california diaries mini recaps

Jul 12, 2020 23:04


So, Maggie's first diary in particular is very imitative of the Dawn diaries in tone.
Maggie is easily the hardest character to emphasise with, not only because her life is so fantastical, but also there’s no real sense of consequences for anything.
If Maggie doesn’t win the battle of the bands, there’s no risk - we already have it confirmed that she’s a talented singer, academically successful, and has a father in the entertainment business ready to aid her should she wish to pursue music.
I mean, these are 13-16 year olds, so it’s not as if there’s huge consequences at stake for any of them, but in comparison, you have characters like Amalia who’s first book is about dealing with an emotionally abusive boyfriend, Ducky dealing with a suicidal friend, and Sunny coming to terms with her mother’s terminal illness.
It could be an opportunity for much needed lightness and escapism, but actually, Maggie isn’t particularly funny. She doesn’t enjoy any of the wish fulfilment aspects of being wealthy and famous, and just tuts at everyone around her for not realising how shallow actors are.
The second Maggie diary is probably strongest in that focuses on her eating disorder and how it may relate to her mom’s drinking problem, but the conclusion to this plot in an odd choice is actually in Ducky’s last diary, while Maggie’s focuses once again on a more fantastical plot of her dating a movie star.


Amalia and Ducky are easily the most likeable of the five characters, especially as they’re the ‘new’ ones, however this doesn’t necessarily translate to being interesting to read about.
Ducky at least is linked to Sunny via their developing friendship, and while his characterisation is not subtle, there are parallels drawn between his old friend, Alex, who’s struggling with depression, and Sunny, making him a character which can be included in several other diaries and establishing him off the bat as part of the group. His diaries are also all in the second person, which is at least an original stylistic choice.
Amalia by contrast is pretty much an original character fanwork, particularly in her first book. Later books improve matters by focusing on her friendship with Maggie, although this can seem like infodumping on anorexia. Her third diary is the most interesting, talking about how her experience of racism means the others cannot emphasise on some level with her, despite their own issues.


Ducky’s need to help others does at least establish a character who forges links with others. His first book focuses on his friend Alex’s growing depression, the second on both his parents return and Alex’s suicide attempt, and the third with both aiding Maggie through her mom’s alcoholic breakdown, and his friendship with Sunny.
Ducky, I think, more than the others is sort of summed up by missed opportunities - he's coded gay, but the series never really commits to developing this or god forbid, giving him an actual love interest.
He has parents who live abroad, which is touched upon as something that bothers him, but again, never really resolved, and seems to be as much about plot contrivance as establishing his character.
He's also heavily idealised by the other girls. In part, I find this is kind of refreshing in that it's a rare YA series aimed at girls that sets a high standard for male characters (there was a lot of talk about how thoughtful Logan was in BSC, but in practice, not so much) and Ducky does legitimately bend over backwards for those around him, like, it's nice to see a dude in the usually female role of supporting and nurturing everyone and neglecting their own needs.
However, sometimes it can get tiresome, like you can make a drinking game of the part in every book where someone comments how chivalrous and thoughtful Ducky is because he, idk, opened a door for someone. Especially when the female characters also bend over backwards to assist people and in comparison, are usually criticised for it.


* Her diaries are 2/3 Lerangis, so there’s lots of terrible puns and ‘hip’ dialogue about how she needs to quit painting her fingernails black and being a rebel, man.
(There’s a really bizarre attitude to clothes generally in these series, like Punk!Maggie is basically declared dead from the first book, and she and Dawn spend pages on lamenting Sunny’s clothes for being either too ‘black’ and ‘ripped’ or else too revealing and garnering her a ‘reputation’; but also Jill’s for being childish. It’s never too early to teach girls that they can’t win, I suppose.)

* Dawn's confirmed as a suspected anti-vaxxer, as Sunny mentions her sending the Winslows an article about a holistic doctor curing cancer with ‘medicine, herbs and positive thinking’.

* Sunny starts missing school to go to the beach, which I know we’re supposed to see as slide into Bad Girl behaviour, but frankly I'm kind of with her on the self care.
It’s a tough one, because there’s no real villain in the situation - Mrs Winslow’s ill; the social services and school’s hands are pretty tied; Carol steps up and does as much as she can (and far more than Jack, which is again, kind of bleak re: the expectations of the roles of women, albeit accurate) while on bed-rest; and Mr Winslow has gotta make a living. However, it’s irritating how Mr Winslow seems to have totally renounced his hippie ideals in favour of the more traditional ‘No emotional labour from me, plus my tweenage daughter is now in charge of running our household;’ especially when Carol is literally the only person to call him on it, ever.

(Dawn even admits Sunny’s dad ‘doesn’t care what (she) does’, but ironically, is using that as a shot against Sunny. I guess she took that viral tweet literally:

* Reading Sunny’s diaries ones make me sad, not just because her situation is so terrible but also because she’s generally thinking somewhat positively of her friends, and when she lashes out at them, she regrets it pretty swiftly.
There’s a lovely line about how 'anyone who looks in Dawn’s eyes would see her optimism and strength', and Ducky's 'his compassion and sense of humour', while Maggie and Dawn’s diaries are usually reflecting on what a selfish waste Sunny is, and it’s often for stuff like dating too many boys or being dumb as much as actually jerky behaviour.
Here, Dawn’s ire is particularly aroused by Sunny bunking off school and Dawn having to cover for her.
So, Jill = actual adult baby for being pissed off that her friends made her lie to her mom. Dawn = justifiable furious for…the same thing. (Plus Dawn lied to all her friends and faked being ill before not just skipping school but hopping on a plane to Connecticut. Basically, Dawn needs to shove it.)

* Sunny falls in love with an irritating, cliched hippy guy, Carson, who’s like ‘How old am I? Closer to birth than death’, and ‘I’m a free spirit, man'. He apparently time-travelled in from the sixties, talking about Kerouac and his bible, Catcher in the Rye.
Anyway, she tells him her life story and at first he listens, but then she wants to run away with him, and he ticks her off for asking about his Mysterious, Tragic Past and Not Appreciating What She's Got, telling her ‘You have parents who are still married and they love you, and your friends get on your case because they care about you too!'

(This is so the authorial voice laying down that Carson's right, but tbh, Lerangis seems to be letting Dawn and Maggie off the hook with that line about how they're concerned about Sunny skipping and call her out on it because they care.
Carol and Ducky care, and they express it without 'getting on your case', not to mention it’s not as if Dawn and Maggie limit their criticism to Sunny’s skipping school, like, I don’t think them intoning pompously about what a ‘reputation’ she has can really be claimed as for her own good.

* I feel like we’re supposed to be Concerned about Sunny’s Dating, but actually, besides getting distracted by a boy and leaving a stew to boil over (which seems a tenuous link to relationships, tbh. The dangers of pregnancy, STDs and burnt crockery!) she actually has an enviably healthy approach to boys, in comparison to most 13 year olds - the guy she’s on a date with tries to gaslight her into being grateful that he’s insisting they watch a big game, so she cheers for the opposite team. Mature? Nope. Probably an attitude that would serve you good stead in life? 100%.
Honestly, I was easily a Jill rather than a Sunny as a teenager, and even I can’t see the harm in what seems to be Necking Outside the Confines of Marriage, or for that matter, cutting class (god knows I cut class for a lot less than a terminally ill parent, taking the same attitude Mallory had to both boys and gym.)
It’s not an ideal coping strategy, but Dawn and Maggie’s outraged disapproval makes them seem like they’re about to sew a scarlet letter on Goody Winslow. (Meanwhile they both completely miss all the signs of Amalia being in a relationship with an abusive older boyfriend.)

* Sunny reflects that Dawn is happy and perfect and probably dreams about: 'A perfect world, with lots of flowers but no allergies. Animals roaming freely on the streets. People giving up their cars, riding bikes to work, picking berries and vegetables for lunch. Peace on earth.'
Ha. Sunny has proved she has very little insight into someone she’s known for years. Dawn’s nightmare would be everyone turning vegan, etc. Who would she have to judge and nag? Part of the reason she’s falling apart in 'California Diaries', I think, is everyone in CA is like her, so she has nothing to feel superior about.

* Dawn starts to visit Betsy in Sunny’s place, which she claims is out of pity for Betsy having a shit daughter, but also because she and Sunny’s mom have this hugely strong bond due to Dawn’s big heart; which is weird, as when she tells Sunny she visited, she’s ‘annoyed’ and starts to ‘scold’ her, saying ‘You’re welcome!’ until Sunny apologises and thanks her. (I also feel like if she loves Mrs Winslow so much, she wouldn’t use her impending death as a ‘GOTCHA!’ in arguments, but whatevs.)

* Sunny’s father ticks her off for not visiting, and Sunny makes the fair point that when you’re in that amount of pain, sometimes visits, even from the people you love, can be tiring and even a burden; but unfortunately it falls on deaf ears as the only adequate adult figures in this book are Carol, Mrs. Winslow and Ms. Krueger's occasional cameos.

* Sunny compliments Carol’s glowing skin, and Dawn snips that it’s just 'oily'.
Dawn’s weird here, like she’s had eight books of loathing Carol, but when Sunny notes she still doesn’t get on with Carol, Dawn’s like ‘You kids and your imagination!’
Like, I want to give Dawn credit here and say maybe she’s working to project this image of perfection and strength so as not to burden Sunny with her issues, but this is straight past that and onto plain gaslighting her.

* Carol faints in a mall, and Sunny rescues her. At the hospital: 'They started firing questions at me. Jeff asked if Carol was dead. Dawn was worried about the baby. Both of them were crying.'
Poor Jeff seems like he has a legit bond with Carol (that Dawn dismisses as them uniting because they’re both immature) while Dawn is of course, worried about the baby - the incubator can be disposed of once the Schafer heir is viable, I guess.

* Sunny gets Ducky a job at work with her dad: I suggested Ducky get a mohawk haircut and a nose ring before work on Tuesday, and then see how nice Dad would be.
Man, what happened to the Winslows? So, Mom is a Young Republican who smoked at 13; then by the time their daughter’s six, they’re fully blown hippies, with a VW, smocks, and no plastic or TV, and Mr. W is in social work; then over the next seven years, Dad has become a total breadhead, expanding his own company, scorning alternative fashions and demanding his daughter cook and clean like Cinderella? Like, seriously, there’s a whole series in this family’s journey, clearly.

* Sunny resets a clock as an April Fool, except Dawn loses her shit about how lazy, inattentive and untrustworthy Sunny is. Is Dawn actually Mark Corrigan in disguise?

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* Anyway, Sunny flakes and lets a stew burn out, causing Carol to have to get up briefly from her bed rest. Mrs. Bruen in particular is enraged, saying: “I’m going to have a good, long talk with Mr. Schafer about this.”
Lol, what kind of threat is this, tbh? Like, that’s the problem, there’s literally nothing anyone can do with this kid while her parents refuse/are incapable of stepping up, respectively.

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Mr. Winslow's parental strategy.

Mr S. can kick her out (although with an adult in the house on full-time bedrest and two kids apparently incapable of much, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea!) but this makes it sound like: ‘Well, I’m going to have to sack you from your unpaid job!’

It’s also weird how Carol, Dawn and Mrs. B. in particular fixate on Sunny ‘flirting’ with a boy, like it would have been acceptable to forget the pot and abandon Carol if she’d been, idk, sunbathing, or bickering with her dad or something.
(As well as it being the female members of the family that mention this, Jeff, Mr. S. and Ducky don’t seem concerned beyond being glad Carol and the baby are okay.)

* Dawn and Sunny argue about how dare Sunny endanger Dawn’s suddenly beloved stepmother, and how this cancels out Sunny literally saving her and the baby’s life before (…okay?), before Dawn busts out with telling Sunny she has a mom and she should count her blessings.

Dawn's Diary Two

* Sunny literally can’t do anything right in Dawn’s eyes, as she reports that Sunny helps her father’s store but ‘always complains’ and that she got Ducky a job to ‘keep her chauffeur close by’.
Dawn’s a bit weird about Ducky and Sunny, tbh, like she’s really invested in the idea that she’s allowing them to be friends by not enlightening Ducky to how dreadful Sunny is. I think it’s kind of killing her that they both seem to prefer each other to her.

* Yesterday she made me pick up the summer class schedule at her gym and the new issue of Rollerblade magazine. Carol can’t do the normal things a pregnant woman does, like shop for baby clothes and decorate the baby’s room. I’m the one who has to do those things.

LOL. ‘Sunny’s a lazy cooze for whining about her life, where she’s doing an adult’s share of the cooking and cleaning while being expected to maintain grades, assist in a business and visiting her dying mom. I only have my brother, father and the paid staff to assist me in picking up a magazine for stupid Carol! The stress is killing me!’ Oh, Dawn.

* Ducky is picking Sunny up from the beach, and offers to take Dawn, but Dawn doesn’t want to be ‘verbally abused’ by Sunny.

So, so far, Dawn has told Sunny (to her face!) she’s: letting down her family, Dawn’s family, herself, that she’s sneaky, inconsiderate, untrustworthy, lazy, selfish, cowardly, lame, constantly complaining, never pays attention to the time, told her off for cooking dinner for Dawn’s family, gaslight her about ‘imagining’ that Dawn dislikes Carol, told Sunny Carol likes food she doesn’t, said she’s ‘seen enough of Sunny’, bundled up her stuff in bags, and said she’s surprised her family let Sunny stay there at all.

And she’s afraid Sunny’s going to be mean to her? Phew! This is like Kristy being afraid someone will be overly domineering, or Mary Anne afraid someone’s going to cry.

* Dawn worries about Maggie, but is also: disappointed in her as a friend. Anytime I’ve tried to talk to her about my problems, she starts talking about her weight, which is definitely not a problem.

Haaaa. Dawn is a monster. (To be fair, I find Maggie to be an insufferable twat at least 50% of the time, so I wouldn’t want to listen to her, either.)

* Dawn once more panics about Ducky picking up Sunny: What if Sunny was with him? Would I be sitting in the backseat next to her? I didn’t know what I would do or say.

Idk, probably something cruel and judgemental about her reputation or her dying mom? Just a guess.

She thinks that: Just imagining the scene made me feel angry at Sunny.

Dawn recommends meditation to balance the emotions, but just got angry at her friend for sitting next to her in her own imagination.

* Ducky, with all the insight of a forty year old ghostwriter, notes that Dawn is angry at Sunny for not being there for Dawn (a concept echoed by Mary Anne in Friends Forever #11, who feels bad that Dawn’s grief over her best friend’s mom’s death is overshadowed by Sunny’s - dammit, bitch, you’re just an ancillary character here, you’re not even in the titular BSC!)

Dawn thinks that’s too sympathetic a reading, and rushes to assure the reader that no, she’s actually just annoyed that Sunny won’t ‘let me help her’, even though her best attempts at help so far have mainly been centred around detailing her personality flaws.

* Instead, Dawn goes out with Maggie, noting Maggie’s mom is a lush and well as part of the idle rich: I wonder if Mrs. Blume is one of those people who judge other people by how much money they have.

Yeah, that’s such a shallow thing to judge people on. I prefer to judge people on breast size, age, number of piercings, clothing choices, eating habits and how well they cope with relatives terminal illnesses.

* Maggie hates being driven around in her dad’s limousine. “It must be hard,” I said.

* Dawn wonders why she's so angry at her friends: 'What's wrong with me?

* Dawn is desperate enough to associate with Jill (her view, not mine), although it disgusts her that Jill is wearing a sweater Sunny and Dawn bought her: I sighed. Maybe I was acting childish by being so critical about how someone dresses.

She feels sorry for Jill because Jill thinks they don’t hang out anymore because of Carol’s pregnancy when actually it’s everything about Jill’s personality, apparently.

Jill’s like ‘I hear Sunny sucks’ and Dawn is like ‘Hmmm…do I really want to agree with Jill?’ and leaves it at ‘It’s more complicated than that.’
So now we know how to make Dawn a better friend, just give her someone to disagree with!

Jill is creepily excited by Sunny’s potential sex life, and her ‘eyes…sparkle’ as she asks if older guys to go to her house. Jesus, Jill, buy an electric toothbrush and rub one out on your own time.
Dawn replies she doesn’t spy on Sunny, which she totally does, but I guess she’s not into circle jerks.

* Carol and Jack’s baby is born, and looks like Dawn. Dawn’s ‘amazed’ that Carol doesn’t mind (apparently the hatred is one-sided!) and confused over why Carol’s baby doesn’t look like Carol. Has anyone actually given these kids the talk? Dawn reflects in the SAME CHAPTER that she knows more about infant-care than Carol, but she apparently doesn’t get why her half-sister might resemble her.

* I hadn’t thought much about the actual birth of the baby, that it was going to be difficult for Carol.

* Mrs. Bruen, weirdly, makes sure Carol agrees that her baby was ‘worth all those months in bed’. I guess we’re seeing where Dawn picked up her weird Victorian ethic system.
Jack, too, gets all traditional, and when Jeff is embarrassed as he purchased the baby a basketball poster (girls don’t sport, silly!), Dad agrees: ‘The room was looking a little wimpy’. They’re never too young for you to enforce gender norms, even on a literal newborn.

* Dawn then visits Mrs. Winslow, who’s thrilled to hear about the baby.
She tells Dawn how she had miscarriages after Sunny and couldn’t conceive any more children, but was blessed to have her, and Dawn makes sure to note that Sunny isn’t ‘much of a blessing to anyone’.
Ugh, it’s so enraging reading Dawn’s faux concern about Mrs. Winslow, like if there’s one thing you can do for this terminally ill woman, it might be to not sit there snotting all the time about how her only child is Satan. Especially when Betsy’s talking about how she miscarried babies after Sunny, like, Dawn needs to just go the whole hog and tell her it’s a shame Sunny didn’t go Butterfly Effect in the womb.

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* Dawn thinks sadly about when they were all friends, before Maggie got anorexic, Jill got shunned, and Sunny got sick of her shit. She realises that she’ll miss Maggie, Sunny and the baby, but none of them will miss her, as Maggie won’t talk to her about what’s important, Sunny won’t talk to her at all, and Gracie is luckily unaware of her existence.
She also ponders how she’ll make up with Sunny from three thousand miles away (here's a clue - she’s next door to you now!)

Dawn's Diary Three

This is possibly the worst Dawn ever, makes her snarking at Mary Anne for getting her hair cut look like the actions of a saint - I think a podcast literally recapped this chapter: ‘Is Dawn Schafer history’s greatest monster?’
(Bizarrely, it’s one of the three diaries Ann chose to write, so it’s very definitely her choice to take this direction.)

* Here, she keeps the baby up when Carol and Jack ask them to put her to bed, before being humiliated by Carol breastfeeding her own baby in the presence of Ducky.

(Ducky gets ass pats for not looking, as he does for almost everything he does, tbh. Like, I really like him, he and Amalia are a breath of fresh air after Dawn and Maggie’s drama; but it’s so irritating how all the girls basically put him on a pedestal for having a dick. Like, poor Carol literally not only seems to do the lion’s share of parenting in the Schafer household, but also assists the Winslows, and here she is being scorned for feeding Grace in her own damn home!
Dawn literally lampshades this, saying that when Carol tells her she should go ‘easy’ on Sunny for the sin of grieving in direct contradiction to Dawn’s pre-approved mourning style, she wants to ‘stick her tongue out’, while Ducky saying the exact same thing just ‘makes me love him more.’)

* Dawn castigates Sunny more, this time for visiting Carol and Gracie but not Dawn (…I wonder why?!), and how she’s avoiding her own trauma while Dawn is ‘the only one who visits’ Mrs. Winslow (apart from her husband, friends, extended family, and support group.)

Carol has the temerity to suggest Dawn might not know how she’d react in a similar situation. Carol’s getting bold, post partum! Dawn tells her she’s in the same situation, and Carol reminds her Mrs. Winslow isn’t her mother. Dawn ‘hates’ Carol momentarily and thinks ‘Neither are you!’ No insult to Carol, tbh!

* The opportunity to see a concert with Dawn’s favourite singer, Pierre (since when? The beginning of this plot, of course!) arises. Maggie can’t attend for contrivance reasons (aka her enormous wealth and privilege makes it hard to have anything happen around her.)

* Dawn considers asking Ducky to have a ‘little accident’ driving home, so that Pierre can rescue them and touch her.
Dawn’s a minefield of psycho-sexual issues, honestly. Later, she fantasises that she’s ‘laying down ground rules’ for Pierre’s faithfulness and managing his career, no word of a lie. Thank god she doesn’t date in the series much, I feel like she’s one step away from keeping a gimp in her attic.

* She realises that Sunny’s attending this concert with her, Ducky and Amalia, and subtly hints four times that Ducky uninvite Sunny.
Ducky, hilariously, purposefully ignores this, like he’s all ‘OMG, would the concert be awkward for you? Then here’s an to Sunny before you go!’ Well played, McCrae.

* Ducky tells Dawn Sunny needs her, and Dawn’s like ‘That’s such a guy thing to say!’
I get the not so subtle gay coding with Ducky, but sometimes it hits wide of the mark, like here. (Although Dawn assuming all men are sensitive little flowers bossed around by wicked, controlling women does explain an awful lot.)

* Ducky wonders if mega-rich, non-Pierre fan Maggie minds being left out, and Dawn’s like ‘You worry too much!’ (apparently there’s no middle ground with friends. You’re a passive ‘doormat’, or you don’t worry at all.) Ducky then angsts about whether or not he was a good friend to Alex, and Dawn calls him ‘self-centred’.

* Mrs. Winslow returns to hospital, and there’s a strange moment where Carol explains that she may need medical procedures that are more easily performed outside the home, and Dawn thinks she ‘can’t tell if Carol was telling the truth or not.’
Does Dawn honestly believe Carol’s just lying for shits and giggles here? Maybe she’s still invested in the crystals and herbs therapy.

* They go through about the hundred and fourth iteration of Dawn realising that she doesn’t know how she’d feel if it was her mother dying, which is super endearing if you don’t know it will be followed by the hundred and fourth iteration of her then dismissing it in favour of waaahing over Sunny’s meeeeeeean to her.

* Dawn calls Ducky and is almost parodically self-involved. Actual quote: ‘All the time Ducky is talking I know I should be feeling sorry for him or something, but what I can’t help thinking is how nice it must be to have your own car. Boy, does Ducky sound depressed. Really awful, actually. (How do I wind up with all these moody people?)

How indeed? I wonder what the common denominator is...

* Ducky’s pleased to hear she’s ‘trying’ with Sunny (spoiler: barely!), but Dawn reflects that she can’t tell Ducky things in case she worries him or disappoints him, and his desperation for his friends to be happy is a ‘lot of pressure’. To be honest, I don’t think Dawn’s “problems” (i.e. the continued existence of Carol and Sunny) are going to be high on his list of concerns.

* Dawn confirms she’s coming, asking for a fourth time if Ducky’s sure that on top of tickets and driving them to the concert and back, if Ducky can’t arrange for Sunny to come in a spare, separate vehicle with a second driver, and to his credit, he laughs instead of just uninviting Dawn.
Dawn then says she’ll be ‘big about this’, and Ducky asks why she put him ‘through all this’ when she’s not even sure she’s coming?
(TBH, I feel like Dawn wildly overestimates how much Ducky enjoys her company. He never seems to see her except when he’s at a loose end and Sunny’s busy, and while he doesn’t take sides in their arguments, he very clearly seems to sympathise and understand Sunny in a way that no one but a psychopath or criminal psychologist ever could with Dawn.)

* Dawn calls Maggie, and thinks that she was ‘no fun’ shopping or at a party when she was anorexic, but now she’s getting help, she can be like ‘a normal person’. (To be fair, Maggie’s pretty callous herself, reflecting on how now Sunny dresses like a ‘punk drop out’, she has no time for her and her boring, cancer-ridden mom that she ‘throws in everyone’s face’; so I guess she got the friend in Dawn that she deserved! Run, Amalia, run!)

* They go to the mall, where *gasp* marijuana is mentioned (and maybe even 'worse'!) The fact the ‘punk’ kids are compared to ‘the ones in the “River City” song in The Music Man’ isn’t really selling it, to be honest.
Dawn talks about how ‘interesting’ the head shops are - what, so sugar’s legalised poison, but you’ve got no issues with alcohol poisoning or acid? Fair enough...

* Later on, inspired by Maggie’s advice on manipulation, Dawn’s desperate enough to refer to Carol as a ‘parent’ rather than reminding her of her rightful place as the wicked stepmother; as well as saying how loyalty to friends, in this case Ducky, is ‘practically a family value’ (that apparently skipped a generation on the family tree.)
The Schafers are hopeful enough at hearing Dawn may finally have developed an inkling of human compassion that they allow the concert trip.

* Dawn’s dad lays out a bunch of predictable rules and Dawn is desperate to prove herself as an adult, so keeps interrupting to correct him over petty shit and take the piss (a legit realistic portrayal of a thirteen year old, honestly.)

* Dawn dresses in a cotton vest, hoping it will be mistaken for leather in a dark club. WTF?! She had ONE consistent characterisation, Ann, ONE.

She also sneaks in a ‘funky’ pair of earrings into her purse that her father can’t witness. OMG, how wild can earrings be? Did Claudia make them based on erotic nudes???

* Mrs. Winslow is firmly established as dying, and Dawn notes how gross the house smells, with the ‘disgusting’ reek of ‘medicine and pee and sweaty sheets’.
The timing is therefore ripe for another battle with Sunny, and after Sunny snipes at Dawn about how she’s asking permission from ‘her daddy’ to stay out; Dawn unleashes the nukes, ‘smiling sweetly’ and sarcastically saying she’s ‘so sorry…your father’s so wrapped up in your mother that he doesn’t care what you do.’

Sunny opens her mouth to say something (it’d be unprintable if it were me), and Amalia and Duck ‘just stare (at Dawn’), presumably in outright horror at how insanely vile she’s being; before they’re thankfully interrupted by a friend of Ducky’s brother.

* There’s this weird thing where Rick, this guy, seems creepy, offering thirteen year old Dawn booze and when she says no, “Come on. Just a little something to help you relax and enjoy the show. Don’t be shy.”

* Dawn decides her dad will only see Ducky and her, so ‘I didn’t have to worry about Sunny and Amalia (and whether or not they drink).’ I feel like this kind of neatly explains Dawn’s moral compass at this point, like she can only understand concern under the tenets of telling people what to do, or else completely forgoing worries if there’s no chance she’ll get into trouble personally.

* Sunny asks for a rum and coke, and when Ducky requests a seltzer, Rick is all ‘Come on, live a little. Ducky, my main man, let me get you something stronger.’
Sunny chimes in: “Yeah, Ducky, go ahead. Friends don’t let friends drink alone.”
Ducky ‘looks interested’ but hesitates, and then agrees, and Rick doesn’t let him finish, bringing back drinks.
It’s very odd, like to me, this guy is wildly inappropriate with all the buying booze for kids that are, what, nearly a decade younger, minimum, and the kind of bro-style encouragement of his brother’s friend to get hammered; not to mention how he seems to be vaguely flirting with Sunny (presumably hence the mention of the possessive girlfriend); but when this ends up as an argument, apparently the whole mess is 100% down to Sunny and this dude’s just, idk, a thoughtful guy.

* Dawn sees Ducky ‘thinking over the turmoil of the past few weeks’ (it’s also such a choice that the two times Sunny drinks, it’s almost directly after Dawn’s brought up her mom’s imminent death; but her boozing it up is played much more for laughs as well as a her being in some way morally corrupt and ‘wild’; whereas Ducky’s constantly infantilised by the narrative voice here - he’s repressing his turmoil! He’s not drunk, he’s emotionally exhausted! Even his ordering a shot gets us another reminder of the ‘bad time Ducky was going through’. Drink your problems away, kids. Afterwards, you can just blame it on peer pressure.

* Dawn wishes she had booze like she did at Ms. K’s (the drink she said was disgusting and refused to finish?) but doesn’t because her dad would murder her, and once again feels sorry for herself that she has active parental figures who care about her.

* There’s a tiny hint that Dawn may use her powers of judgement for good instead of evil, as she mutters ‘how restrained of you’ at Ducky ordering a second shot, and can’t stop thinking about how he’s their driver, and he made a ‘million promises to my father’; but then Amalia and Sunny listen in, and she bottles it.

* Randomly, Dawn mentions how she’s tasted tequila before (at 13! I didn’t try tequila til I was 35! Of course, I have the sophisticated palate of a tweenager, preferring classy drinks like Smirnoff Ice or Peach Schnapps.) but never done shots of it - how else would you drink tequila?! Sip it in a wine glass?

* There’s exactly the same observation from Book One, where Dawn’s like ‘Well, no one’s head feel off after they drank one drink’, but apparently literally no one learned anything from the vomit-soaked nightmare that turned into.

* Dawn waits until Amalia and Sunny are distracted, then calls Ducky out on drinking, but Ducky’s like ‘Trust me, when the concert’s over, I’ll be fine!’ and Dawn’s like ‘Well, they both look fine. Continue the shots!’

* Sunny ends up having four drinks, and Ducky three, and Sunny’s like ‘I could drive myself, I’ve watched people do it millions of times!’ like when I used to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and convinced myself I was therefore qualified in the martial arts.

* Dawn, interestingly, is still ticked at her ‘bad judgement’ in trusting ‘my pal Ducky’ and feels 'guilty' that her dad will have to pay for that by coming to get them; which is swiftly erased, and by the time Jack arrives, Dawn decides that he’s a controlling monster and the real villain of the piece was once again, Sunny, for idk, that time she said ‘go ahead.’

* Dawn tells Sunny to be quiet, and Sunny tells Dawn to quit telling her what to do (11 books late!) and Dawn is like 'I don’t tell you what to do, apart from just now.’

Sunny has the receipts: “You’re always telling me what to do - how to dress, how to act, who to hang out with, to visit Mom more often, to be more responsible.” Sunny’s list went on and on. It went on for so long that I lost interest and tried to get back to the matter at hand.

Jesus, if the list of things you tell people to do is so long, you yourself can’t listen to it without becoming bored, maybe that’s a wakeup call. (Spoiler: it’s not.)

* Dawn’s horrified that Ducky would drive if Sunny begged him to (tbh, Sunny’s rant at Ducky for being spineless is, while cruel and ungrateful, pretty justified) and worries aas even if she gets a ride from her dad, she doesn’t want him to kill himself driving, or I guess, the less important cargo that is Sunny and Amalia.

* Sunny makes a big deal about how humiliating it is to get picked up, as if throwing a shrieking tantrum about how I'M NOT A BABY, OMG isn’t far more embarrassing (who’s even there to witness their Deep Shame, anyway? Oh, no, a busboy at an empty bar will know that a thirteen year old has parents!)

* Dawn tells Amalia that Sunny can’t go by herself (aka, big hint for Amalia there that Sunny's her problem) and asks if Sunny thinks she’s immune from danger, and Sunny basically admits she isn’t, she just doesn’t care if she gets hurt.

* Dawn and Sunny begin to ‘do too, do not’ each other, while Amalia wins my heart forever by just rolling her eyes.
Amalia needs to go befriend Jill already, she’s too good for this book.

* Ducky chooses this moment to insert some ill-timed humour about how technically, he could tell Sunny to ‘walk home now’ but she wouldn’t have to listen.
Sunny says the unsayable and calls Ducky a 'wimp', which is coded like she called him a fudgepacker or something from the level of outrage Dawn shows (she of the ‘LOLOL ur mum is dying’ jabs?)

* Dawn is bereft at Ducky’s ‘stricken’ face, reflecting how she thinks Ducky must feel like she would if Ducky dumped her as a friend, and that she wants to say she wouldn’t treat him that way (as he’s got a penis, rather than because she’d never say something hateful and vindictive to a friend). It’s almost endearing, like Dawn can’t quite compute the emotion someone else feels without relating it to herself in some way.

She reassures Ducky that Sunny didn’t mean what she said, more to comfort him than defend Sunny; but they ‘both knew it wasn’t an excuse for the things Sunny just said.’
Apparently what Sunny said totally erased Dawn’s comments, though, as no one ever mentions them again.

* Jack, hilariously, brings a pail for puking, knowing Ducky's been boozing.
He asks where the others are, and Ducky starts to answer, but Dawn interjects that they’ve gotten a ride with friends (Amalia’ll be fine wandering the depths of LA at 2am talking down a furious Sunny and trying to find a bus!) Jack’s really not overly concerned about the others, though, he leaves the worrying business to Carol, along with 95% of the parenting.

* He instead offers an insanely restrained ‘lecture’ that’s basically ‘You guys promised less than five hours ago that you wouldn’t drink, so WTF?’
Dawn is ‘speechless’ at his ‘stupid question’, and ‘awfully embarrassed’ at his ‘grill(ing)’ Ducky, who she thinks should be ‘absolutely livid’ as she ‘really didn’t see why he should be lectured by my father’ and so decides to ‘torture Dad a little’ and tells him she drank. Then she’s like ‘Psych! A SELTZER!’ and says she doesn’t understand why he’s ‘so mad’, as doesn’t he know she and Ducky are perfect and the victim in every situation?

* Jack grounds Dawn for the weekend, which seems light until you realise it’s more of a punishment for the other Schafer family members.

* He also gives Ducky a ticking off that Ducky seems ‘relieved’ to receive, as his parents ‘can’t’ (aka ‘won’t) parent him themselves; finishing with mentioning ‘alcoholism’ (bit of a leap, tbh, but go off!)

Dawn decides that - you guessed it! - the whole mess of ‘the concert, Ducky, Dad, being grounded’ is basically Sunny’s fault, wondering why she’s so ‘cruel, thoughtless and basically just a bad friend’ as well as why she ‘insist(ed) on drinking and pulling Ducky into that with her’, deciding that Sunny would have ‘stolen’ a bracelet if she had ‘the opportunity’, and probably was the second gunman on the grassy knoll.

image Click to view

Dawn’s photographic memory of the event.

* At school, Maggie and Amalia gleefully shit-stir, god love ‘em, telling Dawn how mad Sunny is at her. Dawn explains her Theory of Everything (Is Sunny’s fault).

* This plot is resolved in Sunny’s Diary Three, which I won’t be recapping due to not wanting y’all to see me cry.

My recap.

Anyways, there, Sunny apologises to Ducky, who asks her why she ‘made him’ drink.

It’s so enraging, especially when there are perfectly valid reasons for Ducky to tell Sunny off, such as her demanding like, twenty times that he drive drunk and basically saying that she wouldn’t be his friend if he didn’t; or verbally lashing out at him when he’s done nothing but be nice to her; or her and Dawn claiming they wanted a grown up night and then acting like six year olds goading each other and trying to get Ducky to uninvite the other.
I fully support him saying she was a total asshole, and demanding an apology no matter what she’s going through, but getting drunk in the first place in on him, he’s the damn driver! And besides which, we see more peer pressure from the dude who buys the drinks than Sunny!

* Anyway, Ducky passively aggressively puts on a hat to ‘protect’ him from Sunny and her ‘power’ in his universe. He tells Dawn he quit working at the bookstore a month ago (the timeline of these books is impossible to follow as is, never mind the crossovers with Stoneybrook, but the next time the bookstore comes up, Ducky’s back there like nothing ever happened, so!) Dawn of course hadn’t noticed.

* It’s revealed that Mrs. Winslow’s death is now imminent, with her receiving palliative care at home. Dawn thinks that she ‘really thought’ all along that she would get better, which makes it an even stranger choice to have her commenting from her first Diary stuff like: ‘Her mom’s dying of lung cancer!’ but okay, she’s a kid, a conflicting attitude isn’t the oddest thing in this series. (I'm still hung up on the mystery of the funky earrings!)

* Dawn goes over to see Sunny, who’s crying on her porch. Sunny is apparently a nicer person than either me or Dawn, and apologises first.
Dawn accepts it, saying ‘that’s okay’ although she thinks privately that it wasn’t, but it 'would be eventually'.
Sunny says she knows she’s 'been...' and trails off.
Dawn suggests ‘Mean?’ writing that she 'couldn’t help it', as Sunny had hurt her badly, and she wanted her to know that.
Sunny apologises AGAIN, and says how much she missed Dawn, and Dawn gives an inch, saying she missed Sunny too, but Sunny ‘kept pushing me away’, then offers Sunny the scrap that maybe they could ‘forget about the last few months’ if Sunny ‘promises her something’.

Sunny asks ‘What?’ warily, possibly aware that this friendship is turning swiftly into an example from an abusers handbook; but thankfully, Dawn just tells her that when she's upset, instead of disappearing like a flaky coward, she should call Dawn or come over; and the last book ends with Dawn neatly taking every possible opportunity to remind Sunny what a worthless shit she is while making zero apologies for her own behaviour over the last few months (including literally 'sweetly smiling' about how Sunny's dad doesn't love her, and her mom's tied up with dying; which would seem to be the definition of 'mean'.)

TBH, I'm kind of left with more questions than answers after this series, and a lot of them are about Ann M. Martin. So - read this series if you want a sensitive exploration of the grieving process from a first person narrator (or y'know, any of the Issues affecting Ducky, Amalia or Maggie.

If, though, instead, you seek sage advice on how to be a supportive friend and daughter, and you figure why not catch up with your beloved favourite from the BSC and explore her Californian adventures? Maybe give it a miss.

california diaries, meta

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