Happy (almost) December everyone! Guess what I did in a mere twenty-nine days in November? Um yeah, I rocked the shit out of Nano this year, thereby erasing my embarrassing 10,492 word count from last year. I managed 50,338 words and I’m still not done. I can’t even begin to describe what a fucking writing stud I feel like right now. My novel isn’t perfect, hell, it’s probably not even good. But, it’s good enough that I want to finish it, then do a little rewriting/revision.
But enough about my ass-kickery of the whole nano thing (seriously, did you guys know I work AND I have a kid? And a husband who works 60+ hour weeks making me the sole housekeeper? Because I do, and it made it that much harder to finish nano.) I missed blogging. I missed you guys, and in the first week of November, I proudly finished my California Diaries collection with this little gem. I say gem, because it’s Ducky and you all know how much I love the Duckster. Also, it was ghost written by Peter Lerangis. I believe this is the last California Diaries Lerangis ghost wrote and I wish the man would do nothing but churn out Ducky books all the freaking time.
Ducky is picking his parents up from the airport. What’s that? Ducky’s absentee parents are actually coming home to spend some time with their offspring? ‘Tis true, Ma and Pa McCrae are on their way back to Palo City from their work-related trip to Ghana. They could have gotten a car service, but Ducky is desperate to be as well-liked by his parents as big brother Ted, so he decides to pick them up personally.
The asshat parents seem barely happy to see him though. They load Ducky down with heavy bags and spend the next God knows however long talking about their fascinating research in Ghana. Eventually they do think to ask Ducky how he’s doing. But it’s sort of an afterthought. Then Pa McCrae makes Ducky do the driving, then proceeds to complain about his driving abilities. Dick. Don’t talk to my fucking Ducky like that.
Asshat parents are not happy with the house cleaning, even though Ducky broke his back cleaning up. Ma McCrae gives the Palo homestead the old white glove treatment and isn’t happy with what she sees. And how did a slice of pizza end up wedged by the stove? (Hey morons, don’t leave a twenty and sixteen year old home alone for months at time if you don’t want pizza wedged by the stove.)
Ducky is sad to have lost his freedom from the last several months. Also making him continually sad are the states of his three friends, Sunny, Alex and Jay. If you’ll recall, Sunny’s mother is dying from lung cancer and Sunny’s reacting to that by banging (OK – kissing, but I think the banging is assumed) a lot of dudes and skipping a lot of school. Alex is suffering from a severe ongoing depressive episode. Jay continues to be getting closer and closer to his athlete buddies, dubbed not-so-lovingly by Ducky as Cro-Mags.
The book mostly focuses on Alex though. Alex is skipping school, wearing the same clothes over and over, spacing out, refusing to talk to anyone, etc. Ducky, who hasn’t been entirely comfortable since he began to suspect Alex’s drunken “accident” at Jay’s party was really just a badly planned suicide attempt, tries to stick like glue to Alex’s side. Alex is mostly annoyed by this. Ducky is on the verge of giving up, when he has a heart to heart with his favorite teacher, Ms. Krueger (yes, that Ms. Krueger, the victim of the party prank in Cal Diaries #1), who is sympathetic and asks Ducky to never ever give up on Alex, because one day Alex will come to realize who stuck by him through his dark times and Ducky will never forgive himself if he doesn’t. Ducky takes this to heart and sticks with Alex.
They go rock climbing, they go to the park, Ducky hangs out at Alex’s house. Alex makes a lot of depressing comments about the worthlessness of life, and wondering about the meaning of life, etc. Ducky flat-out asks him one day if he’d ever consider suicide. Alex seems appropriately aghast at the thought, and says “Just because there’s no reason to live, doesn’t mean there’s a reason to die.” Which sounds a lot more profound than it actually is when you think about it. One day while Alex is showering (finally) to go out, Ducky starts cleaning his room and finds a frightening amount of empty or near-empty vodka bottles. So now Ducky’s wondering, is he depressed or an alcoholic?
On the McCrae homefront, things aren’t any better. Ted continues to be perpetually loved and doted upon by Ma and Pa McCrae, leaving Ducky angsty. Ducky realizes that he and Ted had been given a gift for several months of basically being allowed to live how they wanted, and now that their parents are back, Ducky feels like he’s stuck in his bedroom. He doesn’t feel the glorious freedom he’d felt before anywhere but there. Two weeks after the McCrae parents get back, they drop a motherfucker of a bombshell. They have a chance to go back to Ghana for several months – leaving in just a week’s time. Meaning they’ll miss Christmas.
Ducky is furious. Because as much as he misses his freedom, he’s a sixteen year old boy who just wants to feel like his parents give a shit about him. And he wants to talk to someone, but doesn’t know who. Sunny is too involved in her deal with her mom. Ted wouldn’t understand. Ducky thinks hard and realizes he’s been a good friend to Alex the last few months, and the least Alex can do is be there when he needs a shoulder.
So he heads over to Alex’s house and finds Alex in mid-suicide attempt. (And just when Alex seemed to be turning a corner.) Ducky hears the car running, sees exhaust fumes seeping out the closed garage door and realizes what’s happened. He breaks into the Snyder’s house and goes into the garage from the inside, turns off the ignition and pulls Alex outside. He feels a faint pulse and notices Alex’s chest is just barely rising. He calls 911, they come and are taking Alex right as his mom gets home from her book club.
Ducky and Mrs. Snyder wait in the waiting room, comfort each other and it’s really very sad. Ducky’s parents come to take him home. Ducky opens up to them and Ted about how much he’d been trying to do for Alex and what a failure he feels like, for not noticing the signs. His parents are vehement that he’d done everything he could have and more. And it’s actually a sweet little family moment. His parents decide to stay home where they’re needed by their sons.
A few days later, Alex is released from the hospital and his mother is sending him to a recovery center in Chicago, where her physician brother works. Ducky goes to talk to Alex, who seems really ungrateful for all that Ducky’s done. Ducky’s had it up to HERE and calls Alex out on that, and goes off and calls him selfish. He starts to leave, but Alex calls him back and apologizes and tries to talk a little bit about depression. And Ducky realizes though he was hurt, it wasn’t really Alex’s fault that he couldn’t open up.
At the end, Ducky feels hopeful about Alex. He tells his parents not to miss out on this big research opportunity in Ghana, he knows that it’s important to them and he knows that they were sincere about sticking around, and that’s enough for him. So we end with him dropping his parents back off at the airport.
- Yeah, the McCrae parents are up there with some of the worst in all of the BSC series. Ducky said it best at one point when they announce their intention to go back to Ghana, “They gave BIRTH to us. They WANTED to form a family. What’s the point of having a family if you can’t stay together?” Ma and Pa McCrae don’t deserve a son as good as Ducky.
- Ducky is gay hints, because you know I love to keep track of this shit: At one point when he’s trying to cheer up Alex, he sings a tune from Guys and Dolls. Then Jay tries to set Ducky up with a lovely lady, and his Cro-Mag buddies joke “I don’t think she’s Ducky’s type.”
- If you’ll remember, in the last Amalia book, she sees a checklist about eating disorders and thinks of Maggie. After Alex’s suicide attempt, Ducky finds a similar list about suicide and can’t believe that he sees Alex in every single symptom; Changes in sleep habits, withdrawal from family, friendships and activities, inability to concentrate, declining grades, substance abuse, etc. The whole this has a very PSA-vibe to it. Like it was forced into the book without considering the flow of the book.
- Here’s an uncomfortable thought: Sunny calls her mother Dorian. Why? The Picture of Dorian Gray, it ages before your eyes. I honestly kind of admire that sort of humor.
- During one sweet moment where Alex is kind of with it, he and Ducky are taking a hike and see a coyote. Alex brings up this game they used to play when they were kids about them being aliens and not understanding that Earthling animals weren’t the same as Earthling people. Ducky then writes this in all caps and in parenthesis in his diary (YOU WERE NERDS, DUCKY!). Maybe so, but it’s kind of adorable and it gives a glimpse of why Ducky thinks it’s important to stick with Alex.
· I’ve complained about the paucity of Ducky fanfic in this world. There’s a new BSC prompt group on LJ. I think my personal goal is to double the number of Ducky fics available.