Saturday, December 20, 2014

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

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.
  • 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

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.

  • 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… 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

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.

  • 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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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


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.

  • 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

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. 

  • 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

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.

  • 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.

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.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

“She said maybe I hadn’t worried enough”………California Diaries # 3: Maggie

I apologize for the delay in posting this.  I normal get annoyed when bloggers post about how their life is just way to busy to update their site, but.....I have just been way to busy to update this site.  I've been working 14-16 hour days at work (including weekends), and have had limited time for any recreational reading/writing.
Maggie has kind of this cliché backstory, about how she has this rich/famous movie producer father and gets good grades, and everyone’s jealous of her.  But in reality she’s super insecure and her home life is kind of messed up.  Her father is a bit controlling and has very high expectations for her.  He has a movie coming out soon and is super busy getting ready for that.  The early feedback on the movie is that it sucks, so this is making him more stressed than usual.  Mrs. Blume deals with stress by drinking, which doesn’t really improve things from Maggie’s perspective.
Maggie’s hanging out with Amalia and some friends of hers and they go to watch this band some other friends of theirs formed.  Amalia keeps telling Maggie to audition as the band’s back-up singer, but Maggie refuses.  But eventually she does, and the band thinks she’s great and they make her the lead singer.  Maggie’s father thinks this is an awful activity and tells her not to do it, but she ignores him.  The band, Vanquish, is competing in a battle of the bands contest, and Maggie realizes this is the same night as the premiere for her dad’s new movie, which she’s supposed to go to.  She asks her dad if she can go to the band thing, then get to the premiere late – missing the screening, but showing up for the party.  Her dad refuses.  So, Maggie comes up with this ridiculous sitcom-y plan where she’ll go to the premiere, but get “separated” from her parents so they think she’s sitting with friends.  Then Ducky will drive her to the battle of the bands, then back to the premiere before anyone notices.   
The plan goes okay at first, and she makes it to the competition.  They perform, get second place, and a cute guy seems into Maggie.  Then Ducky takes her back to the premiere, but she’s late enough that her parents knew she was missing.  Her little brother had seen Maggie leave, so he told their parents before they called the cops thinking something awful happened.  Mr. and Mrs. Blume told everyone else Maggie was at some classical piano thing to cover, but were super pissed at her.  She plans to continue in the band though.
  • The best thing about this book was that Maggie keeps her “journal” on her computer, so it’s actually in a typed font instead of the stupid “handwriting” font that the other ones have been in.
  • The worst thing about the book’s that in addition to the journal pages, Maggie writes poetry and we have to read all the poems.  Or skim through them to get back to the actual plot.
  • I guess I never thought about this, but Maggie has the same last name as Grace Blume from the original BSC series.  I remember they also had a character named Erik DeWitt in both California and Stoneybrook, is it that hard to come up with original names?
  • Maggie’s one of those annoying people who’s constantly talking about how they did awful on a test and must have flunked, only to turn around and get a 95 – 100.   She also thinks she’s an awful singer, even after everyone who hears her says how amazing she is.
  • Sunny’s convinced that Maggie likes Justin, this guy who had checked her out back in the first California Diaries book.  Maggie keeps insisting she’s not into the guy and that he’s way too old for her.  But she finally admits to herself that she does like him and he seems a bit interested in her.
  • Maggie’s poems actually evolve into songs, and of course the band loves them and end up using one in the competition.
  • Maggie does complain a lot about how annoying Sunny is in this book, which is a lot of fun, because Sunny’s freaking annoying.
  • For instance, Sunny reads an article in Variety about Maggie’s dad casting a new movie, brings it to school, and reads the description, going on and on about how this Justin guy is perfect for the part.  The description is for a super good-looking teen that looks like a young Pierce Bronson with Harrison Ford’s swagger.
  • Sunny also tells Maggie how asking Justin to come over to meet her movie-producer father’s a much better line than asking him to come over to meet her dying-of-cancer mother.  Which is true, but throwing her mom’s illness in people’s faces is kind of low.
  • Maggie’s also one of those annoying people who gets mad at herself when she makes a stupid mistake on a math test and gets a 94.  But I can’t really criticize her too much because I was like that in school too.
  • Interesting thing…..Maggie says how she isn’t actually in high school, she’s just in the high school building.  Which was how I originally thought it should be described, but Dawn and Sunny seemed to like claiming they were high schoolers.
  • I don’t think I knew that Maggie had a little brother, but she does…Zeke, an 11-year-old.  He plays this trick on his mom by pretending to be floating dead in the pool, and she freaks out about it.  Which, I can understand, cause that’s kind of awful.
  • The Blume family housekeeper, Pilar, quits, because Maggie’s mom’s a bitch to her.  Mrs. Blume’s yelling at her for not watching Zeke more, and Pilar says he’s not a little kid who needs to be watched every second.  She also says she needs to keep up her energy for acting lessons (which is kind of an obnoxious thing to say to your boss). Mrs. Blume responds by saying she needs money for those acting lessons too, causing Pilar to walk out.  But Pilar does come back later.  Probably cause Mrs. Blume was right, she DOES need money for those lessons.  Not to mention food and shelter and all that.
  • When I hear about a housekeeper named Pilar, all I can think about is the character on Passions.
  • The name of the movie  Mr. Blume’s working on is Fatal Judgement.  It’s an action movie.  We don’t hear many details, but I can still sort of picture a trailer for it in my head.  It looks awful.
  • When Maggie realizes that the battle of the band thing conflicts with her dad’s premiere, she makes a list of pros and cons for whether or not to quit the band.  Pissing off her father appears on both lists.
  • The girls in the BSC were always making pro/con lists too. I don’t think I ever did that.  I mean, I think about pros and cons for things, but I never wrote them all down as a list.
  • Maggie also polls her friends about what to do.  Dawn’s the only one who tells her to choose her dad and quit the band.  She says it’s about Maggie supporting her family, not about doing whatever her dad wants.  This is the girl who moved away from half of her family because she thought California was a nicer place to live.  But whatever.
  • Maggie gets fashion advice from Sunny, Ducky, and Dawn, about what to wear for the band’s competition.  Sunny suggests spiking her hair, Ducky suggests cat’s-eye glasses and a neon 50’s dress, and Dawn suggests a barefoot, no makeup, natural look. 
  • Regarding fashion, I always remembered Maggie as dressing kind of punk, but apparently that’s just a phase that she grew out of.  She does chop most of her hair off in this book though. 
  • I have a hard time thinking of the Dawn I know from the BSC books fitting in with Sunny and Maggie, at least the Sunny and Maggie that have been presented in these last two books.  But I guess that’s the point, that they’re both changing and Dawn will do that too.
  • Maggie makes me laugh because early in the book she says how she’ll probably become a veterinarian.  But then she gets caught up in the band thing and starts taking about winning Grammies someday.  But she might also still be a vet.  It seems very 13 of her.
  • Maggie’s dad tells her how he really wanted to write/direct interesting low-budget independent films, but he didn’t work hard enough in film school so he got stuck producing huge blockbusters.  What an unfortunate thing for him.   It must totally suck to be rich and famous.
  • If Mr. Blume’s as powerful as Maggie keeps claiming, he could find time to produce more arty films in between blockbusters.  Also, how did he get so powerful if he wasn’t working as hard as his classmates? Hollywood’s a really hard business to break into.  Producing movies is hardly a consolation prize.
  • Maggie’s insecurities are kind of bugging me by the end, because she’s so successful in pretty much everything she tries to do, yet still doesn’t have her confidence lifted.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

“Why does everything have to change so fast?”…………California Diaries # 2: Sunny

Sunny always seemed like a fun character when she showed up in the BSC books.  But I guess we always saw her through Dawn’s eyes, or occasionally another BSCer.  Being in her head and reading her journal is entirely different, the girl is totally annoying.  I mean, it makes sense that she would change since she’s dealing with a lot.  But the whole book’s just a bunch of whining about how difficult her life is.  I was going to write it was XXX pages of whining, but because of this journal format these books don’t have page numbers on them and it messed up my plan.  
Sunny’s mom has lung cancer, which we already knew.  She’s in and out of the hospital throughout the book.  At one point she comes home, but her cancer support group comes to visit and annoys the crap out of Sunny. Her dad’s also dealing with a lot because (in addition to his wife being sick) he’s in the middle of renovating the book store he owns and I guess things aren’t going well.  Which sounds lame in comparison, but Sunny keeps talking about it so I had to mention it. In some ways he’s counting on Sunny to do stuff to help around the house but in other ways he’s ignoring her.  Both annoy her.
Anyway, Sunny feels like she can’t really confide in her friends about what she’s dealing with.  She doesn’t really say why.  One day she cuts school and heads to the beach because she thinks it’s the only thing that will calm her down.  She’s worried that at the local beach her friends’ father that works a concession stand will see her skipping school, so she takes the bus all the way to Venice Beach.  And, she meets a guy, Carson.  He’s a runaway from Ohio and is full of crap about how great it is to have nothing tying you down and to be able to roam the country and do whatever you want.  His favorite book’s On the Road, which tells you all you need to know.  Sunny’s totally into him though, so decides to go back to the beach and see him again.  They hang out a lot, but Sunny’s worried about how she’s telling him a lot about herself and he hasn’t really confided in her.  Also, he refuses to ever make actual plans with Sunny, because he doesn’t believe in schedules.  Yup, he’s THAT annoying.  She finally asks him about this and he tells her more about his crappy life back home.  She thinks this is some breakthrough moment, but it really isn’t.
At one point, Sunny comes back from seeing Carson and sees Dawn, who tells her that her mom went back to the hospital for tests.  Sunny and Dawn have this big fight about how Sunny’s been withdrawn.  Sunny decides to run away and goes back to Venice Beach to see Carson.  She says she wants to run away with him, and he’s all, “um, no.  I don’t want to have someone tying me down.”  Then he finds out she’s only 13 (he seems to be 17-18), and is appropriately freaked out about that.  He asks what’s wrong at home and she tells him.  Then he tells her that her life’s not that bad and she’s lucky to have two parents that love her (even if one’s sick) and to have friends that care about her.  Kind of harsh but true. 
Carson takes off and leaves Sunny on the boardwalk at night.  Classy.  She misses the last bus home and starts to get scared, because apparently the beach isn’t so fun at night.  She uses her only quarter to call home, but gets the machine.  She’s freaking out because she thinks she’s being followed, but then runs into Ducky who’s there looking for her.  Apparently, Sunny’s parents saw her note about running away, got worried, and called all her friends.  She’d mentioned the beach to Ducky previously and he took a chance looking for her.  Ducky drives her home. Sunny goes to Dawn’s first, who calls Mr. and Mrs. Winslow. Dawn’s mad, but lets Sunny spend the night and the two of them talk about what’s been going on.  The next day Sunny talks to her parents about how upset she’s been.  Nothing’s resolved, which marks the difference between these books and the original BSC series.

  • Sunny writes in her journal how she can’t sleep and has been lying awake a long time and even listened to all her CDs trying to sleep. But she writes this at 1:06 am.  How many CDs could she have, I would think it would take more than 3 hours to listen to them all (assuming she went to bed at 10:00, which actually seems early for a 13-year-old).  Maybe she meant over the past few nights?
  • Sunny gets in trouble in math class, because she wasn’t paying attention, and when the teacher asked her to define a tangent she says you can see a lot of them on the beach….tan gents (as in gentlemen), get it?  It’s a really lame joke.  It sounds like something Joey from Full House would have said.
  • Sunny also gets asked about the Electoral College (in a different class) and says it’s a good place to learn.  But that was unintentionally funny.
  • Sunny says 90% of the guys at school wear T-shirts with flannel over them to school.  That’s the first time I’ve ever heard clothing described in a BSC book that matched what I saw in school at the time.
  • Ducky, however, wears a bowling shirt, cool sneakers, and green “overdyed” jeans, which Sunny thinks is much cooler.  I disagree.   But I do admire someone with the guts to go against the trend.
  • One thing I do like is that when Sunny sees Ducky, she mentions how she really doesn’t know him and he doesn’t know her.  They are becoming friends, but they’re not acting like they are already BFFs.
  • That Amalia girl from the last book isn’t mentioned at all, but she gets her own book soon, so I guess she’ll be back.  I already am more interested in her than Maggie, who seems a bit cliché with her whole, “it’s such a burden that my dad’s rich and works with famous celebrities” thing.  Maybe it will be better when I’m reading her POV.
  • Sunny writes in all capital letters.   It’s annoying.  But what’s funny is the back of the book has a quote from the journal and that’s written with proper upper/lowercase letters.  It’s still in Sunny’s “handwriting” though.  I guess someone didn’t communicate with the cover designer.
  • I would think it’s more annoying to write in all capital letters than read them.  It’s just so unnatural.
  • Sunny says Venice Beach is peaceful.  I have to say, I have been there and peaceful isn’t how I’d describe it.  It’s more…overcrowded and noisy.  But that was 2012, so maybe it was calmer whenever this book was written.
  • Sunny gets upset because her mom keeps giving her things like a music box that’s a family heirloom and old jewelry.  She thinks it’s a sign that her mom is settling her affairs because she thinks she’s dying.  She tells her mom (kinda rudely) that she doesn’t want them.  She also mentions how ugly/unfashionable the jewelry is.  Then later Dawn shows up wearing a pair of earrings from this collection, because Mrs. Winslow gave them to her.  Dawn would wear the ugly earrings.  Maybe it’s Connecticut that makes people bad with fashion? No offense to Connecticut.
  • Ducky manages to find Sunny because she had mentioned being at the beach and watching weightlifters.  So, he guesses she meant Venice Beach.  That seems like a bit of a stretch.  Los Angeles is a really big place and there are a lot of beaches.  Even Venice Beach itself is pretty big.  The chances of him finding her seem pretty low.
  • Sunny has to help out at her dad’s bookstore.  She points out in her journal that she’s not legally allowed to work.  So someone in the BSC world’s aware of child labor laws.  Good to know.
  • At one point, Dawn’s dad and Carol come by to have lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Winslow.  Later, Dawn calls Sunny and says how she had wanted to come, but “mom and dad” told her Sunny wasn’t home then either.  Since when does Dawn call Carol “mom?”  Like two seconds later Sunny refers to Dawn’s step-grandparents.  And two pages before that Sunny mentioned “Mr. Schafer and Carol.”  So it’s not like the ghostwriter doesn’t know the backstory.
  • I always thought it was weird how here and in the BSC books the girls referred to the other girls’ parents as Mr. and Mrs., except for in the cases where it was a step parent (Watson and Carol).  Do they have less respect for the step parent? Do they think the reader would get confused if Kristy/Dawn used a first name and the others used a last name?  Cause I think most girls who read these books were smart enough to figure something like that out.
  • So, Sunny gets sent to the principal’s office for not paying attention in class and when Dawn’s all judgy and asking why, Sunny jokes, “you didn’t hear about me and Mr. Dean? It’s serious.”  Which I thought was actually a funny response (and so did Ducky), but Dawn didn’t.  (Note: It’s funny because it’s obviously not true.  It wouldn’t really be funny if a 13-year-old was actually sleeping with her principal).
  • Dawn gets mad at Sunny because she says she covered for her with her parents (about skipping school). She says how Sunny made her a liar.  Which is exactly what Jill said in the first book that they all thought was annoying.
  • Then Sunny tells Dawn she wasn’t a liar because she never said she wasn’t at the beach.  Ah.  13-year-old logic.
  • Speaking of the principal, he basically lets Sunny do whatever she wants because her mom’s sick.  So, do most of the other teachers. She even forges a note about missing school, and they all know she forged it and don’t call her on it.
  • The teachers know she forged the note because she signed it “Dr. Merwin, MD.”  And I guess doctors don’t usually do Dr. and MD in a note. 
  • They did something similar with teachers cutting a student slack in the book where Stacey’s parents got divorced……the teachers let her show up late to every class.  I don’t buy it.  I guess a dying parent’s more serious than a divorce, but it still seems a bit unrealistic that she could get away with missing multiple days of school and never paying attention in class.  There’s the one teacher who sends Sunny to the principal’s office, but everyone else is all, “we’re here if you need someone to talk to.” 
  • I don’t really get why Dawn seems annoyed with Sunny.  The girl’s mom is sick.  She’s dealing with a lot and being a little annoying.  But Dawn’s supposed to be her best friend, she should be a little more understanding.  To me, Sunny’s a fictional character so I don’t have to be understanding.  But Dawn should be.