Original Publication Date: 1998
Ghostwriter? Yes, Peter Lerangis.
Ducky's parents are back from their latest trip, and Ducky realizes that he's more used to them being away than home. He doesn't know how to connect with them at all. He does connect a bit with his brother, who also feels awkward around their parents.
He also makes a bit of headway with Alex. There are some nice bonding moments between the friends, when it seems like Alex's depression might be lifting. But then there are more downs, like Ducky finding several empty and half empty bottles of alcohol in Alex's room, or the way that Alex keeps skipping school and just wants to sleep all day. Ducky feels responsible for Alex, although really, he's doing all a sixteen-year-old with no psychology training can do. And he feels like he can't talk to Dawn, Amalia, or Maggie about anything because they don't really know Alex, or Sunny because she's going through enough.
But then it seems like Alex's mood is turning up again. He seems less burdened, and Ducky even sees him cleaning out his locker which had been a pit--oh, crap. A chronically depressed person who suddenly seems like a weight's been lifted from him and is putting his life in order? That sometimes means he has a plan to make it all better, and that plan is suicide. Sure enough, as Ducky finds his way to Alex's house, needing to escape his own after his parents announce that they will return to Ghana before Christmas, he finds Alex in the garage with the car running. Ducky's able to get him out of the carbon monoxide and call 911 in time. Alex is released from the hospital the next day, and on a flight to a treatment program with his uncle in Chicago (he's a doctor at a recovery center) that evening. He and Ducky get to talk a bit before he goes, and Ducky finally understands that Alex couldn't just snap out of it or open up and talk. Ducky's parents offer to stay through Christmas but moronically put the decision on him--way to go, parents. Your son doesn't have enough on his plate, does he?
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Ducky):
Ducky appears to be one of those people who gets carsick while reading in the car.
Ducky's parents have been going on extended trips for work (in addition to being professors, they're also international business consultants) since he was a little kid, which often left him wondering what he'd done wrong that made them leave.
Sunny's mom has months, maybe only weeks left.
If you're too busy to take care of kids, don't have them. I don't mean never hire a sitter; I mean if you need someone else to raise them, then maybe parenthood isn't for you. (For what it's worth, I realize that there are surprise babies; this is aimed at people purposely have kids then hand them off to someone else)
This book takes place from early to mid December.
I think it's always a good idea to bring a book or something along when you might have to wait, like in a doctor's office or picking someone up at the airport. I usually go with knitting. Either I end up not waiting and go home faster or I get a little further on my project. In the time Ducky waits at the airport for his parents, I could have knitted a third of a baby blanket!
Speaking of airports, Ducky's parents' flight is scheduled to land at 5:37. Today my dad is coming home from a trip and his flight lands at 5:35. Funny coincidence. (The parents' flight is delayed though; my dad's was on time. And I didn't pick him up because he was only gone a week and left his car at a place near the airport.)
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