Over the course of the last two books in the series, Mia gained a bajillionaire boyfriend, a bajillionaire step-brother, and her comatose dad – whose gambling debt she’s working as a high-end escort to pay off – went into cardiac arrest and looks like he only has days left. Most of the response I saw to this was “but how can the story go on with all of that?”, which isn’t not a valid question, but I’ve seen plenty of tv shows that apparently wrote themselves into a corner just make up reasons on the spot to keep the story going, so…
…Calendar Girl is not over, as it turns out.
Calendar Girl: September
With this entry I noticed Audrey Carlan includes a dedication in each of her books, and she dedicated September to someone who she thanks for constructive feedback pushing her to work harder. I couldn’t quite decide if this was worth mentioning here, but once I read it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that September cranks the purple prose up to eleven.
Snippets of condolences and responses from the doctor whirl in my head as if on an old time spinning record. I just keep picking up the arm and placing it back down until it repeats the melody.
The chapter is super overwritten, which is a shame because it really emphasizes how underdeveloped this story is.
With too tired eyes, I stare at the only man who’s always loved me. From the very first breath I took, to teaching me how to play baseball, rooting me on through my studies, all the way until Mom left before he broke down. Even when his face was bright red, his speech slurred, and his eyes a hazy gray, he loved me, and I counted on that love to get us through.
…are we talking about the same dad? We’re on book nine of this series, and this character is still a total stranger to us, which is weird since he’s the catalyst for the entire plot. I’m not even sure if Mia’s ever said anything nice about this guy before, and saying “but he loved us” buried in an account of how he ruined your childhood doesn’t count. Somehow that doesn’t communicate good things to the reader.
I mean, this is kind of impressively bad? I just looked back at our summaries for January and… guys, we didn’t even mention any description of Mia’s feelings about her dad until chapter six. Of ten. And it’s exactly the kind of backhanded “BUT LOVE” description that I just said doesn’t really work: “Regardless of the fact that he’s a drunk, that he’s spent too much of his time gambling and drinking away our financial stability, he was still one of the only people who truly loved me.”
I even went back and reread the first chapter of January to make sure I’m not missing anything, and this is all we get about the dad before Mia meets Wes:
Aunt Millie had never liked my father. Which was unfortunate because he did the best he could as a single dad, especially when her sister, my mother, abandoned her two daughters. I was ten years old at the time. […] “Yeah, Dad’s got himself in big this time with Blaine.”
THAT’S IT. All of this is happening because of a character we’re only ever just told is meaningful, and we barely even get that.
Ok. Well, we already knew this was a huge problem with the series. This problem is never going away. Maybe we should actually talk about the chapter. Just pretend that after every sentence I wrote something like “which doesn’t even make sense because we are shown and told different things about the dad who’s essentially just a plot device for this entire story.” It might slow you down a bit. I’m sorry. That’s just the kind of mental gymnastics that reading Calendar Girl requires.
[I told] him to fight. Fight for his daughters. Fight for me, his flesh and blood. I’d spent the last decade and a half fighting for him
I mean, when? For who? The questions I have about this story are deadass just the fucking five Ws.
ANYWAY. This book kicks off with lots of people taking lots of news pretty hard. Mia tells us that Maddy is taking the double blow of her not-father’s worsening condition and learning that her real father is someone she never met really hard, and it’s created distance between the two when they need it the most. Also their brand new brother, Maxwell, is throwing his incredible resources at their dad’s medical care, because Mia’s cool with using her friends’ and family’s money to take care of his medical bills, just not for paying off his gambling debt. Apparently. Why the fuck not; nothing else makes sense in this book.
Long story short, the less expensive doctors want to take the dad off life support but the more expensive doctors have gotten “a slight positive response” that his condition just might improve. And they’re hotter. Capitalism is BAE.
“Good morning, Ms. Saunders,” Dr. McHottie said.
And we still have the same problems I already mentioned. First, it’s overwritten AF:
[They] recommended taking him off life support.
Removing the support that gave him life.
Second, I do not recognize this man that Mia is describing:
If I were in a similar circumstance, would Pops give up on me, stop the machines from giving me that life-sustaining air? Hell would literally turn to ice before that happened. That man would stand over me and pump my chest and give me CPR nonstop if it would keep me alive even for one minute.
I swear to god I’ve only ever read Mia being resentful of her drunk dad and how she had to work to provide for her sister because he couldn’t get his shit together. Why does September feel like it’s retconning Mia’s relationship with a character we’ve never met?
Guys, I swear I’m trying to summarize what actually happens in this chapter, but all of my notes are passages with one of these two problems.
We stood there, a wrecked woman and a man of medicine, a healer.
OK ACTUAL PLOT STUFF. Maddy enters the room and hands Mia her cell phone. Aunt Millie has been trying to get in touch with Mia for days, but Mia hasn’t been answering her phone. Aunt Millie is pissed because Mia blew off the client she was supposed to meet this month and didn’t tell anyone what was going on. Yep, turns out the next four books are indeed happening!
“You are in deep shit, young lady! If you read the fine print in your contract, you’d know that if you stand the client up, not only do you lose the hundred thousand dollar fee, you owe them a hundred thousand for their trouble!” […]
“Are you telling me I now owe some rich motherfucker a hundred thousand dollars?” I roared into the phone.
“You’re yelling at me?” Her voice was laced with venom and just as lethal. “You got yourself into this.”
“I had no choice! Pops is on his death bed!”
“So you just up and leave and don’t tell me? Mia, had I contacted the client in advance, this might have been avoided.”
“Right now, you are two hundred thousand dollars in the hole. You did not have enough in the master account to send Blaine your monthly installment.”
Man, it’s almost like spending that money on flying her sister and BFF to Hawaii when she was trying to raise money to pay off a debt to a man who was willing to beat her father into a coma was a bad decision or something.
Yet somehow she has another client for this month already anyway (the book does not waste time trying to make this turnaround time from the client Mia bailed on make sense): a Dr. Oz-type who saw Mia’s modeling work for the swimsuit campaign about beauty in all sizes and just like that wants her to appear in a new segment on his show called “Living Beautifully”. This is a big deal because you might remember Mia is an aspiring actress? Yeah, I forgot too. Wow, this breach of contract went conveniently well for Mia’s journey!
Meanwhile, tensions are high between Mia and Aunt Millie. Mia mentions there’s “serious stuff that has to do with Mom” that they have to talk about eventually, but Millie pisses her off by (accurately) complaining about how her father ruined Mia and Maddy’s childhoods (which Mia herself has said before, am I even reading the same books) and by… not demonizing mental illness?
Millie sniffed, and her voice shook. “Your mother was never well, dollface. You know that.”
Admittedly, Calendar Girl doesn’t really seem to give a fuck about talking this mental health angle seriously either, because these are the next words that Aunt Millie says after that:
“Deep down, you know that she was never meant to be saddled with children and married life. Her spirit needed to roam free or she would feel imprisoned within her own life.”
So Mia just decides, fuck it, Aunt Millie gets a recap of the last book right now.
“That means your sister cheated on my dad. She had an affair with Jackson Cunningham a decade after they had their first child, and she got pregnant with Maddy. That lowlife bitch passed off Maddy as Pops’s child, and she never bothered to come clean. That’s the type of woman your sister is. Learn to live with it. I sure as hell have.”
The chapter ends with Mia being comforted by Maxwell, who overheard the end of the conversation.
I’d never had someone to fall back on, a person who dropped everything to be there when I needed him.
…so we, uh, already forgot that we retconned the dad to be the kind of person who’d “give CPR nonstop if it would keep me alive even for one minute” because “Hell would literally turn to ice” first, huh?
Also, you might wonder where Wes is in all of this. Doesn’t Mia’s bajillionaire boyfriend kinda complicate her working as an escort, or the two separate debts she’s in? Well, September resolves the problem of how Wes is here now by telling us… he just isn’t.
This opportunity though, to be a regular on a TV spot with Dr. Hoffman? Crazy town. This is the big break I needed to find me, my own path.
Goddammit, I needed to talk to Wes. […] Of course, I couldn’t do that because I hadn’t heard from him in two weeks. Didn’t know where he was, when he’d be back, just that Judi had said he left overnight one day. Told her he wouldn’t be back for a two to three weeks and to tell me he’d call.
Well, that takes care of that.