I liked the first California Diaries book more than I expected. The entire book’s supposed to be Dawn’s journal, so the whole thing is in her handwriting and on lined paper. I like her handwriting so I was okay with this one, but I don’t know how I’ll feel about the others. Regular typing is easier to read.
Dawn’s school’s overcrowded because it’s a K-12 private school spread over three buildings. Apparently, a lot of kids transfer in in 8th grade so they can go to the high school the following year. It’s that good or something. Anyway, they let in too many people and there’s not enough room in the middle school building. The school decides to move all the 8th graders into the high school building, which Dawn’s all nervous about.
About a week in she gets an invitation slipped in her locker to come to some great party to get to know the older kids. A bunch of 8th graders got them, but not all of them. Her friends Sunny, Maggie, and Jill all do though. Sunny and Maggie want to go, but Jill thinks it’s crazy. Dawn seems undecided. They end up having a sleepover at Jill’s because they don’t think their parents will let them go. But Jill’s mom and sister go out for the night, and the girls decide to walk to the party (1.5 miles away). Well, Dawn, Sunny, and Maggie go. Jill stays home.
At the party there’s drinking and smoking and throwing kids in the pool. Sunny gets totally trashed, but Dawn and Maggie just end up hanging out with this new girl Amalia (also an 8th grader). Then the cops show up and everyone runs off. Dawn, Sunny, and Maggie get kind of lost, but they end up bumping into Amalia again, and then all of them meet this guy Ducky who offers to drive them home (or to Jill’s). Jill had told her mom they were sleeping, so they weren’t in trouble.
Anyway, it turns out the party was a prank that the upperclassman were pulling on the 8th graders. Which was obvious to everyone except the naive 8th graders. They invited them to a party at the house of a teacher who was out of town. As soon as it got wild enough, they called the cops and bailed so that only the 8th graders got in trouble. But the school finds out and EVERYONE gets in trouble. There’s a school assembly and Dawn thinks it’s going to be for the teachers to call out the students who organized the party. But the principal actually yells at everyone and says the whole school’s on probation and that anyone will be suspended immediately if they’re caught drinking, smoking, trespassing, defacing property, lying to their parents, etc. I would think they’d be suspended for a lot of that anyway, but to the kids it sounds awful. Each grade also needs to use their class funds to pay back the teacher for damage to her property, which means some grades won’t have enough money for a class trip.
Meanwhile, Dawn accidentally overhears a phone conversation and finds out that Carol’s pregnant. Dawn’s super excited and tells Carol she heard right away. Carol isn’t mad at her for eavesdropping but tells Dawn she wanted Mr. Schafer to be the first to know and he’s out of town on business. She also wants to wait and tell him in person and asks Dawn to keep the pregnancy a secret. Dawn’s not happy about this and thinks something must be wrong with either Carol or the pregnancy. She does eventually tell Jill, to explain why she’s been upset and swears her to secrecy. But then when she’s at Dawn’s house, Jill offers to carry a box for Carol because she doesn’t think she should be doing that in her condition. So, Carol’s annoyed at Dawn, and then it seems she ends up telling Mr. Schafer over the phone, because she doesn’t want him to be the last to know. Jill apologizes, but later it’s clear Jill thinks Dawn, Sunny, and Maggie should have gotten in more trouble about the party. They argue, and by the end Dawn says she knows her and Jill’s friendship is over. But she has now become friends with Ducky and Amalia.
- Dawn tells us how Sunny wanted to rush out of her house because her mother (who has lung cancer) was having a horrible morning. Dawn’s all judgy about how she’s sure she would want to spend time with her mother if she was sick. But Dawn just moved across the country from her mother, so I don’t really know if I buy that. And to be fair, she does write later that she doesn’t know how she’d really act in that scenario.
- I kind of don’t get why it’s such a big deal that Dawn’s going to be in the same building as the 9-12th graders. She’s still technically at the same school and will presumably have some of the same teachers. And if it’s all kids that have been going to Vista since elementary school she would at least somewhat know some of them from when she was in 6th grade and they were in 8th. Maybe it’s because she’s been in 8th grade so long she doesn’t remember back then.
- There’s also this part (before the school building switch) where Dawn and Sunny refer to themselves as the rulers of the school, and how long they waited for that. But that reads false because of how long they’ve been 8th graders. I don’t mind them not aging, but to act like they are newly in 8th grade is just silly.
- At Dawn’s school everyone (grades K-12) is required to keep a journal. No one reads them, so I don’t know how the teacher’s know if the kids are doing it, but it’s the rule. Dawn says how she would keep one anyway and thinks most kids would by the time they’re in middle school. I doubt that. Dawn even said she didn’t write in hers much when she was in Connecticut, so obviously the requirement has an impact at her. I certainly don’t remember her keeping one before, unless you count the stupid club notebook. So, this rule sounds like a pretty lame excuse for the framework of the books.
- Now here I thought we wouldn’t get any crazy outfits, but we do get to hear what Dawn’s friend Jill wears. Dawn, Sunny, and Maggie all feel like Jill is acting immature and that she seems like a little kid who doesn’t fit in with them anymore. Which is probably what really led to the friendship ending. But anyway, her outfit: “A sweatshirt with a huge pink unicorn on the front. The unicorn’s horn…was sparkly gold, and the unicorn was standing on a powder blue cloud that was made of some puffy material. On Jill’s feet were pink sneakers, and on the toe of each sneaker was a pony with an actual tail hanging over the side of the shoe.” Now, I certainly wouldn’t have worn in 8th grade. But I guarantee you that if Claudia wore it she’d be called a genius.
- Dawn talks about how some of the kids in the high school seem more than just 4-5 years older than her. This makes sense because people grow a lot between 13 and 18. But she says one guy could practically be her father. Which is a bit of a stretch.
- When Dawn finds out her dad has to go on a 10 day business trip, she’s mad that he’s “abandoning” her and won’t be around when she has to start at the high school. I hope I wasn’t that self-centered when I was 13.
- After a phone conversation with Sunny about Mrs. Winslow’s health, Dawn asks Carol what “sterile” means. And Carol blushes and giggles too much answer. Over the word sterile? Am I missing something? That’s not even a sexual term, what’s there to be embarrassed about?
- Dawn’s worried that she and her friends will get hazed because the upperclassman are allowed to haze the 9th graders on the first day of school (with things like writing F on their foreheads). But the teachers say that since the 8th graders are being moved to the school a few weeks into the school year it doesn’t count and there’s to be no hazing…..so the school is actual okay with the hazing on day one? I’ve never heard of a school allowing that. Is it a “cool California” thing or something?
- Dawn says she doesn’t really miss her Connecticut friends as much as she thought she was. She and her friends also barely baby-sit anymore and she doesn’t miss that either. Sad. Realistic, but hearing her say she doesn’t miss the BSC is kind of a buzzkill.
- One reason Dawn wonders if something is wrong with Carol’s pregnancy is because she offered to take Jeff miniature golfing and out for Mexican food. Which a pregnant person can’t do? Shouldn’t someone who claims to know a lot about kids know something about pregnancy?
- Also, Dawn doesn’t get why Carol doesn’t want to tell her dad about the pregnancy over the phone. How hard is that to understand? Some things work better in person.
- Dawn and Maggie both get thrown in the pool at the party. Maggie’s embarrassed to get out because she was wearing a T-shirt with no bra, and apparently is too well-endowed to really do that. But she has to get out and gets an appreciative look from the guy all the girls in school are into. And she seems pleased with that. Dawn then mentions she was wearing a big denim jacket, but even if she weren’t there would be nothing for her to see. So, then, why didn’t Dawn be nice and offer her jacket to her friend?
- Ducky’s real name’s Christopher. Everyone calls him Ducky because his family thought he was like a young version of Ducky from Pretty in Pink. That’s like, the least creative nickname ever.
- Ducky is also 16 and in 10th grade, if you’re wondering how he can drive. If you’re also wondering why he quickly becomes friends with a bunch of 13-year-olds, I can’t help you. At least not yet. Maybe after his book?
- Dawn makes an enemy out of this girl Mandy, who I think is supposed to be in 10th grade. She gets sort of lost and thinks she’s opening her new locker (#160 B), but it is actually #160 D. She accidently breaks the mirror hanging in the locker while hitting it trying to get it open. Dawn apologizes and offers to pay for the mirror, but Mandy’s kind of a bitch about it. Anyway, they run into Mandy at the party. She also likes the guy who was checking out Maggie, and hates Dawn more now because she’s friends with Maggie, who the guy paid more attention to then her. I’m assuming she will show up again.
- I thought from past books that all of Dawn’s friends in California were fellow vegetarians? So, why does Jill’s mom and sister make bacon when cooking them breakfast?
- I must be really old, because when Ducky complains about how hard their class worked to raise money for the trip that they can no longer take, all I can think of is how their teacher worked hard to buy a nice house that they all trashed.
- During their fight, Dawn tells Jill to quit being such a “B –” and to just grow up. That’s what is says in the journal a B with a dash after it. The context makes it seem like she should be writing baby there, but the fact that she only wrote the B makes it seem like she was saying bitch.
And as an FYI, someone suggested in the comments that I recap the BSC Movies/TV-Series. I discovered that the whole series is actually on Netflix streaming. So…I will definitely be writing about those at some point.