"It’s easier to be someone else" Or California Diaries # (Ducky)

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=areyoutheyoui-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0590298399&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrQuestion: How much do I love Ducky?  
Answer:  A whole hell of a lot.

Question: How much do I love this cover?
Answer: A whole hell of a lot.  I don’t even know why.  I just think those shoes are totally rad, as are the faded rolled jeans.  Are you kidding me?  I imagine Ducky’s wearing a white t-shirt tucked in to those jeans and is definitely wearing a black vest over said T-shirt.  That is what definitely goes with those shoes and jeans in the late 1990’s. 

So we’re finally getting our first-person introduction to the best of this series: Christopher “Ducky” McCrae.  And the story starts off on Valentines Day, where Ducky is depressed because he doesn’t have a special someone to share the day with.  And because Ducky is flamboyant interesting, he plays cupid for a bunch of people, handing out carnations to everyone in the school.  The jocks, who Ducky has dubbed the Cro-Mags, tease him mercilessly about the flowers.  Ducky is saddened to get teased by Jay, his former best friend who has turned into a Cro Mag.  Ducky’s other best friend, Alex, has turned into a slacker space cadet.  So Ducky isn’t as close to the two of them as he used to be.  And although he has his new eighth grade friends, Sunny, Dawn, Maggie and Amalia, he really just wants to be with his old friends again. 

Ducky justifies being friends with a bunch of eighth grade girls – he doesn’t exactly have other kids beating down his door to befriend him.  And Sunny & Co. are cool.  In fact, Ducky thinks Sunny is pretty cool just the way she is.  Too bad Ducky doesn’t realize how freaking awesome he is.  Ducky sees himself through the eyes of the Cro-Mags as a “sissy wimp girlie man” (because you can’t really use the word fag, even in this edgier series.  But it’s CLEAR that is what the Cro-Mags are thinking.  And no – I’m not condoning the use of the word fag at all.  I’m just saying that is what the Cro-Mags are really calling Ducky.) or through his older brother Ted as an “immature stupid kid, or through the eyes of his parents as “the oddball child,” or through Sunny & Co’s eyes as “Carefree, mature and a laugh riot.”   Ducky believes he is none of those things and has no idea who he really is.

Jay feels bad about teasing Ducky about the whole cupid thing, so he asks him to go to dinner with him.  Ducky, who lives with just his 20-year old slacker of a brother while his parents spend a year in Ghana, knows he isn’t exactly eating right at home, so he agrees to go.  But Jay has something up his sleeve. Her name is LeeAnn, and it’s a surprise blind date for Ducky!  Ducky is unhappy because LeeAnn has a vagina Jay didn’t warn him and just caught him by surprise.  Then Ducky angsts a bit about whether he’s an idiot for being mad a Jay.  Because maybe this is what “normal” guys do?

Ducky drives around for a while being mad and thinking about how mad he is when he stumbles across Alex at their old stomping grounds.  Alex is being depressed, but does say to Ducky that the Valentines Day flower was the nicest thing anyone has done for him in a long time. Which is about a thousand kinds of sad.  Ducky hangs out with Alex for a little bit, then goes to Jay’s where he tries to confront him and they end up fighting.  Jay thought he was doing something nice for Ducky.  Ducky thought Jay was being sneaky.

Ducky goes to visit Mrs. Winslow in the hospital with Sunny.  Ducky’s a good friend, because he’s crazy nervous to meet such a sick lady.  Mrs. Winslow is nice, though she ought to be – Ducky’s the one who saved Sunny when she ran away a few books back.  Then Ducky is at lunch with depressed Alex the next day, who admits that he’s been in therapy since he was a little kid.  He has these moods that he can’t control.  This news astounds Ducky, who has known Alex his whole life.  Ducky vacillates between feeling lied to and feeling bad for Alex.  And he feels like a bad friend because he maybe he should have been more aware of Alex’s feelings and he could have helped out.

Later on, Jay comes over with his chessboard to try and make nice with Ducky.  It works and the two are having a good time.  They go out for Chinese, and who should come in to the restaurant but Dawn and Sunny.  Jay and Dawn flirt with each other until….rut roh.  Jay has the motherfucking audacity to order red meat with Dawn “Level Five Vegan” Schafer there.  Then things aren’t so good.  But Jay points out to Ducky later that Sunny and Alex would be good for each other.  At first Ducky thinks Jay’s an idiot, but then he realizes that they could help each other out with their moods.  So Ducky takes Alex and Sunny to the beach and it’s pretty much an awkward disaster.  Still, Sunny is cool about it, she’s thankful to Ducky for thinking of her.  She’s being a hell of a lot nicer to Ducky about it than Ducky was to Jay.

Ducky continues to fret about everything and everyone in his life.  His older brother who is supposed to be taking care of him is gone most of the time and when he’s home, he’s making a mess of the house and having parties.  His friends are going through shit.  His parents have left him a virtual orphan. The Cro-Mags continue to tease him.  It sucks being Ducky, though he ends up opening up to Sunny and feeling better.  He feels so much better that he goes home and starts cleaning like a madman.  He can’t get it all done and confesses to Jay about the really squalid state of his house.  Jay comes over to clean and he brings along his girlf, Lisa and…..Bud.  Bud is the king of Cro-Mags.  But guess what?  Bud’s actually nice.  He and Ducky have similar senses of humor.  So, Jay invites Ducky to a ‘guys night’ party at his house.  Ducky says he’ll go after Bud assures him the other Cro-Mags won’t pick on him.  Jay also wants Alex to come, because he misses the “old times,” when it was just the three of them.

Party Time!  Ducky is nervous as hell.  Especially when he gets to Jay’s house and realizes that the Cro-Mags are trashing the house.  Ducky knows Jay’s parents and knows how much they love their antique collection.  Guys are using bone china as ashtrays and Jay’s mother’s antique thimbles as shot glasses.  Cro-Mags, naturally, tease Ducky about being worried.  Bur Ducky has bigger things to worry about.  Alex has taken a bottle of liquor and disappeared.  Ducky finally finds him and Alex is acting strange, staring in to space with a crazed smile on his face.  Alex heads upstairs and locks himself in the bathroom, ignoring Ducky’s pleas to be let in.  Ducky can hear the water running for a long time.  So long it starts to leak out into the hallway.

Ducky gets Jay to help him break down the door.  Alex is laying in the bathtub, fully clothed and unconscious, with the shower running over him and the tub plugged up.  He’s completely shitfaced.  Ducky helps Alex to the car, the whole time Alex is saying things like “I didn’t mean it, don’t tell anyone what happened. I was just drunk.”  Ducky takes Alex back to his house and gets him to bed.  Sometime around two a.m., after a weird dream Ducky wakes up with a big fat DUH hanging over his head.  He just fucking realized that Alex was trying to commit suicide. 

Panic time for Ducky.  He doesn’t know what to do.  He’d sworn to Alex that he wouldn’t tell anyone what happened.  But shit…at the time he just thought Alex was embarrassed about getting so drunk and stupid.  But trying to kill yourself? That’s serious business.  Finally Ducky calls Alex’s therapist’s answering service. The therapist calls back and is all cool and calm and listens to Ducky’s whole story.  The therapist makes sure that Alex is physically OK now, but asks Ducky to make sure he comes in to the office first thing in the morning.  Um….doc?  Alex is under 18. Don’t you think his parents ought to know their son tried to off himself tonight?  Should you really be trusting your suicidal patient’s appointment to the care of his 16 year old friend?

Of course, Alex overhears the end of the conversation and is uber-pissed at Ducky for breaking his promise so quickly.  Alex leaves to walk home, Ducky follows.  Alex won’t talk to him and Ducky sits outside Alex’s house, watching him get ready for bed.  And Ducky sits there wondering if he’s doing enough.  Or too much.  Should he leave Alex alone?  Should he rally around Alex?  He has no idea who to ask for advice.

  • Ducky writes in the second person voice.  Which starts out really annoying, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it kind of works in it’s own weird way.  His reason for writing in the second voice? Writing “I” would be too personal, too creepy.  He’s pretty sure he’s not normal for calling himself “you” all the time.  
  • Ducky also has the worst handwriting of all the California Diarists.   And when he wants to stress a word, he capitalizes it.  And he stresses pretty  much every fourth or fifth word.  Annoying.
  • Ducky’s never been kissed. Which is too bad.  Ducky’s totally my type.  Only gay.  And, you know, fictional.
  • Can we add Ducky and Ted’s parents to the “Bad Parents of Y.A.” list?  They’re rarely home.  Right now they’re spending a year in Ghana, and it seems like they travel for long periods.  So they leave their 16 year old home alone with their 20 year old.  They started traveling a lot when Ted was in fifth grade – and Ted handled it so poorly he had to go to therapy.  I get it McCrae parents, you have important jobs.  You travel.  Maybe you shouldn’t have had kids if you didn’t…I don’t know…WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM!!!
  • In pretty much every California Diaries book so far, the writer has gotten in to trouble for writing in their journals during class.  Maybe the journals aren’t such a good idea Vista?
  • Sunny is sweet in this one.  Which is nice, because she runs hot and cold for me.  
  • I like that Ducky has friends outside the 13-year old girls and that Sunny & Co took a back seat to the Ducky/Jay/Alex friendship in this book. Though who knows if his friendship with Alex will survive Ducky calling Alex’s therapist.  
  • By the way, thanks to SNL, I can’t see the word therapist without reading it ‘the rapist.’  Thanks, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery and Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek. 
  • Seriously?   Shouldn’t Alex’s therapist have informed his parents that their son is suicidal?  It’s not a breach of confidentiality at that point is it?  Especially when your patient is a minor?
  • Ducky is gay hints: No outright hints.  Just mostly the way the Cro-Mags tease him (He flits instead of walks, he has a funny high-pitched voice, etc) and Ducky’s hints about being “not normal.” 
  • You all know that occasionally, I like to throw in a little BSC Fanfiction, and Ducky seems like a fun character to write.  But, I’m really fucking short on time right now (It’s taken me three days just to finish this post!), so instead I’m going to rec a fic for you all.  Believe me, there is a paucity of Ducky Fic (Or really, any California Diaries fic) out there, so I’m happy to be able to have such a good one to recommend.  The first few sections are straight from the book, but the party at Jay’s house takes a decidedly different turn of events.  It’s rated M, so be warned about the M-ishness of it.  Here it is, written by the talented easytodancewith: China in You Hand.
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About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Angst, Ann M. Martin, BSC, California Diaries, Fanfic, gay. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to "It’s easier to be someone else" Or California Diaries # (Ducky)

  1. Carin says:

    Although I read the first 60 BSC books, I never read this series and gawd, I am so regretting it after reading your reviews of them! I laughed out loud at your description of the black vest over the white T-shirt. You are dead-on. God help me if I ever find these in a bookstore.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Ah! I never picked up on the Ducky = gay when I read these, but I blame it on being 11. As soon as Finals are over, I sense a California Diaries re-read. And awww on the fanfic. LOVE. Thank you 🙂

  3. Lorelai says:

    Aww, Ducky! I do so hope he finds a nice man…preferrably one called Andy who has no desire to date a richie named after a major appliance. (I really am sorry. Nobody named Ducky ever gets away without a Pretty In Pink reference. It's a compulsion.)

  4. Sadako says:

    I actually remember the Cro Mags teasing Ducky and I think it sort of did cross my mind that he was gay. But now that you've recapped it, wowie, yeah, he must have been. I mean, combined with the blind date reaction…yeah.Also, Dawn flirting with Jay seems so creepy. To quote Luca, the only guy with a normal reaction to finding out a girl you like is young, SHE'S THIRTEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIRTEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That cannot be stressed, enough, guys! Ugh.Can't wait for you to do some more CA Diaries, Nikki!

  5. I never read the Ducky books, but I have them stacked up in my bedroom at my mom's…I should get on that. And god, Dawn's one of those buttplugs who doesn't want anyone ELSE to order meat when she's around? Ugh, that just figures.

  6. magnolia says:

    oh, the CA diaries are so great. i never read them when they first came out, but i stumbled upon them my first year in law school. i'm only slightly ashamed to admit that the death of mrs. winslow helped me deal with losing my own mother that year. thanks a million for recapping this!

  7. Marisa says:

    i've never read any of the California Diaries and I think I'm going to have to start. Time to hit the local used book store 🙂

  8. nikki says:

    Yep Kathryn – it's a great fic. I was happy to find it! Sadako – I was going to make the THIRTEEN reference, but I thought I hit that hard enough in the Amalia review. But yes, it will never cease to amaze me that no one in the California Diaries-verse bats an eye at the THIRTEEN thing. Magnolia – don't be ashamed at all. Fiction is a great way to deal with the real shit life throws at us. Marisa – Good luck collecting them. I had a hell of a time. It took me about nine months to complete my collection.

  9. Amber says:

    I'm a big fan of Duckies in general (Yay, Pretty in Pink!) and I really want to read this one. Of all the California Diaries recaps/reviews that I've come across online, this book seems like the most interesting.And, like you, I can't read "therapist" without thinking "the rapist."

  10. Katrine says:

    I never read this one, but I am totally regretting it now. And Dawn is annoying in every book where she makes an appearance. Ugh.

  11. Sada says:

    How is it that the boy is the most relatable character in a BSC spinoff? Poor Ducky. Let me reiterate that I would have been all over this angstiness at age 13.

  12. Linainverse5 says:

    hmmmmducky defintiely seems to be the most interesting character i ever metand i wouldve kissed ducky too.me and ducky shares a lot in common.but yet again i wouldnt want to hurt or betray sunny.so yeah.dawn is quite bearablebut once againwhat can you expect from miss ultra hippie

  13. Nicola says:

    “Because LeeAnn has a vagina.” Oh, God, it’s so true.

    “Ducky’s totally my type. Only gay. And, you know, fictional.” Ugh, cosigned.

    By the way, I’m easytodancewith over at ff.net, and I legit JUST remembered to check out this blog after, um… like eight months? Haha? Anyway, thanks so much for reccing me, and I LOVE this blog.

    • nikkihb says:

      Oh my God! Thanks for commenting easytodancewith. If you check out my pages at the top here, I also linked China in Your Hand in the BSC page. I joined Babysitters 100 over on LJ just to try and write more Ducky. I’m actually working on a multi-part Ducky/Byron story set in their 20’s. I’m having a baby soon, so I’m actually not sure anything will come of it 🙂

      My next book to review is another Ducky – the very last of the California Diaries series. It’ll be bitter sweet.

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