Initial reaction: “Dawn: Dairy One” was a nice start to the California Diaries series, as it showcases Dawn having moved back to California to live with her father and stepmother. She reunites with her old friends, but realizes – through a bunch of changes that happen both in her life and personal preferences, that nothing ever stays the same and you just have to roll with the changes.

Very nice read for pre-teens/young teens.

Full review:

Ann M. Martin’s “California Diaries” series is a spin-off of the long running Babysitters Club series, featuring Dawn after she moves back to California to live with her father, stepmother, and little brother Jeff. I first read this series when it was published many years ago, but in recent years, it’s been given a reboot. I’m excited for the chance to be able to re-read it from the very beginning.

This book has definitely some of the pros and cons of being a beginning book of a series because it sets up all the respective personalities that are going to carry through the series – including Sunny, Amalia, Maggie, and Ducky/Chris. While Dawn wasn’t my favorite personality from the original BSC cast (or even in the CD series), I did like this eye into her respective experience as a lot of changes get handed to her in her eighth grade class as well as within her circle of family and friends. It felt like an authentic teen diary chronicling Dawn’s process of growing up within a certain window of time and the consequences of actions and changes that she undergoes in that span. Some of which include, but aren’t limited to: falling out with former activities and friends, family changes, internal and external clashes, school shifts, and growing pains.

It shows its age for some pop culture references (i.e. the reference of the young Jeff going to see an Arnold Schwarzenegger flick), but that’s rather minimal. The narrative itself feels relevant for its emotional eye to the changes that Dawn and her friends go through. This book felt like the stepping stone which provides the jumping point for the ongoing narrative, and you can understand that the series is going to chronicle Dawn having to adjust with her family, Sunny dealing with her mother’s cancer, Maggie overcoming perfectionism issues which lend to other problems, among others. I won’t spoil it for any who haven’t read the series, but I can vouch from personal experience how this series impacted me as a teen for voice and challenge. I would recommend it certainly for its target audience (pre-teens/young teens), but its definitely a more coming of age/slice of life/tough subject read, and in some ways, I saw that as a good thing as it shows the trials of the teens having to “grow up” and learn from the mistakes they make.

On another note, this edition shows a preview of the next book in the series as well as a brief history of Ann M. Martin’s life that I really appreciated, from her own words and images.

Overall score: 3/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Open Road Media.

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