1990s Nostalgia: The California Diaries #1 Dawn

The California Diaries was one of the final spin-off series from the Babysitters Club and the only BSC spin-off to be aimed at young adult, rather than preteen, readers. As always, Ann M. Martin is credited as the author, though it is doubtful that she actually wrote any of the books in the series.

Given the fact that the books were aimed at a slightly older audience, the California Diaries are darker than the BSC and discussed a number of real-life themes such as anorexia, a parent who is dying of cancer and friendships turned sour. Somehow, this series passed me by during my own adolescence (I suspect I was just that bit too old when they were released,) and I had never even heard of them until earlier this year when I researched a blog on the Babysitters Club. More recently, I found a few of the books and well, curiosity got the better of me ...

The first volume in the series is titled Dawn and features that California Cool girl from the BSC, Dawn Schafer, who has now been living in California for some months with her dad, brother and stepmother. It is also the beginning of eighth grade yet again, despite the obvious inconsistencies with the BSC. In a plot twist not unlike Degrassi Junior High, where the kids find themselves being prematurely moved to high school, Dawn and her pals from eighth grade suddenly discover that they will be moved out from middle school and shifted into the local high school a year early, due to overcrowding at the middle school. And the rest of the novel basically talks about Dawn and the others trying to adapt to a new school and to fit in with the older kids.

I found parts of this book, especially Dawn's fears and feelings about high school, to be quite realistic. In some ways, her experiences were quite similar to my own when I started high school. That said, reading the book left me with the exact same feeling that I got when I reread Are You There God? It's Me Margaret--I felt as though I was intruding on secret teenage business. This isn't a book that goes for both audiences, like many young adult releases do. It's a book for kids in their early teens, about scary early teen stuff. Consequently, I'm not in a hurry to read any of the remaining books in the series, but I'll be happy to recommend them to any thirteen year old girls that I know ...


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