california diaries - dawn #1

Jul 10, 2020 21:33

Long time listener, first time caller. (Lurked on and off since this comm was at lj, and I'm old enough to remember the BSC forums at Fametracker and TWOP - aka, a dinosaur.) I hope you like this recap, my first for this fandom.

So, I only just read this series this year, at the tender age of 36, so please take into account that I might not have the hazy nostalgia reading it I feel when I crack open 'Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls' or whatever.

My initial impressions:

* Reading them is stressful, it’s like 15 books worth of that Harry Potter novel where he just screams in capslock and gets in fist fights throughout the whole thing.

* A lot of the styling is lazy (there’s less of a narrative, just long chunks in script format.)

* A big chunk of the book is taken up with Sunny Winslow, Dawn’s bff from California, and how she deals with her mother’s terminal illness; and while it is actually brilliantly realised, and possibly some of the best writing ever done by AMM and PL generally, it is also painful to read.

* If you found Dawn irritating in the BSC…wheew, you’ll look back on the days of her lecturing fatties, spying on people and leaving nasty poems in her friend’s rooms as Saint Dawn in comparison. Nobody’s nicest phase is thirteen, but CD!Dawn is like, American Psycho levels of spiteful and self-involved.

Written by Ann, there’s a lot of heavy foreshadowing about a new Time in Dawn’s life and how Things Are Changing, I guess to set up the conceit (phase out Jill, reinvent Maggie, deepen Sunny, introduce Ducky.)

While the Diaries don't bite the bullet and remove Dawn from the endless Stoneybrook time-warp, it's instead gently suggested that you accept these guys are not In High School (But Not Really.)

In some ways, I think it’s an interesting choice, in that 13 or so really is the weirdest ages in terms of life experience, in that you’ll have kids losing their virginity, and kids who still, idk, play with action figures; but then again, it does create this massive dissonance when characters from this series appear in the BSC.

I figured I'd recap the three Dawn Diaries, then maybe notes on the other characters.

Dawn notes that something’s going on with every one of her friends, and she doesn’t like it (idk, is there a phase where all your friends just cease to exist?)

Basically, they’re all struggling at once. Dawn notes that they probably worry about her - ooh, empathy? - but then decides that her problem is that she is ‘distracted by school’ and not that she’s cruel and judgemental.

Vista is apparently overcrowded. Vista always kind of gives me the creeps, maybe it’s the name, or it being a private school, or that it took like, a decade before anyone was mentioned attending there who didn’t look like a blonde child from Village of the Damned.

Anyway, it’s bs that there’s a zillion parents paying fees and kids have got have maths in the gym, but then again, it’s a city where parents have basically abdicated much parenting aside from poor Carol, so maybe the admin just took the money and ran with it, figuring everyone’s too busy being cool and laid-back to check the bills for a while.

Poor old Jeff is jettisoned as crabby and Dawn’s glad he’s walking with his dorky friends.

Dawn calls for Sunny, who she always walks with, and there's a vulnerable, sympathetic moment where she’s unsure now Mrs. W. is sick whether it’s still appropriate to act like usual or whether she should be giving the family more space.

The moment is quickly abandoned when Sunny explains she wants to leave, as her mom is sick from chemo and having a horrible moment. Dawn reflects that if HER mom was sick, she’d want to be with her, not flee her. She then fights off another brief moment of empathy in which she recognises that she doesn’t actually know how she’d react. (Or, tbh, what Sunny’s mom feels. Perhaps the last thing she needs when she’s nauseous is to worry that her only child is missing school to…watch her barf?)

Dawn notes Sunny seems swift to become impatient with Dawn, but doesn’t connect this to how she constantly criticises all aspects of Sunny at every available moment.

Everyone sneers at Jill for wearing babyish clothes, I guess because she doesn’t have the slim figure and model good looks of Claudia Kishi.

Jill's got style!

(Also they wanted some diversity, and I guess they figured better keep Maggie, who at least has a glamorous lifestyle.)

There’s some pretty broad continuity even for BSC members, let alone until now minor characters like the WLKC, but the last we heard of Jill, she was nurturing and thoughtful; whereas here in these books (perhaps because they’re told from the perspective of her frenemies), she seems bordering on having some kind of intellectual disability.

Dawn’s hilarious here. Whereas with Mary Anne, they kind of traded off who got to passive-aggressive and judgemental; here she basically enables Sunny to be nasty to Jill so she can then judge Sunny for being a bitch, but also put Jill in her place without having to get her hands dirty.

(I wouldn’t be 13 again if you paid me a million dollars.)

It’s announced that the eighth grade, in a transparent attempt at more mature themes without upsetting crossover potential with Connecticut, will merge with the high school; as apparently Vista didn’t spend the fees on a calculator, and waited ‘til school started to realise they actually have to follow fire legislation and other, like, totally un-California casual rules, and not have the kids crammed in on top of each other.

Jill is nervous about the high school news, Sunny claims to be excited, lampshading ‘I feel like we’ve been in middle school forever.’

Dawn, like any proud BSC member, immediately checks out the huge cans of the high schoolers, noting disapprovingly that they wear ‘lots of makeup’ and ‘tight dresses’ showing off their ‘D-cup breasts’.

(Having been both a founding member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee at Dawn’s age, and by high school, wearing an F cup; I will say the thing with big tits, same as being chubby, another thing banned in BSCland, is that people rarely complain about revealing clothing on slim and flat-chested girls. I’m pretty sure Jessi’s leotards are, by definition, tight, for example.)

I get the connection when you’re a teenager, especially as people develop at different rates, to assume from appearances; but that this crops up not only in Dawn’s POV, but also Maggie’s, as well as in the BSC series does just seem like it’s a particularly conservative streak; which is disappointing in a relatively late book. And Dawn sure loves patriarchal norms for such an individual, although I’ll be fair and say that later on, she throws in lots of shots at ‘model slim’ Sunny for getting her navel pierced and wearing short shorts; so at least she’s equally opportunity at shaming girls of all sizes.

There’s then a weird interlude where Dawn wishes her dad had married their sixty year old housekeeper.

Dawn’s sort of resembles a Victorian gentlemen here: a single man is in want of a wife, why invest additional expenditure on a maid when marriage will gain one household labour for free? Like, at one point she notes that Mrs. Bruen is an excellent cook, making up for the deficit of Carol’s food preparation skills.

I’m surprised she doesn’t just tell her father to ensure Carol had a gynaecological exam before the wedding to ensure there’ll be no impediment to his marital rights.

(The fact that Mr. S. was married for over two decades and has two children without learning how to operate an oven seems to be neither here nor there.)

Disneyland Dad Jack Schafer announces he’s going on a business trip for ten days. (Brilliantly, he hasn’t even mentioned this to his wife, who finds out the same time as his kids.)

Dawn wanted moral support from her dad as the next day will be her first in the new school building. Carol reminds Dawn she’ll be there, to which Dawn snarks ‘I know.’

Jack ignores them (hey, he purchased a housekeeper for feeding and a new, younger wife for care-giving; his job here is done. Schafer out!)

Carol promises to take the kids out, and Dawn grudgingly accepts to let her stupid stepmom blow money on her.

In fairness to Dawn, I’ll say Carol then acts like a moron when Dawn relays that Sunny told her her mother is back in hospital, and that her chemotherapy has made her sterile.

(It’s a shame that a conversation with Sunny in which Dawn is supportive is told but not shown here, btw. We get lots of talk about them being best friends, but the conversations on the page tend to be punctuated with Dawn’s observations about how Sunny is inappropriately sad/angry/quiet/loud in the face of her mother’s illness; and yet the one time when Dawn is worried about a friend, and we don’t ‘see’ it!)

Dawn asks Carol what this means (she needed to ‘talk to a woman’ about it - birthings are women’s business, y’all) to which Carol blushes and giggles. Jesus.

Carol, you’re 32, and you’re discussing how a woman - and one you know! - is undergoing painful treatment for a life-threatening illness. I get being embarrassed by discussing reproduction with a stepdaughter you’re not overly close with; but it’s not like Dawn said ‘Teehee, what’s a dildo?’

Dawn reflects that all her friends are changing, that Sunny is acting ‘wild’ and is disinterested with babysitting (tbh, I think it’s Ann that was growing disinterested with babysitting and writing endless skills for the Perkins girls to master! I’d actually be interested in seeing Sunny sitting, not only because I’ve personally found working with children to be very helpful in dealing with bereavement; but also as there was such a fuss made about the WLKC's closeness to Stephie Anderson, the kid who’s mom also passed away. Maybe one for the fic writers?)

Maggie is trying to be ‘perfect’ but Dawn wonders ‘doesn’t she know she’ll never please her parents?’

I dunno, I feel like 13’s a little young to give up the idea of wanting your parents love.

If she was 43 and she was still fixated on fixing them, sure, but her mom’s actively drinking (it’s not clear how far ahead these books were planned, as I’ll go into later) and she’s completely helpless in the situation, with no alternative like Dawn has to switch coasts. What’s she supposed to, give them up for a bad lot and move out? I know 13 is incredibly ancient in BSC years, but still…

Poor Jill ‘isn’t changing’ (stop changing and not changing at the same time, everyone!)

The next day, Dawn is humiliated after she kicks and hits another’s student locker, mistaking it for her own. (Hmm, Dawn has previous form form here, I’d keep an eye on her!)
The locker owner, Mandy, is an OTT Cokie Mason-style villain who practically cackles that she’ll take your little toy dog too, bwhahaha!

(It’s not clear how old this girl is, but from the sheer attitude, I would assume only the grade below, this is some serious Stoneybrook ‘At 10, you can’t clean your own spills, at 11 you can rent an apartment’ style attitude. I’d guess an actual high-schooler wouldn’t dignify an eight grader by acknowledging their existence.)

Mandy steps forward, her friend is holding her back. I’m torn. I’m a pacifist, and yet the prospect of Dawn getting her ass handed to her does give me an almost spiritual sense of joy.

The friend is clearly an expert negotiator of the rage-filled Mandy, and distracts her from hulking out by reading some dumb note Jill included to Dawn about being puppy pals. It’s weird how the 90s had a fixation with acting cool and adult at all times, when twenty years later, it’s perfectly acceptable for grown adults to cart around stuffed toys and Legos. Jill’s just ahead of her time, I guess.

Dawn runs down the hall, which sounds funnier than the puppy pal thing, maybe because I’m picturing Anna Faris in Scary Movie for some reason.

(We should keep a Dawn running count, because for a kid who ripped off her dad’s credit card and fled the country, she’s sure fixated in this series about how Sunny’s a monster for stuff like, skipping school for the beach.)

She vows revenge on Jill as well as Mandy of the 'flashing eyes':

Jeff’s apparently also hormonal as hell, and is furious that he has to buy new clothes.

He doesn’t want Carol to go with him, as she has no idea what fifth grade boys wear (as if mens fashion is so complex you’d need a ring decoder and map to fathom. I was never a fifth grade boy, nor am I in current possession of one, but I’m gonna take a punt on this one and say: shirt and pants?) but his sixty year old housekeeper will.
Obviously Dawn could take him, or at a pinch, Jeff could go himself (the Arnold twins are capable of choosing their own clothes, and they’re eight) but the Schafers never make an easy decision when there’s the opportunity for a tantrum.

Even Jeff has a diary, apparently, which Dawn reads (as he ‘left it open right out on the coffee table!’ Oh, Dawn. Never Always change.) but it’s full of hatred for her. Jeff needs to join bsc-snark already.

Dawn notes that Mary Anne called, and that BLASPHEMY OF BLASPHEMIES, she doesn’t miss MA or her other friends or even babysitting as much as she thought she would.

TBH, dealing with Palo Alto, even with the anorexia, cancer, racism, domestic abuse and suicide attempts (spoilers!) would STILL probably seem relaxing when you have three afternoons free a week where you don’t have to endure either Kristy’s gavel or the Pike family. Sorry, not sorry.

She informs us she and her friends are always hanging out, at the movies, shopping, or eyeing cute guys (don’t take the rampant lesbianism of the BSC away from me! It was one of my favourite parts!) and take that, feminists! Girls are always thinking that boys ‘rudely’ check out girls, but hey, girls do it too!
(Womankind as a whole is floored by Dawn’s logic, and the objectification of men in society is stopped in it’s tracks.)

Jill continues to suck for liking babysitting, the things that Dawn spends 95% of her visits to Stoneybrook doing, and also cookie baking and popcorn making?
I might have to also keep a watch on Death to Environmentalism, because in this book, there’s very little sign of the fixation with health food that was the pre-CD WLKC’s like, one trait.
Anyway, eating food and stuff is really childish (beginning to see how Maggie’s eating disorder escapes Dawn’s keen eye for so long!) I’m beginning to miss Claudia and her magic metabolism, at least I could live vicariously through her gorging.

Dawn and her friends receives an invitation to a party from upperclassmen.
This is kind of painful cause you already know it’s going to be some kind of mean trick, but also because it’s such a stupid plan that I’m forced to believe Vista is failing not just it’s limitless humongous younger student body, but in fact all it’s students, who are apparently one to a man, moronic.
(Do they even take exams here? I’m picturing the school Maeby attends in Arrested Development where she receives like, a crocodile in deportment.)

Everyone’s all excited, it’s kind of sad, they’re like ‘Yay, the big kids want to meet us, big time, this is when our life begins!’
This just reminds me of when your class had a civvies day or you moved up a grade, and you honestly believed that this would be it, and everyone would recognise your inner worth and life would start becoming what you were promised it would be, desperately wanting something external to validate you, whether it was a job or a first date or a bra, and each time, you were just stuck with yourself

Dawn waits til Jill leaves before asking the other two ‘If this party is for cool kids, how come Jill got invited?’ Nice.

I’m not sure if Dawn’s suspicion is because she’s smarter than the other two, or just recognises how unlikely it is she’d be singled out.

They debate attending. Jill makes a valid point that the kids are 18 and are going to be doing age appropriate activities, which is actually an excellent point that Ann then squashes by making it about how Jill’s so tone deaf she wants to bring cookies along.

Dawn reflects on what kind of person she is, and how she’s not always a very good person, but she sometimes can’t help it.
Then she ‘somehow didn’t manage’ to hang up the phone because her stepmom’s new gynae calls (doesn’t everyone at 13 know their mom’s new gynae’s name? Relatable content.)
Oh, Dawn. You make it too easy for me.

Carol’s pregnant (who goes to a gynaecologist for that? Pee on your own time, Carol!)

Dawn wants to spread the news, but thank god, does at least realise she has to talk to Carol first. (To be honest, with Dawn, I wouldn’t put it past her to expect Carol to ask Dawn's permission to tell people.)

Carol is chiller than I would be about this (for Dawn, anyway) minor misdemeanour, but tells Dawn not to get too excited. Possibly because Dawn suggests the name ‘Ashley, spelled A-S-H-L-E-I-G-H?)

Carol explains that she wanted Jack to know, and hadn’t imagined finding out when he was away, asking Dawn to tell, which is like telling a fish not to swim. It’s Dawn’s favourite hobby, besides judgement, and locker defacement.

The gang discuss the party, but come no closer to an agreement. Jill suggests they have a sleepover, and that they go to the mall.
At the mall, Sunny wonders about getting two more piercings in each ear. Dawn, who has two a piece herself, is like Whaaaaaat? Two is sedate. Three is just crazy talk!
Idk, I think Dawn just likes people to consult her before they make major decisions like what to wear or eat or think.
Sunny suggests getting her navel pierced, to which Dawn forbids it: ‘You are not getting your navel pierced. Or getting extra holes. You have enough holes already.’ (Hey-oh!)
Jesus, Dawn, have you ever heard of reverse psychology? I’m a grown adult with no interest in body jewellery or art, but Dawn’s so hectoring and insufferable, after five minutes with her, I’d leave that mall with my nipples, clit and tongue pierced just for the look on her face.

Sunny’s a model of patience, in comparison.

Maggie suggests the pet store, to which Jill responds ‘Oh, goody gumdrops, ickly kittens!’ or something similar. Idk, Maggie’s interest in animals is cool and independent (and fleeting!), but Jill’s is pathetic and puerile. Just go with it.

Sunny rolls her eyes, as literally everything Jill says seems to make the other girls writhe in revulsion. They’re basically Kevin the Teenager:

Jill terminally embarrasses them by, idk, respirating in public. Having hair. Walking on legs.

Dawn’s torn between the joy of comparing herself to Jill and finding Jill wanting, and her boner at the chance to deliver another lecture, and she tells Sunny: ‘Stop being obvious about your loathing of Jill, it would be awful if she notices and stops being friends with us and we can’t just mock her behind her back anymore!’

Then she remembers she’s trying to be nice, and asks if Sunny is *gasp* get this, upset over her mother. Hmmm. I’m no Sigmund Freud, but yes, her mother’s slow and painful death from cancer might possibly be the key to her poor mood!

They order food, and Sunny bursts into tears, thinking about how her mom can’t eat.
Dawn reminds herself to be extra, extra, EXTRA nice to Sunny (so, anyone else’s ‘pleasant’) then wonders if ‘extra nice’ extends to navel rings.

Sickeningly, Sunny goes ahead and gets the navel piercing anyway, showing it off all ‘smugly’, like it’s her body or something. Dawn literally forbade her!

Dawn's reaction

Everyone’s speechless with horror, 'mouths open' like she’s tattooed a swastika on her forehead.

Um, I was also an extremely lame 13 year old in 1997, and even I gave exactly zero shits when my friend got her belly button pierced. Unless things were somehow more socially conservative in so cool California than a grubby market town in the UK; then I’m going to need these guys to cool their tits just a little.

Carol drops off Dawn and Sunny to Jill’s. Carol’s plans (to eat and then play miniature golf) sets off that innate antennae) implanted in all BSC members, past and future, that tells them how to parent kids better than their own mothers, and Dawn decides something’s wrong with Carol’s pregnancy, as ‘most women’ feel sick and are really, really tired in the first trimester, and I guess, neither eat nor go out for the entire 40 weeks, dawn til dusk.

Carol’s basically begging for a miscarriage, if not outright trying to abort this pregnancy with a miniature golf club behind Jeff’s back while he takes a shot!

Jeff pretends to be a duck for some reason, while Sunny and Dawn bring a bag of gorp to the sleepover.

Yes, it’s definitely the sleepover that’s lame, not the gorp.

They reminisce about how when they were young, they brought candy (what the devil?! Not macrobiotic yoghurt covered trail mix?!) and stuffed animals, and now they’re packing clothes and makeup like a business trip.

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They rant about these young kids nowadays with their baggy pants and their cell phones, yadda yadda.

Dawn continues to police all interactions, informing the reader that Jill has a dumb sense of humour.

Sunny smiles ‘politely’ to which Dawn nudges her, elbows her and mouths ‘Be. Nice’ like you might a recalcitrant two year old. I don’t know, I guess smiling politely was just the precursor to a bitch-slap, or maybe Sunny should have just guffawed a huge belly laugh every time Jill speaks.

It occurs to me that with the effort Dawn spends micromanaging Sunny, she could have had time to have had a thousand positive interactions with Jill herself.

Maggie’s embarrassed that she had to come in a limo. Relatable! She whines about how she can’t wait until she lives in a normal house and drives an old station wagon and no one notices her, and u guys, privilege can actually be a handicap! I see what she and Dawn have in common.

Sunny cracks that Maggie could change her name to Doctor Dolittle, which is easily as crap a joke as any of Jill’s but Maggie smiles. (TBH, I think Jill’s just the group scapegoat here, until her ejection leads to the even easier target of Sunny.)

Jill’s mom won’t let them eat in Jill’s room (tbh, my mum would still probably try and enforce that one) but they’ve wheeled in the VCR (old skool! Remember when you’d get someone to loan you their’s and make your own video piracy lab? Or maybe that was just me), and it’s just endlessly painful as Jill suggests lame movies and games and the others are generally insufferable and shoot her down.

Jill cracks and asks Sunny if she just came because she couldn’t go the other party, which Sunny doesn’t deny.

(Sunny is easily as annoying as any other thirteen year old, which is to say epically, but I do have a sneaking respect for her for at least being a bitch to people’s faces, as opposed to Dawn, who likes to gang up before an attack.)

Maggie hems and haws ‘diplomatically’ about how sleepovers USED to be fun, while Dawn is like ‘I was totally going to say something nice to Jill and make up with her, but then Sunny sneakily suggested we go out, and I was suddenly paralysed in my vocal chords.’

Maggie and Dawn agree swiftly to party, although Jill refuses. Once the others basically declare they’re going whatever, Dawn tries the old ‘Well, if you’re SURE, but we really do want you to come’ and promises and crosses her heart they’ll only stay for an hour, blah blah blah.

They take torches in case there are streets without lights and shoes to walk in, which, tbh, I am a little impressed with.

Dawn’s all nervous arriving because there’s kids MAKING OUT on floats - also impressive, I’ll admit, I can barely float on a float.

The eighth graders aren’t mixing with the older kids, and look ‘uncomfortable’ drinking or smoking (lol, like the 16 year olds are looking awesome.)

Dawn’s like ‘They didn’t provide any food.’

That is strike one, as far as I'm concerned. THEY PROMISED PUNCH AND PIE.

But there’s a massive punch bowl - so many clues but so much mystery!
Sunny’s like ‘Awesome, self-destruction!’ (She's a very nihilistic 13 year old, frankly.)
Maggie’s like ‘Don’t we have to introduce ourselves to the host and thank them for inviting us and hand over flowers?’
Basically, they’re as lame as Jill, and now they’re minus her as their camouflage to hide it.

Sunny’s raring to get wasted and get her training bra felt, while Dawn and Maggie are petrified. Eventually they follow her over to the punch table, and some dude offers her a cigarette. Sunny pauses, and smiles at the guy.
Dawn interjects with ‘She doesn’t smoke. Her mother’s dying of lung cancer. Thanks anyway’, and the guy leaves.
Sunny’s nicer than I am, and is apparently angry, shocked and amused all at once, as opposed to frankly intimidated at how borderline abusive Dawn’s desire level of control over her is.

Eeeevil older girls offer them mixers. Sunny says she’ll get more, and Dawn’s like ‘Well, I wasn’t going to leave your side for thirty seconds or more, but now you’re necking back the shots, I’m sure you’ll be fine!’ and kind of casually notes that that’s the last she saw of Sunny for quite a while.

(Seriously, it’s noticeably weird. Apparently Dawn needs to intervene in all matters involving food, fashion, gynaecological or tobacco related; but when she could finally have squeezed in a lecture about a legit unhealthy substance, she stays quiet? #NotMySchafer)

They meet up with Amelia (Jill’s new replacement, and the first Latina in L.A., which up to this point has only created various shades of blondes.)

Sunny’s already wobbling around all ‘How nice to see you!’ (definitely a thing the kids say when they’re hammered) talking about another little drinksi and how she’s veeeeeeery ‘firsty’.

Amelia, Maggie and Dawn bond over the weird ways you can pronounced ‘sloshed’ and how you can have fun without drinking like they’re forty year old AA members.

(I’m not clear if they’d planned Maggie’s mom’s alcoholism at this point - I don’t recall when it crops up, but I feel like her being gently amused by Sunny’s staggering around doesn’t really fit in with it.)

Anyway, Mags, Dawn and Amelia indulge in a half an hour or so of ‘goofing on people, gossiping, and turning down drinks and cigarettes’ - no stimulant could fill Dawn with the rush it gives her to judge others.

Sunny comes up all ‘Hi Dawn, it’sh me, Shunshine.’

(When you’re drunk, you like to remind people of your embarrassing first name? You slur your s’, but fully contract and finish your sentences? You make witty Freudian slips like calling the bathroom ‘barfroom’? I dunno, man.)

Dawn demands (NOW?) how much Sunny’s had to drink, and Sunny’s like ‘That nishe boy keepsh refilling the bowl’ (not creepy at all!) but then wants to heave.

(Amalia has probably the most realistic 13 year old reaction by squawking and shitting herself: ‘Ewwwwww, you’re not going to barf, are you?!’)

Dawn and Maggie at least have the nous to drag Sunny over to some bushes, and Dawn even pats her back.

Amalia and Maggie are all humiliated that…I don’t know, someone in their vicinity and same grade level puked?

Mandy and her friends are grinning, although to be frank, the only thing that sounds worse than being 13 and vomiting your guts up is being 14 and voluntarily choosing to witness same.

Sunny’s still dizzy, and Dawn, Captain Hindsight realises ‘this party was beginning to seem like a very bad idea to me’. Lord. Dawn’s pretty slow on the draw. You basically walked half the town so you could sit on a barcalounger with two people you already know.

Sunny lays down on the stoop of the house. Hilariously, Maggie and Dawn edge away, lest they get glared at by the ninth graders. They’re like ‘I’m sure our teeny 13 year old friend who just drank their own body-weight of spirits in like, an hour will be fine. If I recall from my Babysitter’s Club First Aid training, the best thing you can do for vomiting unconsciousness is sidle off and check back once in a while.’

Then some guy starts throwing everyone in the pool, and Dawn accidentally pushes the mean girl (I thought she was bailing on Sunny to get away from this bitch?) in the pool, and there’s the sudden plot development that Maggie has huge cans.
It’s really weird, actually, Dawn naturally notes that Maggie should always wear a bra, because she and Mary Anne are into boobs, and then there seems to be a legitimate attempt to show this one ninth grade dude, Justin as a prince because instead of ‘humiliating her’ with a leer, he’s surprised, then…admiring, unable to ‘drag his eyes away from Maggie’s…ample chest’.

So basically he pops a huge boner, like the classy guy he is:

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seeing a wet, embarrassed 13 year old’s tits, to the point where he ignores evil Mandy and her ‘tantalizingly clingy wet dress’ (Dawn’s words, not mine) so I guess Maggie wins or something? Lucky her.

There’s lots of foreshadowing about how the mean Mandy will never ever forget this insult, and wouldn’t you know it?
She never makes another appearance after this book.
I despair sometimes, I really do.

Maggie and Dawn return to Sunny, telling her it’s time to go. Sunny makes me laugh with a very literal: ‘Oh, no, I couldn't possibly!'

Suddenly sirens wail, and you get 0 internet dollars if you guessed that the big kids called the cops and ran away.

Maggie argues how they have to walk all the way back, in the dark, through the woods, hiding from the 5-0, with a drunk kid, because they can’t let Jill’s mom witness Sunny ‘like this’.

I dunno, man, find a bench and a well-light house and call your personal limo; but rule one of the BSC and therefore the WLKC, is never, ever inform an adult when a situation can be dealt with by a pre-teen.

Sunny apparently has a kick ass constitution not shared by her mother, however, and gets a second wind, being all loud but successfully navigating, which frankly is yet another task that bests me as a sober adult.

On the way, they bump into Amalia again, and a ‘nice guy. The one who everyone seemed to like’ from study hall offers them a ride. Enter Ducky!

(To be honest, I feel like a monster, but Ducky is a Bit Much. He’s basically the Mary Sue of the group. Who’s there to rescue Maggie from her abusive mother? Who’s the only one who Sunny can tolerate throughout her grieving? Who saves their friend from suicide attempts, twice? Who buys everyone tickets to a concert and offers them a ride there and back? I waited all series for him to ever make a mistake and get interesting, and the one time he does, everyone apologises to him anyway!)

Dawn’s like ‘huh, we don’t know this guy, and we’re going to trust him with our lives?’ but then he tells them his name, and they’re like ‘Sold!’

(To be honest, I’m lazy af, and would probably have gotten in the car with Ted Bundy if he saved me walking, so I can’t judge.)

Ducky even promises to take Sunny and Dawn back in the morning to look for Sunny’s wallet.
They then throw stones at Jill’s window so she’ll let them in. (Let them sleep in the yard!)

Unfortunately, Sunny’s back to puking. Jill’s disgusted (heh, and she doesn’t even know Sunny’s drunk! She’s just like, 'oh, ew, go do that in the toilet!' like you would with a retching animal. How did she and Amelia survive babysitting?!) but reassures the girls that she lied to her mom and told her they were all asleep upstairs.

This isn’t enough loyalty that Dawn can’t remind us that Jill is ‘wearing pyjamas with feet in them.’

I kinda like Jill when Maggie’s like ‘Don’t you want to know what happened to us?’ and Jill just says ‘...Not really.’

Jill wonders why she even covered for them, and Sunny cracks me up, hiding from the bright light under her own sweatshirt, saying in a small voice: ‘We appreciate it. We really do.’

Sunny passes out, and Jill’s even more freaked out, wringing her hands about what you do when someone passes out. They decide on the advanced medical care of shoe removal and a trash can.

(It’s weird that this book breaks the conceit of diaries later for Maggie’s Very Special Episode of Anorexia, and details all about how you can call this hotline or that - not for Amalia’s Brush with Domestic Violence, however, oddly enough - but it doesn’t tell you the one useful first aid tip you might need to know: don’t leave a passed out person to sleep it off.

However, I do feel like generally the portrayal of drunkeness is pretty decent for a teen book, it’s not glamorised into the old ‘You’ll be confident and cool’, despite the stupid Sean Connery dialogue, it’s fairly legit as to the phases of feeling bad, then better, then worse again; and they show not only the hangover but also the embarrassment of being the puker.)

We meet Ms. Krueger, the home owner and teacher at Vista, and she gives Ducky, Dawn and Sunny a ticking off; where she groups alcohol poisoning in with the dangers of smoking and walking alone at night, but her ‘advice’ is basically ‘You could die.’
Not ‘Never leave a friend unconscious at a strange location’, or even ‘If this occurs again, I want you to call a parent, I don’t care how late it is or how cross you think they’ll be.’
Just ‘you could die drinking. Or walking alone. Or inhaling a single cigarette. Be safe out there, kids!’

Ducky explains: “The party was a prank thought up by the upperclassmen. It was their way of hazing the eighth-graders. They planned this mysterious party and they decided to hold it at Ms. Krueger’s house because they knew she wouldn’t be home this weekend. They served liquor at the party, and they waited until things got just out of control enough, and then they called the cops. I’m not sure who made the call, but the plan was for the caller to say he was a neighbor and complain about the noise or something. Then all the upperclassmen left. The only kids who got caught were a bunch of eighth-graders. But I didn’t know half of this until I got to the party.”

Okay. I call shenanigans.

So the upperclassmen planned to haze the eighth graders.

They do this by only inviting some of the eighth graders to their party (why not all? Is this their devotion to the bit? Have they tracked these kid’s personalities for months to ensure no one’s invited who might blab, apart from Jill, the sole outlier? The eighth graders are stupid enough to fall for this line, but somehow open invitations would clue them in when, oh, nothing else ever did. Is it to destroy eighth grade from within with it’s own dissent? Invite as many as can come, since you loathe them so much for your contrived reasons! They’re probably not all going to turn up, anyway, some of them have realistic lives in which they can’t walk the entirety of California, and their parents actually interact with their children.)

They dick over Ms. Krueger because, idk, they hate her for being understanding and she routinely shares her vacation plans with her classes?

They serve liquor, and then…they….drink some, make out and destroy shit but all stay sober and well behaved enough to exit precisely 120 minutes after the soiree begins?


So these teenagers managed to access booze - and spirits, too, not even something cheap!
And every single one of them is like, no, at 16, I’ll sensibly abstain to teach those intemperate eighth-graders. I’d love to spend twenty bucks on vodka for the joy of watching a bunch of tweens get blasted. I’m not even gonna go and get fingered by my crush, instead, I’m literally going to attend this party for two hours in which the sole temptation for me is that I break lawn furniture and get to watch some kids I don’t even know get chucked in a pool, or puke (not even gonna bring a camera to capture the moment!) in the hope that when the police catch them, they’re going to do anything other than grimace and call their moms for a Stern Talking To.

Dawn checks in at home.

Carol is ‘dressed in tennis whites…eating an ice cream cone. Not exactly the picture of a pregnant woman.’

Again. She’s 3 weeks pregnant. Most women don’t even know at this point!
This isn’t ‘the head’s engaged and Carol’s still going on rollercoasters’.
Is she supposed to be retire from public life like a Victorian?
The BSC went on infant care courses, and while they could be insane as a rule, I don’t recall this deranged fixation with appropriate garb and dietary choices.

Dawn apologies to Jill, who admits she was worried - naturellement, not about the unconscious friend but the risk of walking ‘there’ (not back?! When it’s even later?) at night - I don’t live in California, but is this a thing? Like, no, ideally, your tweenagers won’t be wandering the streets alone, and apparently there isn’t street lighting everywhere; but I feel like this is a really odd focus.

Dawn thinks Jill is exaggerating and acting parental (hello Pot, this is Kettle!) but is flattered that Jill still cares about ‘us. About me, anyway.’
This leads her to decide that while she’s ‘outgrowing Jill’ she wants to be her friend anyway.

There’s a reminder that Jill is ‘sensitive’, although in every book after this one, she seems numb to human conventions utterly; and that she can read Dawn’s mind (tbh, not much of a challenge, I would guess, considering how…um…free Dawn is with sharing her opinions.)

Dawn confides in her that Carol’s pregnant but that she ‘doesn’t like the way Carol is handling things’ and that she’s acting ‘not very pregnant’ (in all seriousness - what is Dawn’s suspicion here?
Does she think Carol’s running an elaborate con with her gynae as her partner in crime?
Does she think that they followed with ‘We detected an abnormality. We could run screens when you’re further on, or you could terminate; but my medical advice is to play tennis and eat icecream, the cause of 100% of miscarriages.’

(Claudia’s aunt went full on Stepford wife and quit her job basically as soon as Russ shot his wad, and she still miscarried!)

Jill then comes over to bake cookies (sugar????) and to ‘ruin Dawn’s life’ by…blabbing that Dawn blabbed to Carol. (I’ll credit Jill by saying she instinctively goes to help Carol with something heavy, showing that she was at least raised right.)

Carol’s ticked, she thought she could trust Dawn (…why?)

Dawn calls Jill a baby (without Sunny to hide behind? Pretty bold for Dawn!) and Jill, fairly, asks if it was such a big secret, why did Dawn tell her?

Dawn ignores that one, but is like, ‘Jill, you suck’ until Jill leaves in tears.

Then she apologises to Carol, but reflects that she’s disappointed in Carol for depriving her father the right to know about the baby like she’s campaigning for Fathers for Justice. I dunno, the guy nutted in your stepmom less than 21 days ago.

It’s especially funny as she’s like ‘I told Dad all about my life but not about the news he DESERVES to know’, as if she told her dad about the party. Then she’s like ‘Dad called to check up on his kids. HIS KIDS. ALL HIS KIDS.’ until poor Carol cracks.

Dawn tries to listen in on the phone call. If I were Carol, I’d be booking a termination quicker than Geena Davis in 'The Fly', then packing my bags under cover of darkness at this point.

At Vista, it’s declared that ninth and eleventh graders will get no class trip (consequences for criminal behaviour, when you’re white and privileged) and the eighth and tenth raders won’t have money for ‘anything but’ (am I missing something? What else are they expected to fund?)

It’s revealed from a cliffhanger absolutely no one was waiting to be revealed, that Sunny’s wallet was planted at the house by the mean ninth grader, Mandy, because she…mistook it for Maggie’s.

There’s lots of foreshadowing where Ducky’s like ‘You just made a powerful enemy.’

And then Mandy walks out of the series forever more.

Jill and Dawn have an argument where Jill’s disappointed that basically everyone in the school has had to suffer for what some of the eighth graders and hazers pulled; and Dawn’s like ‘you jerk, you wanted us to get in trouble?’
Jill’s like ‘You’re the one who ditched me!’
Dawn pulls out the big guns with the classic emotional abuser line: ‘I already said sorry, I can’t do anything right, can I? What do you want from me?’

Jill thinks they got off light and Dawn turns into a noir cop: ‘Life ain’t black and white. There ain’t no justice, just the justice we carve for ourselves on the streets, wiping away the scum. Sometimes good suffers and evil prospers, and you need me people like me to dirty our hands with blood so you can sleep safely at night.’

TBH, I would much prefer Jill stay and Maggie go - despite her brain bypass in this book, I feel like a Jill is relatable to the intended audience in a way Maggie isn’t, and that at least she differentiates herself from the group. (Maggie often reads like a carbon copy of Dawn in terms of tone and language.)

But it's too late, and Jill is gone forever more!

california diaries, meta, #notmyschafer

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