"I can’t believe she’s that far gone." Or California Diaries #9 (Amalia)

<p><p><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br>This This b<p><br><br><br>THt</p></p></p>

This book is weird. Because it’s an Amalia book, but it’s pretty much all about Maggie. If you remember from the last installment, Maggie basically stopped eating, going from borderline anorexic, to full on anorexic.  At the end of that book she’d just admitted to her brother, Zeke, that she had a problem.  Also, the last book was by Jeanne Betancourt.  But this book is by the master of BSC ghosties, Peter Lerangis, who does a much better job of describing anorexia. 

For those of you who thought that Maggie’s anorexia wrapped up a little too neatly, never fear!  She’s still anorexic in this book, which takes place a month after the end of the prior one.  Amalia is in the school library, reading a teen magazine, when she comes across an article titled You Don’t have an Eating Disorder.  But Your Friend Does.  Amalia reads it and realizes that it describes Maggie a T.  So she decides to talk to Maggie about it, using the hints in the magazine.  So the genius Amalia invites her anorexic friend to dinner to talk this over.  Cause that’ll turn out well.

It doesn’t.  Turn out well, that is.  Maggie feels pressured to order something at the restaurant and she doesn’t want to eat even though Amalia chose a super healthy macrobiotic restaurant (Cause they’re in California, yo.  Where there’s a restaurant like that on every corner.  In Ann M.’s mind).  They leave the restaurant without eating and go to a park.  Maggie does open up to Amalia and admit that she does have an eating disorder, and Amalia feels awkward and weird and doesn’t know what to say.  So she vows to learn as much about anorexia as she can.

And in a little side story, James is still occasionally harassing Amalia.  Calling and hanging up, leaving rose petals in her locker (note to Amalia: change your locks).  Also at Vanish rehearsal, Bruce and Rico act like cavemen who think they need to protect poor little Amalia because she has a vagina and can’t do it herself. Amalia decides that all guys except for Ducky are untrustworthy asses and she’s not going to waste any time on them.  Ducky, Amalia tells us, is an exception to guys.  Of course he is.  And when Amalia considers her and Ducky being an item, she quickly thinks, “nah.”  No shit, Sherlock.

But back to Maggie’s problems!  Maggie also confides in Dawn.  And for whatever reason, Dawn isn’t a judgmental cunt about Maggie’s problems the way she is about Sunny’s.  So it’s kind of awkward at lunch when Maggie, Dawn and Amalia sit together and Maggie is eating nothing but lettuce.  Because Amalia and Dawn want to say something, but don’t know what to say, and Maggie clearly knows that Dawn and Amalia want to say something.

Amalia, the best high school band manager ever, goes and gets Vanish their first paying gig! It’s the homecoming bash at Vista.  The band will make $500.  Around the same time, a new guy shows up at Vista, named Brendan.  He shares a homeroom with Amalia and likes to look at her and smile at her.  She wants none of it though!

Amalia’s mom is a social worker and gives the name of a great therapist, Dr. Fuentes, to Amalia as a suggestion for Maggie.  Maggie is hesitant at first, but eventually makes an appointment.  But, she insists that Amalia come with her to her session.  Which is weird.  But Dr. Fuentes agrees if it makes Maggie more comfortable.  So they go, and Maggie puts on a great show, talking about her grades, and how she loves to sing and is editor of the school literary magazine and she’s rich, etc.  And Maggie doesn’t like it when Dr. F agrees that Maggie seems to have a charmed life.  So she breaks down and admits her eating disorder and Dr. F makes her really think about what would happen if she were to be OK with being imperfect.  (Lucky me.  I’ve always been comfortable with my imperfections.  Probably a little too comfortable.) 

Amalia kind of expects therapy to be an immediate cure-all for Maggie, but realizes it’ll be a slow healing process.  Maggie still is acting nuts at Vanish rehearsal and is going crazy over the paid gig.  Finally Justin pulls her aside and has a talk with her about “feeling the music.”  Which I guess works, because she kicks a little ass.  And a few weeks go by with Maggie seeing Dr. F twice a week.  And even though she’s not really eating better, she’s acting happier than she has in a long time. 

Also, Brendan plays flirty pants with Amalia and she gives him a Vanish tape, which he of course loves.  And he can’t wait to see them at the bash.  Hint hint, Amalia.  Brendan will be at the bash.  James sees Amalia and Brendan talking and makes faces and writes her a threatening letter which he leaves in her locker.  Brendan starts to eat lunch with her and Maggie and Dawn.  Maggie wants Amalia to stop worrying about her and start worrying about herself and see Brendan for the nice dude that he is. 

Finally we get to the bash and Maggie is having a level five freak out of stage fright.  Amalia tries to reassure her and tell her she’s awesome.  It doesn’t work, so she remembers what Justin said, about ‘feeling’ the music and Maggie finally agrees to go out there.  Also, Brendan brings a rose for Amalia.  Vanish goes on and after a first shaky number, Maggie starts to ‘feel’ the music and she absolutely brings down the house.  Then Brendan and Amalia slow dance and she tells him a little about James.  And then she notices James dancing with another girl, which both horrifies and relieves Amalia.  She might think about having a talk with that girl sometime.  She decides not to worry about it at the moment and just thinks about dancing with Brendan.

  • At the end of the book there are a list of places to get help for eating disorders.  And you can totally tell this book is from 1997, because the few associations that actually do list websites have them listed as members.aol.com/_____________.   Remember that?
  • I wish perfectionists didn’t annoy me so much, because I think I might be sounding a little crass when talking about people with eating disorders.  I don’t really mean it like that.   I’m not trying to be rude, but I seriously do not get how people can’t just fucking relax.  Over anything.  Certainly nobody wants to be a Type-A, right?
  • When you are using the shortened form of microphone, I’ve always understood it should be spelled mic, not mike.  Evidently Peter Lerangis (or Amalia) disagrees with me. 
  • Brendan looks hot at the dance with a dark patterned shirt and baggy black pants.  I’m thinking of hammer pants here, but even 1997 would be a little late for that.  
  • Amalia freaks out at first when Brendan gives her the rose, thinking it’s similar to James’ ankle bracelet.  But it’s not.  Brendan is a genuinely nice 13 year old boy.  Because all 13 year old boys give roses to gals. 
  • This book is chock full ‘o facts about anorexia.  Peter Lerangis clearly did his homework and regurgitated it to us.  It reads a little like a public service announcement.  
    • Fact: Anorexia is not only a problem. It’s an attempt to solve a perceived problem, even though the ‘solution’ becomes a worse problem.  
    • Fact: Anorexics feel that their lives are out of control.  By not eating, they’re establishing control – over their bodies.  (I control my body by filling it with doughnuts.  My body totally rebels if I don’t have a bare minimum of two doughnuts per week.) 
  • Really, I have no idea why Dawn is so kind to Maggie and her problems but can’t be arsed to be a little nicer to Sunny, whose mother is fucking dying.  Jesus, Maggie, Sunny’s the one who really has a problem she can’t control.  Sorry your mom’s a drunk, but Sunny’s mom is FUCKING DYING.  But really, the two problems are similar.  Maggie’s responding to her crap situation of having two fucked up parents by becoming anorexic.  Sunny’s responding to her problem of her dying mother and a distant father by skipping school and kissing boys.  What the fuck is Dawn’s problem that she’s sympathetic to Maggie but pissed at Sunny?  Makes me hate Dawn all the more.  

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
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11 Responses to "I can’t believe she’s that far gone." Or California Diaries #9 (Amalia)

  1. Alison says:

    Brendan's not that weird. I got a single red rose from a boy in sixth grade. I thought he was weird because he wore his Boy Scout uniform to school and read Harry Potter before it was cool. Words cannot express my humiliation. But, hey, he's a nice guy now. Even if he is a homeless Rastafarian.

  2. Sadako says:

    Well, I can see why Dawn would be more sympathetic to Maggie for several reasons. Sunny's problems had a direct effect on Dawn. Having your stepmother and father expecting a child and then having to share your life with a really unreliable friend is pretty stressful. Plus, Sunny almost burning the house down/causing Carol to get out of bed, which while not intentional, was pretty messed up.Also, Maggie's generally a pretty hard person to hate. She's a people pleaser, for one thing, and she's pretty reliable, unlike Sunny. Sunny's behavior does make sense, but from the point of view of someone who's only thirteen and closer to the situation than you or I, I can see why it would be much more frustrating to have to be friends with Sunny.

  3. meghan says:

    This is always the part where I forget that they're 13. THIRTEEN. MIDDLE SCHOOL. Driving? Band practice? Stalking abusive boyfriends? Therapists? GAH.

  4. In terms of Dawn being more sympathetic to Maggie:She might be more comfortable with the idea that it is a diagnosable disease that schools have information on. Whereas less is said about grieving for a dying parent. Still wouldn't say it excuses her utter lack of compassion towards Sunny, frustrating though she may be.

  5. I'm with Sadako: Dawn has a little more "distance" from Maggie's problem, and she hasn't known/been close to Maggie for nearly as long as she has with Sunny. Sometimes the ones who are closest to us are the ones we treat like crap the most, because we know they love us and we can get away with it. (Or maybe I'm just fucked up. Equally possible.)I do respect how Maggie's anorexia didn't pull a DJ Tanner and disappear after one book. I've never suffered from anorexia, but I am a type A, and I can tell you that sometimes I don't even understand why. A teacher in high school had an interesting theory about my friend, a fellow type A: personality-wise, she should have been laid-back and slightly rebellious, but because her parents were so pushy and demanding, she ended up a type A. Maggie's home situation is pretty screwed up, so that could explain a lot of her tendencies if you use that theory.

  6. Anonymous says:

    One of my best friends is a Type-A personality, and the thing is–she *does* like being that way, for the most part. She thrives on being busy and ambitious and even being a bit stressed out. She recognizes the negative aspects of it (ulcer at the age of 20, eg.), but she feels like it's a trade-off for being successful. So yeah, some people do want to be like that. I'm definitely more of a Type-B myself, but sometimes I do wish I had a little more drive.

  7. Sada says:

    I can't tell you how excited I am that one of these girls has a love interest her own age!

  8. i never got a chance to read this book but with the way you recapped it it makes me totally want to read it.im glad amalia has found someone her own age and isn't a replica of logan bruno/kristy thomas like types. brendan seems like a nice boy and totally worth my type.i think the reason why dawn isnt being such a bitch to maggie is because maggie is mostly reliable and is a good friend to dawn. and i agree with some that she isnt that close with maggie like she was with sunny. i think the one who was close to maggie was jill, but poor jill is pretty much a mary sue in this series.even though dawn was alright in this book, i still can't stand dawn pretty much because she's a bitch. period.

  9. nikki says:

    I gotta say, I’m a little surprised at all the support for Dawn’s behavior here. And I realized that maybe it’s my fault. Maybe in all the joy of calling Dawn a cunt (and, believe me, I take much joy in that), I didn’t really explain very well exactly how horrible she is to Sunny.I get everything that people are saying. That’s she’s not as close to Maggie, that anorexia seems like a more concrete problem with an obvious solution. That Maggie’s anorexia isn’t really affecting her in a personal way, that Sunny almost burned the Schafer house, etc. And I don’t really disagree with all those sentiments. And I’d feel the same way about Dawn if it wasn’t for the fact that there is absolutely zero empathy going on in her mind with regards to Sunny. I mean, none. There is nothing in either the Dawn books or the Sunny books to indicate that Dawn in any teeny tiny way even feels the remotest bit sad for Sunny, or even an inkling of understanding that Sunny’s acting out. Even when Carol, who is normally a nitwit, tries to explain it to her. Even when Carol and Jack (who is normally a total douchebag) show Dawn that it is possible to have a little empathy for someone after she makes a stupid mistake for which she is completely 100% apologetic and contrite. I’m talking about the kitchen fire here. Her behavior to Sunny is so unconscionable, to the point of bordering on the psychotic, that it is shocking to me that she even has the ability to feel worried or show any kind of empathy toward Maggie. And that, my friends, is Dawn’s biggest cuntery of all. That we now know she has the ability to feel bad and worry about someone else besides Dawn, but she chooses not to use that ability when it comes to Sunny’s situation.

  10. Sadako says:

    I don't think it's so much that people are supporting Dawn as much as pointing out that it's a little one sided to portray Dawn as pure evil when Sunny is flawed, too. It's been a while since I've read this series but I thought that generally they did a good job of showing that almost everyone could have their annoying/flawed moments but that when you see things from their POV (i.e., in their diary) it makes more sense. I don't think any single character is meant to be entirely good or entirely bad–just human.

  11. nikki says:

    Sadako – That was kind of my point. They did a great job of portraying Sunny, Maggie and Amalia as flawed human beings, but who can still be personable and likable in so many ways. No such luck with Dawn. Every Dawn scene (up until she managed an iota of sympathy for Maggie) was just a cloud of bitchy judgment. Even in her own books. And when you think of it, it's kind of shocking to have this completely one-dimensional character in the middle of a series that was supposed to be for kids who outgrew the BSC.

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