Saturday, January 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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