American Girls Collection

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"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.

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): Strangely, not part of the original three, yet pulled from the lineup in 2011; she was later re-released in 2017 as part of the BeForever reboot. 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.
  • Josefina Montoya (1824): Shrinking Violet, daughter of a rancher in 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): 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 newest to be released as of summer 2011. Also one of the few Historical Dolls not set in a year ending in '4.
  • Kirsten Larson (1854): One of the original three, pulled from the lineup 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, pulled from the lineup in 2009 and was re-released in 2014 as part of the BeForever line. 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.
  • 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. Learning to make-do with and without a lot of things that many people then took for granted.
  • Nanea Mitchell (1941): Released in 2017 and the second BeForever-exclusive character, Nanea lives in Hawaii when the Pearl Harbor attack took place. The war severely affected her life as she and her friends are caught up in the conflict and her books start just before the bombing.
  • Molly McIntire (1944): 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. Emily Bennett, an English war evacuee and the family's ward, was released as a Best Friend doll in 2006. They were both retired in 2013, though Molly was re-released as a Costco bundle in 2018.
  • Maryellen Larkin (1954): The first character to be released after the BeForever reboot, hailing from Daytona Beach, Florida. A polio survivor (thus making her the first character to have a disability, though it isn't explicitly shown in her doll) and the middle child in a large family, she tries to make herself heard.
  • Julie Albright (1974): Lives in San Francisco in 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 (explored through her relationship with her Chinese best friend).
  • Courtney Moore (1986): Hailing from Orange Valley, California, Courtney is into video games such as Pac-Man and STEM subjects. Has two best friends whom she hangs out with at the local video game arcade, and dreams about a video game character whose name is "Crystal Starshooter".

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 sold until the end of 2002. She was the first Jewish character to come out of American Girl and in her stories, she tried to help people with negative consequences. She had terrible sales when available, yet ironically she's one of the most sought-out dolls by collectors nowadays.
  • 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.

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.) There is also a large demographic of middle-aged women, many of whom have children who have or had the dolls.

The American Girl series, toy line, and fandom show examples of:
  • 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 blond.
  • 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: Agnes and Agatha Pitt in Samantha's series, and Rebecca's twin older sisters Sadie and Sophie.
  • Ambiguously Brown: None of the "tan" Just Like You 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.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Ethan to Lindsey.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Asian one 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 recently 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 Just Like You #26 doll and put her in Addy's clothes.
    • In an interesting subversion, the Sonali doll actually has darker skin than the original character.
  • Child-Hater: Mrs. Schumacher from Lindsey's story comes across this way.
  • Coming of Age Story: The center of the historical dolls' stories.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Death by Childbirth: Florecita, one of the goats on the ranch where Josefina lives, in Happy Birthday, Josefina!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The current 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 or their culture, however.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Lindsey's story.
  • Edible Theme Naming: The Coconut pets are all named after various food items.
  • 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.
  • Everything's Worse with Bears: Kirsten gets eaten by a bear, of course. (No, actually, she doesn't. But it's a close thing!)
  • Fake Brit: Molly and her friends fake British accents while anticipating the arrival of Emily.
  • 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).
  • Feud Episode: Kit and Ruthie, Molly and'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 one of the American Girls Collection of stories, this one being Josefina's, whose mother has died before the series began, and it turns out the poem was a favorite of hers, even though she could not read, although the reader is allowed to infer that Josefina's papa read it to her mother, and their relationship was very close, as it takes Josefina's father some time to grow to love her aunt, Tia' Dolores.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Great Depression: The setting for Kit's books and her movie.
  • Gray Eyes: Molly.
  • "Happy Holidays" Dress: Almost every Historical Character has a holiday dress.
  • 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".
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Arguably, part of the justification for the Ben/Felicity pairing.
  • 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.
  • Hot Dad/Uncle: From the pictures in the books and later the movie, it's sufficient to say that Kit's dad deserves this trope.
    • Uncle Gard in the Samantha movie falls into this category as well.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: The Walker family.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Think of all the notable characters in all of the girl's series that you could apply tropes to. Your head just exploded. As for dolls, there's 10 historical dolls, 5 historical best friend dolls, 11 GOTY dolls[1] and counting, and 57 My American Girl Dolls. Most fans just try to buy the ones they really like instead of getting them all.
  • 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, only Chrissa Maxwell and McKenna Brooks made it in front of the camera so far.
  • Ludd Was Right: Samantha's grandmother believes this, anyway.
  • May-December Romance: Fandom seems to center on three main pairings as favorites ie Felicity/Ben, Josefina/Patrick, and Kit/Will. The first two pairings have an age disparity of six years whereas Kit/Will has only 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.
  • The Merch: From historically accurate underwear to doll-sized Heelies, the dolls have everything.
  • Merchandise-Driven
  • 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 Mare-Grace's first book.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • In-universe with Kit's mother Margaret who used fabric from feed sacks to make Kit's birthday outfit.[2] Truth In Television as housewives repurposed flour sack fabric into articles of clothing since the early 20th century. This led George P. Plant Milling Company and other firms to sell flour and feed packaged in dress-quality sacks especially during the Great Depression and World War II when fabric was in short supply.
    • In terms of doll maintenance and repair, benzoyl peroxide, normally used and sold as acne treatment, is often if not always used to get rid of ink and marker stains off a doll's vinyl skin.
  • 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. The BeForever reboot changed this to outfits inspired by the characters rather than directly based on their outfits.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The holiday dresses, since these are supposed to be formal outfits.
  • Pretty in Mink: Some of Samantha's outfits.
  • Proper Lady: Elizabeth. This is also how Grandmary is trying to raise Samantha.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Samantha
  • Recursive Canon: Courtney Moore was given a Molly doll by her father during the year American Girl was founded. Assuming that the characters do have a shared universe, it could be implied that Molly and the rest of the cast were real people in the American Girl mythos, and that their toys and stories were based on their lives.
  • 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, and was later reillustrated to have shoulder-length hair following Molly's movie.
  • Rule of Three: The first three girls were released together: Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly.
  • 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).
  • Spirited Young Lady: Felicity Merriman. In contrast, her friend Elizabeth Cole is more of a Proper Lady.
  • Strictly Formula: The central books always followed a pattern of 'Meet ____' (introduction), '___ Learns a Lesson' (school), '___'s Surprise' (Christmas Episode), '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 obviously didn't have things like schoolhouses or Christmas, and all dolls released after her have followed a similarly loose formula.
  • Take That: The racist class bully in Melody 1963: Love Has to Win is a thinly-veiled pot shot at Donald Trump. Word of God has it that the Donald character was to be named Douglas, only for someone misreading the script, and the name stuck. Given how Trump's political ambitions were all over the headlines in 2016, not to mention the rise of neo-fascist and racist movements in the United States along with Trump's connections to them have drawn the ire of many, this isn't surprising.
  • Title Drop: Occurs in the last line of Really, Truly Ruthie.
  • Token Minority: Josefina, Ivy, and Kaya all have unique ethnic identities. Many people's collections when people will have one or two minority dolls, mostly consisting 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.
  • We Interrupt This Program: The NBC broadcast of Saige Paints The Sky was interrupted at the last minute by the George Zimmerman verdict. The parental outrage ensuing from the sudden interruption may have accounted for why Isabelle Dances Into the Spotlight was aired on the Disney Channel as it would be far less likely to be disrupted by a broadcast interruption if it were aired on a niche children's network.
  • 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 "giving" as her obligatory "holiday" book.
  • You Go, Girl!: Julie's efforts to joint the basketball team serve as a kid-friendly representation of second-wave feminism.
  1. Gwen and Sonali were released along with Chrissa
  2. Birthday Dress and Headband