Original Publication Date: 1997
Ghostwriter? Yes, Peter Lerangis. The illustrations are drawn by Stieg Retlin.
Amalia's notebook introduces us to a newly-arrived eighth grade student who likes to draw. She's Hispanic, with bits of Spanish in some of her writings. Her family is her, her older sister (who she thinks is the favorite, and who has a serious boyfriend), and her parents. She's also sort-of dating an older teen named James, whose in the band Vanish (Maggie is the lead singer; Amalia is the manager). But some troubling patterns of anger and control start to show. They become especially noticeable after Amalia goes with her sister Isabel to volunteer in a women's shelter and she gets to know the child of one of the battered women. Things get ugly when the woman's ex-husband finds her and attacks her, putting her in the hospital. Later he's able to sneak into the shelter and kidnap the little boy. He's found, safe, but through all the stress James is getting more and more angry. Amalia keeps telling herself that it's really that bad, but eventually sees the light. She breaks up with him, and he even goes so far as to imply that he'll kill himself if they can't be together, and starts basically stalking her, calling constantly and showing up at her house. Amalia even finds two creepy dolls on her lawn, the boy doll stabbed by the girl doll. There's no proof that they're from James, but he's the likely suspect. He does back off a bit though, after Amalia's dad catches a phone call from him, and the band Vanish kicks him out (why no one called the police I have no idea).
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Ducky):
Maggie is eating noticeably less, and Amalia thinks that it's odd, since Maggie looks underweight.
This book has someone sneeringly describe Sunny as "not [Ducky's] type" in way that implies perhaps no girl is his type. Other insults thrown his way indicate that his male peers think of him as effeminate.
Amalia doesn't wear makeup.
Maggie's mother shows up drunk in public. Fortunately she's not driving.
Amalia's family seems to Catholic, judging from the fact taht Isabel prays the rosary.
While it is normal for couples to disagree, it's NOT normal for one member to fear the other. Check out the cycle of abuse: http://www.heart-2-heart.ca/women/page5.htm.
Also: women and children are more often the victims of abuse, but men can be as well.
This book takes place from late December to mid January.
Vista (the school these characters attend) still has classes up through December 22! Most schools I've known of in the US start winter break about a week before Christmas. Also, according to The Secret Life of Mary Anne Spier, Dawn and Jeff flew to Stoneybrook before Dec 22, to spend Christmas with their mom's family. So I guess they miss a few days of school. According to one of Amalia's drawings, Dawn is back in time for New Year's Eve.
I'm glad that Amalia is able to help at the women's shelter, but I hope that real-life shelters, especially for people escaping abuse, run background checks on everyone rather than just letting them in after they sign a couple forms.
I have a slight disagreement with Maggie's statement that it's never okay to hit another person. I see no problem with it if it's done in self-defense or defense of others. But instigating violence is bad, yes.
Starting 8th grade: 9
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 3
Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate, not just reference): Christmas-3, Hanukkah-1, Kwanzaa-2
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 3
Summers after 8th grade: 10
BSC Fights: 11
SMS Staff and Faculty: 67
Students (other than the BSC): 209: 119 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 26 7th graders, 47 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 37 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 130