dawn & the surfer ghost: now with 100% fewer surfer ghosts

it’s not really okay with me that we still have to read dawn books even though dawn lives in california now. dawn kind of sucks, & i don’t care about her california friends, the we ❤ kids club, or her california sitting charges, who run the gamut from bratty (the dewitts) to hippie (sunflower & daffodil) to mary anne (stephie & her emotion-induced asthma attacks). but i'm reading all these books as a personal project, so…here we go.

dawn is spending a lot of time at the beach these days because a) she lives in california & obviously everyone in california spends as much time as possible at the beach, b) she & her best california friend sunny are taking a beginning surfing class, & c) she & some of the other we ❤ kids club members are volunteering for some after-school program in which they watch over children at some beach activity program. they do stuff like play games, tell ghost stories, have bonfires, etc. it's not that consequential to the story–just another attempt to shoehorn babysitting into a story that would probably be better off without it.

dawn starts noticing a really great surfer on the beach. he's probably about twenty years old, very tan, with long bleached hair, multiple ear piercings, a purple surfboard patterned with black tribal designs, & he always wears a ring shaped like a little snake coiled around his finger. his name is thrash. she chats him up a bit at the local surf shop when she's in there choosing her rental board for her lessons. she notices that he's using custom blended surf wax with a skull on the label. he gives her some tips on which board to rent & calls her "kelea," after a hawaiian goddess that was a great surfer, according to thrash. sunny thinks dawn has a crush on thrash, but dawn insist that he's too old for her & that she just admires his surfing skills. there's a big surf competition coming up (dawn & sunny plan to enter the beginner division) & thrash is favored to win–though there is some competition, to be sure.

the next thing you know, thrash's board washes up on the beach, sans thrash. the board is all banged up & no one knows what happened to thrash, though it seems like most people think he's dead. they speculate that he drowned in a riptide or was attacked by a shark. dawn goes to the police station to see if they have any info, but they practically laugh her right out the door. they dismiss thrash as a "drifter" & tell her that either his body will wash up on the beach at some point…or it won't. some people think thrash may have been murdered by another surfer who wants to win the competition, & the cops seem remarkably unconcerned about this theory, although they don't dismiss it. i find this all VERY WEIRD. dawn kind of makes a big fuss about living in a really nice california town. her dad has a huge house with skylights in every room & enough money to hire a housekeeper. in a later book, a bank robbery is enough to force the town to cancel trick or treating on halloween. but in this book, someone may have been murdered on the beach, & the cops don't give a fuck? this strikes me as wildly inconsistent.

anyway, dawn becomes convinced that thrash was indeed murdered, probably by a surfing rival. when she & the kids spend an evening on the beach enjoying a bonfire (isn't that environmentally unsound?), she spots a figure way out in the ocean, surfing alone by moonlight. she decides it's the ghost of thrash, come to haunt the beach until his murderer is caught. dawn & sunny watch the figure until they can't see it anymore, & then they walk to the parking lot to meet their ride. they pass the concession stand on the way & dawn notices a new employee–a very tan young man with very short black hair. he gives dawn the creeps, but she doesn't know why. remember this. also make a note that dawn wears sweatpants at the bonfire. not because it matters to the plot, but because it's hideous to imagine. no one should ever leave the house in sweatpants.

this book really drags. it's pretty boring, considering that it's about a surfing ghost. people start having accidents at the beach. a kid in the after-school program cuts her foot. a surfer is conked on the head with their board & almost gets knocked out. sunny wipes out while surfing & bruises herself to the point that she can't compete in the surfing competition. dawn thinks it's the ghost of thrash, wreaking vengeance. okay. sure.

when buying a smoothie at the concession stand (dawn pauses to inform the reader about what smoothies are–like no one who doesn't live in southern california has ever had a smoothie before), dawn gets a closer look at the new employee flipping burgers. when she spots the snake-shaped untanned portion of his finger, she realizes it's thrash–in disguise! his disguise consists of removing his jewelry, cutting his hair, dyeing it black, & getting a job at the concession stand. that's the worst disguise i've ever heard of. dawn decides to keep an eye on him, because he must have faked his death for some reason…& then hung around on the very beach where everyone knew him & where he faked his death? this makes no sense.

also, remember how she saw him at the concession stand before & got the creeps? you know…mere moments after she saw the person who turns out to have also been thrash way the fuck out on the ocean, surfing? what the fuck? how did he get out of the ocean & to his concession stand job (the stand was just closing the first time dawn saw him, by the way, which means he wasn't just starting a shift after a quick ride on the waves) so quickly? more quickly than it took dawn to walk from the edge of the water to the concession stand?

anyway, dawn catches him tampering with another surfer's board. he spots her spying on him & is all, "hey, kelea. what's up?" while he tampers away. he admits that he DID fake his own death, but that the dude whose board he is tampering with tampered with his board first in an effort to kill thrash. so now it's payback time. he changed his appearance & got a job at the concession stand…apparently to look inconspicuous to await the perfect moment for said rival to randomly abandon his surfboard in public so thrash could tamper with it. for serious? these dudes are basically professional-level globe-trotting surfers. they definitely own their own boards & i don't know why they'd just leave them laying around, to be tampered with by anyone who strolls by.

anyway, dawn racks her brain trying to come up with another way for thrash to get revenge that does not involve attempted murder. finally she's like, "a ha! i have a brilliant scheme…" & the scene fades to black.

cut to the surfing competition. everyone is gathered at the beach, waiting for the festivities to start when suddenly…thrash walks up, brand-new board in tow. he's dyed his hair blond again & is wearing his usual jewelry. everyone's like, "OMG thrash!" & he's like, "yup! i'm not dead after all!" another surfer gasps & starts to run away. thrash is all, "get him, boys!" & a bunch of undercover police chase the dude down & cuff him for thrash's attempted murder.

seriously? this was dawn's plan? have thrash go to the cops & tell them, "i'm not dead, but someone tried to kill me. tomorrow when i show up at the surfing competition, he's sure to publicly incriminate himself by running away, & then you can arrest him, despite having no actual evidence or other legal grounds to arrest him." worst plan ever.

the competition happens, dawn does well enough to scrape third in her division, & thrash wins the whole thing. afterward, thrash thanks dawn for her help & says he's never really had a friend before, but maybe she is his friend. he gives her his snake ring & then leaves for australia.

& there's a whole stoneybrook babysitting plot involving the arnold twins & gymnastics, but seriously. no one cares. all it's good for is raising questions about why the members of the babysitters club bother writing each other letters that say, "wait until you hear this story. it involves thrills, chills, & a talking antelope. i can't wait to tell you all about it! okay, 'bye!" seriously? why not just include the story in the letter? what the fuck?

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