Perfect Size Six

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.”

August 16, 2010

#12 When Love Dies (or The Other C-Word)

“What terrible secret is Tricia keeping from Steven?”

Something shady is going on with Tricia Martin. She’s been blowing off dates with Steven Wakefield, and she might even want to stop dating him. Inconceivable! Didn’t she get the memo that Steven Wakefield is a paragon of male virility and general awesomeness? Plus, Tricia is POOR. Shouldn’t she be on her knees praising the gods of Sweet Valley that he’s even deigned to date her?

So what is going on with Tricia? Is she turning into an alchie like her father or a whore like her sister? Does it have anything to do with the poodle perm she’s sporting on the cover? Uh, no. Tricia has leukemia! And she doesn’t want anyone to know.

Her mother also died from leukemia, and her death apparently turned Tricia’s dad into the town drunk that we know and loathe today. Tricia doesn’t want the same fate to befall Steven, so she decides to just stop speaking to him. Closure is so overrated.

Jessica, meanwhile, is in her usual full-on-bitch mode. She tells a distraught Steven that Tricia probably has a new boyfriend (or is fulfilling her legacy as a Martin in other seedy ways). Jess is still trying to push the irritating Cara Walker as a potential love interest. If I were her, I would be encouraging my college-age brother to stop skimming from the high school pool. To each her own, I guess.

Steven decides to find out what’s going on for himself, so he goes to visit Tricia….in the ghetto. (I always think of the Elvis song, “In the Ghetto,” when an SVH ghostwriter mentions the more craptacular areas of Sweet Valley.)

“It was only a few miles from the Wakefields’ comfortable split-level ranch house in a beautiful green area of Sweet Valley to the poorer section of town where the Martins lived, but as far as Steve was concerned, it was a completely different world. His headlights picked up the gleam of discarded cans and broken glass that littered the weeds alongside the uneven road. He pulled to a stop in front of a shabby frame house with peeling paint. Tricia’s house. As always, he experienced a pang at the thought. Sweet, lovely Tricia deserved much better than this, though he had never once heard her complain about it.”

Steven confronts Tricia, and she has no explanations for her avoidance of him. For once, I feel bad for Steven. Tricia’s just giving him this lame run-around, and he’s frustrated because he loves her and knows something’s wrong. By the end of the conversation, they’ve broken up—sort of, I guess. (Closure isn’t so overrated now, is it?)

Meanwhile, in our more-middle class milieu, Jess and Liz have decided to become candy stripers at the local hospital. Jessica, of course, has selfish motives. She’s learned a local TV talk show host, Jeremy Frank, is residing there with a broken leg. (Jessica fame-whore alert.)

Her attempts to beguile him are disastrous. First, she trips somehow and lands on his bum leg. Then, she enters his room to bring him some ice water, while he is getting a sponge bath. He’s “stark naked” for some reason, and she spills the contents of the entire pitcher onto his stomach.

Liz devises a plan to get Jessica off Jeremy’s back, front, etc…with Jeremy’s help. See, Jess likes the chase and not so much anything else about relationships. Liz thinks that if Jeremy proposes to Jessica, she will run screaming in the opposite direction. And Liz is right….until Jessica decides that being engaged to a celebrity would be fun. She goes back to the hospital and makes a big show of accepting his proposal, and Jeremy has to explain his little ruse.

It’s probably one of my favorite B-plot lines, since it actually has something to do with the main premise of the book. Back in Steven/Tricia relationship purgatory, Liz discovers Tricia’s secret, whilst performing her candy-striping duties. Trish makes her promise not to tell anyone, especially Steven, and we can already see the meddling mind of Liz wanting to spring into action. She’s torn, though, because she did make a promise. After a heartfelt conversation with Mr. Collins, Liz decides that some promises are made to be broken, so she will blatantly disregard Tricia’s wishes and tell Steven everything.

Confession time: I actually cried when Steven races to the ghetto to get his girl, and she tries to act like she has a date. He simply says, “Trish, I know,” and she collapses into him. I hate myself just a little for loving this.

But enough with the tragic Tricia descriptors. We get it; she’s fragile.

“She reminded him of a porcelain doll.”

“Each time he pictured her-  golden-haired and fragile, with those great misty blue eyes- he wanted to take her in his arms, to protect her from–”

“At that moment Tricia reminded Elizabeth of a fragile China figurine.”

“Tricia looked so pale and fragile under the fluorescent lights that Elizabeth could see the faint violet tracing of veins at her temples.”

English major moment: “‘Something strange is going on,’ Elizabeth said as she set down her tray beside Todd at the cafeteria table.

Todd looked up from his hamburger. He swallowed and said, ‘That sounds like the opening line of a mystery novel.’ His brown eyes sparkled with mischief. ‘Any clues so far, Sherlock?'”

Arthur Conan Doyle is turning in his grave.

August 14, 2010

#11 Too Good To Be True (or Bitches, Tramps, and Thieves)

“Is Suzanne as perfect as she seems?”

You know this is going to be awesome from the cover alone because Elizabeth is pulling the most intense bitch face ever. I wish Suzanne was doing something other than checking herself out (like maybe directing a good sneer or grimace at Saint Liz).

So it’s finally spring break at Sweet Valley High (the first of many), and for the next two weeks, Jessica is going to swap lives with the glamorous, angelic, beatific, altogether superlative  Suzanne Devlin from New York City. (Devlin/devil –subtle, SVH ghostwriter)

While Jessica is presumably terrorizing the upper west side, Suzanne is casting a spell over Sweet Valley. (Jessica, who?) Besides being Brooke Shields beautiful, she seems to be bordering on sainthood. She’s varnishing canoes with Stephen, scrubbing down Wakefield manor, making breakfast for the whole family, and humoring her many suitors.  Yes, Suzy has attracted the attention of four of Sweet Valley’s most eligible bachelors: Aaron “anger issues” Dallas, Tom “maybe gay” Mckay, Winston “borderline stalker” Egbert, and Bruce “date-rape” Patman. Decisions, decisions, Suzy Q.

At some point, totally out of the blue, Suzanne reveals in a dramatic inner monologue that she is a mean-spirited klepto! Unlike Lila who was ripping off jewelry/acessories from some anonymous mall outfit,  Suzanne steals from Elizabeth friggin’ Wakefield (her iconic lavaliere, no less). (I always thought that lavaliere was fug anyway. On the cover, it looks like  a golden dangling phallus, which is not cute.) What is it with these rich bitches and their sudden attacks of thievery? I guess this was cutting edge, before Winona Ryder and her Saks shenanigans. I’m sure you can see the moral of the story coming from a mile away. Money can’t buy you happiness or love or parents who give a damn. Sage, Sweet  Valley.

The only person who seems immune to Suzanne’s charm is Mr. Collins. That, of course, is a huge turn on for her. At the class picnic, Suzanne pretends to drown, so Mr. Collins, who is chaperoning/ lifeguarding will come rescue her. This is the first step in her multi-level, get-her-man plan. Mr. Collins somehow senses right away that something is rotten in Sweet Valley. I’m sure he’s used to the female students of SVH throwing metaphorical panties at him everyday, so he starts connecting the dots.

Later, Liz, Todd, and Suzy go over to Mr. Collins’ house to drop some papers off. Suzy convinces them to stay in the car, so she can have some quality seduction time with our favorite English teacher. Freudian hijinks ensue…..

“Mr. Collins was standing out on the lawn watering the shrubbery. Quietly she crept up behind him, a low, mischievous laugh escaping her. Mr. Collins whipped about in surprise, nearly dropping the hose.

Seriously, hoses are being “whipped about” in Suzanne’s presence. Then, she takes a sloppy drink from his hose, and it’s like a PG-rated wet t-shirt contest.

I remember reading that chapter over and over, just fascinated by this overt sexuality. I was really, really sheltered growing up. I went to parochial school, and I never had Sex Ed or even a basic biology class in school. I found out what a period was from Sweet Valley Twins. My fourth-grade girl scout troop took us on a field trip to Tampa General Hospital, where we watched a video about becoming a woman. That was officially it for me for sex ed. Thank God for HBO and Skinemax, or I would have experienced some real embarassment.

When I was 16-ish, my (gay male) best friend and I befriended a girl who didn’t even have the luxury of sex ed vis a vis HBO/Skinemax. One day, she asked my BFF where her vagina was/is. You know you live in a repressed society when a gay dude is having to inform you where your vagina is.

But I digress. Mr. Collins dismisses Suzanne, but there’s some blushing and flushing on his part that gives Suzy hope that she can eventually play out her seduction scene. Her next opportunity comes when she goes to his house to baby-sit (in place of Elizabeth). He rebuffs her again, so she decides to tell everyone he attacked her. Seriously, how many books can we go without mention of some sort of male predation/ date rape?

It seems like everyone at Sweet Valley High has jumped on the “Collins is a creeper” band wagon. Even Elizabeth is torn. Et tu, Liz.

True Story: When I was in high school, my 10th grade English teacher was dating a student. (they later moved in together, while she was still a sophomore. Her mom was also a teacher at our school. Awkward) Anyway, the first thing I said when I heard this was, “Dude, that’s so lecherous….” I think I was channeling this book.

“‘Well, I believe it,’ said Cara, who was passing out sodas. ‘I’ve always thought he was the lecherous type. I’ve caught him looking at me more than once. Besides, he gave me a D on my last English essay.'”

“‘Mr. Collins! What did that lecherous creep tell you?'”

Luckily, Liz discovers that Suzy had stolen her lavaliere , so that must mean that Suzy is lying about Mr. Collins too. After a visit with Mr. Collins to sort everything out, Liz prepares for a showdown with Suzy at Lila’s party.

Liz confronts her about the stolen necklace first (obviously because the lavaliere is more important than Mr. Collins). Suzy denies it, of course, but mysteriously confesses all when Liz calls her a liar. (This is what I like to call the Murder-She-Wrote ending, because at the end of every episode of that show, Angela Landsbury would confront the killer with non-existent evidence, and said murderer would describe how they committed the crime, to the very last detail—thus, ensuring their downfall.) Liz vows to expose Suzanne for the liar she is, but Suzy is a force to be reckoned with. Before Liz can say anything, Suzy starts spreading a rumor that Liz hit her head in the pool and is acting all cray-zay, like when she was in the motorcycle accident.  That was especially devilish of you, Suzanne. You would have been my new hero if you could have taken out Mr. Collins and Liz within the span of one book.

Luckily, Winston heard Suzy’s confession, so he figures that he can expose her treachery by spilling a drink on her. (????) And it works, crazily enough. When Winston soils her, Suzy loses her cool and berates him. (If some idiot who had been stalking/harassing me for two weeks had ruined my white, Halston dress, I probably would have gone batshit crazy too.) Because of  Suzy’s momentary flash of bitchiness, everyone decides that she must be lying. This is the sort of black/white dichotomized world of false conditionals that Sweet Valley is built upon. And yet I still read. What does that say about me?

On the bright side, Suzy doesn’t have an epiphany and drink the Sweet-Valley-High, bad-girl-reformed Kool-Aid. (She will eventually, but that’s another story, a special edition called Special Christmas.) I don’t understand why Suzanne didn’t just embrace her bitchiness from the beginning, anyway. She wastes so much time and energy trying to get into the good graces of people she doesn’t give a shit about. In the end, she sort of just disappears, and we get Jessica back. Joy.

Jessica’s been co-headlining throughout with her NYC adventures. I feel like the entire book was pushing this small-town, middle-class morality while critiquing the big city and its resident bitches and tramps (post-structuralist, Marxist essay is forming in my head).

Anyway, Jessica has fallen for Suzanne’s older boyfriend, Pete. Jess obviously doesn’t remember what happened the last time she tried to hook up with an age-inappropriate man (i.e. Scott “Pornstache” Daniels in #5 All Night Long). Can wine coolers and bennies ever be far behind?

At first, Pete shows no interest at all, which only fans her flirtatious flame. Finally, he kisses her, which she is into until she realizes that he wants to do more than kiss. Cue the attempted date-rape. It’s actually a fairly threatening scene. There’s this sense that Pete is trying to teach her a lesson, that she can’t swim with the sharks or that she needs to go back to the kiddie pool of Sweet Valley. While Pete and Jess are in mid-grapple, the Devlins arrive at home for the night. Phew! Every few books, there seems to be a losing-virginity-by-force scare. Hmmm.

Perfect Size Six moment: “(Suzanne) was flawlessly proportioned, with legs that seemed to go on forever, and not an ounce of fat anywhere. Suddenly, Elizabeth felt self-conscious about her own lovely size-six figure.” If perfect-size-six Elizabeth Wakefield is feeling like a heifer, we should all just kill ourselves now.

My real-life advice to fictional authority figures: Students are not your friends. It bugs me every time Liz says that she and Mr. Collins are “close friends” (hence my often used tag, “Mr. Collins is inappropriate”). It’s not okay for students to pop over to your house. They shouldn’t even know where you live.

Nerdy English major moment: “‘Remember that book we all had to read in tenth-grade English – East of Eden? There was that beautiful girl, Cathy, who everyone thought was so sweet and wonderful.’

Elizabeth shivered as if caught in a sudden draft. She remembered the book well. It was one of her favorites.

‘And underneath Cathy was really rotten to the core,’ she finished for Todd. She wraped her arms around herself in an attempt to stop shivering. ‘But that was just a book. If someone was really like that, you’d know wouldn’t you?'”

lols at Todd for comparing Suzanne to a multiple murderer/ prostitute/ blackmailer/ brothel madame. He might want to reserve this judgement for when he actually meets a 16-year-old psycho path (oh hai, Margo)

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