Saturday, May 31, 2014

“Today you were EVERYONE ELSE's special someone"……………..California Diaries # 5: Ducky

So.  Ducky.  I was looking forward to this because all I really know about Ducky is references in the few BSC Fan Fiction stories I’ve read.  But he seemed to get more coverage then Amalia and Maggie and always seemed pretty interesting. Plus, I really wanted to know why a 16-year-old guy would befriend all these 8th grade girls.  It turns out that Ducky has been drifting apart from his two childhood best friends.  One of them, Jay, has become “cool” and hangs out with guys that Ducky thinks of as “Cro Magnons.”  Those guys aren’t exactly nice to Ducky.  His other former BFF Alex, has just kind of withdrawn completely.  When Ducky met Dawn and Co, he thought they were cool and got along with them better than he had been getting along with the guys.  The friendships naturally developed from there.

There’s still some drama with these other two former friends.  Jay makes fun of him on Valentine’s Day, because Ducky brings a bunch of flowers into school to give to people.  But later, when Jay’s girlfriend likes the flower (that she only got because Ducky had given it to him), Jay’s nice to him and tells Ducky they should get dinner the next night.  Ducky is excited because he thinks this means he and Jay may get back to being good friends. But when Ducky shows up, it turns out it’s a surprise blind date, which he’s not happy about.  So, he and Jay argue and there’s a bunch of back and forth.

Meanwhile his friend Alex is showing signs of depression.  Ducky tries to help by setting him up with Sunny (who also has issues), but it doesn’t work out.  And while Sunny was pleased that Ducky was trying to help, Alex is pissed off about it.  You would think Ducky would have thought of that since he was pissed about Jay trying to set him up.  But whatever.  Anyway, Jay’s throwing a party and convinces Ducky and Alex to come.  There are a ton of guys there (it’s an all guys party) and a lot of drinking.  Alex gets drunk and ends up passing out in the shower.  Ducky sees him and gets Jay to help break the door down.  He takes Alex back to his house, where Alex makes him promise “not to tell.” Ducky agrees even though he doesn’t get what he’s promising at first.  However, he then realizes Alex may have been trying to kill himself.  So, he calls Alex’s therapist to tell him.  Then Alex hears the phone call and gets mad at Ducky.  Which is basically where we end so nothing’s resolved with that.  It would have been ridiculous if they had resolved it, since depression/suicide isn’t easy to settle, but it’s kind of an annoying end.

We also see a bit of Ducky’s home life.  His parents are in Ghana for a long-term trip and he lives with his 20-year-old brother, who doesn’t seem to pay much attention to Ducky.  So, their house is a mess and they don’t eat well, etc.  This is something that probably sounds decent to most teenagers at first, but I think Ducky is kind of over it and wants normalcy.  At one point (when things are good with Jay) Jay and a couple of his friends come by to help him clean up.  Jay says he has been trying to make his new friends see that Ducky and Alex are “cool” because he misses hanging out with him.  Ducky’s sort of starting to see that some of the “Cro Mags” aren’t so bad, but then at the party he changes his mind when they all see what happened with Alex as cool.

  • So, Jay’s actually Jason, but he decided recently to go by Jay.  And Ducky has a hard time adjusting to that. I get that, I have a friend who decided she didn’t want to go by the nickname everyone called her as a kid and it always feels so weird to say.
  • On Valentine’s Day, Ducky shows up at school wearing a plastic halo, carrying a plastic bow and arrow, and pretending to be cupid.  Then he gives everyone, including his teachers (both male and female) flowers.  He thinks this is “doing Valentine’s Day right” and is better than past years when he had blind dates or gave cards to every girl in his class (causing them all to get mad at him).  I like that he does his own thing, but he can’t really be surprised he gets made fun of with a stunt like that.
  • They don’t say WHY Ducky’s parents are in Ghana for so long.  I think that’s the problem with the diary format of these books.  Of course the guy isn’t going to write in his journal about why his parents are in Ghana, because in theory he probably wrote about the trip back when they first left. Although, I think every book has made a point of explaining that students at their school are required to keep journals and that no one is allowed to read them.  So maybe that’s a bad explanation. 
  • The characters also all call the books journals, even though the series is called “California Diaries.”    I guess that sounds better than “California Journals,” but they should have at least one character call it a diary.
  • Every book also has the characters writing in their journals when they are supposed to be paying attention in class.  You’d think they’d rethink this journal idea because of that.
  • Ducky notes that he refers to himself as “you” in his journal.  Like….“after dinner you drive so-and-so home.” Which is an interesting style choice, and he wonders what it says about him.  I think he’s detaching himself from his actions.  But I’m no shrink or anything.
  • Jay runs into Ducky when he’s out to dinner with Dawn and Sunny.  And apparently he and Dawn are pretty friendly (to Ducky’s surprise/horror), but then they start talking about vegetarianism, and you know how charming Dawn can be about that.
  • Oh, and Ducky says that Dawn is trying to be nice because she doesn’t want to make a scene.  Um….since when?
  • There’s this awkward moment when Alex and Sunny meet where they are talking about cancer.  Alex says his uncle died of it, and Sunny’s all, “oh, the doctors say there have been lots of advancements.”  And Alex says how his uncle just died last year and doesn’t think much could have changed since then.  Way to make her feel better.
  • There’s a scene where Ducky drives Sunny to the hospital to see her mom.  Then he drives her home, and her mom’s there too.  So, I don’t get why Sunny went to the hospital? If she just went for an appointment or her support group, why would Sunny visit there?
  • Ducky finally tells Sunny about the drama with his friends and she’s all, “why didn’t you tell me sooner?” That makes me wonder what Sunny and Dawn thought about Ducky’s other friends. They must know he knew other kids before they met him.
  • What I don’t get…..if Ducky’s kind of anti-social and hates the cool crowd, what was he even doing at that party he met Dawn at? Wasn’t that cool kids playing a prank on the 8th graders? It doesn’t seem like his scene.
  • Ducky makes his Ws without a line.  So, they look like this: \ V  - It is really annoying.  And there are more Ws used that you would think.
  • When they go to Jay’s party, Alex asks Ducky if he brought anything.  Ducky asks, “why, is it his birthday?” And it turns out Alex was just joking, but you would think Ducky knows when Jay’s birthday was.  I know they’ve drifted apart, but I still remember my childhood best friend’s birthday and I haven’t seen her in 15 years. 
  • Is it weird that I relate to Ducky more than any of the female characters in this series? I just think the issue of drifting apart from childhood friends resonates with me more than the super dramatic stuff happening with the girls.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

“So what if he thinks we’re boyfriend – girlfriend?”.......California Diaries # 4: Amelia

I knew very little about Amelia going into this because she didn’t appear in any of the original BSC books and hasn’t been too present in these diary books so far.  So, I was curious, and I ended up liking her.  This book is probably the darkest of the CD books though (so far anyway). 
It starts right before Christmas and Amalia is angsting over what to get this guy James as a gift.  She kind of thinks he’s her boyfriend but they haven’t actually talked about it.  He’s in the same band as Maggie and is 16.  The problem is James is kind of a jerk, which we see pretty early on when he freaks out about her talking to some other guy at a band rehearsal.  The guy is Justin, the guy Maggie is kind of into and the conversation was totally innocent, but James still is upset by it.  But then he apologizes, so Amalia ends up giving him cologne for Christmas.  He gives her an ankle bracelet with their names linked together.  Which seems like a pretty big signal to me, but Amalia decides she doesn’t want to wear the bracelet until she is clear on how James sees their relationship.  Then he gets mad because she’s not wearing the bracelet.  He comes off as very controlling, but Amalia is 13, so she doesn’t see that.  Anyway James and Amalia fight and make up a couple of times and eventually officially decide they are going out.

We also learn a bit about Amalia’s family.  She has a “perfect” sister Isabel.  She’s not a super genius like Janine, just kind of a goody-goody and spends all her free time volunteering at a shelter for abused women.  Amalia’s usually annoyed by Isabel’s perfectness, but she goes to help at the shelter once and bonds a little with a little boy.  Later she finds out that the mother of the little boy got attacked by her ex-husband.  This motivates Amalia to sign up full time at the shelter.   

Meanwhile, James is still an asshole, and gets all pissed off (again) when he sees Amalia talking to Justin and Ducky at a band rehearsal.  Justin pats her on the back because she’s upset about the whole thing with the women’s shelter.  But he and Amalia fight and he almost hits her.  Her friends don’t see the almost hit, but they see the argument and tell Amalia he’s a jerk.  She defends him at first, but eventually tells Maggie and her sister about the almost hitting thing.  Both of them are smart and tell her to end things.  But James also tells Amalia he can’t live without her so she hesitates to end things.  Eventually she does and James keeps calling her house in the middle of the night and spreading rumors about Amalia hooking up with other guys.

By the end James quits/is kicked out of the band because everyone is disturbed by his behavior.  Naturally, this makes him angrier about the whole thing.  Her next journal entry is a a few days later and it seems like things have quieted down with the harassment.  But then at the very end Amalia finds a creepy note in her locker from him.

  • At the beginning, Amalia says James must be her boyfriend because they have kissed 2, maybe 3 times. Shouldn't she know for sure whether it’s 2 or 3? Does she not remember or is she not sure if something was a kiss?
  • Do 16-year-olds wear cologne? Cause Amalia says she mainly picked that gift for James because the stuff he wears is awful.
  • Amalia’s apparently an artist, because her diary’s filled with sketches and comic strip type things.  I kind of like that they just throw us into the middle of her diary with pictures in it and let us assume that, instead of having to sit through a boring backstory where she tells us her talents and her family.
  • Amalia calls her diary “NBook.” It annoys me for some reason.
  • On Christmas, Amalia and her older sister both got up at 5:30 am and “manage” to wait until 5:57 to run downstairs.  They seem kind of old to be getting up that early for presents, but whatever.
  • Do they let 13-year-olds volunteer at women’s shelters? Cause they make volunteers sign confidentiality agreements, and a 13-year-old can’t legally sign contracts.  Probably because they don’t totally understand what they’re signing, evidenced by the fact that Amalia talks about people at the shelter to everyone in the universe.
  • I like that Amalia writes about how annoying it is to be forced to keep a journal. She says how people who’ve gone to Vista since elementary school are used to it, but she’s new and doesn’t like it.  She also doesn’t see the point since no one will ever collect it.   I see her point, but apparently everyone keeps writing in them so the school must be doing something right.
  • Amalia gets in trouble because James emotionally blackmails her into cutting class to go out to lunch with him.  But that means leaving campus which 8th graders can’t do, but 11th graders can.  Which makes me jealous.  When I was in high school they only let seniors leave.  But then they took it away the year I became a senior.  It felt like a huge deal at the time.  Anyway, Amalia gets off with a warning, which seems pretty lax, although if anything else happens she’ll be suspended.  Which seems harsh.  Do they not just have regular detention?
  • Amalia’s parents seem rather….unconcerned with the 16-year-old harassing their 13-year-old daughter, but that could just be because we’re hearing this only through Amalia’s journal.  I mean, the guy leaves two rag dolls on her yard with a knife in the male doll’s chest and an evil smile on the female doll.  Her mom wants to talk to James’s parents and her father wants to talk to James directly.  Amalia thinks these are horrible ideas, but I agree with her mom.  I guess I am getting old.  But, the point is they don’t seem to actually DO anything either way.
  • The woman from the shelter who was attached ends up having to send her son to live with someone (family?) where he can be safe, while she stays with friends elsewhere.  She has to testify against the ex-husband and is worried about what he may do, since he keeps ignoring the restraining order.  So, like I said, this is a kind of dark book.
  • Based on this book, it seems like Amalia has become really good friends with Maggie, and less close friends with Dawn and Sunny (who are both closer with Ducky).
  • I think what I like most about Amalia is that she doesn’t whine. Dawn whines about things changing, Sunny whines about her mom, and Maggie whines about being rich.  Amalia angsts a lot and doesn’t like her sister, but she doesn’t whine.