And here we go!
Is Travis thirty-five? His chiseled features do not scream sixteen. At all. No way. His smile also says, “Just sit through this awkward meal now and then I can escape” or possibly “I’ve got this health nut right where I want her. I knew pretending to like health food would get me laid one day!” The food on the table looks gross and unhealthy. Dawn looks different. Something is wrong with her face and she still doesn’t say “thirteen” to me. And the biggest gripe: WHY are there so many children? To prove that this is family friendly reading material and not about teen sex?? The kids also look freaky. The one on the bottom left is a very masculine-featured little girl, the one on the right has lopsided features, and the boy about to put a spitball in Dawn’s hair has a ghastly rash or some shizz on his neck. All for the sake of proving that this book is juvenile and parents need not fear that anything remotely naughty will happen. Maybe it was just them at first and then someone at Scholastic (or Ann) said, “HODGES YOU MUST PUT CHILDREN SO PEOPLE WON’T FORGET THEY ARE BABY-SITTERS WITH NO SEX LIVESSSSS.” This seems to happen to Dawn a lot. In Dawn’s Big Date they put lots of kids in the theater. At Gone with the Wind. To prove there was not going to be any shaggin’! But in Kristy+Bart=? We actually get fairly “raunchy” makeout material and Kristy and Bart get to be on the cover alone. What gives? Must be punishment for Dawn being hypocritical. Sounds about right.
This one is ghostwritten by Mary Lou Kennedy, someone we really don’t talk about much. She’s not of Lerangis Almighty fame or anything. Why? Because she only wrote two books, this and #34 (MA and Too Many Boys, which is apparently the best selling book of the series, possibly because of the kinky title). No idea why she only wrote two, though. I tried looking her up and found virtually nothing. I sometimes really wonder how much was AMM and her formula and how much was the ghostwriter because so many parts just echo AMM phraseology and patterns. “Help with the manuscript” could mean that Kennedy was given a skeleton, she embellished, and AMM finished the fleshing and added some finishing touches. I have to wonder. Anyway, I’ll try to be fair and see if we should rejoice or mourn that Kennedy never wrote another one after this. From what I recall, it’s not as bad as B&H.
Opening dialogue tries to make AMM’s job of describing Dawn easier because Claudia’s like “this color looks better with your blonde hair and pale skin.” Thanks to Claud’s advice, Dawn dumps the pumpkin colored lipstick (good call) and is offered lip gloss that she thinks looks just like “used bubble gum.” So it looks chewed up and crinkly and solid? Claud is an artist, blah blah blah, bad speller and student and is horribly cursed by having a genius for a sister. Right. Janine is awful because she “solves quadric equations for fun. Honest.” Ever think Claudia could benefit by having a smart older sister, Dawn? Janine has offered and given her help numerous times. Honest. The setting here is a makeover sleepover night in Kristy’s bedroom of all places. Oh, God, Dawn describes herself. We don’t need a physical description because of the first line, right? Nope, Dawn describes herself in full, including her “sparkling blue eyes.”
(Sounds a bit conceited there). She looks like a California girl…The Beach Boys would have changed their minds if Dawn was the ideal California girl.
Claudia! “She thinks Gummi Bears are nature’s perfect food,” says Dawn. I would vote for Reese’s.
Mary Anne! “looked awful” when Dawn met her because she had to wear pigtails and little girl clothes. These girls sure do snark appearances of their close friends a lot. She’s the one with the boyfriend, love.
Stacey! Is giving Mary Anne a god-awful hairdo. Her “severe” diabetes is mentioned and Dawn says they can parade sweets around in front of her because she has a lot of self-control. Hello, Foreshadowing, nice to meet you. For the fiftieth time. OOOOP, wait a second-- >(Three seconds later) Stacey becomes faint and has to sit down and stop talking. Kristy notices how pale she looks. She says it’s from the hairspray in the air and changes the subject. Foreshadowing is not a stranger or acquaintance, but our loyal constant companion. <3 Dawn says that she’s annoyed with Kristy’s bossiness sometimes (I may be in the minority but I prefer it to Dawn’s “bitch face” which is a tag on here that the creator should be given a medal for) but is pleased that she’s catering to Stacey and opening the windows for fresh air, etc.
Kristy! Has a family “like Brady Bunch.” Say what you want about the overly wholesome, campy Brady family, but I remember some darn hilarious moments and antic ; I remember almost peeing my pants with laughter at the episode where Peter broke the vase with a basketball and then had dreams about it where it rewound itself over and over and would stop in midair. I can think of only a few mildly amusing ones from the Brewer/Thomas/BSC land in general crew.
Mallory and Jessi! Don’t even deserve long paragraphs of descriptions because AMM got tired of describing the same traits over again and Kennedy agreed. Or you can believe the alternative theories that AMM hates Mal and Jessi, which I often do not doubt, and got rid of anything Kennedy may have wrote about them.
The next morning, MA does what would get a girl punched and popcorn thrown at her at a sleepover. She’s mad the girls have slept in til eleven! Sleepovers are all about sleeping in! But since MA is an old lady she barks at everyone to get up. MA says the Brewers expect them at breakfast. Every sleepover I went to they were quite lenient about getting us up for breakfast. In perhaps the best Jessi line ever, she says she’ll just eat breakfast in bed. Claudia YELLS at her while throwing a pillow, which I find amusing. We also learn that Kristy has a fuzzy pink blanket that she burrows up in. Girl at heart! This could also be foreshadowing to the next book when she gets closer to Bart and acts more girly.They go down in their PJs, messy hair, and caked on old makeup and are horrified when there are BOYS at the kitchen table. The hottest guy in the world is visiting that morning! And they look like shit!
Travis shakes Dawn’s hand and apparently ignores everyone else’s hands because he has magnetic California-dar. And speaking of California, here’s where I get to present a rebuttal to everything they say is the norm in California. You all know, just saying. Also, why is NorCal so neglected? T_T You know I’m in L.A. but I feel bad for my NorCal brethren! It all starts when Dawn blurts out, “IS THAT GRANOLA YOU’RE EATING?!” and here comes the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard: “Of course. It’s practically the state food of California.”
Riiiiight. There are drive thrus and entire restaurants devoted to granola all throughout California *snort*. All Californians are alike and ea the same thing. Guys, come to California, which I bet AMM had never been to at this point in time or she was stuck in a fantasy world of what she wanted it to be because of all those dang fifties movies. Perhaps this is a formula Kennedy was forced to stick with. Imagine a newcomer going to work for the behemoth of a big company like Scholastic and trying to put in her own input and spin on things. I like to imagine it like this:
Ms. Martin, I finished the draft.
Ann: (after reading) WHAT? This is the most disturbing piece of writing I have ever seen. How dare you write that Travis doesn’t eat health food or live by the ocean?! ALL CALIFORNIANS MUST LIVE BY THESE TROPES! You will change this at once.
Mary Lou: But Ms. Martin, there’s a lot more to California than the beach. Plus, lots of Californians eat meat and junk food.
Ann: BLASPHEMY!! YOU SHALL NEVER WRITE A BSC BOOK AGAIN!
Mary Lou: You’re crazy and just trying to live our your own fantasies through a series for young children!
You’ve done it now, bitch. I’ll show you the power of Scholastic monopoly!
Then Ann used her Scholastic mafia connections to ensure that Mary Lou never wrote a book again and then came the obscurity. Yay? This is the only Kennedy book I’ve read since I never read #34, but I’d say it’s better than many that I have read. Not the best, though.
After I finish overanalyzing why this authoress never wrote a book again, Dawn feels the urge to throw herself into Travis’ chair and keeps trying to be cool instead of insecure, a common Dawn theme. The girls go upstairs, primp for an hour and return and Dawn monopolizes him. Travis immediately brings up the ocean. AMM apparently doesn’t know that most people in California live nowhere near the ocean. In her sort of world, California is only that think strip that runs along the Pacific. The rest of the state is a forgotten mass of sadness not worth recalling. T_T What about the forests and deserts? What about those who live inland? She thinks Travis is amazing because he talks about a place in Malibu where the sun looks like it’s dropping in the water at sunset. Ann? It doesn’t just look like that in Malibu. It looks like that wherever you watch the damn sunset over the ocean unless there’s a cliff or something in the way blocking your view. Travis talks like no sixteen-year-old ever by telling Dawn her eyes are like the ocean and that she should always wear blue to match them. Dawn asks MA if she believes in love at first sight because of this half hour exchange.
MA is quite cold and puts Dawn down by saying, “It’s not like he’s going to ask you out.” OUCH. I had a friend say something like that to me when we were around that age. “Sweet, sensitive” MA knows nothing about tact. Which kind of dIsturbs me because she based MA off of herself. Think about that for a moment. Along with the fact that Dawn says that MA never makes mistakes in her duties for the club. Couldn’t she have said “Don’t get your hopes up too much since he’s a lot older” or something? That would at least make sense and be tactful. Here she’s making it sound like Dawn is undesirable or something. Not that Dawn isn’t annoying herself, but this side of MA pisses me off.
“Not to be snide or anything, but I think my job as alternate officer is the most interesting in club.” She justifies this statement by saying that she fills roles and stuff. But how many times does she actually do this? If someone’s gone people usually bitch about it and we don’t hear much about Dawn filling in anything. We also get this pointless sentence about the associate members: “They are both good baby-sitters.” Wow, really? I thought you loved hiring drug dealers and gang members.
Now back to the main plot: Dawn is obsessing about Travis during the entire meeting, dying to ask Kristy about him, etc. Most of this book is Dawn’s internal angst. So Kristy says that Charlie will be late picking her up and Dawn tries to casually ask if he’s hanging with Travis. Kristy’s like, “Uh, no, he’s at the dentist.” Dawn tries to play it off all cool, but totally and completely blows her “casual cover” by incessantly asking Travis questions. “How is he, has he been back to your house, how many chicks has he banged” and so on. Dawn is getting even hornier because even Mal is going on a date-with Ben! And we all know how fugly they think she is so Dawn is livid. She mentions how she would do anything to get Travis to take her to the movies. Oh, God, this Is scary. In all seriousness, this kind of talk will get her in serious trouble down the line. Imagine if she wants to date the QB in high school and he’s indifferent and then she says she’ll do anything. Her desperation is also disturbing and probably sends a bad message to children. “I must be dating or I’m insufficient.” “I should do anything to get my crush to take me out” “Desperation is ok” Dawn then fantasizes about him calling her and asking her out. What will she do, wear?! “I was in another world with just me and Travis.” Hopefully soon that number will grow to three to include a therapist.
Not long after, Dawn and MA rake leaves while Dawn regales us with stories about the farmhouse and its outhouse as well as how she’s wearing a Walkman even though she’s raking with a friend. She’s fantasizing when of course the fantasy comes true. Travis pulls up in a Chevy, right in front of her house. MA leaves and Dawn notes that she’s always tactful- AHAHAHA-NO. What about earlier, Dawn? She says some dumb things about how she didn’t know he could drive and how the driving age is sixteen in Connecticut as if it’s a big deal. I’m fairly certain sixteen is the oldest age through the U.S. at which you can get your license (anyone want to correct me on that?); I know Montana is fourteen and there may be other exceptions I’m not aware of. So I don’t understand why Dawn is wigging out here. She also says that many meanie-mo parents make their kids wait til seventeen because a year is such a big deal. Fun Fact: I got mine at sixteen and have used it about ten times since because I lack a car. According to Charlie, I must not have a life because wheels are totally necessary. Even though Dawn makes simple, boring chat, Travis puts the moves on her, flirtatiously touching her elbow and wanting to talk for a while. The car turns out to belong to Travis and he pays for gas and insurance himself (how, I don’t know. Does he have a job?). He then gives the most tedious speech ever, explaining why his car is so shiny. ZZZZZZZZ. Travis pretends to care about Dawn’s interests, then interrupts, then conceitedly says he’s not like everyone else who has a hard time being a new kid and making friends. “I make friends wherever I go.” “I was invited to join five clubs.” “Once they found out I play soccer and tennis they drafted me on the spot.” Earth to Dawn, Earth to Dawn: Have you noticed some arrogance here? Some falsities? Nope she only notices his looks and talents that are only alleged at this point. AND THIS SHIT KEEPS GOING. He’s like yeah the basketball and football coaches fought over me too. This is such fakery. We’ve all known this kind of person who makes up BS or twists actual talents to make themselves seen incredible. I’m going to bet he doesn’t have a job either, so how is he paying for shit? Liar!
Travis then is like “Enough about me” now trying to play humble after bragging that he was wanted for several different sports and clubs on sights. I can’t believe Dawn falls for this! I know she’s naïve but c’mon! No time for logic now: He brought her presents! A necklace and hair comb. Which no boy his age would give a girl her age, especially who he just met. Travis uses the slightly dumbed down lines of a much older player by complimenting her appearance, saying how he’s been thinking of her, etc. Then he says that he got inspired by seeing a chick on TV and starts telling Dawn how she should wear her hair, suggesting that she cut it to give it lift. Now I’m wondering if he’s in the closet with all this fashion talk. It’s also similar to possessive boyfriend nonsense, but before they’re dating. Dawn likes her hair the way it is but gives in when he asks her to do it for him. He also says he wants to see her in it the next time he sees her. So she has MA lop it off. This is just sad. Controlling, not accepting her as she is, manipulating her on their second meeting ever? Dawn is naïve and easily swayed, of course, but she’s thirteen. But Travis is just creepy. This would be in Sarah Dessen territory already if not a BSC book. And since Dawn is so impressionable you know he would be like “The sex? All the California girls are doing it.” If Dawn stays this desperate, she’ll have five children by the time she’s twenty. -_- After this book I don’t think we ever hear the haircut mentioned again, thus supporting my theory of Mary Lou being shunnnnned. Not really, but don’t take this away from me guys! Anyway, our individualistic
Dawn cut her hair by several inches for a guy she’s met twice. Nice.
Our subplot!...is Jessi at the Hobarts. It’s boring as hell and about some play they put on with the Perkins girls outside until Zach a “friend” of James shows up. He’s simply called bossy but then belts out a number of quite mean things, including how James’ play is the dumbest thing he’s ever seen. He calls Susan, the autistic girl, a retard (this book doesn’t note that she’s autistic for some reason, just “handicapped”) and blasts James for playing with her and with “little kids” and “girls.” This comes out of nowhere, really. It hits me particularly hard because my good friend has an autistic sibling (more severe than Susan is depicted as because there’s no talking whatsoever and communication is only through typing and letter cards). Besides the blatant continuity error since this book says she doesn’t talk when of course she does because of her memory of dates and such, this has the potential to be a serious subplot. So let’s see. (I’m doing this as I read, so I’ll only remember the rest of it on the way). Jessi tells Zach it’s “mean” to call names like that. Instead of that, I think it would be a good time to let the kids know about the handicapped and to be grateful for being born healthy, respecting those who were born with issues, etc. Zach doesn’t give a shit, of course, and simply tells James that if he wants to be an American he needs to ditch the girls, ride a skateboard, and stop calling his mother “Mum.” James bluffs that he’s just jealous that he’s not in the play and then Zach rides off. Jessi is proud. Besides the handicapped name-calling angle, this also would have been a good time to talk to friends about realizing who their friends are and not tolerating abuse. That could have helped me when I was younger since I had friends who were verbally abusive around the time I was ten. But that’s expecting too much in BSC land where verbal and emotional abuse always takes place.
Main plot: “Last Tuesday I got the biggest shock of my life. You’re going to be surprised when I tell you about it, too.” Not unless you actually get it on with Travis and put this book in teen territory, Dawn. Anyway, Dawn is walking home with Stacey, MA, and Claudia after seeing Kristy to the bus. Travis pulls up and offers a ride. Even though he blatantly interrupts her and such, she gets in the car. We learn he’s wearing the outfit on the cover and looks delish. I can’t snark Dawn for being exhilarated riding in the car with him. I know that I used to get excited when my friends were starting to drive and we were roaring around without parents. At thirteen I think I only had that a couple of times and thought it was soooo cool, hanging out with older teens and whatnot. It was pretty rare. Dawn fesses up once they go in a sporting store that she won’t be much help picking out a gift for his father and he puts his arm around her and says he just wanted an excuse to see her. This is where I get really annoyed with him. He asks the Brewers for her address, stakes her out after school, makes an excuse to see her. He’s obviously flirting heavily. Keep that in mind for later.
Travis then makes Dawn go get food with him. He pulls a Logan, ordering for Dawn, but she’s even worse than spineless MA because she doesn’t say anything about it. He’s also much brasher than Logan, taking the menu away from her when she tries to look at it. Instead of being displeased, like I would be, she’s just pleased that he ordered grilled cheese instead of meat, because she would have had to turn bulimic for a day, just to please him. We all know Dawn is not an individual in any way, shape, or form, but this is getting silly. Travis pretends to care about Dawn’s day, and then regales her with the track coach begging for him and scoring a touchdown in football. I hope Dawn realizes that he can’t really be playing five sports concurrently. We can assume he pays for lunch, nice I suppose, but is it worth the arrogance and controlling behavior? Nope. He pulls her into the Merry-Go-Round and my gaydar peaks. He finds earrings that he’s obviously seen before and thought were perfect for Dawn (this is getting beyond unsettling. We can laugh about why he was in there in the first place, but also he seems to be snaring Dawn) and then practically demands she get a third hole in her ear. WHY? “All the girls in California wear them that way.” Except me. And every other girl I know. Ever. Never met a girl who had three in each ear. I’ve met girls with more or less or with two and cartilage. But I guess we don’t count. She says she’ll think about it and he starts getting really controlling about how they can do it right now. Dawn actually does put her foot down, but hesitatingly. Travis is a little annoyed, but squeezes her arm “affectionately.” This is reminding me of Dessen’s Dreamland already. There is nothing romantic about this exchange to me. It’s disturbing to me. This is their third meeting and he’s trying to change her and being very bossing and trying to reel her in. Yuck.
She gets dropped off, and Sharon Stoner and Richard are waiting for her. “You’re late,” says crackhead. “Not really,” says Dawn. I find that a little amusing. What I find even more hilarious is that the chapter ends as though Sharon’s going to literally murder Dawn because she sets a knife down, faces Dawn, and says, “No one’s eating until we settle this.” Of course, they’re upset about her going with a sixteen-year-old they don’t know. She’s mad at MA for telling even though earlier she knew MA would and didn’t seem to care. Richard and Sharon show good parenting for once by saying that if Travis really liked her, he’s meet her family and by saying that showering her with presents at this stage is not necessarily a good thing. Sharon budges a little and says she’ll decide what’s up after meeting Travis and Richard of course disagrees at once. While they continue to argue, Dawn corners MA and bitches at her for telling and MA nearly cries again. I guess at thirteen that would have been my reaction, too, not rationality. No one likes getting in trouble. Dawn forgives her when she sees Niagara Falls is about to burst forth and then we learn Logan gave MA a toy for Tigger. We then get this gem: “MA and Logan are the most dependable people I know. You always can count on them and know where you stand with them.” Sure…incidentally, we’re only four books away from Logan’s ultra creepiness .
Subplot: Kristy baby-sits her family. Morbidda Destiny is mentioned. I sleep. Then Dawn sits for the Perkins and Hobarts. They put on a play again. Zach shows up again. I get this feeling we’re in for a PSA style “educational” tool. Zach, instead of pure bullying, is really trying hard to get James to play with him and come watch movies and skateboard. Instead of just saying so, he pelts him with rude insults about being weird and playing with girls. James goes because he doesn’t want to be seen as weird. Dawn is “very” disappointed James, which I find stupid. He’s eight. YOU could be telling him about abusive friendships and giving him advice but you’re sitting there on your ass, DAWN. Also, you’ve been letting Travis pull you around and you’re five years older. Honestly.
Karma bites back at Dawn for being hypocritical. We learn that Travis tried out for swim to be near the hot girl captain of the team who Sam knows. They’ve been dating for weeks! Which means that Travis was trying to lay Dawn while he had this other chick, not before. What an asshole. I know they’re not technically dating, but he’s been seeking her out, flirting, and trying to change her all in one. To make a long story short, Dawn freaks out. MA is less than sympathetic. Dawn, instead of accepting that a guy she met three times is with another girl, stalks them. Dawn admits her stupidity when she steps in a puddle and ruins her shoes and nearly gets hit by a car because she’s too busy watching them. Travis orders for this girl, too, at the same place. They kiss, Dawn is heartbroken. We learn Travis is playing three sports and considering trying for the school play which is impossible for any high schooler. Three sports? When practice times are usually concurrent? MA makes Dawn fess up to the girls when she nearly bursts into tears at a meeting and then they debate over whether she and Travis are technically going out. No, they’re not. But it’s still dirty that he bought her gifts and pretended to care while dating another girl. MA mentions Lewis and how they can date! Because long-distance for thirteen-year-olds is so great. Dawn has similar sentiments to me about this and already thinks she’ll fake illness when he comes to town. Little does she know.
Subplot again. Play is put on, Zach comes, people like play, Zach makes James leave right after. MA finally makes the connection to it being just like Dawn and Travis. Ding ding ding! Anyway she writes a mushy letter to Dawn about this “you’re great the way you are” etc. which is completely invalidated in book #50 because of her behavior there. Also, this is never cleared up for the rest of the book, which gets a thumbs down from me because I don’t know that it does get brought up again? Someone refresh my memory, please. Because this book ends with James still letting Zach push him around and the baby-sitters not even attempting to teach him about abuse and peer pressure. Even though we usually hate subplots in these books, I’d at least have liked to see an ending. Mary Lou, tell me this wasn’t your fault! I’ll just believe AMM was so enraged at you that fire shooting out her eyes blinded her vision for a day so she turned it over to the editor without noticing. And we all know that the editor is snorting coke or sleeping so of course the mistake went unnoticed.
Dawn makes an ass of herself following Travis and then revealing herself at the Merry-Go-Round. So Travis takes his girls to Burger Bite and the Merry-Go-Round without fail. Sara says “Oh yeah, the little girl you told me about.” He told her about Dawn? Interesting. All Travis says is that Dawn’s from California, too. Sara is kind of a bitch, tbh. That was unnecessary, as well as to say “I bet you turned her into a real beauty.” Like any girl would talk like that in the first place. Dawn makes a comment about already being a beauty then makes herself look like a little girl by saying she has to go home. “See you around!” says douchebag Travis, grinning like nothing happened. So obviously he told Sara that Dawn was a chick that he gave a makeover to or some shit like that. “Nice to have met you,” Sara says, which no one would say after the encounter they just had. MA and Dawn talk about having to be yourself, riiiiight. Book #50 would have been utterly avoided that way.
I forgot that Dawn actually calls Travis after this incident. She “breaks up” with him and says she can be herself and doesn’t want to see him again. He says he was just giving suggestions and she says he can go find the perfect girl and maybe it’s Sara. Travis acts like nothing’s wrong, which is douchy because he totally led her on and was bossy. It bothers me because she only chides him for trying to change her, not for being utterly controlling and the leading her on thing. She hangs up on him. The girls are more hung up on the image thing, when I think it’s more concerning that he’s very, very controlling. The narcissism also doesn’t help. And if Dawn was really individual, she would have slapped him across the equator (oh, excuse me, the Pacific Ocean) for trying to change her image and trying to prevent her from making any choices of her own.
The girls all applaud her later and then she agrees to meet with Lewis. Now Dawn obsesses over him, reading his letter multiple times. I’ll recap it. Snail mail exchange time!
Lewis: Yo Dawn, sent you a pic because Logan will brag about me looking amazing. Girl don’t faint at my feet, ‘cept for this one chick in a play we did cuz of stage fright. When I think of Cali I think of health food and movie stars. People think in Kentucky I must be into grits and have me a dog named Beau, but like hells no.
So at least he admits that generalizations aren’t always true, even if he does throw in a foul about health food. Nothing about this letter seems worth reading three times. He does seem amiable, but not thirteen.
Dawn: Yo, I love me some health food and don’t barf when I mention spinach pie. But I ain’t never seen me a movie star. I is beautiful and could be an actress, says everyone, but I don’t act.
Lewis: Cool beans about Cali. What can we do in lil Old Stoneybrook if you catch my drift?
Dawn: I’ll taka ya to the movie theater or mall. And boy, I’m making you try broccoli pizza.
Lewis: Please say you’re joking cuz fuck that shit. But even if you sound a little nutso I can’t wait to see ya, babe.
Only time will tell if they become an item, says the book. But we know little happens outside of book 50, says loyal readers.