Perfect Size Six

October 2, 2017

#30 Jealous Lies

Filed under: Books #21-40,Uncategorized — mediumcore @ 4:54 pm
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“Someone doesn’t want Jean in Pi Beta Alpha–her best friend, Sandra.”

This is definitely one of my favorites even though it features my least favorite character in Sweet Valley-dom, Sandra Bacon. (How horrible is she? Twelve books from now, Sandra lets her boyfriend be investigated for attempted murder/arson instead of just admitting to her friends and family that she was dating a Mexican boy. Plus, just look at how fucking smug she is on this cover in her pink sorority jacket.)

Aside from just being a horrible person all around, Sandy Bacon is riddled with horrible self esteem. She’s super jealous of her best friend, Jean West, who by all accounts is prettier than her, smarter than her, and a better friend than her. (Cue my favorite Vanderpump Rules gif.) The one thing that Sandy has that Jean doesn’t is membership in Sweet Valley High’s *exclusive* sorority, Pi Beta Alpha. (Um, almost every girl at school -including Enid Rollins and Caroline Pearson- is in this so-called *exclusive* sorority. I don’t understand the big deal.)

giphy(2)_1Well, Jean missed out on the last pledge season due to her busy schedule, and Sandy intends to make her absence permanent. So the whole book revolves around Sandy plotting to fuck with Jeannie’s pledging a.k.a. hazing period.

Pledge task #1. Take Tom “maybe gay***” Mckay to the sorority party. Sandra knows that every guy would jump at the chance to take Jean anywhere, every one except Tom. The ghostwriter paints him as this sort of aloof, emotional guy who’s been burned by love (more specifically Jessica Wakefield). Plus, he already dislikes Jean due to some earlier perceived hallway snub, so Sandy thinks there’s no way he’d take her to the party.

The last girl he’d gone with was Jessica Wakefield, and a few people joked that she had turned him off the female sex forever, having strung him along until someone better came along.

***We learn much later in the series that he is sort of questioning his sexuality, when he develops feelings for Enid’s cousin, who’s visiting from San Francisco. (Subtle, Sweet Valley ghostwriter. Was her uncle from Fire Island unavailable for this story?)

giphy12Much to Sandy’s dismay, there appears to be a sort of love connection going on, & Tom agrees to be Jean’s date. Sandy being the absolute heinous bitch that she is, decides that she’ll go to Tom’s job and “accidentally” let it slip that this Jean only taking him to the sorority party as part of her pledging process. Ugh.

Tom is understandably pissed, so he wants to make Jean look bad in front of the Pi Beta Alpha girls. He’s a total dick about it, though, stringing her along for hours the night of the party, saying that he’s sick, but he’s coming. When the party’s almost over, he calls and says he’s at the hospital with food poisoning.

Jean goes to the party alone. All the sorority girls are pretty understanding of the situation, but Sandra demands proof that Tom is really in the hospital. So Jean calls the one hospital in Sweet Valley, and there, of course, is no Tom Mckay in the emergency room.

Jean comes up with a simultaneous revenge plan/alternate pledge task. She’s going to make Tom really fall in love with her. At the Friday the 13th dance, since it’s her birthday, she’s supposed to publicly call out who she wants to dance with, and she’s not going to pick Tom, which I guess is supposed to humiliate him. (Girl, your revenge skills need a little help.)

She springs into action the next morning, bringing a really nice care package to the “sick” Tom. He bumbles and stumbles over her nice gesture, thinking that he might have misjudged her. They go on a series of dates. He brings a picnic lunch for them to school. He takes her to an amusement park, & they share a nice moment on a ferris wheel. Jean confesses to Sandy that she’s fallen in love with Tom and can’t go through with the revenge plan. Sandy says nothing, because she’s a heinous bitch.

tumblr_nxoj783mNl1ug0wdso1_500Tom and Jean both confess their initial dishonesty. Tom tells Jean that Sandy clued him in on the PBA pledge task, which is why he stood her up. Jean, being the saint that she is, doesn’t confront Sandy & just waits for her to come clean.

Sandy, I guess to her credit, feels really bad about the whole situation and has a heart-to-heart talk/emotional breakdown with Mr. Collins, Sweet Valley High’s favorite English teacher/Robert Redford lookalike.

The night of the big dance comes, and Jean picks Tom to have the first dance with. The sorority girls have a total meltdown, so Sandy ends up publicly admitting her behind-the-scenes treachery. Sandy begs them to let Jean in and kick her out, but the sorority decides to keep them both. Jean and Sandy hug it out so happy ending, I guess?

Words of wisdom from the queen, Lila Fowler: “You’re incredibly lucky, Sandy Bacon,” Lila whispered as the other girls walked back to the dance area. “A lot of other girls wouldn’t have been half as forgiving.”

B-Plot: The twins’ brother, Steven, is planning on dropping out of college, so he can work/cruise around the world with his roommate. (I feel like this is total foreshadowing for when he comes out of the closet in Sweet Valley Confidential.) Instead of everyone calmly discussing their concerns about the situation, Elizabeth comes up with the “brilliant” idea to use reverse psychology to get him to stay. So everyone acts like Steven leaving to sail around the world is the best idea ever. His feelings get hurt, and he decides to say so another happy ending, I guess?

Relatable adult-shit moment: “What’s that?” Elizabeth asked him, trying hard to keep her voice nonchalant.

Steven made a face. “A bunch of junk Dad gave me this morning, insurance policies, medical plans, all that sort of thing. He says I’ll have to check out my coverage now that I’m leaving school.” He frowned again. “I never realized how much paperwork it takes just to stay healthy.”

Oh, poor, naïve Steven. Wait until you get the bill. As I tell teenagers everyday, enjoy being a kid while you can because being an adult sucks.

December 5, 2016

#29 Bitter Rivals

Filed under: Books #21-40 — mediumcore @ 7:12 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

“Will Elizabeth be forced to choose between Amy and Enid?”

So we found out at the end of the last book that Elizabeth’s childhood bestie, Amy Sutton, is moving back to town. But a teenage Amy Sutton is really more aligned with Jessica’s crowd now (i.e. bitchy and boy crazy). Goody, just what we needed, another vacuous blond bimbo to stir up trouble and steal boyfriends.

I guess Francine Pascal thought the good/evil balance was a little off with Cara Walker reforming and dating Steven Wakefield, so she had the ghostwriters bring this bitch back. Amy’s like Jessica lite without any of the redeeming qualities.(Ugh, can you tell I hate Amy Sutton. I still blame her -and cocaine- for the untimely death of Regina Morrow. ) Need another reason to hate Amy Sutton?

Perfect-Size-Six moment: “Amy smiled. ‘I have to be careful,’ she told them.’ I really hate myself if I weigh a single ounce over one-hundred and ten pounds.'” (Liz remarks at some point that Amy is several inches taller than the 5’6 twins, so Amy literally has the measurements of a runway model. The perfect-size-six twins should be feeling like heifers right about now.)tumblr_inline_mhuy3mjgmp1qz4rgp_zps165ea815

Liz’s current bestie, Enid Rollins, understandably feels intimidated before meeting Amy and downright threatened after she meets her. First, Liz (unintentionally) blows off her beach date with Enid to hang out with the newly-returned Amy. Then, Liz spends the next few weeks either preaching the gospel of Amy at all times or following her around like a puppy dog, trying to reignite the exact same best friendship they had when they were 12 years old.

Amy ironically continues to blow off Liz in favor of Jessica and her crowd, but Liz just doubles down on her efforts to reconnect with Amy (at the expense of her relationship with Enid). Enid tries to be cordial for Liz’s sake, so she invites Amy along for a big girls’ weekend ski trip. They’ve already canceled ski plans twice because of Amy, but Liz assures Enid that this weekend will be a go.

Of course, Lila is throwing one of her epic parties on the same day to celebrate her cousin, Christopher’s, arrival to town. Lila goes on and on about how beautiful and wonderful he is, which is sort of weird. Some examples….

“Lila’s look was devastating. ‘Christopher,’ she said pompously, ‘is quite simply the world’s most fabulous man.'”

“‘And,’ she went on, ‘he’s six foot two, with really wavy, thick, blond hair, and the most amazing blue eyes. They just sort of pierce right through you.'”

(True story: I was at the psychiatrist years ago (for Ritalin), and their secretary was in love/borderline stalking my cousin. Even though I have a very common last name, she knew he was my cousin, which was odd, and talked adoringly about him for at least 10 minutes and asked me to facilitate contact for her. I didn’t have the heart to tell her he was dating an NFL cheerleader at the time. I changed doctors after that. The hot cousin struggle is real, I guess.)

giphy-4-animOf course, Amy would rather go to glamorous Lila’s party then spend the weekend trapped in a cabin with Enid, the drip. So Liz cancels their plans once again. She understands that Enid is pissed, but she also thinks that Enid may be jealous of Amy and trying to sabotage their friendship. (Seriously, why is Enid fighting this hard for a shitty friend?)

Fast forward to Lila’s costume party.  Amy is a ballerina, Jessica is Cleopatra, and Lila is Princess Diana (how appropriate-love this!). Liz and Enid both show up dressed as skiers, which is supposed to let them/us know that they are mind-linked besties.

Lila makes a big deal of introducing Christopher to everybody, and he immediately makes a beeline for Enid Rollins of all people. It turns out he was her camp counselor two years ago, but he actually seems to have a more romantic interest in her now. Amy is pissed because she wanted Christopher all to herself. She tells Enid to back off, that Liz is hers and so is Christopher, and then she makes some ominous, you’ll-be-sorry, wait-and-see threats.

Don’t worry. Amy’s big plan is pretending she doesn’t have a ride, so Christopher will have to take her home instead of Enid. How disappointing. I was expecting some Suzanne Devlin-type shenanigans. Anyway, Liz finally sees Amy for the conniving bitch she really is and patches things up with Enid. Plus, Christopher calls Enid later and tells her how annoying Amy is and asks her out.

Sort of B Plot/ Co A Plot: Since Jessica’s a relationship expert (hearty lols), she and Cara Walker have been tasked with writing a love advice column titled “Dear Miss Lovelorn” for the Sweet Valley High Oracle. In true sociopath fashion, Jessica attempts to mechanize her writing into a full on love destruct missile.

0bf6c35a9e41416b6fac59c77f1726b3See, Jess is in love with fellow junior Jay McGuire, but he’s dating an old-lady cougar, senior Denise Hadley. Jessica uses her column to plant false letters, one from a younger guy tired of his domineering older girlfriend and the other from the older woman tired of her younger boyfriend. They’re side by side too to further ram down Jessica’s point. She is not one for subtlety. The crazy thing is that her scheming works (at least temporarily). Denise and Jay (like every one else) assumes the other wrote to Miss Lovelorn for advice.

Jessica asks Jay out one day when he’s moping at lunch. They end up straight away at Miller’s Point (Jessica does not fuck around when trying to get her man), and she tells Jay that Denise is cheating on him so that he’ll make out with her and take her to Lila’s party. Savage. While at said party, Jay sees Denise with another guy and abandons Jessica. (Ha!)

Meanwhile, Denise and Jay have actually written real letters to Miss Lovelorn about their situation, how they really love each other, and how they have no idea what’s going on. Jessica plans on fucking with them again, but since she’s late turning in her column, Liz prints their letters with actual solid love advice (i.e. not written by Jessica). Thus, Jay and Denise get back together.

 

 

September 15, 2016

#28 Alone in the Crowd (or Emo Times at Sweet Valley High)

“Can Elizabeth help Lynne overcome her shyness?”

Yes, it’s that time again. Elizabeth Wakefield (patron saint of Sweet Valley’s dregs and other non-desirables) is here to save the day and rescue some drab, non-blonde, non-perfect-size-six from herself. Our cover girl in need of rescue (i.e. a makeover and a social push) is Lynne Henry.

(I love how they’re trying to make her look so unattractive by Sweet Valley standards on the cover. Her guitar, turtleneck, glasses, and hair are all the same hue of shit brown. Plus, this is Southern California. Why is she wearing a turtleneck and ski goggles?)

Backstory on Lynne: Her father died at some point (I may be really reaching, but I kind of feel like the book implies it was suicide.) Her mother is the glamorous manager of a beauty spa, who fails to find common ground with her. Lynne’s secretly a talented singer and songwriter. She comes off as really emo at best and severely depressed at worst. Lynne’s so low on the social totem pole that they don’t even know her name. This is probably a blessing in disguise. The denizens of Sweet Valley aren’t especially kind to their misfits. Just ask Lois Waller or Robin Wilson.

giphy15While walking home from school one day, Lynne meets her neighbor, Guy Chesney, teenage dreamboat and guitarist for the Droids. Guy is the first person to actually talk to her and show her even the remotest kindness or friendly interest, so of course, she becomes obsessed with him. Lynne pretty much just lets Guy talk the whole time about music.

Guy is a huge fan of Linda Ronstadt, and Lynne assumes it’s because she’s extremely beautiful, which makes her even more insecure if that’s possible. (I do have to agree that it’s an odd choice for an ’80s rocker-type. I would have gone with Debbie Harry, Kate Bush, Joan Jett, Lydia Lunch, etc. A Linda Ronstadt reference was dated when I first read this in the eighties. Damn, I’m feeling extra old today. )

Anyway, they continue walking to and from school together, and Guy even invites her to the school softball game at Secca Lake. It’s entirely platonic. The friend zone struggle is real. But Lynne’s having a great time and appears genuinely happy so good for her, I guess.

tumblr_n1igcfnwa71rosb88o1_500Inevitable sanctimonious Liz moment: (after Liz sees Lynne talking to Guy) “With a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye, Lynne Henry was actually almost pretty!”  What a bitch. As an adult, I fucking hate Elizabeth. I mean, Jessica’s a shit person too, but she at least owns her shit-ness. Elizabeth is heralded as some Mother Theresa figure. There’s even an entire book that imagined what life would have been like if Liz had never been born (a la It’s a Wonderful Life), and *non-spoiler*, every one’s life was shit. People were dead, miserable, and/or divorced because a 12-year-old had not intervened in their affairs. Ugh.

Anyway, during the game, The Droids announce a contest to find their next great song/songwriter. Lynne pens “Outside Looking In,” as an ode to her outsider status (see below for full song). She submits it anonymously because she’s afraid that she really sucks.

When the Droids listen to the tapes to find the winner, Guy falls in love with Lynne’s song (like, literally). He, and every one else, is oblivious to its origins. Guy becomes obsessed with finding out who wrote it, because he’s fallen in love with the singer now too. It’s kind of weird/creepy and oddly romantic by Sweet Valley standards.

makeoverWhile the entire school is trying to discover the identity of the mystery singer, Lynne decides it’s time for a makeover! (I am a huge sucker for a makeover in any form, time, or place.) With the help of her glamorous mom and the Silver Door salon, Lynne is able to morph from baggy sweatshirts and sweatpants to teenage fashion-plate eleganza. Oddly enough though, no one really makes a big deal out of it or really notices all that much (a lot like real life, I guess).

At some point, Liz goes to the music store and hears the same voice  from the anonymous tape and discovers that Lynne is the mystery singer. Lynne makes her promise not to tell any one, and we all know how well that will work out.

Because Liz just can’t keep her nose out of anything, she tells Guy that the singer doesn’t want to be found. Guy latches on and starts drilling her about what she knows. Liz tells him that the singer is scared that because she doesn’t look like Linda Ronstandt that she doesn’t want to come forward. Of course, Guy immediately figures out that it’s Lynne from this. Way to go, Liz.

Instead of just approaching Lynne, Guy hatches this bizarre plot to publicly unmask her. When Guy and Lynne are walking to school, he tells her that he met with a police sketch artist, and the guy is going to able to draw a picture of the mystery singer based on Guy’s description of her voice. WTF? Then, he’s going to distribute flyers at lunch with the approximated imagining of the mystery singer in order to find her. (Double WTF? That makes no fucking sense.)

princess-diaries-makeoverDuring lunch, there’s the big reveal, and Lynne is greeted by hundreds of flyers with her pre-makeover face on them, and she is revealed to every one as the elusive mystery singer. She and Guy make out, and they live happily ever after (or so I imagine since she doesn’t really appear in any future Sweet Valley books).

B plot– The cheerleading team is in desperate need of new uniforms, so Jessica decides to hold this bizarre rocking chair marathon event/ dance party wherein the cheerleaders will take turns rocking in said rocking chairs the whole night. It’s been dubbed the Rock Around the Clock relay. For every hour they successfully rock, they  will collect money from whomever was dumb enough to donate for this shit.  Plus, the Droids play and debut their new Lynne Henry written song during the dance portion of the night.

“Outside Looking In” by Lynne Henry

Day after day I’m feeling kind of lonely,
Day after day it’s him and him only.
Something in his eyes
Made my hopes start to rise.

But he’s part of a world that doesn’t include me.
I’ll never win.
This is how it’s always been.
I’m on the outside…looking in.

Night after night I’m saying a prayer
Night after night…that somebody will care!
Somebody to hear me,
Somebody to stay near me…

But nothing’s going to change. Dreams can’t deceive me.
I’m all alone. You’ve got to believe me.
I just can’t win.
This is how it’s always been…
I’m on the outside—on the outside…
Lookin’ in.

hqdefaultEnglish Major Moment: “But she still got a bad taste  when she remembered the sound of Mr. Collins’s voice, reading the Emily Dickinson poem out loud:

‘I’m nobody! Who are you?/ Are you nobody, too?’

She had sat up with a start, shaken out of her daydream, her heart pounding. ‘I’m nobody! Who are you?’ It was if Mr. Collins had found her diary and read it out loud. She could have written those lines. It was as if her own inner voice were speaking!

June 20, 2016

#27 Lovestruck

 “Will Suzanne succeed in changing Ken?”

Oh, I love how pretentious this book is! (I mean, just to give you some idea of how hipster-rific it is, a college beatnik and an Ingmar Bergman movie serve as major plot devices.)

Sweet Valley’s star quarterback, Ken Matthews, is dating uber-wealthy Suzanne “Hands-Off” Hanlon, and every one seems to have a problem with it. Jessica hates Suzanne, presumably because she’s beautiful, smart, and rich. Liz dislikes her because she’s “aloof & snobby,” but she admits that she finds every one in their high school sorority to be like that.  (Um, every girl in Sweet Valley High except like 5 nerds/dregs/ poor people are in Pi Beta Alpha, so she must dislike most of the female population of SVH.)

What amazes me the most is that: 1) Some one who knows Jessica Wakefield in all her lazy, sociopathic glory still decides to put her in charge of the charity picnic. 2) Jessica easily convinces a non-concussed Elizabeth Wakefield to man the kissing booth! (first base all day!) and write poster copy (and probably do all the work). Jess gets Ken to man the other kissing booth. Seriously, the idea of kissing booths is so gross, both for the kiss-er and the kiss-ee.

tumblr_n1q7bdNMUh1ss6wowo1_400
Well, the whole shindig might be ruined because Ken Matthews is failing English, and he might not be able to play in the big football game against Palisades High. Even Jessica is mystified at how stupid Ken must be to be getting an F in Mr. Collins’ creative writing class. Ken is embarrassed because Suzanne is extremely smart, so he doesn’t mention it to her. But the more time he spends with her, the more time he spends neglecting his schoolwork. It’s a vicious cycle of stupidity.

That night, Suzanne invites Ken to dinner with her family at their palatial,  southern-plantation style home (imagine Gone with the Wind). The décor is all white (think Miami Vice drug dealers.) They’re greeted by the surly butler, who Ken mistakenly thinks is Suzanne’s father, and the evening pretty much goes downhill from there.

Suzanne tells Ken not to mention football at dinner because her father hates sports, and he thinks schools focus too much on them. A-fucking-men, Mr. Hanlon! What will Ken talk about, though? The entirety of his thought process is the o-line or d-line or whatever.

tumblr_nfwx97TOJ81ql5yr7o1_500Meanwhile at the table, Suzanne’s family is busy quoting Shakespeare for fun. Dinner is ultra formal, with fine silver, china, etc.  Ken apparently eats like a savage, has an unrefined palette, and can barely hold even the most basic of conversations. Thank goodness he’s hot and can play football.

The next night, Suzanne and Ken go with her hipster friends to see The Seventh Seal at the Plaza Theatre. (It’s a black-and-white, existential Swedish film set during medieval plague times that serves as a meditation on life, death, and God.) Ken thinks it’s a total joke, while Suzanne and her friends are moved to contemplative silence. One of Suzanne’s friends is Sweet Valley’s own hipster beatnik, Mark Andrews, a pony-tail sporting film student at Sweet Valley College, who’s obviously trying to woo Suzanne. He’s a total asshole. (I hate when people use intelligence and culture as some sort of weapon.) Mark makes Ken feel like shit because he doesn’t understand the movie and confuses director Ingmar Bergman with actress Ingrid Bergman. (Yeah, what an asshole.)

The next night Suzanne and Ken are attending the literary evening that Suzanne has helped organize. It’s more like a glorified open mic night for bad teen poetry. Liz proceeds to shit talk 99% of the roster, while she is, of course, the star of the night.

Elizabeth is shady as shit: “Elizabeth was happy for Suzanne that there had been such a good turnout, but she wondered whether it was because of the readings or because there wasn’t much else to do on a Wednesday night.”
tumblr_magk2fKZyc1qiw26mAnd lest we forget, Ken is still failing his English class and hasn’t even written so much as his name on a sheet of paper. Liz, of course, decided to stick her nose in Ken’s business earlier in the book and offered to tutor him. Liz’s idea of helping Ken is to give him one of her stories (and its notes, rough drafts, etc.) for inspiration. Titled “The New Kid,” it’s five pages about a boy moving from New York City to Sweet Valley, who realizes what a wondrous utopia he’s stumbled onto. (*Gag*)  Liz makes Ken promise not to show it to anyone, because she’s shy about showing this side of her writing. Ken decides to totally disregard her feelings,  and he turns in the story as his own. To be fair, I guess, he feels really bad about it.

Well, the story is a hit with Mr. Collins, and he decides to publish it in the special edition Centennial edition of the Oracle. Elizabeth is furious but doesn’t rat him out. Ken decides that he’s going to make things right by replacing Liz’s story with one of his own. It plays out like creative non-fiction, and it’s essentially a confession to stealing Liz’s story.

Suzanne dumps him because she’s embarrassed that she told every one what a great writer he was, when in fact he’s a fraud. Every one else is supportive, and Mr. Collins even gives him a good enough grade to pass and play football. Sweet Valley wins the big game, and Suzanne comes crawling back. Ken dumps her for good when he realizes that she’s still an uber-snob, who wants to change him.

B-Plot: Jessica’s in change of the charity picnic, and everything naturally goes wrong. The hundreds of posters she ordered to advertise the event have the wrong date on them (her fault, of course.) She forgets to confirm the food order with catering, so now they have no food for all of the paying customers. She proceeds to make hundreds of PB&J sandwiches, which unintentionally cuts the food budget to almost nothing, meaning more money for the charitable cause. They actually publicly recognize her for her cost-cutting! And she proceeds to make a speech saying that this was her plan all along. Ugh.

hemingway_stamp_700English Major Moment: “‘I know you can pull that grade up, Ken,’ Jessica said brightly, ‘With old Hemingway Wakefield helping you, you can’t miss.'”

May 12, 2016

#26 Hostage!

Can anyone save Regina Morrow?”

Before she snorted that one line of coke that killed her, Regina Morrow was mostly known for being rich, deaf, and in a relationship with handsome sleazebag, Bruce Patman. Well, for the last few months, Regina’s been in Switzerland undergoing some sort of cutting-edge, miracle treatments to restore her hearing. But she’s suddenly been spotted in her mansion in Sweet Valley by a fellow classmate, who was delivering groceries. Mystery!

Of course, her good friend and general do-gooder Elizabeth Wakefield is immediately on the case. (Liz’s logic is that something must be wrong because Regina didn’t let her know she was back in town.) Plus, Liz is well versed in kidnappings due to her own abduction by husky orderly, Carl, in #13 Kidnapped!

Bruce calls the Morrow’s house, and a woman who identifies herself as “Aunt Claire” says that Regina is sleeping. Bruce is all “what the hell?” because both of Regina’s parents are only children. Liz then goes to Regina’s house to investigate, where she is greeted by the mysterious “Aunt Claire,” who tells her Regina is not home. But then Regina suddenly appears stage right, but she doesn’t say anything and looks scared. “Aunt Claire” says that Regina’s not well and must go to her room immediately and basically kicks Liz out of the house.

Elizabeth has a moment of clarity about her sociopath of a sister: “‘You’re heartless.’ Elizabeth signed. ‘Completely heartless. Regina may be trapped inside her own home by some maniac, and all you can think about is keeping your tan up!'”

05109ff5184f6140886563d00185b2f556d6c4-wmLiz doesn’t want to tell her parents about this potentially dangerous hostage situation, so she goes straight to Sweet Valley’s finest to investigate. (Sidenote: Being a Sweet Valley police officer must be the worst job ever.) Sargent O’Brien calls later to let her know that he did a welfare check. He tells her that “Aunt Claire” is Claire Davis, stepsister to Skye Morrow, that everything is fine, and that Liz should mind her own business. (Hear! Hear!)

For some reason, formerly skeptical Jessica is now gung ho. She comes up with a plan, where Bruce will pretend to be a delivery boy (sans his Porsche), and they’ll sneak a message in for Regina with the Morrow’s grocery order. They’ll then come back at night and wait under her window for a response.

(Switch to Regina’s viewpointbackstory about the kidnapping) We find out Regina was taken at the Swiss airport by “Aunt Claire,” who tells her that she’s going to come quietly with her back to Sweet Valley, or her parents will be killed. Regina’s dad is supposed to be some important computer guy, like a Bill Gates of Silicon (Sweet) Valley. His firm has created a computer chip that’s supposed to revolutionize the industry, but there’s only one prototype. And a rag-tag crew is bent on stealing it. (Seriously, how would any one get away with this? Hello, patents and research teams and lawyers. And why is there only one prototype?) The thieves’ plan is that the also-kidnapped Mr. Morrow will call the plant manager, tell her that he’s detained in Europe and have him give the chip to Regina. Thus, the crooks will have the prototype, and the Morrows will be ruined. (Cue evil laugh).

Regina finds the note Bruce/Liz/Jess slipped in and drops a note of her own outside her window detailing what’s going on with her and her kidnapped parents and the chip. Bruce/Liz/Jess call Nicholas Morrow, who is staying in San Francisco with a friend and tell him that he needs to come home immediately but won’t give him any details.

Regina says that (from what she’s overheard) the kidnappers are going to steal the chip “money is heaven.” She’s still relatively hard of hearing, so she means “Monday at seven.”

giphy3Nicholas and Liz go back to the Morrow manor to investigate. A car comes and Nicholas kisses Liz, so they won’t look suspicious parked outside. Nicholas sort of recognizes the guy leaving his house and realizes later it’s ex-Morrow employee, Phillip Denson, who was caught stealing by Mr. Morrow 5 years ago and sent to jail. He got out last year and moved to California. Liz/Bruce/Jess/Nick quickly find Denson in the phone book, jump into the 1Bruce1, and head to his house.

There, they find a cute teenage boy mowing the lawn, so they send Jessica (armed only with her feminine wiles) to suss out the situation. She pretends to be doing a census for school and asks a million questions. It turns out he’s Mitch Denson, Phillip’s son. She asks him to go get her a drink of water, so she can snoop around. The Morrows are in the living room but run our of sight before Mitch returns.

Jess/Bruce/Liz leave and meet up at Bruce’s the next day to formulate a plan and sort out everything. The plan is that Jessica and Bruce will free the Morrows, and at the same time, Liz and Nick will go to the plant. Liz will stall “Aunt Claire” while Nicholas calls the police.

giphy1Liz and Nick are at the plant. Liz sees Regina and “Aunt Claire,” so she tries to keep them from leaving by pretending to be a Sweet Valley News Reporter. Meanwhile, Nicholas is calling the SVPD. Sargent O’Brien answers and doesn’t believe the story, chalking it up to another crank call. Luckily, the Morrows are on the other line and confirm the whole story. Now, every cop in Sweet Valley is on the way.

Nicholas runs and grabs Regina. “Aunt Claire” pulls out a gun. Liz/Bruce/the Morrows arrive with Mitch Denson hot on their heels. (How in the world did that crap heap keep up with the 1Bruce1?) Phillip also pulls a gun out. Instead of just shooting them and getting away with the chip, he does a little monologue about how much he’s suffered because Mr. Morrow had him arrested 5 years ago.

Nicholas and Bruce jump him when they hear sirens. Claire shoots but misses. A grand total of six (6!!!) officers show up and take over. (With all the shit going on in Sweet Valley, their police department should be bigger than the NYPD.)

Now that every one’s safe, it’s time for a blow-out party at the Morrow mansion!

Sort of B-Plot: Ken Matthew, the quarterback of the football team, is failing English, so he might not get to play in the big game. Thus, the entire centennial celebration will be RUINED! It’s basically just a set-up for the next book #27 Lovestruck, where Ken falls for snobby Suzanne Hanlon.

897b347f458b530d85d96844413d623bEnglish Major Moment: “‘You’re getting a Nancy Drew complex, that’s what I think,’ Jessica said critically, frowning up at then sun. She giggled suddenly. ‘Only I can hardly imagine Bruce as Ned Nickerson!'”

August 21, 2015

#25 Nowhere To Run

“Will Emily lose everything she loves?”

Ever since Todd Wilkins left Sweet Valley for the greener pastures of Vermont, Elizabeth has had to occupy herself with helping the less fortunate students of Sweet Valley High solve their problems. Liz’s charity case du jour is Emily Mayer, fellow junior and drummer for the school’s new-wave rock band, The Droids.

See, Emily’s father has remarried an absolutely horrible woman named Karen, who isn’t much older than Emily. She’s your archetypal bitchy step-mom. She thinks that everything Emily is doing is horrible and wrong. She hates her drumming and her bandmates. She thinks working on the school newspaper is a more respectable hobby. And now that Karen has given birth to little baby Karrie, she’s come completely unhinged. She keeps changing the house rules and threatens to send Emily to some far off boarding school.

Meanwhile, Emily is just trying to do everything she can to get in her stepmother’s good graces. She babysits every weekend, misses band practices, and agrees to a new restrictive curfew. One day, Emily invites her bandmate/crush Dan Scott over to her house to hear her new cymbals. It’s completely innocent, of course, but Karen storms in and throws out a few “tramp” accusations, which completely humiliates Emily. (Even moms aren’t immune to slut-shaming in Sweet Valley.)

pulpnovelTears filled Emily’s eyes as Karen’s words rang again in her memory. “I am not going to permit you to turn out like your mother!” Karen had said. “I will simply not have my baby grow up in a house with a tramp!”

A tramp, Emily thought dully. That’s what my mother turned out to be. Who’s to say I haven’t already taken after her? Maybe I don’t have a choice.

(Ugh. I love how Emily’s all worried about slut-dom being some sort of biological imperative, like the very nature of a tramp is being passed down from one generation of sluts to another.)

Thanks to Karen’s big mouth, Emily’s secret is out of the bag. She’d previously told every one that her mother died when she was a child, when in reality her mother just left one morning with no warning or forwarding address. There’s a vague implication that the former Mrs. Mayer had serious problems, but they don’t go into any real detail besides the whole tramp thing.

Emily runs away to the Wakefield residence and pours her heart out to Elizabeth. The Wakefields make her call her dad to let him know her location and relay that she’s safe. Mr. Meyer, being the daddy dearest that he is, says that he will put Emily’s beloved drums out on the street unless she comes home immediately.

Emily rushes home but later decides to sell her drums to keep the peace. Unbeknownst to Emily, her crush, Dan Scott, secretly buys them to keep them safe for her. (Awww. How sweet.). Sadly, it seems like Emily is destined to become some Cinderella/Stepford daughter, whose sole purpose is cleaning and childcare

Soon after the drum debacle, Karen buys baby Karrie a teddy bear with glass eyes that are poorly attached. Emily tries to warn her about the potential choking hazard, but Karen ignores/insults her. Of course, all hell breaks loose a minute later. Karrie’s half swallowed the bear’s eye and is now choking. Karen is wailing and clinging onto Karrie for dear life, preventing Emily from performing some life-saving first-aid. In what is perhaps the most satisfying moment of the book, Emily slaps her stepmother, grabs the baby, and saves her life via the Heimlich maneuver.

tumblr_n3xz2xmhUd1qg4blro2_500Of course, Mr. Mayer walks in during this shit storm and comes to the conclusion that Emily tried to hurt little Karrie. Karen is still freaking out in the corner and doesn’t tell him otherwise. So Mr. Mayer kicks Emily out of the house! (We officially have a new candidate for worst parent in Sweet Valley, y’all.)

Emily goes to the Wakefield house again and tells them that she is going to go live with her mother in Chicago (her mother’s last known whereabouts). When Emily tries to reach her m.i.a. mom, she finds out that her mother re-married a couple of years ago and moved to Mexico. (Ouch! Double fail in the parenting department.)

Luckily, the Wakefield’s grandparents are in town, and Grandma Wakefield tells Emily about her own struggles with being a step-parent 40 years or so ago. She says that she was pretty awful at being a step mom, but in time they became once big, happy, cliché family. Because this is Sweet Valley, this little pep talk works, and Emily is excited to start anew with her family. (Seriously, Emily, fuck those people.) As if on cue, the Mayer clan appears on the Wakefield’s doorstep. Karen is all sweetness and regret and apologizes for all of her step-parenting sins. After tears and an impromptu party, the Mayers sail off into the sunset, never to be heard from again.

B-plot – In what is perhaps the lamest sub-plot in Sweet Valley history, Jess and Liz’s grandparents are in town from Michigan, and the twin’s mother, Alice, is feeling jealous and insecure about their close relationship. Alice feels like a shitty mother because she’s part of the workforce and not helicopter parenting her children at all times. Liz somehow realizes that Alice is feeling down, and she schemes to make her feel useful by getting her to help organize a going away party for her grandparents. Of course, Liz’s plan works, and Alice once again feels like a useful member of the Wakefield household. (Seriously though, how can a grown-ass woman with her own design firm actually be this insecure?)

June 3, 2015

#21 Runaway

“Jessica’s had enough!”

Let me get this straight. Jessica’s had enough? Jessica, who has done nothing but wreak havoc and destruction upon Sweet Valley and its inhabitants for the last 20 books, has had enough? Lo, the irony!

Well, the wicked bitch of the west is sick and tired of living in Saint Elizabeth’s shadow. Jess hates being thought of as the perpetual screw up, while Liz is treated like some sort of Gandhi/Mother Teresa/Christ figure all rolled into one perfect-size-six package.

Warning: first word, white-girl problems, straight ahead.

Can I just say that I love the cover? Jessica’s serving up some ’80s Flashdance/ Jennifer Beals realness with the grey off-shoulder sweatshirt. But are we really supposed to believe that Jessica is going to run away with only 1.37% of her entire wardrobe in a half-empty gym bag? I don’t think so.

As the book opens, Jessica is feeling down after the Wakefields joke about her giving them food poisoning (which is a valid point because she totally did make them sick in the last book. Even after cooking lessons, Jessica still doesn’t understand the basics of food preparation and storage.)

While Jessica is depressed about dumb shit, Steven Wakefield is still grieving the death of his girlfriend, Tricia Martin, 9 books earlier, a time frame which is unheard of in the world of Sweet Valley. Most of the residents appear to have the emotional range of goldfish, so the extended grieving process is actually pretty refreshing/realistic. Steven’s currently taking some time off from college, and he’s just bumming around Sweet Valley which is pretty status quo for him.

giphy12In an attempt to distract him from his misery, Liz asks Jessica to ask Steven to go to Cara’s party. (It’s as convoluted as it sounds.) When Jessica tries to ask him to the party, Steven, Ned, and Alice Wakefield almost simultaneously jump her shit for being insensitive. Saint Elizabeth clarifies that it was her idea, and peace is restored to the split level ranch home on Calico Drive.

But the proverbial shit has hit the fan, and Jess is sinking further into her depression. She seeks solace in the arms of Nicky Shepard, Sweet Valley’s latest rebel without a cause. His life is sooo hard because his dad works all the time, and his mom neglects him to take care of his little brother (who’s been depicted as an invalid who needs around-the-clock care because he has asthma.) WTF? I don’t understand how administering an inhaler is all that time-consuming, but whatevs.  Yeah, it’s totally a hard-knock life for the Sweet Valley bourgeoisie.

At Cara’s party, the Sweet Valley chorus keeps singing Liz’s praises, so Jess retreats to Cara’s bathhouse where she finds Nicky smoking a cigarette and being all angsty. Sparks fly as they complain about their shitty respective lots in life, and they take their flirtation public on the dance floor.

I’m just tired of being the bad twin, Jessica thought. Sometimes, I wish I’d never been born.”

largeDo you remember that Sweet Valley Twins’ book, A Christmas Without Elizabeth, which was a rip off of It’s a Wonderful Life? It’s the one where Elizabeth saw what a bleak, sad world Sweet Valley would be if she’d never been born. I mean, the Wakefields were divorced, people were ugly and poor, and multiple children were dead. But if Jessica were never born… It’s safe to say that the world would be a better place. (i.e. Sam would still be alive, and Annie wouldn’t have tried to kill herself. Robin Wilson would probably still be overweight, though, since Jessica wasn’t around to fat shame her. But she also wouldn’t have developed an eating disorder, so… )

Anyway, Jessica goes to a house party with Nicky and the rest of the dregs of Sweet Valley. They try to tempt her with booze (gasp!) and pot (double gasp!!), but Jess successfully sidesteps their attempts to intoxicate her. Nicky has not been so virtuous, however, and he has a nice buzz going on as he drives them home.

Nicky tells Jessica that he is running away to San Francisco and invites Jessica to run away with him. She has all these romanticized notions of their new life: they’ll have a beautiful apartment, Nicky will be a successful businessman, and Jessica will return triumphantly to Sweet Valley in a few years to show off her wonderful life. (I’m sure two teenagers with no education and no money would take San Francisco by storm.) Before Jessica can give him an answer, Nicky crashes into a telephone pole to avoid a head-on collision.

The Shephards pick them up, and they are more concerned about the car than any potential injuries Nicky and Jessica might have suffered. (I won’t lie, if my shitbag son and his tramp of the week wrecked my car, I would be pissed too.) Nicky decides to move up his running-away-from-Sweet Valley schedule, and Jessica decides to come with him. She leaves a note for her sister, and I had to transcribe it in toto because it’s so ridiculous and so Jessica.

teen-angstDear Liz,

By the time you get this, I will be far away. I’m sorry if I’m leaving causes you all a lot of pain, but it will be better for all of us in the long run. There are many reasons why I’m going. It isn’t just your fault. You can’t help being the way you are any more than I can. You’re so good. It would just be better for all of you if you’d forget that I ever even existed. I’ve never been anything but trouble anyway. This doesn’t mean I’m forgetting about you. I’ll be thinking a lot about all of you as I take the bus to my new home. I love you, Liz. And make sure you  tell Mom and Dad that I love them too, and Steve, even though I know he hates me. Someday I’ll return, I promise, but not for a long time. Please don’t try to find me. My mind is made up. I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused.

Still your loving sister,

Jessica

P.S. I’m leaving you my new jeans. I think they make me look fat anyway.

She’s sure that once her family sees it they’ll come rushing to find her and then subsequently take her more seriously. Unfortunately, the note falls behind Jessica’s dresser, which delays her inevitable retrieval. Elizabeth finally realizes she’s missing because her grody bedroom is actually clean for once. After visiting the super dysfunctional Shepard house, the Wakefields discover from one of Steven’s basketball buddies that Nicky is on his way via Greyhound to San Fran. They whole family drives from bus stop to bus stop until they finally locate Jessica. Tears and hugs and promises to take Jessica seriously ensue. And instead of being punished for being a total bitch, Jessica is rewarded with a new sweater.

If you skip the last few chapters, you can just pretend that Jess’ bus left the station, and she disappeared into the San Fran landscape, never to be heard from again.

3rnvk6B-Plot: Ricky Capaldo shows up again. Man, this dude can not catch a break. When we last saw him, he was saving “Easy Annie” Whitman from herself. Now, he’s forced to get a job as a waiter at Casey’s, since his parents divorced, and his dad left his mom high and dry. Since Ricky’s dad is not paying child support, his mom has decided that he can’t see his old-world Italian immigrant grandparents. Their depiction is just so fucking cringe worthy.

Well, his grandparents have decided to sue for visitation. Elizabeth is doing an article on the trial for the Sweet Valley News, which seems highly unethical (plus improbable that a family court would allow this). Ricky is on his mom’s side because he wants to punish his grandparents for his dad being such a shitbag. Elizabeth has one of her trademark talks with Ricky, and he realizes that he’s been wrong the whole time. He tells his mom that he and his sister should be allowed to see his grandparents. Ricky’s mom then drops the case (thus wasting every one’s time and money.)

Ugh, Ned Wakefield Moment #1: During opening arguments for the trial, Ned actually utters the following:

“Please, Your Honor.” He paused. “Think of the children. The children,” he repeated quietly.

Ugh, Ned Wakefield Moment #2

“You know,” their father said, laughing, ” I have never been able to teach your mother how to do justice to a salad. That woman has a master’s degree, and she still can’t mix a decent dressing.”

April 28, 2015

#24 Memories

svh024
“Can Cara make Steven forget Tricia Martin?”

So this was definitely a clunker book to get through. There are three story lines going on (involving all of the Wakefield children), and none is particularly interesting. First, we have the cover story of Steven Wakefield, who is still trying to come to terms with the death of his first love, Tricia Martin, and his new feelings for Cara Walker. Every one in his life says that he needs to get over Tricia’s death, because it was, like, months ago already. The only person who is against him moving on is Tricia’s sister, reformed bad girl, Betsy.

Personal aside: I HATE Tricia Martin story lines now. One of the reasons I took such a long break from this blog was my stage 4 cancer diagnosis, treatment, and general life upheaval. I had to move in with my grandparents, who took care of me, while my former live-in man friend told me not to come home on weekends any more because he had a new girlfriend now. (This bitch (his now ex-girlfriend) even sent me a get well card with an AMC gift certificate inside. Yeah. Kind of a bitchy since I didn’t have a date anymore for the movies, and I couldn’t physically go out by myself.) So as you can see, it’s hard for me to be impartial about this, even in the fictional world.

giphy2Well, it appears that Betsy and I are the only cancer cock blocks around in Sweet Valley. Jess thinks that Steve and Cara are sooo right for each other since they’ve both just recently gone through major life upheavals. While Steve lost the love of his life, Cara’s parents got divorced!! Our Ghostwriter du jour hammers home the fact that Cara isn’t the flighty Jessica-lite of before because her dad dumped her mom and took her brother to the East Coast. Ugh, more divorce propaganda. At least, Cara got some character out of it, I guess.

Throughout the book, Steven leads Cara on and treats her like shit. At Lila’s party, he abandons her on the dance floor after a cutting remark from Betsy. At the charity dance, he stops talking to her midsentence after Betsy shows up. But then Steven gets all jealous and huffy when his friend, Artie Western, shows the slightest interest in Cara, so he asks her out on a combination zoo/ picnic “date.” But he makes her bring the food! After treating her like shit for the last few weeks, you would think that he could spring for the Dairyburger at the very least.

Well, the bring-your-own-picnic/zoo date is a success, if only because Steven doesn’t dump Cara at the monkey habitat. They continue this secret, non-relationship relationship for the rest of the week by talking on the phone and watching TV together. *Yawn* They make Liz and Todd look like regulars at Studio 54.

Since Cara’s birthday is coming up, Steve tells her that he will take her anywhere she would like to go to celebrate. Cara tells him when he shows up that she would like to go to the Valley Inn. She doesn’t know that this was Steve and Tricia’s special place. Steve is already kind of freaked out being on a more formalized date with Cara, but he goes completely over the edge when the restaurant plays his and Tricia’s song. Steven just leaves Cara alone (again!) on the dance floor without an explanation and drives home! So she gets dumped…again… on her birthday and has to take a cab back to her place.

“Steven slammed his fist on the counter, ‘I’ve told you, Jess, stay out of it. I’ll live my life the way I want.’
‘OK,’ Jessica said. She shrugged. ‘But remember Cara’s got one advantage over Tricia. She’s alive.'”
clueless-way-harsh-tai

Thankfully I guess, Elizabeth steps into to save the day. She has a come-to-Jesus talk with Betsy Martin about Steven.  Betsy finally admits that she puts such a stranglehold on Steven, because she wants to keep Tricia’s memory alive. Since Betsy was such a shitty sister while Tricia was alive (what with being a boozer, user, and a loser), she wants to make amends for it on the flip side. Betsy realizes that Tricia would have wanted Steven to move on with Cara, so she and Liz hatch a quirky plan to get these two kooky kids together again (because straight talk is so overrated).

Anyway, Liz/Betsy arrange for Steven/Cara to unknowingly meet up at the high school. When they realize it’s a set up, eight-year-old Teddy Collins comes out with two envelopes from Betsy with hand-drawn pictures and a letter enclosed giving her blessing to their relationship.

Dear Steve,

I have finally come to realize what Tricia knew long ago: a wonderful person should be looking toward his future, not his past. You made my sister so happy while she was alive. Now it’s time for you to bring your kindness and affection to someone else. Do what Trish wanted, Steve: embrace life and all the beautiful things it has to offer.
Fondly,
Betsy

Since this is Sweet Valley, all is forgiven, and they live happily ever after. (Spoiler alert: Just kidding, of course. Steven falls for two different Tricia doppelgangers in the not-too-distant future. And more importantly, he actually comes out as a gay man in Sweet Valley Confidential.)

tumblr_ngca2xhsUY1r2a5ywo1_500B Plot– There’s a big charity volleyball match/dance between Sweet Valley High and their archrivals, Big Mesa (with a dance to follow, naturally). One of the players, Michael Sellars, is a doppleganger for Todd, so Elizabeth (like so many other Sweet Valley characters before and after her) thinks that if they look alike they must have the same personality too. There are seriously at least 5 books with this exact theme.

There are extended scenes of Liz being so dazzled by Michael that she can’t even play volleyball, and he takes full advantage of her ineptitude. It’s cringe worthy. Even though this guy is a doucebag extraordinaire, Liz agrees to go to the dance with him.

She soon finds out Michael is nothing like Todd. He plays football (not basketball) and is a total narcissist asshole with anger management issues. He shit talks the food at the dance and won’t even let Liz dance with harmless class clown, Winston Egbert. Liz has had enough at this point and dumps him for good.

C Plot- Jessica overhears her mom talking to Mrs. Egbert about her famous film director brother, who’s secretly coming to town for a visit. Jessica plots to meet him (by any means necessary) and become a famous actress. (Yes, it’s another Jessica will do ANYTHING to be famous plotline.) Her idea of ANYTHING is to cozy up to head nerd, Winston, by working together on a book report. Her logic follows that she will go over to his house, dazzle his uncle, and then depart for Hollywood. But as it turns out, movie producer brother can’t make it, but sanitation engineer brother does. Jessica is so mortified by her mistake that she listens to his boring garbage removal plans for hours. Better luck next time, Jess.

MarielHemingwayEnglish Major Moment:

“When the bell sounded, Lila came up to Jessica as she was collecting her books. ‘Jessica, what’s going on?’ she asked. ‘What made you team up with the king of comedy?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jessica answered breezily. ‘I’m just interested in Fitzgerald, I guess.’
“But I thought we would do Hemingway together.’ Lila pouted. ‘He’s Mariel Hemingway’s grandfather, you know.’
‘I don’t think that’s the kind of information Mr. Collins is looking for,’ Jessica said as the two of them headed toward the door.”

April 15, 2015

#23 Say Goodbye (Ta-ta, Todd!)

svh023“Can Elizabeth survive the heartache of losing Todd?”

When we last left off, Todd had announced his imminent departure from Sweet Valley via a melodramatic poetry reading at the high school talent show. Instead of just straightforwardly telling every one that he’s moving, Todd recites a 19th-century Victorian, death-centric poem ,”Remember” by Christina Rossetti**, and tearfully announces the news. Now, the great white mope is really and truly departing Sweet Valley forever (or at least for the next 35 books), so Elizabeth feels like her world is ending.

Liz and Todd have decided to do the bi-coastal romance thing. They agree to write letters and call as often as possible. (And you thought long distance relationships were tough in modern times. Lest we forget, there’s no texting, sexting, skype-ing, emailing, or unlimited calling. Their relationship is basically being conducted pony express and Ma Bell style. Todd even says that he’s going to have to get a job just so he can afford his phone bill. (although both of them are so boring that I don’t even know how they would be able to talk for hours on end.)

unnamedElizabeth goes to 3 people for support 1) Steven, whose girlfriend DIED not too long ago 2) Enid, whose long-time boyfriend just dumped her for another girl and 3) Jessica, who just doesn’t give a shit. Every one basically says the same things: that things are going to be different now and that Liz and Todd should take a wait-and-see approach to their relationship. Surprisingly mature, denizens of Sweet Valley.

Jessica decides that Elizabeth needs to date handsome, wealthy Nicholas Morrow to quickly get over Todd. She convinces Nicholas that Liz and Todd are finito and urges him to move in quickly. Nicholas has harbored a not-so-secret crush on Liz ever since she was kidnapped by Carl the orderly, so he’s eager to swoop in.

Jessica then tells Todd that the long distance relationship is ruining Liz’s life, and that if he really wants her to be happy, he’ll set her free. That’s great and all and pretty good advice, but Todd doesn’t inform Liz about any of this. He just cuts off all contact without a word of explanation. Liz is devastated by Todd’s silence and decides to move on to Nicholas. Hello, rebound.

unnamed1Liz realizes after a couple of weeks of dating Nicholas that she really loves Todd, but she doesn’t want Nick to be sad and dateless to Lila’s party. So she postpones dumping him. Todd shows up to surprise her at the party, sees her looking comfy in Nicholas’ arms and runs away pouting. Liz eventually finds him at his old house, and they confess their undying love for each other. But this time they acknowledge the harsh realities of being separated by 2000 miles.

I’m a little confused at their ultimate decision. They love each other and are still sort of dating, but they won’t get in the way of meeting new people. And hopefully, one day they’ll find their way back to each other. ??? Ugh, what does this even mean? Even one-dimensional fictional relationships are confusing. (Future spoiler alert: they both move on quickly. Liz’s future beau, Jeffrey French, is only slightly more palatable than Todd.)

Oh, and I feel so bad for Nick Morrow at the end. He tells Liz that this is her last chance to be with him because he can’t have his heart trampled on again, and she says that she’s ok with that. Sorry, Nicholas! For some reason, he never really has much luck with the ladies, while a douchebag/date rapist/ serial cheater like Bruce Patman and even ultra nerd Winston Egbert find continuous love.

B-Plot: Jessica racked up almost $100 in charges at Lisette’s (without her parent’s knowledge), so they’re making her get a job to pay them back. Even though Jess’ work history is poor/negligible, she somehow manages to become the second in command at a local dating agency. It’s a disaster on par with Tofu Glu, so it’s one of my favorite B plots ever.

While “working” one day, Jessica decides her brother, Steven, needs to start dating again to get over the death of his last girlfriend. She picks three random dates for Steven out of the dating agency’s files. (Hello, conflict of interest. And although there are apparently photos in the files, Jessica does not preview any of Steven’s dates.)

composite_14289608274939Our first single gal is Beatrice Barber, a 43-year-old divorcee, who relentlessly pursues Steven throughout the week, phoning him, and propositioning him for dinner and movies. He is really confused at this point and just assumes he met her at a party. No love connection here.

Jessica is convinced that Steven didn’t give Beatrice a chance because he didn’t get to meet her, so she decides to give the next prospect the Wakefields’ home address!! So one random night, Elizabeth opens the door to find Jordan “Jody” Maguire, a leather-clad punk rocker with assorted piercings, who *gasp* smokes, and talks about Plato’s theory of love. Strike two, and Steven finally discovers what Jessica’s been up to.

But Jess won’t be deterred so she invites the third girl, Melissa Porter, to be Steven’s surprise date to Lila’s party. I just love the ghostwriter’s description of this girl. Her hobbies are “cooking, restaurants, eating—as well as all sorts of traditional things around the house.” I totally had this feeling of dread that a morbidly obsese person was going to show up at his dorm room or something and just be utterly embarrassed. But we never get to meet her, because she calls to cancel and leaves us with my favorite line from the book:

“‘I’ve decided I prefer food to men,’ she’d told Jessica on the phone.”

Jessica’ not really remorseful, but she gets her comeuppance when she invites one of her clients, Spence Millgate, to be her date to Lila’s party. He claims in his profile to love sports, movies, and having a good time. Of course, when he shows up, he looks nothing like his picture and has the air of a young serial killer about him. He wants to be an undertaker, because he thinks embalming is fascinating. This totally sounds like the setup for a future Thriller edition about a crazy coroner who’s obsessed with the Wakefield Twins and wants them all to himself….forever.

Must Watch: I found this amazing video that features various men’s dating-video profiles of the ’80s, and it makes modern dating seem downright delightful in comparison. 

SONY DSCEnglish Major Moment: “‘How could he be mad at you?’ Jessica demanded. ‘You’ve been exactly like—what’s the name of that Greek woman who sat around for ten years weaving things while her husband was away?’

‘Penelope.’ Elizabeth laughed. ‘Well, I don’t know if that’s exactly true. But I still think something weird is going on.’

Hmm. Am I really supposed to believe that Jessica’s familar enough with Homer’s The Odyssey and/or Greek mythology to make this comparison? Lols. no. For those unaware, The Odyssey details Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan war. His wife, Penelope, is facing rowdy suitors who want to take her husband’s kingdom. So she tells them that she won’t marry until she finishes her tapestry. So she weaves it by day and un-weaves it by night until her husband’s return. (Check out Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad for a retelling from Penelope’s point of view.)

 

**In Memoriam: Sweet Valley’s first/worst couple, Todd and Elizabeth…

Remember by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

 

 

April 4, 2015

#22 Too Much In Love (or Stalker, Ahoy!)

“Will DeeDee’s dependence chase Bill away?”

Yeesh. Pictured in prime stage 5 clinger mode on the cover is one DeeDee Gordon. The object of her obsession is her surfer boy beau, Bill Chase. See, they’ve been dating for awhile, (14 books!), and that new relationship bloom has fallen off the rose. DeeDee wants Bill’s constant love and attention, but Bill just wants to swim, pass history class, and surf. Well, the more he distances himself from her, the more obsessed she gets. She waits for him before, during, and after school. She shows up at his house unannounced. She cries when he blows off their double date for an important swim meet.

Why is DeeDee acting so crazy all of a sudden? Of course, it’s because her parents have just gotten divorced. Her mom worked and went back to school, so of course, her Hollywood agent father’s eyes and penis wandered. Plus, DeeDee’s art teacher/mentor was dumped by her hubby, who left her for an uggo with no career. Well, DeeDee has decided that being a strong, independent woman is the kiss of death for a good relationship, so that’s why she’s hellbent on being the most submissive girl at Sweet Vglennclosealley High.

Different time and demographic and all, but I don’t get it. Everybody  in Sweet Valley is getting divorced– Why is there even a stigma? Just off the top of my head, the children of divorce at SVHigh include Enid Rollins, Ricky Capaldo, Bill Chase,  cousin Kelly, Cara Walker, Aaron Dallas, and the *fabulous* Lila Fowler. Oh and add every one’s favorite inappropriate teacher, Mr. Collins, to the single dad’s club. Even Alice and Ned get sick of each other’s shit periodically, so why, pray tell, would any one feel a  perverse sense of shame that their own parents couldn’t make it work? Plus, the high school break up rate should be something like 137 times worse.

Bill is so over DeeDee’s neediness. Ugh, that scene where she leaps from the bleachers, screaming, at the regional swim meet and runs into Bill’s embarrassed arms after he wins his race. Ugh. Instead of having an actual conversation with her about it, he avoids her and agrees to go see a movie with Droids front woman, Dana Larson. (But they’re just friends, ok, even if he doesn’t tell DeeDee about it.)

Dana is punk-y, spunky, and independent. She even likes to go to the movies by all by herself. Bill compares the two throughout the afternoon, when he’s not wallowing in the death of his previous girlfriend. Basically, it all “why can’t DeeDee be more like this? She’s always crying. And I want to enjoy the little free time I have and not be miserable.” It’s nothing you would want your boyfriend to think of you.23951918

I won’t lie. Dana is one of my fav characters. She’s New Wave,  loves Hitchcock and Truffaut, and old movies in general. She’s in the heppest bank around, the Droids. Her wardrobe is the ultimate in alternative 80’s fashion. A prince will eventually fall in love with her! I always imagined her as a young Debbie Harry from Blondie. Bill, of course, doesn’t tell DeeDee about this non-date date. But he runs into Jessica and Cara, who easily sniff out his treachery and can hardly wait to tell DeeDee. Jess has a long memory, Bill! DeeDee angrily and publicly confronts Bill at school. She says she will change, but Bill says they need a “break.” Ugh.

Let me play devil’s advocate here for a minute. I know DeeDee’s supposed to be the crazy, psycho stalker with dependence issues, but doesn’t she raise some valid points? Bill is allegedly too busy for her what with school, swimming, and the special history research project. School is the requisite 8 hours/day I’m assuming. Swimming practice is 10 hours per week, per the book. And what is with this special Civil War Project for Mr. Fellows? What is it, and why does it require that Bill go over to his history teacher’s house? Inappropriate. And if Bill is soooo busy, how does he have time for an afternoon with Dana? And if it’s soooo innocent, why doesn’t he tell DeeDee about it casually in conversation? Not defending DeeDee or anything, but why doesn’t Bill get any of the blame? (And can you tell I’ve dealt with a Bill Chase or two in my life, and I’m a very independent woman, thank you.)

DeeDee had agreed to help Liz with the set design for the talent show before the big breakup, but she’s just a total basket case now. She can’t do anything on her own. Plus, all she wants to do is lament to our Saint Liz about her love troubles.  Elizabeth muses about Poor Bill having to put up with this and no wonder DeeDee got dumped. Rude.

Since Liz can’t leave anything alone, she decides that she must help DeeDee help herself. Of course, she does this in the most convoluted way possible. Elizabeth fakes an illness (even tumblr_mn9mdclARi1s5ruqso1_500skipping school to add to the realness of it all) to force DeeDee to take over the reigns as talent show director. And it works! DeeDee is so busy putting this shindig together that she doesn’t have time to moon over Bill. And she turns back into that independent girl who Bill fell in love with, so Bill wants her back! Shockingly enough, DeeDee doesn’t go running back into his arms. She decides that they needed to keep that break going and take things slowly, so whatever happens, happens. Shockingly sage, Sweet Valley.

Our B-plot has Ned going to Mexico City to get some documents for a case about the illegal importation of goods into the US. (Pre-NAFTA, y’all) He and Alice are turning this into a 10-day-vacay, so the twins will be home alone. In the Sweet Valley world, anything can happen (stalkers, serial killers, werewolves, vampires, doppelgangers). But since this is relatively early in the series’ run, the twin’s hijinx are super tame (and all Jessica’s doing). She stuff too many sheets in the washer and floods the basement, while she simultaneously leaves an unattended grease fire in the kitchen.

Of course, Jessica decides to throw a small soiree later in the week, which turns into a full-blown house party when Lila’s new college boyfriend invites his beer-swilling frat bros over. One of them spills beer all over Mrs. Wakefield’s important interior design plans, and newly-independent DeeDee uses her two weeks of art school training to make them good as new.

Minority Report:  This book is notable for introducing our first Person of Color (POC), Patty Gilbert. She’s pretty, popular, and DeeDee’s best friend. That’s about it. She doesn’t really get to do much else in Sweet Valley until she has relationship problems of her own in #61 Boy Trouble. (Yes, Elizabeth has to come to her aid.)
English Major Moment: “‘We’ve been studying the Bronte sisters in Mr. Collins’s class,’ Jessica added slyly. ‘And Mr. Collins said they were truly remarkable women because they had vivid imagination and they took risks all the time.’
‘Just what have you got in mind?’ Elizabeth asked warily. ‘Are you planing on running through Sweet Valley at midnight screaming ‘Heathcliff’?'”
I love Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” Any excuse I can ever have to play “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush I will take!!

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