he also obviously cares about his parents and feels rejected that they keep abandoning him to go travel the world.  Then his parents call a family meeting to tell Ducky and his brother they are going back to Ghana.  And even though Ducky had been complaining about his parents this whole time, he’s pretty heartbroken that they’re leaving, especially since it’s right before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Ducky’s still really worried about his friendAlex. Alex is still withdrawn and is skipping school, not caring about anything, and drinking.  Ducky keeps trying to help by making sure Alex gets out of the house and checking on him.  But, Alex usually gets annoyed at Ducky constantly trying to help.  It all comes to a head one night when Ducky stops by Alex’s house.  At first he thinks no one’s home, but right before he leaves he hears a car running in the garage.  He opens it (with a key hidden under a doormat) and finds Alex in the car trying to kill himself.  He pulls him out and calls 911.  They arrive the same time as Alex’s mother and they end up at the hospital.  Alex is okay, but once everyone realizes just how bad his depression is, his mother decides to send Alex to a rehab facility in Chicago.  Ducky gets to see Alex before he leaves, and Alex seems to acknowledge that he needs the help he’ll be getting, and is grateful for what Ducky did.  It’s kind of sad though.

High/Lowlights
  • Ducky refers to Dawn, Sunny, Maggie, and Amalia as being only 13, so I guess they are in fact in 8th grade again.  Not really surprising.
  • We get much less of Jay, Ducky’s other childhood friend, then we did in his last book.  Ducky seems pretty done with him as a friend and doesn’t seem to care as much about that.
  • Sunny’s advice to Ducky about Alex is to bring him to Venice Beach.  It’s an interesting theory.  She argues that sunlight helps depressed people. 
  • Ducky tells one of his teachers (the one who’s house everyone trashed in the first book) about how Alex hasn’t always cut class and gotten bad grades and all that.  The teacher advises him to not give up on helping Alex.  I know he was trying to help, but it seems like it would be better to go to Alex's mother than a teacher.
  • Ducky’s parents offer to not go off to Ghana after what happens with Alex.  Apparently they realize their kid’s dealing with some difficult issues and may actually need parents around.  Ducky considers it, but then decides to tell them to go.
  • Ducky’s parents come home on December 1, and don’t even bother waiting until after Christmas to leave their kids again.  Granted one of them is over 18, but it’s still pretty cold.  They’re just like, “Oh, your grandparents would love to have you over for Christmas.”  They were just away since before the series started, which is more than a year even if he hasn’t moved up a grade in school.
  • Ducky complains that his parents want to have family time and do things like take them to Disney Land and have family dinners.  Then they ask to have a family meeting and I knew right away they were going to leave again.  Ducky was shocked by it though.
  • Ducky thinks he’s too old for Disney Land, but I’m way older than him and am sure I’d have fun there.  Maybe I’m immature.
  • I get that Alex has some serious issues, but it seems kind of odd to send your suicidal son halfway across the country for help.  Do they really not have any facilities in LA to help with this sort of thing?  Or do they only do drug rehab for actors?
  • Alex’s mother talks about how they’ve all missed some major signs about how depressed he was.  But the guy was in therapy.  So, what the hell kind of doctor missed this? I mean, Ducky has been worried about him since before his last book, did the kid’s mother really not notice anything? Did the school not call his family about how much school Alex was missing? Maybe it was denial.
  • After the suicide attempt, Ducky does a bunch of research on suicide and lists all the warning signs out in his diary as a little PSA for all the readers.
  • Quick update on Dawn/Sunny drama.  Sunny’s mom is still dying, Sunny’s still acting out in reaction to this, Dawn and Sunny are still not talking.  I’m assuming this is because Dawn is still being her judgmental self, but we don’t get confirmation of this last one.
  • Ducky is the only one of these California Diary characters I care about, other than Dawn/Sunny, who I think of as BSC characters.  I know Maggie was in the BSC books, but I don’t really think she had real characterization until the Diaries series.


Monday, September 1, 2014

“She really knows how serious it is”…….California Diaries # 9: Amalia Diary Two

Amalia reads an article in some teen magazine about how to tell if your friend has an eating disorder.  Which of course makes her think of Maggie and she starts to worry about her.  Apparently seeing her not eat for months wasn’t enough for Amalia to notice this.  I guess she didn’t see that very special episode of Full House where DJ had anorexia for three days. Anyway she tries to talk to Maggie a couple times and Maggie does admit that she thinks she has a problem, and that she feels too much pressure to be perfect all the time.  Maggie says she can’t talk to her parents about all this because her mom’s a drunk and her dad’s pretty much the cause of much of the pressure.  Amalia does convince her to tell Dawn though, who seems more supportive about this problem than she is about Sunny’sproblems.  We don’t really see much Dawn/Maggie interaction though, since this book’s all Amalia’s POV.

Amalia does get Maggie to agree to see some therapist that her mom (apparently a social worker, though I don’t think that was mentioned in the first book) knows.  Maggie goes and makes Amalia come with her for support.  Things seem to go well with the doctor and Maggie goes back, they’re apparently working with a nutritionist to help Maggie start eating better again.  She admits it’s hard, but does seem to be trying.

Meanwhile, Amalia’s still manager of Maggie’s band Vanish.  Some girl organizing the school’s Homecoming Bash asks for the band to play.  Amalia agrees and convinces the girl to pay them $500.  So, the whole band’s really excited, except for Maggie who’s really nervous.  In the rehearsals leading up to the event, Maggie keeps messing up and can’t get through a song.  But she has a good rehearsal after Justin tells her to just feel the music.  So later when Maggie’s freaking out at the “Bash,” Amalia tells her the same thing.  And while the first song’s a bit rocky, Maggie eventually gets into it and everyone loves her/them.

We do get a little bit of plot in this book that’s actually about Amalia’s drama.  Some new guy in school’s acting interested in her, but she’s kind of hostile to him at first.  They do become friendly though, and Amalia realizes she’s acting like that because of what happened with James (who is still sending her some creepy notes).  Amalia decides she likes new guy, and when he brings her a flower at the homecoming party they end up dancing and seemingly become a thing.

High/Lowlights
  • There’s not a single mention of grade level in this book.  Or of the fact that 8th graders are now in the high school.
  • We get pages and pages of notes Amalia makes about eating disorders.  I feel like I am back in middle school health class. 
  • The new guy Amalia likes is from Short Hills, NJ. Which is about ten minutes from where I grew up, so I thought that was cool.
  • Everyone says something about why the new guy is starting a few weeks into the school year (it’s late September).  I feel like this comes up in a lot of BSC books, but it doesn’t seem that odd to me.  Maybe they just couldn’t get in their new place by then.
  • There’s no Sunny in this book.  We just hear how she’s been acting difficult lately.  I can’t wait to get back to that though, her angst is much more interesting than the other girls.
  • When Amalia sits in on Maggie’s therapist appointment, she’s disappointed when the doctor comments that it seems like Maggie has a great life. This is after Maggie tells her about her rich family.  Amalia thinks that the doctor doesn’t get it.  But then it becomes clear to her that the doctor was saying that to get Maggie to really open up and talk about the bad things in her life (which was obvious to me right away).
  • Amalia gets a note in her locker that says “Yukon Run But Yukon Tied – U No Who.”  She says it takes her all day to figure out it meant “You can run, but you can’t hide.”  I’m starting to think Amalia is not the smartest girl in these books.
  • I was going to complain that there’s no way a 13-year-old could just go to a therapist on her own and not have her parents find out (because of money, insurance, etc). But, it turns out she did tell her dad she was seeing one and he agreed to pay. 
  • Her dad didn’t ask why she was going and I can’t decide if that’s a good move (because he knows Maggie needs help, but won’t talk to him), or a really bad move (because he doesn’t really care).
  • Amalia sees James dancing with some other girl and is relieved that it means he may leave her alone, but is nervous for the girl.  She decides to tell her about what she went through.  I can’t imagine that going well.  Which is why it would have been much more interesting to include in the book then more anorexia angst.
  • Amalia still calls her diary Nbook.  It’s still really annoying.
  • I think this book kind of sends a bad message with regard to Maggie.  She’s talking about how she feels so much pressure and can’t even think of what would happen if she wasn’t perfect.  Then at her big performance….everyone loves her.  Wouldn’t it have been better if she messed up but realized she was still okay?
  • Amalia makes some image entries that are sort of comic-book style.  It’s annoying to read because her handwriting kind of sucks, and is even worse once it’s crammed into tiny dialogue bubbles.