Franchise: American Girls Collection

The first five Historical Characters: Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly.

"Follow your Inner Star!"

The American Girls Collection — generally referred to as "American Girl" — is a collection of dolls and books that show history in various time periods ranging from Late Native America to The Seventies — all through the eyes of the average nine-year-old girl. They also have and have had a number of other lines.

The historical line was first referred to as "The American Girls Collection", then "Historical Characters", and finally rebooted as "BeForever". Similarly, the non-GOTY modern line was first called "American Girl of Today" and has since been through "American Girl Today", "Just Like You", and now "My American Girl". Fandom simply refers to the lines as Historical and Modern.

The main Historical Characters currently consist of:
  • Kaya'aton'my (1764): Nez Perce Native American in the Pacific Northwest, pre-European settlement. Tries to get rid of her Embarrassing Nickname 'Magpie' by proving to her tribe she isn't like the selfish bird. She has a Cool Horse.
  • Felicity Merriman (1774): Archived in 2011. Fiery Redhead, daughter of a merchant family in Virginia as The American Revolution approaches. Her series has a lot of plots focusing on the conflict of independence vs. loyalty to tradition. She also has a Cool Horse. Her creation led to Pleasant Company completely remaking their dolls to have flesh tone bodies, as Felicity's period clothing featured plunging necklines. Eventually her friend Elizabeth Cole was made into a Best Friend doll in '05.
  • Caroline Abbott (1812): The third historical character to be released whose story isn't officially set in a year ending in '4. Daughter of a Sackets Harbor shipbuilder who ended up getting caught by the British during the War of 1812.
  • Josefina Montoya (1824): Shrinking Violet, daughter of a rancher in the Mexican-controlled Southwest. Her mother died just before her series starts, leaving her, her three sisters, and their grieving father somewhat lost, until her aunt Dolores moves in and helps everyone discover their Hidden Depths. No relation.
  • Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner (1853): Archived in 2014. Two very different girls (a French-speaking African American and an English-speaking Caucasian American, respectively) growing up and becoming friends during the boom of 19th century New Orleans, Louisiana. The girls' stories involve embracing one another despite differences and cultural barriers, and giving aid to those in distress, most notably during the breakout of yellow fever which struck New Orleans in 1853. The first of the main historical characters to be marketed as a duo (although each have their books, and their dolls can be purchased separately), and the first Historical Dolls not officially set in a year ending in '4 (Kit was 1932 and Julie was 1975, but their book covers still say '34 and '74). With the nuking of the Best Friends line, both dolls were retired, giving them the shortest availability for any Historical Character.
  • Kirsten Larson (1854): One of the original three, archived in 2010. Swedish immigrant to Minnesota in Pioneer Times. The series focuses on the difficulties of adapting to a new life in harsh surroundings and features many staples of "frontier" stories, such as scary weather, a strict schoolmarm and a secret Native American friend.
  • Addy Walker (1864): The first non-white doll. First a slave in North Carolina, then escapes to Philadelphia, during The American Civil War. Her family is separated and has to reunite, and stories focus on issues faced by former slaves, such as catching up on the education they'd been denied and the fact that "free" black people weren't all that free, even in the North.
  • Samantha Parkington (1904): One of the original three, she was archived in 2009 and rereleased in 2014. Marketed as Victorian Era despite 1904 being The Edwardian Era. She's a rich orphan being raised by her conservative grandmother in upstate New York. She learns about the women's suffrage movement and the horrors of child labor. She fights to change conditions for the poor, and aspires to become the first woman president. In 2004, her friend Nellie O'Malley was made into the first Best Friend doll to coincide with the release of Samantha's movie.
  • Rebecca Rubin (1914): Russian Jewish immigrant living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and aspires to be a movie actress, despite her parents and grandparents' more traditional views.
  • Kit Kittredge (1934): Cincinnati, Ohio, during The Great Depression. Kit's series focuses on learning to make-do without, and not taking things for granted. Her companion Ruthie was made into a Best Friend doll in '08 and retired with the rest of the Best Friends line in '14.
  • Molly McIntire (1944): Archived in 2013. She lives in Illinois during World War II, while her father is serving in England as a doctor, and her books are largely about adapting to the changes brought on by war. Her family's English ward, Emily Bennett, was released as a Best Friend doll in '06.
  • Julie Albright (1974): Lives in San Francisco during The Seventies. She learns how to deal with the changes her parents' divorce caused to her life while navigating social upheavals like second-wave feminism, the environmentalist movement, and the changing rights of racial minorities as explored through her relationship with her Chinese best friend, Ivy Ling. Ivy was released alongside Julie as a Best Friend doll but retired with the rest of the Best Friends line in '14.

There is also a set of dolls, called "My American Girl", which offers multiple dolls of varying looks to make into a personal character. This can lead to some unusual characters.

Also since 2001, there has been a "Girl of the Year" (GOTY), a 9-year-old girl who would represent the year she came out.

Girls of the Year so far include:

  • Lindsey Bergman in 2001. She was the first Jewish character to come out of American Girl and in her stories, she tried to help people with negative consequences.
  • Kailey Hopkins in 2003. A surfer girl who tries to save the California tide pools from development projects.
  • Marisol Luna in 2005. A Hispanic girl who loves to dance, yet has to move to the other side of town where they don't have dance lessons.
  • Jess Akiko McConnell in 2006. A half-Japanese, half-Irish girl who goes out to Belize with her archaeologist parents.
  • Nikki Fleming in 2007. A Colorado girl who trains a dog to be a service dog.
  • Mia St. Clair in 2008. An ice-skater who wants to pursue figure skating when her family is full of hockey players.
  • Chrissa Maxwell, Sonali Matthews, and Gwen Thompson in 2009. Chrissa is the new girl who has to deal with bullying from the mean bees. Sonali is a former member of the bees, and Gwen is the (literally) poor girl they used to harass.
  • Lanie Holland in 2010. An adventurous girl who loves the outdoors living with a family who prefers the indoors.
  • Kanani Akina in 2011. A Hawaiian girl who introduces her cousin to her homeland. The line appears to be trying to avoid Hula and Luaus, but there are some spots...
  • McKenna Brooks in 2012. A girl who struggles to balance her struggle with her schoolwork with her love of and focus on gymnastics.
  • Saige Copeland in 2013. An artist who wants the subject to return to her school fully, instead of the every-other-year situation going on due to budget cuts.
  • Isabelle Palmer in 2014. She's a ballet dancer who attends the fictional Anna Hart School of Arts in Washington, DC.
  • Grace Thomas in 2015. A cook and aspiring entrepreneur whose stepfamily takes her to France, making her the first Girl of the Year since Jess whose story takes place partially outside of America (though her second and third books take place in Massachusetts).

While the dolls are targeted towards the 8-12 year old age range, most of the fandom will be found to be over the age of eighteen. This is because much of the fandom around the dolls consists of people who got or wanted the dolls young and grew up. (The dolls are expensive and can only be mail-ordered or purchased at specialty stores found in very large American cities, so many people wanted them and couldn't have them as kids.) There is also a large demographic of middle-aged women, many of whom have children who have or had the dolls.

The company also used to publish the Amelia's Notebook and Angelina Ballerina series, along with Girls of Many Lands and Historical Mysteries for older girls.

Compare to Dear America, another series of historical fiction books starring girls, but aimed at an older demographic. (Also, no dolls for the most part, though there were some made by Madame Alexander at one point.)

The American Girl series, toy line, and fandom show examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Several minor characters get Adapted Out of the three historical movies, notably:
    • Agatha and Agnes, Hawkins the butler, and Elsa the maid from Samantha: An American Girl Holiday. Admiral Beemis is mentioned but never seen. Nellie's mother suffers Death By The Adaptation, although in the books, she was alive until Changes for Samantha. In the movie, Nellie is raised by a single dad.
    • Brad, Allison Hargate, and the entire Camp Gowanigan story arc from Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front. By contrast, Aunt Eleanor was adapted in (she appears in tie-in Molly books but not the main series.)
    • Charlie from Kit's movie; similarly, Aunt Millie and Uncle Hendrick both function as The Ghost. Other characters such as Kit's teacher and Roger, an annoying boy in her class, are also Adapted Out.
    • All of the pets except Kit's dog Grace are Adapted Out.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the original Felicity books, Felicity's best friend Elizabeth is a brunette, but in the movie (and later, for her doll) she's a blonde.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Felicity's family and close friends call her "Lissie."
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Felicity, Kaya, and a big chunk of the modern collection.
  • Alliterative Name: Rebecca Rubin, Molly McIntire, and Zig Zagged with Kit Kittredge; Kit is just a nickname and her real name is Margaret, but her full name is Margaret Mildred Kittredge.
  • Alpha Bitch: Harriet Davis in Addy's series and Lavinia Halsworth in Cécile and Marie-Grace's series. Also Annabelle, Elizabeth's older sister in Felicity's story, Edith Eddleton in Samantha's story, and Blair in Lindsey's story with Missy as her Dragon.
  • Always Identical Twins: Wing Feather and Sparrow, Kaya's younger brothers, Agnes and Agatha Pitt in Samantha's series, and Rebecca's twin older sisters Sadie and Sophie.
  • Ambiguously Brown: None of the "tan" My American Girl dolls are given a specific race, and can generally be whatever the purchaser chooses. The tan dolls now actually have more facial diversity than the light ones.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Molly's friend Susan.
  • American Title: The franchise name, albeit not any of the individual books.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: The plot of Kirsten's series.
    • Rebecca was born in America, so her series isn't technically this. However, her cousin Ana's journey from Russia and her adjustment to her new country is a major or moderate plot point in at least two of the Rebecca books.
    • Similarly, Nellie and her sisters are Irish immigrants. This is not discussed much in the Samantha books but is dealt with more in Nellie's Promise.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Sometimes Wing Feather and Sparrow to Kaya, sometimes Nan and William to Felicity, Brad to Molly, Ethan to Lindsey, and Danny to the reader insert in A New Beginning.
  • Artistic License – Sports: A ten-year-old McKenna in 2012 would be aiming not for the 2016 Olympics, but the 2020 Olympics — all gymnasts who compete in the Olympic Games must turn at least 16 in the Olympic year. McKenna would be two or three years too young, depending on her birthdate. Likely artistic license by the narrators, as the film was also released in an Olympic year and the Rio Olympics are on every gymnast's mind.
  • Ascended Extra: Emily was originally a minor character who stayed with Molly's family for two weeks. She was later made into a doll, given her own book and starred prominently in the movie.
    • Elizabeth, Nellie, Ruthie, and Ivy eventually got their own doll and book, best friends to Felicity, Samantha, Kit, and Julie, respectively. All of the Best Friends were eventually retired.
  • Bathroom Break-Out: Kit pulls this off with a window.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Kirsten gets eaten by a bear, of course. (No, actually, she doesn't. But it's a close thing!)
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Josefina is suddenly a lot less of a Shrinking Violet when you piss her off.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kaya's mystery The Silent Stranger. While giving away her beloved pet dog Tatlo to the titular stranger is great character development for Kaya, it's a bitter pill for many readers to swallow.
    • Changes for Addy. Yes, Addy's whole family is reunited once more, but Uncle Solomon dies before he can reunite with the Walkers and Auntie Lula dies a few days after returning Esther to the family.
    • Meet Kirsten. The final chapter shows Kirsten arriving in Minnesota and becoming friends with her cousins. The previous chapter has Kirsten dealing with the death of her best friend Marta.
  • Most of the Kaya books. Some endings involve:
    • Kaya's adopted little sister Speaking Rain, who is blind, left behind as an enemy captive and slave because she could not make a rigorous escape.
    • Kaya's adult friend and potential mentor Swan Circling's death after a fall from her horse.
    • Kaya giving up her animal friend Lone Dog.
  • Black Best Friend: With different races. Julie's best friend Ivy Ling is the only Asian Historical, and Kirsten has a Native Best Friend in Singing Bird. Josefina, who may be mestiza, also has a Pueblo Indian friend, Mariana. Happy Birthday, Felicity! features a young black militiaman whom Felicity and Ben hang out with.
  • Blithe Spirit: Julie. Heck, her first book is about Julie trying to have her new school accept girls onto the boys-only basketball team.
  • Blitz Evacuees: Emily Bennett.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: The only Native American doll, Kaya, is set in 1764. Guess what she wears.
  • British Stuffiness: Emily Bennett from Molly's story fits this at first, and the trope is also mentioned by Molly's mother.
  • But Not Too Black: The dolls of color in the Just Like You collection. The first Asian one, #4, looks like a pale white girl with black hair and "almond" eyes, the company added several new dark skin models in 2010 (some even with the new Sonali mold), and the tan dolls are all racially ambiguous. They later toned down the "textured" hair of the black dolls so the hair is less "natural" and more like chemically straightened hair, and the dark skin tone has gotten noticeably lighter. Some people will even purchase the MAG #26 doll and put her in Addy's clothes.
    • In an interesting subversion, the Sonali doll actually has darker skin than the original character.
  • Call Forward: In Samantha's My Journey book, which is set the summer before her Meet book, Uncle Gard tells her that Grandmary would never send her away if she finally married the Admiral, and if she did, Gard would have to go with Samantha. In the series itself, Grandmary finally does accept the Admiral's latest proposal and Uncle Gard takes Samantha in.
  • The Case Of: One History Mystery (not to be confused with the Historical Mysteries) was entitled The Strange Case of Baby H.
  • Catch Your Death of Cold: Samantha gets stuck in long underwear most of the time to prevent this.
  • Celebrity Lie: In Molly's movie, Emily pretends to be nobility, pressured into it because she doesn't want to let down the American kids who built up high expectations for her.
  • Characterization Tags: A similar practice is used to denote MAG dolls who look a bit too much like retired dolls (e.g. "Not!Mia").
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Some of the Short Story titles, like Kirsten and the New Girl or Samantha and the Missing Pearls.
  • The Chew Toy: Lindsey is just never allowed to be happy or succeed at anything, is she?
    • Sarah Moore from the Addy series hardly seems to catch a break. She is the daughter of impoverished parents who often has to put off her studies and laundering her clothing just to help her Mother with the laundry orders, the rich girls snicker at the fact that she attends school in stained dresses, she is falling far behind in her reading and spelling compared to her formerly illiterate friend Addy, she is often more self-conscious and has acquired a pair of Jade-Colored Glasses as a result of segregation and the social hierarchy in school, and she finally has to drop out of school just to help her family earn more money to get by; Addy offers to come over and help her catch up on schoolwork.
  • Child Hater: Mrs. Schumacher from Lindsey's story comes across this way.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: The "My Journey" books, launched with the BeForever reimagining of the historical line.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Each historical girl has her own theme colour that decorates her book covers. The colours changed dramatically with the BeForever revamp. For example, Samantha, once associated with burgundy, is now a soft pink, and in Molly's absence, Addy has gone from a copper colour to Molly's dark blue.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The center of the historical dolls' stories.
  • Companion Cube: The first five girls (Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, Molly) all have a doll that they treasure, usually received as a gift during the Christmas books. Josefina, Kit, and Julie each had one as well, but they were discussed to a lesser extent.
  • Continuity Nod: All over the place. Newer stories like the Historical Mysteries and My Journey books even reference side stories that are long out of print.
  • Cool Big Sis: Some of the older sisters have their moments, like Francisca in Josefina Saves the Day when she's the one to accompany Josefina into Santa Fe in the middle of the night to get the stuff Patrick O'Toole left for them.
    • Many of the girls themselves serve this role as well, like Josefina with her nephew.
  • Cool Teacher: Addy's teacher Miss Dunn is one. She's a black female teacher, unusual for her time even in the North. What makes her cooler is that she's quite perceptive and progressive for her time. For example, she never shames Addy for poor reading skills as some teachers would, and she catches on to Harriet Davis' mean girl agenda quickly.
    • Samantha's teacher Miss Stevens qualifies because she allows Samantha to take home school materials to help teach Nellie, who is struggling under a Stern Teacher in public school.
  • Cool Toy: Though Julie's Chinese doll Yue Yan is far more important to the story (read: actually appears), the doll that actually got merchandised as part of her Christmas collection was her Barbie styling head, due to it having been a real-life Cool Toy. Before it was retired, ads in the catalogue tried to use this to play on parents' nostalgia — did your mom have a Quick Curl Barbie Beauty Centre as a kid?
  • Cosmetically Advanced Prequel: Some of the collections released after the first three but set before have this effect, especially in relation to the very first items released. (If decent shoes were invented by Felicity's time, why did Samantha's meet shoes suck so bad?) Averted with new items released for older characters keeping the same quality as those for newer ones.
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: The My Journey protagonists are flying the seats of their historically accurate dresses trying to act like they belong, especially when they're impersonating an offscreen person. The past characters usually either find them suspicious or chalk it up to the protagonist being a Naïve Newcomer.
  • Daddy's Girl: Molly McIntire and Kit Kittredge.
    • To a lesser extent, Rebecca Rubin.
  • Dance of Romance: Josefina first realizes that her father and Tia Dolores are in love when she sees them dance a waltz together at a fiesta.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Girls of Many Lands book and doll line and the History Mysteries book series (both discontinued). Both series had slightly older protagonists than the historical dolls, and both touched on some of the darker and sadder parts of history the main historical series tend to play down.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Addy is named after her great-grandmother, Aduke.
    • After Swan Circling dies, Kaya is given her name—the greatest gift a Nez Perce can give. She makes it her goal to grow into the name (she's still called Kaya throughout the rest of the series).
  • Death by Childbirth: Florecita, one of the goats on the ranch where Josefina lives, in Happy Birthday, Josefina!
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Many of these characters are discriminated against in-story in line with the values of the time. They usually have a more "progressive" older relative or friend to drive the point home that this wasn't okay then or now.
    • A big case in Meet Kaya. Kaya gets her Embarrassing Nickname "Magpie" because she rushed off to race her horse Steps High instead of looking after her little brothers. The tribe's response is to call in Whipwoman to switch Kaya, but what makes it worse is that all the other children are punished, too. Whipwoman also shames Kaya publicly, saying a selfish magpie would take better care of Wing Feather and Sparrow than Kaya did. While this was acceptable for the time and community, it may make readers—and plenty of adults—cringe. The Deliberate Values Dissonance continues throughout the rest of the series, as the adults seem to consider it acceptable for Kaya's Embarrassing Nickname to continue, and never chastise others for teasing her.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: In Changes For Samantha, Samantha's friend Nellie is regularly punished by the cold headmistress and given little to no food during her stay at Coldrock House.
  • Disappeared Dad: Stirling's dad from Kit's series, Molly's dad until the end of Changes for Molly, and Gwen's dad from Chrissa's series.
    • Kit Kittredge: An American Girl has a version of this because Kit's dad goes to Chicago to seek work and is gone for most of the film.
  • Discreet Dining Disposal: When Molly complains about her vegetables, her mom confesses to having done this as a child.
  • Don't Split Us Up: In Changes for Samantha, when the orphaned Nellie was to be sent on the orphan train without her sisters, Samantha helps the three sisters to run away and hide out in her attic so they could be together.
  • Double Meaning Title: All the Girls of Many Lands book titles are supposed to sound poetic and evoke the setting, like The Black Tulip, The Last Flower, or Gates of Gold. When you read the books, those items are all literally present and important to the characters.
  • Dramatis Personae: At the front of every book, the protagonist's family and friends are depicted in a historically accurate way - individual portraits for the well-to-do Colonial Merrimans, but a group family daguerreotype for Kirsten's family, and so on. (Later books tend to stick with individual portraits for all the stories, Kirsten's group daguerreotypes being replaced with single portraits. The frames do reflect either the character's time period and culture, however.) Current books have no illustrations at all and don't have this section.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Lindsey's story.
  • Edible Theme Naming: The Coconut pets were originally named after various food items.
  • English Rose: What Molly and her friends assume Emily will be like before they meet her. Well, except for Susan, who expects a starving waif instead.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: From Lindsey's book —
    It didn't get any better when I got home, either. Mom met me at the door with her own version of the asparagus face. Even my dog, Mr. Tiny, the most loyal and fabulous wiener dog in the history of the world, lowered his tail and slunk down to the basement at the sight of me.
  • Everything's Better with Llamas: Chrissa, the girl of the year in 2009, has a pet llama named Starburst.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: In Happy Birthday, Molly!, one of Molly's friends tries to curtsy while wearing pants when she meets the English girl Emily, and she says that she thought English girls always did that. Felicity and her peers have to learn for real.
  • Fake Brit: invoked Molly and her friends fake British accents while anticipating the arrival of Emily.
  • Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: All modern bike, roller skate, and equestrian sets have helmets and safety gear. Julie's and Samantha's skate and bike items don't, but the catalogues post disclaimers saying that their exclusion is only for the sake of historical accuracy and reminding modern kids to please wear their helmets.
  • Fashion Hurts: In Molly's last book, she's obsessed with curling her hair so she'll be more likely to get picked for the lead role in a patriotic dance for her tap class. After trying various increasingly uncomfortable methods, she resorts to one that involves sleeping with soaking-wet hair, which causes her to catch a cold and not be able to perform at all.
  • Fear of Thunder: Josefina (although it's actually lightning she's afraid of).
  • Featureless Protagonist: Averted with the protagonists of the My Journey books, even though they're supposed to be reader inserts. It makes for better emotional impact, since they're developed characters. For example, the one in Addy's book is a black girl from Tennessee with overprotective but absentee parents (one's always working, the other works in another state), she lives with her grandparents and annoying younger brother, her family is apparently well-off enough to get her a tablet for her birthday, and her great-great-granduncle fought in the Civil War.
  • Feud Episode: Kit and Ruthie, Molly and Emily...it's a common plot for a couple of the books, though the friends always make up in the end.
  • First Love: This trope is alluded to in Josefina's stories; her mother has died before the series began. A poem about first love was a favorite of hers (even though she could not read). Her literate aunt wrote the poem down at some point (and uses it to encourage Josefina to read); it is implied that the poem is unique for Josefina's late mother through the series as it takes Josefina's father some time to grow to love her aunt, Tia Dolores.
  • Flower in Her Hair: Kanani's meet outfit included a hibiscus to go in her hair, Samantha's birthday dress had a flower crown, and the modern Flower Girl Outfit also had a white flower circlet.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Addy's snood from her birthday outfit and some of Kaya's outfits have feathers on them, though they're downplayed.
  • Forbidden Friendship: Kirsten and Singing Bird. While the latter's father doesn't care, Mrs. Larson bans Kirsten from seeing Singing Bird when she finds out about them and only relents when Singing Bird saves one of her other children. Samantha is also looked at oddly for befriending Nellie, a servant.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Most of the doll collections come with a pet of some kind. Some of these are perfectly reasonable, like Marisol's cat or Addy's canary. But then you get Kanani's harp seal, or Chrissa's mail-delivering llama...
  • Force Feeding: Addy's first book, when the slave driver forces Addy to eat slugs off the tobacco plants.
  • Four Girl Ensemble: The Montoya sisters: Ana, the oldest and the Team Mom (almost literally, since their mother is dead and she's already married with two kids); Francisca, the beautiful, fashionable, rebellious one; Clara, the diligent, prudent, preachy one; and Josefina, the youngest and the main character, who's chirpy and cheerful and tries to keep the peace between Francisca and Clara when Ana's not around.
  • Genre Shift: Kit's movie is mostly a historical drama, but detours into a kid-power mystery adventure with villains not present in the books.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Kit states that she doesn't like pink, and her collection originally reflected this with no pink outfits and items. Once her movie came out, Kit got a batch of pink outfits and a pink blanket.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Samantha's teddy bear, which was originally the "pet" in her birthday collection.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Much of Felicity's redesigned collection looked to have been made to evoke this.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: The image given off by Caroline's Holiday Gown, despite Caroline being an adventurous and not-so-girly type. Also likely the reason for Felicity's meet outfit to change to what had once been a minor outfit from a side story.
  • Gray Eyes: Molly and Ruthie, but only for their dolls; the illustrations gave them brown eyes.
  • The Great Depression: The setting for Kit's books and her movie.
  • The Greatest History Never Told: Caroline (War of 1812), Cécile/Marie-Grace (yellow fever in the 1850s), Josefina (New Mexico pre-Mexican-American War), and many of the Girls of Many Lands.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Uncle Hendrick.
  • Happy Holidays Dress: Almost every Historical Character has a holiday dress, and every year a new holiday dress and accessory ensemble is released.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In the Rebecca mystery "The Crystal Ball", one paragraph mentions "the gay crowds". Since this story takes place in the 1910's, the language is accurate for describing a cheerful group of people. On the other hand, the story was published in 2012 - and today's average tween and young teen reading this book is likelier to be much more familiar with a very different meaning for the word "gay".
    • Also pops up semi-frequently in the main Rebecca series for the same reason.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Arguably, part of the justification for the Ben/Felicity pairing.
  • HM The Queen: Molly and friends fangirl the then-Princess Elizabeth.
  • Hollywood History: History gets (somewhat) prettied up when making it palatable for children. The worst abuses of Edwardian Era workhouses are left out (except in the movie), but it's still pretty clear that they're rotten, awful places. Also, although it makes a lovely story, it's unlikely that a society as class-driven as Samantha's would have seen a rich couple adopting immigrant street orphans.
  • Hypocrite: Annabelle thinks it's perfectly alright to call Elizabeth "Bitsy", but hits the roof when she finds Felicity mocking her with the name "Bananabelle".
  • I Just Want To Be Free: The Walker family.
  • Imaginary Friend: Molly and Emily briefly have imaginary dogs.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In Changes for Josefina, Tía Dolores feels that despite her feelings for Josefina's Papá, she has to leave the ranch so he can find a new wife. Ironically, Papá does love Tía Dolores, but he wants his beloved to be happy and let her go where she wants to go. Fortunately they end up Happily Married with each other when Josefina clears up the situation with her Papá.
  • Iconic Item: As part of the strict formula, each girl has a necklace and gets a doll at Christmas. Sometimes these have some plot significance, and sometimes they don't — e.g., Josefina's necklace is a gold cross with a garnet that's never mentioned at all in-story, whereas Addy's is a cowrie shell her grandmother brought from Africa strung on one of her brother's shoelaces to remind her of her family; but Josefina's doll is part of a family Christmas tradition from before her mother died, and Addy's just happens to be her Christmas present.
  • Ill Boy: Stirling.
  • Infant Immortality: If you're young enough to be considered a child in whatever time period you're in and the main character knows you by name, then you're pretty much guaranteed to live in the historical series. Averted with Marta in Kirsten's series, though, and Marie-Grace is stated to have a younger brother who died in a cholera epidemic.
  • Informed Flaw: Brad is described as a 'little pest' to Molly, but he never does anything in the books to antagonize or even annoy Molly.
  • Jerkass: Uncle Hendrick in Kit's series. He thinks less of his niece's husband for paying his workers with his own money, and hates Roosevelt out of a belief that poor people are lazy and don't deserve his help.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Annabelle has her moments.
  • Karma Houdini: Blair and Missy in Lindsey's story get away with everything they do to April. Blair even wins the Perfect World Collage contest.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Samantha's and Felicity's servants (despite the fact that Felicity's were probably slaves) and Molly's neighbour all tend to have shades of this, though some are stricter than others.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Nellie's collection when her doll was out looked way too nice for a poor servant, serving to spoil the ending of Changes for Samantha, where Samantha's aunt and uncle adopt her and her sisters.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Think of all the notable characters in all of the girls' series that you could apply tropes to. Your head just exploded. As for dolls, there's 13 historical dolls, 5 historical best friend dolls, 13 GOTY dollsnote  and counting, and 61 My American Girl Dolls. Most fans just try to buy the ones they really like instead of getting them all.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Some website games, specifically on Innerstar.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Some of the Historicals, namely Samantha, Felicity, Molly and Kit got to appear in their very own films. As for the contemporary girls, Chrissa Maxwell, McKenna Brooks, Saige Copeland, and Isabelle Palmer have made it in front of the camera so far.
  • Long-Running Book Series: Since 1986!
  • Ludd Was Right: Samantha's grandmother believes this, anyway.
  • Matryoshka Object: In the introductory BeForever commercial, Rebecca, being Russian, plays with a matryoshka doll and hands it off to the modern girl.
  • May-December Romance: Fandom seems to center on three main pairings as favorites: Felicity/Ben, Josefina/Patrick, and Kit/Will. The first two pairings have an age disparity of six years whereas Kit/Will has five, but the May December Romance inherent in the pairings causes some fans to love these pairings even more, and Felicity/Ben is extremely popular within the fandom.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of Felicity's horse, Penny, is actually short for Independence. Similarly, the Title IX-ignoring basketball coach in Julie's books? Coach Manley.
  • Meekness Is Weakness: Felicity envies "lads" because they're allowed to do more, so she finds stitching and tea ceremonies stifling and the people who like them dull and vapid.
  • Memento MacGuffin: A handmade doll named Niña fulfills this purpose in Josefina's Surprise. She is both a valuable part of a family tradition and a keepsake from the sisters' mother. The tradition in question is to for the sister with the doll to hand it down to the next youngest sister when she turns eight years old, but Clara breaks the pattern by hanging onto Niña after their mother dies. She completes her Character Development when she learns to let go of her mother and finally gives the doll to Josefina.
    • In the My Journey books, the time-travel device is sometimes a family heirloom.
  • The Merch: From historically accurate underwear to doll-sized Heelies, the dolls have everything. Strangely averted in one instance at the BeForever revamp: one of the new My Journey books features a coin from the era in the plot, but with that exact same relaunch, the coins were taken out of the accessories sold for the dolls. Thus, at the same time that a doll-sized coin from insert-year-here would suddenly be a great thing to play with, the coins were no longer there.
  • Merchandise-Driven
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Rebecca Rubin suffers shades of this. Her older twin sisters Sadie and Sophie always leave her out. Victor gets more attention than she does because he's at bar mitzvah age, and little brother Benny is coddled as the baby of the family. Ana's arrival helps somewhat but Rebecca maintains the struggle to get her share of attention.
    • Kirsten, Addy, and Molly are all middle kids too, but don't display classic Middle Child Syndrome traits as much as Rebecca does. With Addy, this may actually be because she is separated from her older brother and younger sister in Meet Addy, and effectively spends half her series as an only child.
  • Milestone Celebraion: For the brand's twenty-fifth anniversary, the released special-edition mini dolls. Caroline, the War of 1812 character, was also released on the 200th anniversary of that event.
  • Missing Mom: Josefina's mom died a year prior to the first book. This becomes a plot point in Josefina's Surprise. Marie-Grace's mother has been dead for four years at the start of Marie-Grace's first book. Samantha is an orphan but certainly misses her mother more, and up until halfway through Addy's series, everyone in her family is missing but her mom.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Why Kevin Zegers was cast as Ben Davidson in Felicity: An American Girl Adventure and likewise for Max Thieriot as Will Shepherd when the AG movies went theatrical in 2008 with Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. This trope also appears in the books, where readers have admitted to crushing on male characters drawn beguilingly handsome such as Kit's older brother Charlie from her books.
  • Never Trust a Title: Addy doesn't have a little brother. "Addy's Little Brother" is about her friend's cousin. It was originally titled just "The Little Brother", which makes more sense but didn't fit the title theme.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Lindsey, over and over and over again. Although it's not just Lindsey — April indirectly gives her the idea to put smiley-face stickers on the neighbors' trash cans, which lands her in hot water with them, her mother, and the police.
  • No Equal Opportunity Time Travel: Addy's My Journey book has a middle-class modern black girl travel to 1864. All the book's endings are happy, of course, but running into segregation, poorly funded schools, and even slave-catchers gives her major culture shock.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: A key note of the brand is that none of the leads end up in or even consider romantic relationships. Doesn't prevent shipping, of course.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Usually happens once during the Meet book and once during the Changes book. For example, Kirsten ends her first book living in a new country, befriending her cousins, and mourning her best friend, and she ends her last book in a new house again after the previous one burned down.
  • Official Cosplay Gear: There were girl-sized outfits and accessories that matched the outfits available for the Historical Characters. Now this is generally only applied to their nightclothes and the modern outfits. When the historical line was revamped into BeForever, the characters all got new human-sized clothes "inspired by" their characters instead, which could be worn in modern everyday life.
  • Off to Boarding School: Samantha fears this will happen to her in one of the paths of her My Journey book. Actually, the conversation she overheard was about Agnes and Agatha going to boarding school.
  • Oh God, with the Verbing!: A bit in the Rebecca series from her grandparents. Sometimes the verb is a noun.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Cécile Rey (of the Historical line) and Cécile Revel (of the Girls of Many Lands line). They were released nine years apart and one was retired long before the other came out, minimizing any confusion. Then there's Samantha "Sam" Parkington and Sam Walker, Ruthie Smithens and Ruth Walker, Emily Bennett and Emily Holland, the Larson family from Kirsten's stories and Kit's neighbour Mrs. Larson... basically, you can share your name with another character, just not from the same era.
  • Only Child Syndrome: Strongly averted, with most of the characters having siblings save for Caroline, Marie-Grace (who had one, once), and Samantha. It only seems that way because everyone remembers cash-cow and perennial favourite Samantha.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Nellie and her sisters get sent to one of these. Thank goodness Samantha helps them escape and they all end up adopted by Samantha's rich family.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Most girls get outdoor hobbies or excursions at one point, with clothing and accessories to match, and one Girl of the Year was specifically designed to try to get kids outside and active.
  • Parental Abandonment: A few, like Samantha, the orphan. Addy is also a partial case of this, as only she and her mother make the initial journey north. In Addy's Surprise, she is reunited with her father.
    • Marie-Grace's father is still alive, but he gets so busy with his doctor work that she only sees him in the evenings. At one point he tries to send Marie-Grace to live with her relatives due to the yellow fever epidemic keeping him away from home so often.
  • Pet the Dog: Off-page, Annabelle assists Elizabeth and their mother in sewing Felicity's blue ballgown when Mrs. Merriman is too ill to do it herself.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The holiday dresses, since these are supposed to be formal outfits.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: In Kit's Surprise, Kit and Ruthie fight because Ruthie's attempt to cheer Kit up and save their Christmas tradition by giving her a hand-me-down dress makes things worse, with Kit finding the gesture short-sighted and patronizing. Addy Learns a Lesson has Sarah drift away from Addy when the latter is taken in by Harriet's tricks. Both of these cases have the friends reconcile by the end of the book.
  • Plucky Girl: All the protagonists by default.
  • Princess Phase: The Girliness Upgrade of Felicity's collection, which was criticized for putting frills and jewels before everyday practicality and occasionally historical accuracy, is suspected to be aimed at grabbing the younger end of the 8-12 range just as they're coming out of their Disney Princess doll collecting.
    • Even more so with the BeForever revamp.
  • Put on a Bus: The Retirement of various Historical Characters through the years. While books originally stayed in publication, this has been slimmer with the recent BeForever launch.
    • With the destruction of the Best Friends Line, Cécile, Marie-Grace, Ivy (Julie's Best Friend), and Ruthie (Kit's Best Friend) were all retired from the line.
  • Pretty in Mink: Some of Samantha's outfits. In "Changes for Samantha", she wears a white fur hat with a puffball at the top, and a white fur muff.
  • Product Promotion Parade: Each main-series book and the odd side story has merchandise associated with it, and sometimes scenes are dedicated just to showing it all off. The birthday books are especially guilty, and it becomes awkward when the items get retired.
  • Proper Lady: Elizabeth. This is also how Grandmary is trying to raise Samantha.
  • Pursuing Parental Perils: Samantha, who decides, "Oh, my parents died boating to this island in a storm? Guess what I'm going to do!".
  • Raised by Grandparents: Samantha.
    • This seemed to be the case with Josefina's friend Mariana as well. She lives with her grandparents and no parents are mentioned.
  • Redhead In Green: Felicity usually avoided this, but her riding outfit was very green and two minor outfits were partially green as well (the work gown and the limited-edition Town Fair Outfit).
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Impulsive Fiery Redhead Felicity and Cooler headed Elizabeth, especially in "Very Funny, Elizabeth!" when the girls were discussing plans on how to prevent Elizabeth from being moved to England, Felicity discussed them running away to the Kentucky Frontier while Elizabeth comes up with a more convenient and hilarious plan.
    • "Chatterbox" and impulsive American Molly and the reserved and thoughtful Emily.
  • Regal Ringlets: Molly wants curls like Shirley Temple's instead of her own straight hair.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: Samantha's ice cream maker remained in the active collection after she was archived; it was rebranded as belonging to Addy. (It was Addy's to begin with, anyway.) Now that Samantha is back and Cécile and Marie-Grace have been archived in her place, Samantha got their parasol, Addy got their underwear, and both Samantha and Addy have shared custody of the ice cream maker.
  • Retcon: This is dramatically seen with Elizabeth Cole — Felicity's best friend — being changed from a brown-eyed brunette to a blue-eyed blonde. All the images and text of Felicity's stories were updated to make it like she'd always been blonde.
    • A more minor example is Emily. She was originally portrayed as having a bob-like hairstyle, she was later reillustrated to have shoulder-length hair following Molly's movie.
    • Another minor example is Felicity's original meet gown. The original books and dolls showed her in a rose-print gown. It's pretty, but the pattern manages not to be overly girly. Later editions give her a lavender gown with multicolored flowers and white flourishes, looking much cuter and stereotypically girlier.
    • With the launch of BeForever, lines in original stories were modified to align to new looks; Addy was originally given a cinnamon-pink dress by Miss Caroline and this was her meet outfit, but the text now describes her new blue meet dress. The same can be seen in Rebecca's description of her purple dress over the old maroon one.
  • Riddle Me This: Though he doesn't use them to block anyone's path, Sam Walker loves riddles and is often telling them.
  • Rite of Passage: Josefina inheriting her family doll and Kaya's Meaningful Rename. Out-of-universe, you'll often find people citing the act of poring over the catalogues, pining after their doll of choice, and either receiving her on Christmas morning (or some other gift-giving holiday), spending ages saving up the money to buy her themselves, or resigning themselves to the fact that they'll never have her as a rite of passage for girls over the last thirty years.
  • Rule of Three: The first three girls were released together: Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Harriet when she loses to Addy in the spelling competition.
  • Series Mascot: Samantha used to be it — she was even in the company logo!
  • Servile Snarker: Else, Samantha's maid, is harsh (though she loves her family, for whose sake she's working) and is fed up with Samantha's antics.
  • Shadow Archetype:
    • Edith Eddleton to Samantha. They are both wealthy, upper-class girls, but Samantha befriends Nellie and her sisters while Edith looks down on them for being servants.
    • Blair and Missy to Lindsey in a similar fashion — Lindsey is a good friend to April and helps her feel better, but Blair and Missy get their kicks out of bullying her.
  • Shown Their Work: At the end of each historical book is a "Looking Back" section that goes into some detail about the time period, and helps to place the character in the time. Kaya and Josefina had cultural panels involved in their creation as well, which is why Kaya is the only doll with a closed mouth (showing one's teeth is considered offensive to Nez Perce).
  • Shrinking Violet: Sort-of deconstructed in Felicity Learns a Lesson. Felicity becomes angry with Elizabeth for not speaking up when Annabelle lied about and insulted her father; however, it is resolved when Elizabeth decides to grow a spine and stand up to her abrasive older sister.
    Elizabeth: I hate being called Bitsy. From now on, call me Elizabeth. Or I will call you Bananabelle in front of everyone. Annabelle, Bananabelle.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Felicity, the line's first and most important redhead.
  • Spanner in the Works: In the game of Color War played in Molly Saves the Day, the Red Team captures every member of the Blue Team except for Molly and Susan, who didn't follow the group because Susan is bad at canoeing and wound up in the wrong spot. Molly is ultimately the player who devises a plan to free her entire team, capture the flag and return home, victorious.
  • Special Guest: McKenna Shoots for the Stars features Cathy Rigby, the first female American gymnast to medal at the World Championships, as McKenna's coach.
  • Spicy Latina: Josefina is an aversion but her beautiful, hot-tempered sister Francisca is a straight example.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Of all people, Uncle Hendrick and Elsie Mundis in Kit's mystery Intruders at Rivermead Manor. When Hendrick and Elsie were teenagers, Elsie's parents forbade her from hanging out with other young men. Elsie also turned down Hendrick's marriage proposal since she couldn't marry without her parents' blessings, resulting in Hendrick's Jerkass nature as an elderly man.
  • Stern Teacher: Several American Girls have these:
    • Kirsten has Miss Winston, who at first seems to expect her to learn English too quickly. She mellows out when, like many pioneer teachers who boarded with students' families, she comes to live with the Larsons and gets to know Kirsten better.
    • Julie has Ms. Duncan, who is extremely fond of traditional, sentence-writing detention and gives out said detentions like lottery tickets.
    • Rebecca has Miss Maloney, who isn't extremely strict but conservative to the point of intimidation, especially when she asks the class to make Christmas decorations because Christmas is an "American holiday that everyone celebrates." Whether she understands why this would disturb Rebecca is debatable.
  • Stock Animal Name: Kirsten's horse Blackie.
  • Stock Yuck: Turnips for Molly.
  • Stranger in a Strange School: A mundane variant. In Nellie's Promise, Nellie may be Happily Adopted by a rich family, but she's completely out of place at a fancy school that doesn't teach anything practical.
  • Strictly Formula: The central books always followed a pattern of 'Meet ____' (introduction), '___ Learns a Lesson' (school), '___'s Surprise' (Christmas), 'Happy Birthday, ___!' (self-explanatory), '___ Saves the Day!' (adventure), and 'Changes for ___' (winter, New Year's, or some sort of closure to the story). The books broke the pattern with Kaya because Native Americans pre-contact obviously didn't have things like schoolhouses or Christmas, and all dolls released after her have followed a similarly loose formula.
  • Take a Third Option: Done by the company when pushing Molly for a movie and new collection. Molly has two best friends in the book, so rather than choosing between making a Susan doll or a Linda doll, they instead made one-book character Emily an Ascended Extra, made the movie focus on the time when she was in town with Molly, put her in a new mystery, and gave her her own book.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine:
    • Addy's mother works as a seamstress in a dress shop.
    • Felicity and her peers have to learn to sew samplers as part of their lessons on how to be a Proper Lady. Elizabeth also helps sew Felicity's blue ballgown.
    • A major plot point in Josefina's Christmas book is the Montoya sisters, with the help of their aunt, repairing the Las Posadas altar cloth that their mother made, using a special type of embroidery called colcha. Josefina notes that Clara is especially good at it, even sewing a new dress for Niña the doll when she's ready to hand her down to Josefina at last. In different books, the sisters learn to make dresses of their own and weave blankets from sheep's wool to sell.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Agnes and Agatha, Sadie and Sophie.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Averted (no, seriously). Kirsten's mother tells her that when she was born, she was "a red-faced little thing with white fuzz for hair".
  • Title Drop: Occurs in the last line of Really, Truly Ruthie.
  • Token Minority: Josefina, Ivy, and Kaya all have unique ethnicities. Also seen in people's collections when people will have one or two minority dolls. This mostly consist of limited edition dolls or Just Like You #26, who appears biracial black. There have only been two Jewish dolls: Lindsey (who was only available for a short time) and Rebecca.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Felicity and Elizabeth, Kit and Ruthie, Julie and Ivy. Note that the tomboy is always the star of the series.
    • Molly's friends Linda and Susan, with Molly as The Kirk.
    • Felicity and her little sister, Nan, fill this role as well. As do Agnes and Agatha in the Samantha series, with Agnes being more prim than her sister (not that it lasts long).
  • Toyless Toy Line Character: When the Best Friends line was still around, a number of characters did not get best friend dolls. Which best friends were not made has a bit of a troubling pattern, but let's leave it at that.
  • Treasure Hunt Episode: Some of the Historical Mysteries are this. For example, Julie's The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter has Julie and Ivy searching for a doll Ivy's grandma once owned, racing against an unknown third party who wants it for the valuable treasure hidden inside.
  • Updated Re-release: The BeForever revamp rereleased the books as compilations and brought some retired products back in an updated format (for example, Addy's school lunch returns with the food slightly altered, Josefina's new meet outfit is extremely close to her old one, and Samantha's back but everything in her collection has been replaced) along with brand new items.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Alison Hargate in Molly's series is probably supposed to look like a Spoiled Brat (and comes off that way in the movie), but is more of a Lonely Rich Kid set apart because people like Molly think she's bragging whenever she so much as speaks honestly about her life.
  • We Named the Monkey Jack: Molly and Emily name their dogs after each other.
  • Wham Line: When Kit goes to the soup kitchen and serves soup to a man who turns out to be her father.
    • Combined with Meaningful Echo and Brick Joke in Addy Saves the Day. In the first book, Addy's brother Sam teaches her a riddle, so in Saves the Day...
    Addy: (doing a puppet show) What's smaller than a dog, but can send a bear on the run?
    Solider in Crowd: That's an easy riddle! Even my little sister knows that one! It's a skunk!
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Lindsey stops Blair from tormenting April, so Blair pretends that Lindsey attacked her on the way to school. It only partially works.
  • You Mean Xmas: Up until they created Kaya, each of the American Girl characters had a Christmas story as a part of her book series. Since Kaya obviously wouldn't have celebrated Christmas, living before the Nez Perce had much contact with Europeans, they gave her a story about a "giving" ceremony as her obligatory "holiday" book.
    • A certain subset of fans and parents has called Political Correctness Gone Mad on the switch from pushing "Christmas" to pushing "holidays", despite the fact that Christmas is still celebrated by most of the characters and inclusiveness is never a bad thing — and some of the earliest modern sets celebrated non-Christmas winter holidays too. (Though there's still only been one modern Kwanzaa set back in the nineties, Julie's holiday book centered more on Chinese New Year than Christmas (but its collection was still just Christmas stuff), Rebecca's on Hanukkah, and Kaya's, as mentioned, on native spirituality.)
  • You Go Girl: Julie's efforts to join the basketball team serve as a kid-friendly representation of second-wave feminism.
    • Later on, her campaign for student body president and willingness to stick up for deaf classmate Joy serve as both a kid-friendly version of politics and a way to explain the disability rights movements that began in the 1970s.