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.


Friday, August 1, 2014

“It fits, but it makes me look fat”…….California Diaries #8: Maggie Diary Two

Recap

Here’s a condensed version of Maggie’s diary:

“I am so fat, I need to lose weight.  I ate 2 whole potato chips today, I am such a pig.  My dad’s annoyingly controlling.  I’m so fat.  I like animals.  Yay, I lost a pound.  My mom’s a drunk.  I need to lose weight.  Why does everyone want me to eat?”

Seriously, that’s like, the whole book.  Slamming you over the head with the fact that Maggie’s anorexic, insecure, and has a poor little rich girl thing happening. But the slightly longer version, is that it’s summer and working at her dad’s fancy film producer office.  She hates it and is annoyed because her dad told her she could spend half her time working with the music editor on this new movie, but the guy moved to Australia and that never happened. 

Meanwhile, Mrs. Blume’s supposed to be planning some big charity event for a save the animals organization. But she keeps missing meetings because of her drinking, so Maggie starts stepping in to help out.  As part of this she visits one of the shelters in town and gets offered  a job there.  She quits working for her dad to take it, which annoys him.  Then she walks out of that job when she made a mistake and 2 dogs got in a fight because of it. I can’t tell if she’s going to keep working there though, even though there’s a scene with her and her boss later on.  The woman thinks she should eat more and that turns Maggie off.  

Right before the charity thing her mom doesn’t come home one night and Mr. Blume had to go out looking for her.  They fight, and as Maggie’s listening to her mom insist she doesn’t have a drinking problem, she starts to wonder if that’s how she sounds when people tell her she needs to eat more.  So, it’s sort of an eye-opening moment.  She even admits to her brother that it’s hard for her to stop dieting.  However, she doesn’t suddenly start eating or anything.

Maggie’s also still in that band.  That part’s annoying too, because she’s still insecure about how she sounds.  She’s also insecure because they ask her to write a new song, and she can’t come up with anything good.  It’s pretty much safe to say that Maggie’s insecure about everything.  That Justin guy she likes joins the band and asks Maggie out.  They go to a movie and everything’s great. But then they go out to eat after and Maggie tries not to eat anything.  But Justin gets annoyed at he because he didn’t like eating alone.  He later calls her and tries to make amends, but Maggie thinks he’s just doing it for the sake of the band.  This is due to that insecurity thing again.

High/Lowlights
  • I don’t know what to think about Maggie saying her singing sucks and she’s sure the band wants to get rid of her.  Because in her last diary she kept insisting she failed tests when she aced them.  She’s not exactly a reliable narrator.
  • Justin’s joining the band to take over for that abusive guy Amalia was hanging out with.  Which was in January.  So were they not playing in the six months since then? It’s not really clear.
  • The only times I found Maggie likable were when she was interacting with her little brother. Their parents are sending him off to tennis camp for the summer and he doesn’t want to go.  He keeps complaining to Maggie and even calls/emails her from camp.  Maggie isn’t necessarily happy to hear from him but she usually acts like a nice sister and lets him vent. 
  • Maggie runs into Sunny and Ducky at the mall, and says how she hasn’t seen them in ages.  I think that’s why I didn’t love this book.  There was very little interaction with the other characters in the series. Some with Amalia, but mostly it was just Maggie and her rich but dysfunctional family.
  • Sunny and some friend of Mrs. Blume both tell Maggie they can tell she lost weight and looks good.  Which is weird since everyone else is telling her she looks too thin.
  • Maggie’s brother Zeke tells her to make sure and check her email while he’s at camp.  And Maggie says how she rarely uses email because she doesn’t know anyone who uses.   This book came out in 1998…I was in HS then and most of my friends had email. 
  • However, I would like to know what kind of camp lets kids use phones and the internet.
  • It turns out one of the reasons Zeke didn’t want to go away was because of Mrs. Blume drinking and him being worried about something happening with her.
  • It amazes me how easy a 13-year-old gets jobs in these books.  Amalia has a job somewhere too. I can buy Maggie’s dad giving her a job in his office, but I didn’t think you could even get working papers so young.
  • Maggie’s shopping for something to wear on her date, and Sunny, Amalia, and Ducky all tell her to buy things they’d wear but isn’t her style.  (Well, at least Sunny and Amalia do).  I think this is the third time something like that happened in these books.  These kids are not good at picking out clothes for their friends.
  • Whenever I hear Maggie mention Justin Randall, I picture Justin Hartley.  I am not sure why, I know other people named Justin.
  • While I found Maggie annoying in this book, I do really like that they had her realize she may have a problem because she thought she sounded like her alcoholic mom when denying that she had a problem.  But that she still didn’t start eating.  It feels realistic.
  • I guess teenagers really do have issues and are insecure and all that.  But that doesn’t mean I want to hear their inner most thoughts about it.  So, I am not really a fan of Maggie at this point.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

“Really, it’s all her fault”…….California Diaries # 7: Dawn Diary Two

Recap
This book picks up a couple months after the one that ended with Sunny and Dawn’s fight, and the two haven’t made up since.  Dawn’s still mad at Sunny because she doesn’t think she’s being there for her mother.  She also thinks she’s changed into a whole different person.  I think most 13-year-olds would change if they had to watch their mother slowly die a painful death.  But I guess Dawn has no empathy.

Dawn angsts a lot about how hard it is to not be speaking to Sunny, since she isn’t as close to any of her other friends.  She’s known Maggie a long time but Maggie doesn’t like to talk about her problems.  And she considers Amalia to really be Maggie’s friend.  She doesn’t mention Ducky when she’s angsting about all this, but she does talk a lot about how Ducky has more patience than her and maybe that makes him a better friend to both Sunny and Alex.

Anyway, when Dawn isn’t judging her supposed friend, she’s acting like a brat about her soon-to-be half-sister.  Carol’s still on bed rest, but is due any day now. Dawn keeps writing in her journal how the baby will only be her half-sister so she’s not that excited about it.  Now, this is the same person who always called Mary Anne her actual sister instead of step-sister, so whatever.  Dawns also notes that with the age difference she’ll barely get to know her before going to college and then she’ll probably never live at home again.  But, yeah, Sunny’s the one who’s not there for her family.

Carol does actually have the baby, a girl that they name Elizabeth Grace.  Jeff nicknames her Gracie.  Dawn tells us how she knows more about taking care of babies then Carol because of all her baby-sitting, and so she helps out.  How nice of her.  Dawn does seem to warm up to the idea of Gracie once she arrives. But it’s also the end of the school year and Dawn’s getting ready to go back to Stoneybrook for the summer.  She feels really weird about it, because of leaving the baby and because she has never left California without saying good-bye to Sunny. 

High/Lowlights
  • Dawn says she doesn’t understand why Sunny’s turning into a different person.  And here I thought she was kind of smart.  Her mother’s dying.  She’s acting out as a way to deal with it.  This isn’t rocket science.
  • Dawn says that she told Maggie to tell Sunny she wanted to talk, and Sunny said “All it takes is an apology, a diamond necklace, and three years of servitude.”  Or something like that.  But in Sunny’s book she said that after Maggie told her Dawn was trashing her to their other friends, and she said she didn’t care but if Dawn wanted to be friends again all it would take was…..I believe Sunny.
  • Whenever Dawn’s with Maggie she’s either pointing out how thin she is or saying how she never eats.  So, topic for the next Maggie book is going to be anorexia.
  • We get an appearance by Jill, who hasn’t been mentioned in ages.  Dawn’s feeling lonely, so she goes to have a soda with her, but then trashes her in the journal.  Poor Jill commits the awful crime of wearing a sweatshirt Sunny and Dawn gave her for her 11th birthday.  It has a dog picture on it.  I can’t take any of Dawn’s clothing criticism seriously.  The girl thought Claudia was a good dresser.
  • Hey, Dawn.  You’re the one who moved away from 6 girls you were super-close with and who all DID share their problems with you.  Remember them? So the whining about lack of friends kinda bugs.
  • Also, way to be a bitch by dropping a friend for one mistake.  Dawn says she can’t stand Jill because Jilllet it slip to Carol that Dawn told her she was pregnant.  Which was mostly Dawn’s fault because SHE was the one that broke her word.  Now, sometimes friends just grow apart, and I think that’s what happened here.  But Dawn makes it seem like Jill is this horrible person.
  • I actually am going to forgive Dawn for her attitude about the baby, because it’s gotta be weird to get a new sibling at that age, especially when a stepparent is involved.  You have to feel a little like your father’s creating a new family and you’re not as important anymore.
  • Dawn says how she thinks her relatives were worried she’d be jealous of the baby.  And how that’s silly since she’s 13.  But, I think she kind of was jealous.  Not the way a younger kid would be jealous, but still jealous in a way.
  • Mr. Schafer spends a long time calling relatives on the phone to tell them about the baby.  I forgot people had to do that before Facebook.
  • Dawn comments about how Maggie had to get a diet cola while she and Amalia got regular cola.  Um, since when does Dawn drink soda?  Isn’t eating healthy food one of her defining characteristic?
  • Jeff wanted a brother.  He even ordered a Michael Jordan poster to hang in the baby’s room.  He hangs it anyway after Mr. Schafer tells him he can treat a sister the same as he could a brother.  Everyone laughs, but tell him it’s great.  Am I a bad feminist if I would be upset at hanging a Michael Jordan poster in my hypothetical baby’s room? It would not go with the décor, even for a boy’s room.
  • Hey, we get to hear about what someone wears.  Maggie: “A black linen miniskirt, scoop-neck purple T-shirt, blue suede sandals, and a trendy short haircut.”  Dawn thinks she looks lame with her T-shirt tucked into her jeans.  I don’t think I’ve ever tucked a T-shirt into jeans.  Of course she looks lame.
  • Ducky has been friends with Dawn for almost a year and has to ask if she’s close to Carol?
  • Ducky tells Dawn he thinks she’s really mad at Sunny because Sunny isn’t there for her (with the baby thing, I guess). Which Dawn hadn’t thought of, but she decides she’s just mad at Sunny not letting her help her.  Yes, Dawn.  Because you are being totally altruistic here.
  • When she sees a note that Carol’s in labor at the hospital, Dawn tries calling Ducky for a ride, but ends up going with Maggie  in her limo.  But she complains about Sunny always using Ducky for rides. I know, it was special circumstances.  But still.
  • Dawn’s friends give Gracie this little T-shirt, that say’s “I’m Here” on it.  That’s kind of adorable.
  • Dawn brings Mrs. Winslow to see Gracie (since they’re both in the same hospital) and Mrs. Winslow calls the baby her “namesake.”  This is because Mrs. Winslow’s first name is Betsy (short for Elizabeth).  But Dawn thinks her dad didn’t pick the name because of her.  Which feels kind of awkward.
  • I was thinking that Dawn going to Stoneybrook for the summer would put them at the end of the Friends Forever books.  Which was probably silly, since that would have meant Dawn and Sunny had to make up and Mrs. Winslow die by the end of the book.  Which didn’t happen.  I realized it wasn’t going to when Dawn talked about not needing to pack a ton of stuff since she had clothes in Stoneybrook (making it pre-fire).
  • I wonder if these girls will be in eighth grade again next year.  It would be kind of weird since they made a big deal about the 8th graders moving into the HS building.
  • This book was published in 1998. In BSC-world, Dawn came home for the summer in this book leading up to the European Super Special.  I don’t remember any mention of the Sunny drama in that one, but evidently they mentioned the baby.


Monday, June 23, 2014

“I told them I didn’t care”….California Diaries # 6: Sunny Diary Two

Recap
I found Sunny a lot more likeable in this book than in her first diary.  Which is weird, because she wasn’t actually doing anything that much differently than before.  Her mom’s still dying and in the hospital. Her dad’s still not handling it well.  Sunny’s still feeling sorry for herself, cutting school, and hanging out with older guys.  Now, she’s also staying at Dawn’s house, which is causing some tension between the two of them.  It annoys Sunny that Dawn has been visiting her mom in the hospital, usually bringing her flowers or various other gifts.  It annoys Dawn that Sunny hasn’t been visiting her mom as much as she could (or as much as Dawn thinks she should). 

But Sunny does spend a lot of time with Carol, who’s now about 6-7 months pregnant.  She rubs her feet for her, she brings her exercise tapes, and just generally talks to her.  I think she just finds it easier to spend time with Carol than her mom, most likely because creating life is less depressing than a life that’s ending.  When Sunny isn’t with Carol though, she’s flirting with various older boys from school.  She lets them take her out, then writes in her journal about how much better each one is at kissing than the last. She doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with going out with all of them at once, but a couple of them are upset when they find out.  Granted in that case she was going out with two people who were friends.  But whatever.  Sunny doesn’t really care that they’re upset.

While shopping with Sunny, Carol faints in the dressing room.  Sunny manages to call for help and keeps Carol calm until the paramedics get there.  Afterwards, everyone keeps telling Sunny how great she was in a crisis.  Carol’s okay, but the doctor tells her she has to be on bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy.  Later, Mrs. Bruen asks Sunny if she can stay with Carol while she runs out to pick of something for Mr. Schafer.  She’s also cooking something that Sunny’s supposed to watch.  But one of Sunny’s dates shows up and starts honking the horn until Sunny goes out to see him.  They start talking, and the next thing Sunny knows the smoke detector’s going off inside.  She runs in and sees that Carol had to get up to check what was going on.  Everything’s fine, but she’s mad at Sunny and everyone else is mad when they come back and hear what happened.

Sunny leaves and is thinking of running away.  But, Ducky convinces her not to, and to go back to the Schafers’ and apologize.  She does, and Carol and Mr. Schafer are pretty decent in response.  But she and Dawn have a huge blow out.  Dawn calls her out on always running away from her problems.  She also says that the reason she’s been visiting Mrs. Winslow so much is because she cares about her and feels close to her, not because she’s trying to make Sunny look bad.  Sunny tells Dawn she’s not being a supportive friend and that she’s never around for Carol, so she shouldn’t talk about what she does with her mom.  Sunny walks out and they don’t make up (although Sunny writes in her journal that they have some interaction at school without fighting).

The book ends there, because these California Diary books aren’t big on closure.

High/Lowlights
  • Sunny gets kind of snarky in her journal when complaining about Dawn….she makes comments about how Dawn’s life is so perfect she must dream about a world full of flowers and no allergies, animals walking freely on the streets, and people picking berries and vegetables for all their meals.  It’s kind of amusing because I can totally see Dawn dreaming about things like that.
  • Sunny’s grossed out because she sees Carol eating chocolate with tuna fish.  As am I.  I have heard about pregnancy cravings, but do people really eat food combinations that are that weird?
  • I was expecting this book to be a Dawn book, since we cycled through everyone else, and was kind of disappointed to find a Sunny one first.  But I did like this book.  I think they switched the order so we could get Sunny’s side of the fight first.  Sunny would probably come off as much bitchier if we heard some of this from Dawn first.
  • Ha, Sunny’s annoyed that one of her dates brings her home to watch a basketball game with his parents  (on a first date).  So, she starting rooting for the Bulls (as opposed to his team, the Lakers).   As a non-sports fan that can get annoyed by sports talk, that made me laugh.
  • Sunny does come off kind of bitchy when she writes in her journal about Alex.  She’s annoyed that Ducky keeps talking about how worried he is, and she thinks that Alex is just a loser.  Which, is kind of cold.
  • We get a bunch of references to other books in this one.  Aside from Ducky/Alex, Sunny mentions Maggie’s band and how that James guy still bugs Amalia.  I like that, it makes it feel more like a series and less like loosely connected stories like it has in the last couple of books.
  • Sunny jokes to this guy Brock about wanting to go to “Sagebrush Grille” for dinner, then is super-impressed when he actually takes her.  I guess it’s supposed to be some expensive/ritzy place?  It doesn’t exist though, at least not in LA.
  • One of the guy’s Sunny’s with says he just fills up his journal with words like “Peas carrots rabbits pigs oink thunder and lightning.” In high school I had a friend who wrote something like that on a French test (where she was supposed to be writing in French) and the teacher didn’t even notice.  Giving teachers tenure is a really bad idea.
  • I find it interesting that Sunny writes in her journal about how much of a fuss everyone else makes about her “saving” Carol, but in their fight Dawn says Sunny’s the one who keeps talking about it. I think it would be cool if we got the same events told in two different journals, but I don’t think that’s how these books work.
  • Ducky takes Sunny out for dessert to celebrate that he got a job working at Mr. Winsow’s bookstore.   But I thought Sunny wasn’t into dessert?  I guess if she’s going to be all rebellious in other ways, a little junk food makes sense.
  • Sunny gets Ducky a job working at her father’s bookstore.  Then tries to get Alex one when her dad asks her to find an additional person.  Sunny writes a lot more about this, but it’s kind of boring.
  • Sunny tells us that not only is Vista’s policy about these journals that teachers don’t read them….it is that no one’s ever supposed to read them.  I guess that’s supposed to be some hippie free-thinking thing about expressing themselves without restriction?
  • When Sunny’s upset about her mom not doing well, Jeff overhears her talking to the rest of the Schafers and tells her how his friend’s hamster once died.  It was kind of sweet.
  • Sunny tells Dawn how Carol’s glowing from the pregnancy, and Dawn says Carol always glows because of her oily skin.  Ha.  But then she says that of course she likes Carol and no longer resents her.
  • Sunny tells us Ducky’s parents are in Ghana because his dad is a travelling professor.  Thanks, Sunny, I was wondering about that.
  • Sunny has this exchange with one of her boys, Bo, where he asks if her real name is Sunny.  So, she asks if his real name is Bo, but he’s too embarrassed to tell her in front of his friends.  Later he shows up at her house and tells her it’s Beauregard Montfort Rollins.  This is what leads to Sunny not watching Carol.  But my thought was, wouldn’t his friends know his real name? I remember being in school and how teachers would always read people’s names off their attendance list on the first day.  Then some people would tell you how they actually liked to use some nickname.
  • Sunny helping Carol in the store made me think of Dawn’sautobiography when Sunny was helpful when there was a blackout in a department store.  I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it’s good continuity.  The sales clerks at the store are totally clueless about how to call 911, so it was good Sunny was there.
  • Sunny’s writing a journal entry in the car and comments how she hopes she doesn’t get sick from it.  I kind of wish they had made that entry have different shakier handwriting or something.  If they’re going to do this annoying handwriting thing, they need to really own it.
  • In terms of the Sunny vs. Dawn thing, I found Dawn kind of judgmental. I’ve never lost a parent, but I know people who have and know it’s a really difficult thing.  Sunny may not be dealing with it in the best way, but she’s not really doing anything WRONG.   
  • Also, it kind of sucks for Dawn to be all, “I’ll miss your mom too.”  I get that she thinks that, and it’s consistent with how Dawn felt back in her last BSC book.  But. Whatever she feels is nothing like what the loss will be for Sunny, and saying it like that seems kind of insensitive.