If Zenon and Smart House were the beloved gems discovered by elementary school Allison, Read It & Weep was a shiny jewel that kept me hooked in middle school. This was a crucial time for Disney Channel to keep my attention (and yours, probably?). With six total DCOMs in 2006, Read It & Weep followed High School Musical, Cow Belles, and Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior. It was succeeded by The Cheetah Girls 2 and … wait for it … Return to Halloweentown. On the series side, Hannah Montana was already a runaway hit. This slate skewed toward girly, and I was not complaining at all. I loved the compelling female leads of ’06, including Kay and Danielle Panabaker. In Read It & Weep, Kay plays Jamie Bartlett, and her real-life sister Danielle plays Jamie’s alter-ego, Is. The movie was based on the adolescent novel How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller by Julia DeVillers.
Just like the book title says, Jamie accidentally turns her journal into a bestselling novel. While watching a soap opera with her friends, she mistakenly uploads her digital diary and sends it to the printer in lieu of a school paper. Into the teacher’s bin it goes, and Jamie’s private thoughts earn her the admiration of her instructor, her peers, her family, and her community. You see, the journal is written like a novel, with most of Jamie’s schoolmates disguised under character names. The mean girl, Sawyer, is called Myrna. Jamie’s best girlfriends are known as “the coolest kids in the kingdom.” However, Jamie keeps the same surname for her crush: Marco. Overnight, Jamie’s life goes from low-profile to over-scheduled, so much so that she works with a handler for all her book publicity appearances. Her friends, Lindsay, Harmony, and Connor (baby Jason Dolley), start to see Jamie change into a more self-centered person who can’t keep her commitments.
Connor is especially hurt, as he’s been doing chores to get his brother to drive Jamie and the friend group to an upcoming school dance. He finally works up the courage to ask Jamie out, but she literally sticks her boot on his body to shut him up so that Marco can ask her out first. It’s such a tragic scene, especially knowing that Marco has been passing off Connor’s poems for Jamie as his own. Jamie’s parents truly depend on her book’s success to keep their struggling pizzeria alive. Her girlfriends depend on her to make an appearance at their animal rights rally. But Jamie becomes more and more like the “Is” she created in her journal. Eventually, Jamie snaps on live television, and her perfect authorly world begins to unravel. But there’s no one to clean up the damage.
The most heartbreaking scene in the movie, for me, is when Jamie gets fired up after talking to Is. She goes to her brother Lenny’s room to complain about the volume of his guitar playing and says, “You call that noise music?” From one depressed person to another, I get Lenny. Jamie’s comments do not help him any, and it’s not until the end of the DCOM that he recovers enough to deliver an absolute bop, “I Will Be Around,” at the school dance. Jamie publicly apologizes, seaweed descends from the big sparkly whale her friends designed, and this unlikely pizza topping saves her dad’s restaurant. What I remember just as much as the DCOM is the sweet behind-the-scenes promotional material. Sister acts were popular in 2006: first Aly & AJ in Cow Belles, then the Panabaker sisters for Read It & Weep. (Not on Disney Channel, but in theaters, Hilary and Haylie Duff also made a movie together… Material Girls). The commercials with Kay and Danielle were so cute. I remember Kay smiling and dancing. I remember Danielle talking about saving a flower from a walk she took with her mom. Those little “kids just like you” moments meant a lot to an impressionable middle schooler. Also, I was very into writing short stories during this time, so the movie itself was a good fit. And Jordan Pruitt’s “Outside Looking In” — that’s a song I could really feel. I’d imagine that at some point, we all could, whether we were popular (and then not so popular) like Jamie, or we felt let down by someone like her.