the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in California Diaries
  • The series I wrote about in my last post is still going on. I agree with HelenB’s comment on my post–these seem to be based more on the interests of the girls than their personalities. The former is accurate; the latter is way off. Mary Anne has married Logan and is an executive at a construction company. While I like Executive!Mary Anne, I hate Logan, and see Mary Anne doing something else with her life.
  • Seven California Diaries Moments That Made the BSC Seem So Immature on the Bustle.
  • Ann M. Martin was at the American Library Association’s Annual Meeting.
  • She is also fostering new kittens!!!!
  • As I discovered thanks to an astute poster on the BSC Boards, all of the books I’ll be reading for the Readalong are being released as ebooks on the 22nd of April by a company called Open Road Integrated Media (not Scholastic as I originally thought). This includes Slam Book, which I thought I was going to have to exclude from the Readalong because I don’t have it. Here are the links on Amazon:

    Bummer Summer
    Inside Out
    Stage Fright
    Me and Katie (the Pest)
    Missing Since Monday

    Slam Book
    Yours Turly, Shirley
    Ma and Pa Dracula
    Ten Kids, No Pets was released by Scholastic a year ago, and on the 30th, they are releasing Eleven Kids, One Summer.

    In news that is perhaps even more exciting, the company that is releasing all of Ann’s early books ALREADY released all of the California Diaries! You can buy them as five-in-ones (i.e., everyone’s first, second or third diaries) for ten dollars or individually for $4.79.

    So basically, it’s Christmas in April for BSC fans! I was wondering if the CA Diaries were going to be included, and how far Scholastic was going to go with the series rereleases–so far, we have the regular series, Super Special and Mysteries (Super Mysteries are coming out in May!) but I don’t know how far they’ll go in the regular series, and whether they’re going to do Portrait Collections or Readers’ Requests. I think we can safely assume that the CA Diaries are not on the table, since they let this other company publish them, but who cares, we already have them now!

    Last week I watched the movie Young Adult, which stars Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt and was made by the people behind Juno, which I’ve never seen. Besides feeling lots and lots of secondhand embarrassment for Charlize Theron’s character, Patton Oswalt’s excellent turn at dramatic acting, and this song from Teenage Fanclub, the movie has one very important thing going for it. In the movie, Charlize Theron’s character’s profession is… wait for it… YA series ghostwriter!!!

    Now we can imagine how Nola Thacker looked while working on the BSC, amirite?

    So Mavis, Theron’s character, is a ghostwriter for a YA series called Waverly Prep, which I imagine to be more in the Gossip Girl vein than the BSC or SVH, but whatever. The thing that stuck with me, besides the realization that ghostwriter for a YA/middle grade reader series is kind of a dream job for me, is that the fact that the series has just been CANCELLED is a plot point that’s kind of floating in the background the whole time, and, in my opinion, the thing that really sets off Mavis’s mid-30s crisis, even more than the fact that her long-ago boyfriend had a baby and is apparently happy.

    This, of course, brought to mind the BSC and its end in 2000. The end of the BSC has always been spun as, “Ann decided it was time for the thing to end,” but it’s always struck me as more PR than truth. Let’s look at the facts:

  • Before the introduction of Friends Forever, they redesigned the Mystery series, only to use the new covers for, oh, three books. Now, it’s possible that the art department and the editorial department just didn’t communicate that well, but it says to me that Friends Forever was something that was moved along quickly and was somewhat of a surprise to those who worked on the series.
  • California Diaries and Little Sister ended without a satisfying, wrap-everything-up ending, whereas Friends Forever had Graduation Day. The Claudia/Alan, and yes I am just going to go with this fantasy of mine here, Mary Anne/Cary (or at least Mary Anne-on-her-own) plotlines were not resolved. Stacey/Ethan also didn’t really get a satisfying conclusion.

    It seems to me that the ending of the BSC, and perhaps even the transition to Friends Forever, was more sudden than Ann & Co. let on. It would have been fairly easy to put together Graduation Day, because it’s the obvious conclusion to the series. It would have been harder to decide a proper sendoff for Ducky and Karen. Perhaps the California Diaries team and the Little Sister team didn’t even know they were being axed alongside the BSC and figured that rumors about the end of the BSC wouldn’t affect them–maybe Little Sister had better sales than its big sister series, much like how the Full House “Michelle” books were being published long after ABC cancelled the show. I’m not sure how good California Diaries sales were, but I can see them attracting the audience that felt embarrassed to be buying the BSC, but still wanting to feel some connection to the characters.

    It’s entirely possible that only the FF editorial team was given enough notice to properly finish out the series. Maybe the LS and CD people had a whole bunch of books outlined that they never got to finish. I’d ask @PeterLerangis, but I’m sure Scholastic made him sign a blood oath to never tell the true story.

    One of the things that struck me about the plotline in the film is that they did in fact use the word “cancelled,” exactly as you would for a television series. I guess it makes sense for a book series as well; I had just never thought of that way. I had always seen the end of a book series as more as an agreement between the author and publisher, not the publisher deciding to no longer publish the books. Looking back on it, I think this is probably a naive attitude to have about how the publishing world works. Just like how many cancelled series have episodes in the can that will never air, I am sure that many book series had more plots outlined and new characters in the wings that never ended up on bookshelves.

  • Well, as much as people might expect me to say “Stacey,” I’m going to go with another choice. If you don’t keep up with BSC Stamped on LJ, this month, they’re doing California Diaries stamps. I was stamped as Sunny, and while I was stamped as Stacey when they were stamping people as the BSC members, I have more in common with Sunny, I think.

    Anyway, I actually could see myself being friends with the Palo City crowd far easier than I could see myself being friends with those in the ‘Brook. Maybe it’s because I’m older? Or maybe it’s because I don’t like children all that much.

    Mary Anne and Logan, of course.

    Just kidding.

    We have already covered my love of Ethan Carroll. But actually, my favorite COUPLE to read about might actually be a tie between Amalia/Brendan and Maggie/Tyler in CA Diaries. I definitely reach for Amalia, Diary Two and Maggie, Diary Three when I am in an “I want to moon over boys” mood. I want Ethan all to myself, but I can swoon over new romance in those two books.

    I think relationships work better in CA Diaries than in BSC. The slightly older intended audience tends to make stuff like that more interesting and realistic than in BSC, which was basically always pretty tame. With the noted exception of Kristy + Bart = Bart is a total horndog, of course.

    Sweet Valley Confidential, the long-awaited “reunion” book for the Sweet Valley High universe, came out this week, a cause for much excitement for twenty- and thirty-somethings who grew up with Liz and Jess.

    Shockingly to some, Sweet Valley was never my thing. I started with BSC at age six, and I think my mom felt that I was too young for Sweet Valley High, too advanced a reader for Kids, and dear god just look at all the spinny racks of Francine Pascal; I AM ALREADY LINING ANN M. MARTIN’S COFFERS EVERY MONTH. CHOOSE ONE. So I think the number of SV books I ended up reading adds up to less than ten.

    I bought Sweet Valley Confidential anyway, because I needed some light reading on my Kindle, I’m running out of trashy celebrity tell-alls, and Meg Cabot’s new book isn’t out until the middle of the month. (SO excited for Abandon!) I actually haven’t finished reading it yet, because having never really been a fan, it’s just not as much as a page-turner for me as it for those who grew up wanting to be size six blonde beauties with eyes the color of the California ocean. Or alternatively, Lila Fuckin’ Fowler. Anyway, I am only like a third or so of the way through, which is unusual for me because in third grade my teacher called me a liar because I read faster than she did.

    The question that SVC brings up for me, of course, is whether such a book would work for the BSC. We already have the The Summer Before, which I think works okay as a prequel, even though I don’t like how it messed with canon a bit. Ann has pretty much categorically denied that there will ever be a book featuring the Sitters after eighth grade graduation, but she also had, in the past, said that there won’t be ANY new books featuring the girls, and we got The Summer Before, so let’s examine the possbilities and the logistics.

    A book like Confidential, with the girls aged ten years or so? I honestly have a hard time seeing it work, and wouldn’t even really want it. I like that we can explore our own ideas for the girls’ futures in fan fiction, and it’s not set in stone that so and so got married/divorced/had babies/came out/became an executive/became a ne’er do well who never moved out of his parents’ basement (Hi, Logan!). Also, frankly, I don’t really see Ann has an adult/chick lit writer, or even a writer for an older YA audience. I don’t think she’s really a writer who wants to deal with sex, drugs, alcohol, and more adult topics. I think she handled more “adult” storylines deftly in Main Street, but in a PG fashion. I just don’t see her wanting to introduce adulthood to the BSC.

    I can see a Confidential-type book working, however, for California Diaries. It would be THE BEST THING EVER. Bring in Peter Lerangis to write it! The CD books were always more adult than BSC, and touched on issues in a way that would shock the shit out of Stoneybrook. So yes, bring on Palo City Confidential!

    I do think that a BSC-in-High School book or miniseries would work. Maybe bring Stoneybrook up to Palo City-levels of issues beyond “Wow, why do all of the parents in Stoneybrook suck?” Bring in a little bit of sex and controversy, just not as much as in the adult lives as our Sweet Valley friends. This is, I think, the most likely scenario for any kind of BSC reunion book.

    Ann has said that she has no plans to write a reunion book, and prefers that readers are able to imagine the girls’ future themselves. But she had also said that she would never write a new BSC book of any kind, and we ended up with The Summer Before anyway. Sweet Valley Confidential seems to be doing pretty well, if the excitement across the non-fandom blogosphere is any indication. Scholastic might take note of the possible very large dollar signs. The problem with The Summer Before is that it is very much a book aimed at middle grade readers. Parents who were fans as children might want to buy it for their kids, kids might be interested in it, and super diehard nostalgists might want it, but it’s not something that most adults would buy for themselves. Whereas Sweet Valley Confidential appeals to both teenage readers who weren’t around for SVH the first time around AND to readers who are now adults, who are ok with reading a trashy novel about people in their own age group. While a book about high schoolers isn’t quite the same thing, I can see people wanting to know what happened to the girls once they finally graduated from eighth grade, after a sisyphean thirteen-year run.

    What do you think of the BSC’s reunion book possibilities?

    The Baby-Sitters Club is rife with examples of glaring violations of child labor laws. Logan works as a busboy at the Road Spud. Laine poohs baby-sitting in favor of working as a cashier at Flowers and Bows, the boutique on the Upper East Side (or West? Please, someone with Stacey’s Ex-Best Friend handy, let me know!). Stacey works at Kid Center in Bellairs.

    But in later books, someone seems to have sent Scholastic a memo saying, hey, THAT IS ILLEGAL. Sunny says that Ducky is the only friend of hers who can work at Winslow Books, because he is sixteen. Maureen Spencer says that none of Stacey’s friends can work at her new, as yet unopened store, since they’re not old enough. While in many ways the series got more unrealistic as time went on (oh hai princess in Stoneybrook and field trips to Europe), when it got to be CA Diaries/FF time, things seem to have become more realistic. Nothing in the plots of either series are as outlandish as things often found in later BSC.

    Another thing I noticed in my reread of Stacey’s Problem: Samantha is one glamorous woman. She is a former model turned fashion photographer. Now, this kind of woman is not going to date just some normal guy. I would imagine that she would probably end up with someone high-powered and rich, because that is the kind of person she would come across in her work. We’re told over and over again that Watson is Very Rich, yet Stacey buys all her clothes at Bloomingdales (which is not cheap–Stacey is rocking the cost equivalent of Marc by Marc Jacobs in eighth grade), she went to a fancy private school in Manhattan, they had an apartment overlooking Central Park, Ed takes Stacey to fancy restaurants and Broadway plays all the damn time. So how come the obvious was never stated, that Stacey is very wealthy as well, in addition to being sophisticated? It seems odd to mention Kristy’s wealth in every Chapter 2 and not say anything about Stacey’s.

    One of the marked features of the time warp is that no matter when someone’s birthday supposedly falls, after Logan Likes Mary Anne!, if you’re in eighth grade, you’re thirteen, and if you’re in sixth grade, you’re eleven, and so on. Even if you’re Dawn and your birthday is in February, if it’s an eighth grade June, you’re stull not fourteen.

    Having everybody be thirteen in eighth grade and so on is kind of strange, because at least where I come from, it was common for people to be older. People like Mary Anne and Abby, who were born in September and October, respectively, usually wait a year to start kindergarten. Even kids with late July birthdays like me are often spend an extra year in pre-k.

    There is only one exception that I’ve been able to find, and it’s sixteen-year-old sophomore Ducky McCrae in the California Diaries. Maybe his parents were too busy travelling to remember to enroll the Duckster in school. Maybe The Powers That Be wanted a character who could drive, thus giving the girls more independence, but didn’t want their friend to be a Junior in high school. But James Kodaly is a junior, and Amalia dates him, so that kind of makes that theory a bit strange.

    Oh, and Mark Jaffe is thirteen and in seventh grade, because Claudia dates him for his “maturity.”

    Are those two the only exceptions?

    When you are reading the California Diaries series, it is easy to forget that Stoneybrook exists. I happen to really like the CA diaries, but they have a very different “feel” than the BSC series. First of all, there’s the diary format, and secondly, no baby-sitting. I don’t like Other People’s Kids very much, so that aspect suits me just fine. The second is that characters who also appear in the BSC series seem very different from their BSC incarnations.

    First up is Dawn Schafer. Dawn in the BSC books is the eco-baby-sitter whose ~individuality~ is talked about often but rarely seen. In CA, “California Casual” turns into hippie-granola occasionally punctuated by WILD EARRINGS and SEXY BLACK PLATFORM SHOES. Dawn no longer seems to care about Mary Anne crying back in Stoneybrook. She has bigger issues to worry about, like drinking! and sunny dating everyone in Palo! Also, who doesn’t love the scene where she and Maggie go to this store called “The Tea Shop” where they sell “more than just tea”?! OMG Dawn smokes pot in 3…2…1.

    Second is Sunny Winslow. Sunny’s character change is actually the most subtle and realistic. She was always a little unpredictable and boy-crazy, and her “turn it up to 11″ personality change in CA Diaries can easily be justified by her mother’s impending death. Depressing!

    Third is Maggie Blume. Maggie’s was just… shocking. In BSC, she was “LA Futuristic Cyberpunk.” In CA Diaries, she’s a preppy straight-a student who really just wants to sing. It makes sense to me that they did that though, as Sunny really had the “wild girl” position locked up and to have another would be kind of useless. Let’s put Maggie’s changes down to her trying to “find herself” or whatever.

    Jill Hendrickson (is that her last name?). Oh, poor Jill. Carelessly written out in the first Diary. She used to be serious and boring, now she just really likes unicorns. Again, like having two wild girls, Jill’s seriousness was too dull for a series.

    I really like Amalia and Ducky, although they don’t appear in BSC except in passing mentions. The Gay BFF was missing in the BSC series, and Amalia is just really likeable and down-to-earth, and her problems are interesting while still being realistic. I would have totally dated Brendan in 8th grade. (Or now, you know if he were about fifteen years older).

    Where things get interesting is where the Stoneybrook and Palo City worlds collide, like in Welcome Home, Mary Anne!. Mary Anne and the BSC just can’t seem to handle the New Dawn. Even though the girls grow up and away from baby-sitting a little bit in the FF series, they still are in the Middle School building, after all.