“I’m not very good at guy things.” or California Diaries #15

So this is it, guys.  The very last of the California Diaries Series.  I wish it had gone out on a better note, but alas, this book was kinda lame.  I know what you’re thinking Lame?  But it’s a Ducky book! Well, yes. See Peter Lerangis wrote the first two Ducky books and created a fantastic voice for him.  Nola Thacker was not quite up to the job.

Um, also.  You know how I’ve been keeping track of the Ducky is gay hints?  I really can’t do that with this book, but the entire book is coded in DUCKY IS GAY.  So, I don’t know.  Every time something seems especially gay, maybe I’ll mark it with an asterisk?

I can barely tell which hand belongs to the guy. Ducky has very girlie hands.

The book starts out at the end of summer with Ducky and Sunny working a slow day at Winslow Books.  No customers want help, and Sunny is making a beach-book display in the window.  They spy a shoplifter and help each other out when it comes to confronting him.

Ducky doesn’t know what’s wrong with him that he’s a sixteen year old boy who loves to shop for clothes*, and that one of his goals in life is to own something cashmere*.  He wouldn’t necessarily wear the cashmere, you see, he’d keep it around to pet*.  When he’s shopping with Sunny one day they’re having a good time and they go into a wig store, kind of randomly and Sunny asks all vulnerably if Ducky thinks she’s pretty.  Ducky hesitates because he’s sure she is, but doesn’t really think of her like that*.  He tells her she’s beautiful and tries to turn it into a wig joke.

But, whatevs. Sunny starts to act differently around him.  Looking at him a lot, and laughing louder than normal at his jokes and whatnot.  The five friends get together and go out for pizza where Maggie proceeds to complain about her drunk mom.  Ducky tries his hardest to make everyone laugh, and it works, but then he dials it back a notch when Sunny starts making moony-eyes at him.  He also notices that Amalia seems to be cooling off on Brendan a little bit.

Ducky is worried about not being a normal guy*.  He says if there is a guy book somewhere he either didn’t get a copy or his copy is missing some pages*.  He is now officially freaking out over the Sunny sitch, because he really does love her, but only like a friend.  One day at Winslow books, a jock-looking dude comes in and Ducky is all ready to roll his eyes and assume the dude is a Cro-Mag, but the guy surprisingly asks for the poetry section.  Ducky rings his purchases up, three poetry books by Whitman, Adrienne Rich and Baudelaire*.  And if you don’t know why I’m asterisking those – Whitman is presumed to have been gay, Adrienne Rich is an out lesbian, and Baudelaire is thought to possibly have been bisexual.  I’m pretty sure these poets were not chosen for this book coincidentally.  Ducky is impressed and decides he’s going to check out the same books this dude is, because he’s kind of wondering about the jock/poet*.  (Side note: nothing ever happens with the jock poet.  But if someone wanted to write a fanfic where it DOES, I’d be the happiest girl on the planet.  Also, my birthday is April 25th, and I love getting fanfics for my birthday. *cough*hint*cough*)

After the jock poet incident, Brendan comes in and asks Ducky to go to lunch with him.  So they go and Brendan is wondering what to do about Amalia, because he’s definitely noticed she’s cooled off.  Ducky tries, not so hard, to be helpful, but commences even bigger freak out when Brendan assumes he and Sunny are a thing. When Ducky says no, Brendan’s all ‘Yeah, I see the way she looks at you.’   Ducky goes into big time denial / freak out mode.  Who the fuck can he ask for advice? Not Jay – he thinks girls are interchangable.  Alex is incommunicado since being in rehab, and Dawn and Co. are too close to Sunny to be fair.

After work one day, Sunny asks Ducky to go to a movie.  And more freaking out ensues.  Is this a date?  They even go out to dinner first.  Ducky, unreasonably, blames Brendan for his big freak out.  Sunny holds his hand in the movie, and now Ducky is sure it’s a date.  Then when he’s dropping her off at his house, Sunny kisses him.  And it’s Ducky’s first kiss and it’s a friggin disaster.  He can’t bring himself to kiss her back*.  And now he’s crazy worried about what’ll happen to his and Sunny’s friendship.  The idea of maybe going for it with her never seems to cross his mind*.   The kiss just didn’t “feel right”*.  “Of all the girls in the world, Sunny would be your choice.  But you aren’t happy she chose you. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?*” Oh the Ducky angst, I love it so much.

Things are hella-awkward around Sunny the next day at work.  Sunny tells him, “It was just a kiss.  You were just in the right place at the right time. That’s all.”  Ducky tries to make things better by joking, but he can tell Sunny is hurt by his lack of reciprocation of her feelings.  So who does he talk to?  Big brother Ted, who is supremely unhelpful.  “Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t,” is his big advice.  He also fails to let Ted know this was his very first kiss.  So Ducky thinks hard and decides to go to Brendan, who’s still smarting from being shunned by Amalia.  Brendan is more helpful than Ted and reminds Ducky that he needs to end it fast before anyone ends up hurt.  And that they really might not be able to go back to being friends.

So Ducky is left still wondering what’s wrong with him*.  “What if I’m a coward?  Or have commitment issues?  Why not get closer?  Why don’t I feel it?*”   He’s asking all but the most obvious of questions, see.

At work the next day, Sunny calls in sick and Dawn comes in to help Ducky stock books.  They carefully avoid the topic of Sunny, which isn’t like Dawn at all to respect anyone’s boundaries.  Amalia comes by and wants to talk to Ducky about Maggie.  Things are getting crazy-bad at Maggie’s house, especially since her dad left for a movie shoot in Vancouver.  Ducky tries hard to give advice, but he has none to give.  Since the deal with Alex, he’s pretty sure it’s not enough to just be there for someone, and he’s having a hard time being a good friend.  He asks Amalia straight out about Brendan and Amalia goes into this whole thing about how she’s pulling back to avoid being hurt, blah blah blah, because that’s totally how introspective thirteen year olds are about their relationships.  Ducky accuses her of being afraid and he’s maybe a little snide about it and it makes Amalia cry and leave him.  Ducky feels bad.

A couple nights later, Ducky gets a midnight phone call from Maggie, begging him to pick her up.  He goes to her house and he hears a violent fight going on inside.  Maggie grabs Zeke and they run out to Ducky’s car together.  Ducky doesn’t push them for details and let’s them crash in his parents’ room.  (Ma and Pa McCrae are in Crete now.)  At breakfast the next morning, Zeke is still asleep and Ted obviously thinks Maggie was sleeping with Ducky and is being obnoxious about it.  Then Zeke walks in and he’s upset about why their dad couldn’t help them because, “shouldn’t we count as much as him movie?”  Maggie calls her dad in Vancouver and tells him if he doesn’t get home and do something with her, Maggie’ll call the police next time mom throws anything in her direction.  Dad agrees to fly home immediately.

Sunny mostly ignores Ducky the next day at work, but does thank him for being there for Maggie.  She invites him to dinner at her house with her dad, and Ducky declines, which makes Sunny mad and she goes back to ignoring him.  Sigh.

Maggie calls Ducky and tells her that they had an intervention for her mom, and it sounds kind of like a story out of an intervention text books somewhere. Mom denies, then someone who she can’t deny is telling the truth (i.e. Maggie and Zeke) get angry and shouty and tell her they love her and then she agrees to go to the Betty Ford Clinic.  Ducky decides he has to go see Sunny and talk things out with her, but she’s not home.  Dawn sees him though, and she asks him if there’s any chance at all with Sunny.  He says no.  “I wish I could fall in love with Sunny.  I do, I really do.  But I can’t*.” He knows they need to be just friends.

So he and Sunny go to the beach and they have a big long talk.  Sunny talks about how she sees that Ducky detached himself from her after she kissed him, and she just wishes she could unkiss him.  Ducky says that he considers her his best friend now and he can’t even fathom ruining that.  Sunny had no idea Ducky thought of her as his best friend and that makes her happy.

So it’s almost the end of summer and Ducky decides to throw a party.  Not really a party, just the whole group (plus Brendan, who Amalia is back in to) making pizzas and hanging out.  Maggie says her mom seems to be doing OK in rehab and everyone is happy.

  • It’s nice that in the last few books, the five friends were all together much more often.
  • So, yep.  Ducky’s gay.  I don’t think there’s a question.  And if there was a question, it was answered in a very nerdy Twitter-conversation I got in to with Peter Lerangis who confirmed it anyway.
  • In fact, Ducky is so gay, that the fact that gay is never mentioned in this book is almost distracting, making Ducky seem much stupider than he is.  And really, these are told in journal form.  If Ducky is journaling his feelings, which are OBVIOUS, he should have mentioned it.
  • My biggest complaint about the California Diaries (other than the hand-written entries) is that the journal-writing is very unnatural.  They should have been narrative books with journal entries interspersed.
  • Sunny is handling her mother’s death quite well, using the time to get closer to her father.  There’s a sweet little scene where Mr. Winslow is leaving the bookstore early, and Sunny admonishes him, “Mom is watching you shirk your work.”  It makes them both (and me!) smile.
  • I could have done without the Maggie subplot.  Because her mom’s alcoholism has been mentioned in every single book to date.  I think that perhaps Scholastic decided not to have any more of the CD series, and needed that story arc wrapped up before the end.  It seems pretty hasty that mom went from just being a drunk embarrassment in one book to being really violent really suddenly in the next.  And she agreed to rehab after like three minutes in intervention.  That would NOT make good Bravo programming.
  • When Ted thinks Maggie is the one Ducky was talking to him about, he’s all, “She’s a babe.  What’s the problem?”  Ted, you’re twenty fucking years old and Luca tells us that Maggie is THIRTEEN.  So shut it you gross man.
  • At the very end, Ducky is lamenting the almost-end of summer.  He says that there’s only one day till school.  There’s actually two, but he doesn’t count Sunday because that gets into the topic of religion.  And Ducky is as uncomfortable with the topic of religion as he is with sex*.  Which….what?  This doesn’t even make a little bit of sense.  But I’m asterisking it because I think sixteen year old boys are pretty comfortable thinking about sex nonstop, amirite?  And maybe there’s a reason Ducky isn’t?
  • Oh, and stay tuned.  You will not want to miss out on my next post, which should be up in a few days.

About nikkihb

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

14 Responses to “I’m not very good at guy things.” or California Diaries #15

  1. Amber says:

    I actually had a gay friend tell me that he really tried to like me, I was the closest girl he came to liking, but… just couldn’t. I felt a little sheepish that I didn’t notice the clues, but I didn’t know that many gay people in high school. I have a feeling this is a last ditch effort for Ducky to be in denial.
    LOL @ the Luca reference!

    • nikkihb says:

      You know, I only read these books as an adult, so the gay references could have gone over a kid/teenager’s head. I love that you and a friend had your own little Ducky/Sunny moment.
      I’m about 90% convinced my HS boyfriend is gay, but here we are, early 30s and he’s not out. So maybe not….

  2. Sadako says:

    Poor Nola Thacker. She just couldn’t hold a candle to Peter. Then again, not even Ann could, really…

    • nikkihb says:

      Seriously. The best of this series was written by Ann (#12 where Sunny’s mom dies, which is an exceptional book) but all the next best were written by Peter. And this really read like Ducky fanfiction rather than like a Ducky book.

  3. Tafadhali says:

    Even if Ducky weren’t clearly gay… Sunny is *Lucavoice* THIRTEEN, and if one of my 8th grader friends had revealed a crush on me when I was sixteen (at which point I was a Junior in high school — my school was 5-12, and I’d been riding the school bus with these girls since they were ten), I would have felt about zero compunctions about turning them down. In fact, even though those 8th graders are now twenty, I would still turn them down, because they were ONCE THIRTEEN when I was sixteen and they were in my little brother’s grade and are friends with his girlfriend and they will NEVER BE POTENTIAL DATING PARTNERS.

    Of course, Ducky is already a bit closer with these 13 year old girls than most 16-year-olds would be, so.

    • nikkihb says:

      You know, after I’ve spent fifteen books freaking out over the whole THIRTEEN thing, I can’t believe I didn’t even bring up that point here. I think I was so overwhelmed by the Ducky is gay thing that it didn’t click that there is an icky age difference there too. (Though at sixteen, Ducky is only a Sophomore – which I think was explained in book one, but I can’t quite remember.)

  4. Sarah says:

    Holy smokes, you got into a twitter convo with PL? I want to see that!
    I haven’t read the CD series in years, but your posts have made me want to go and revisit them. Thanks for writing about these books!

  5. Sada says:

    I love that you had Peter Lerangis confirm that Ducky is gay. ♥ Although after this book, you TOTALLY DID NOT NEED TO. I’m sad that poor Ducky never got to come out, even to himself.

  6. Mariola says:

    I love that you had a Twitter convo with PL!

  7. Chris says:

    I think if I had read this book while I was questioning my sexuality, it would have pushed me even further into the closet.

    Francesca Lia Block’s Baby Bebop, though, would have been a huge help.

  8. arinami86 says:

    I am way late to this so I don’t know if you’ll even see this comment, but thank you SO MUCH for writing summaries of the California Diaries books. These were my favorite books back in 1998, I thought they were so scandalous and loved all the drama. I wanted their lives even though I see now how horrible they all were.

    I recently remembered the books and bought a compilations of the first 5 diaries on iBooks. They were pretty hard to get through, I realize now how incredibly unrealistic they all were and I can’t believe I used to think they were the most awesome things ever and totally thought the same things would happen to me at age 13.

    For nostalgia purposes I want to read the rest of the diaries but I can’t bring myself to buy anymore of them, I’m not 12 years old anymore and I can’t handle all the ridiculousness. But then I discovered your blog and there’s no need because you cover them so well. So thank you!

  9. Heather says:

    Holy moly, I read these books way back when and I had absolutely no idea Ducky was gay I thought he was just an emo dude! As an adult now I can totally see it. So crazy.

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