Perfect Size Six

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.”

May 22, 2015

#1 Double Love

“Share the continuing story of the Wakefield twins and their friends- their laughter, heartaches, and dreams.”

Where, oh where, do I even start with this book? It seems like there are 137 different things going on, and so much of it is snark-able gold!

In honor of the book that started it all, I have a few embarrassing confessions about my lifelong love of Sweet Valley. 1) My driver’s license says I’m 5’6″, when in reality I’m 5’4″. 2) In seventh grade, I forgot that I had a book report due, so I did an impromptu retelling of Sweet Valley Super Thriller, Murder in Paradise. Yeah, that’s the one where an old acquaintance of Alice Wakefield’s plans to murder her and steal her face. It went over surprisingly well, and I got an A (and a warning that I needed to tackle more serious fare in the future). 3) My high school extreme diet regime was based on Robin Wilson’s in #4 Power Play. I did not, however, become a cheerleading co-captain or Olympic-calibre diver because of it. 4) My dream job was Sweet Valley ghostwriter. I now work at one of the top 100 high schools in America and wish it even mildly resembled Sweet Valley High.

giphysIn grand Perfect-Size-Six style, the book opens with  gorgeous Jessica Wakefield looking into a mirror and lamenting to her twin sister, Elizabeth, about what a fat, hideous beast she is.

“‘I’m so gross! Just look at me. Everything is totally wrong. To begin with, I’m disgustingly fat….’ With that, she spun around to show off a stunning figure without an extra ounce visible.”

Jessica and Liz are lusting after the same boy, basketball captain, all-around dream boat, Todd Wilkins. Jess actually does something about it and relentlessly pursues him. Liz alternates whimpering and pining for him, when she’s not sobbing on the shoulder of heart-throb teacher and Robert Redford-lookalike Mr. Collins.

Todd only has eyes for Liz, but that doesn’t do much to deter Jessica. After all, she’s the Jessica Wakefield. She can’t understand why Todd’s not interested. After one particularly pointed rebuff, Jess decides to walk saucily down the street in an effort to get some much-needed male attention. It takes approximately 1.37 seconds for tattooed, high-school dropout Rick Andover to pull up along side in his beat-up Camaro. And he wins her over with the following pick-up line.

“‘Pardon me, Heaven–which way to Mars?'”

giphy4Just, ugh. Jessica agrees to go on a date with him the next night, but she’s ill-prepared to deal with Sweet Valley’s resident bad boy. He takes her to Kelly’s a wild, Roadhouse-type bar, and he gets drunk in ten minutes off Boilermakers. (Yeah, this is totally not a 17-year-old boy drink.) A fight breaks out, the police are called, and Jessica has to be escorted home by a local patrolman, who thinks she’s his niece’s friend, Elizabeth. Jessica does not correct him. *Shocker* Unfortunately, school gossip and Wakefield neighbor Caroline Pearce witnesses the Sweet Valley Police Department bringing “Elizabeth” home, and she promptly tells every one at Sweet Valley High.

For some reason everybody believes that old, reliable Elizabeth Wakefield is now a tramp and capable of being involved in a bar fight. (It seems totally far fetched, but Liz does become a “tramp” just a mere 6 books later after a motorcycle accident-induced head injury. So I guess for Sweet Valley this isn’t so far fetched?)

And Liz is just abso-fucking-lutely dense throughout the entire book. She doesn’t demand that Jessica tell everyone the truth and clear her name. Her philosophy is basically, if they would believe these lies, then they’re not her friends anyway. How noble truths of you, Liz.

Jessica actually has a rare flash of guilt and admits the truth to Todd, and he thinks she’s trying to be some sort of martyr and take the blame for Elizabeth. So he kisses her and asks her to the fraternity dance. Soon, the walls of Sweet Valley are buzzing with the news of their coupling.

3a17331a7810f3eda4aacae2aa5f2828Jessica’s really fucking pleased with herself…until the fateful night of the dance. Todd just isn’t that into her, and he politely declines her near-constant advances. Plus, he stares at Elizabeth throughout the night, which, of course, is unforgivable. Being the budding psychopath that she is, Jessica will not be ignored, so she schemes to punish Todd and keep him away from Elizabeth. She tears at her clothes, makes herself generally disheveled, and cries (attempted) rape. Now, Elizabeth thinks Todd is some date-rapey creep, and Todd still thinks Liz is some Roadhouse Rhonda.

A week or so passes, Liz is wallowing in self-pity about her broken heart. (Oh my God, Liz, you never even dated the dude. Get over it!) One day, she and Jessica are driving the Fiat, and a car starts following them. When they stop at a light, none other than a drunk Rick Andover pulls up along side the Wakefield Fiat and carjacks them! (I guess he just leaves his car at the light? Also, why doesn’t Rick get arrested for carjacking/kidnapping/dui/assault?) He takes the terrified twosome on a drunken tour of Sweet Valley, including through the Dairiburger parking lot, where Todd just happens to be standing. He somehow sees the terrified looks on Liz and Jess’ faces and follows them in his Datsun.

For some reason, Rick is taking them to Kelly’s. (I guess to do a little day drinking.) Todd pulls his POS car in front of the entrance, blocking it. Rick sucker punches him, but Todd takes him out with a flurry of gut punches. Liz and Todd reignite their relationship after they realize that Jess is a liar.

giphy-3B-Plot: Sweet Valley High’s lease on the football field has expired, so the two wealthiest families in town are waging a legal battle for property rights. The new-money Fowlers want to build a computer-chip factory. The old-money Patmans want to restore the football field to its former glory as a Victorian garden. Blame it on my bourgeois upbringing, but I still really don’t get the old money vs new money hullaballoo. Money is money is money.

The twin’s father, lawyer extraordinaire Ned Wakefield, is leading the charge for the status quo. As he spends more and more time on the case, the twins come to believe that he is having an affair with his co-counsel, Marianna West. Their only evidence? 1) Marianna and Ned having been working overtime on a case. 2) Marianna is beautiful, and (most convincingly) 3) Marianna is a divorcee! Apparently ridding yourself of a failed marriage puts you on the next train to Whore-ville.

Of course, the only merger between Wakefield/West is in the boardroom, as Marianna (with Ned’s help) has become a partner in the firm. With that crisis averted, Jess and Liz are free to meddle in the love life of their brother, Steven. Jess discovers somehow that he is dating Betsy Martin, the trashiest girl in Sweet Valley and the undisputed queen of the dregs! Steven’s really dating her sister, Tricia, who is more like the goodwill ambassador of the dregs.

Their relationship is on the rocks, though, because Steven is embarrassed of Tricia’s family and won’t tell any one he’s dating her. After a weekend of moping, Steven realizes he’s been a grade-A jerk and races to the bad part of town to get his girl.

TouchofthepoetEnglish Major Moment: “And right above the table was a theater poster of Jason Robards in A Touch of the Poet. She didn’t think she would ever be as good a writer as Eugene O’Neill, but it was a terrific-looking poster—and she was, after all, a writer.”

(Hey, some enterprising Sweet Valley fan posted a pdf link to read the entire book, which you can access here.)

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.”

September 15, 2010

#19 Showdown (or Hoe-down)

“Jessica and Lila are in love with the same boy!”

Boyfriend stealing is pretty routine for Sweet Valley. I would dare say the franchise seems to be built upon it. It seems like in every book we have different girls duking it out for the affections of some high school loser, with a few little plot tweaks here and there to convince us that this is a brand new story.

The usual boyfriend-stealing culprit, of course, is our twin who’s built for sin, Jessica Wakefield. She has squared off with Enid, DeeDee, her own twin sister, and presumably every other reasonably attractive teen girl at SVH for the affections of anyone with an XY chromosome in Sweet Valley and beyond. Now, Jess has reached a new low and is going after her best friend, Lila Fowler’s, man. This is the first of what will be many  showdowns between Jess and Lila, who are totally the original Frenemies.

See, Lila has picked up a construction worker named Jack at her dad’s office, because she thinks that he’s some diamond in the rough. Unlike a traditional man in the construction trade, Jack is hot, gentlemanly, cultured, and clad in the de rigeur preppy basics. Plus, he doesn’t like to talk about his past, which only ups his cool points with Lila. These Sweet Valley girls love a mystery— almost as much as they love inappropriate men. Bonuses for both.

Lila makes the mistake of throwing a pool party to show off Jack to all her Sweet Valley High classmates. Jessica immediately zeroes in on the hot newcomer, and she does her patented Wakefield dive (in a string bikini) to get his attention. Great continuity there, SVH ghostwriter. Besides her trademark jiggle-walk, the bikini flip is Jessica’s signature seduction move. Seeing it is like an initiation ritual for all the new guys in town. Welcome to Sweet Valley, boys!

As Jess’ best friend, Lila knows all too well what that dive means. Lila spends most of the party trying to prevent Jessica from sinking her claws into Jack. Unfortunately, Jess is like the Energizer Bunny of boyfriend stealers mixed with some Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She won’t be ignored!

Lila does some scheming of her own. She thinks that Jess will back off if she finds out about Jack’s not-so-glamorous day-job. And she’s right! Jess avoids Jack for the remainder of the party, but then she decides he must be secretly fabulous. When Lila leaves Jack’s side for 1.37 seconds, Jess slips him her phone number. Game on!

After the party’s over, Lila presses Jack for information about his background. He says that he’s from a wealthy family, but he’s trying to be independent and make a fortune of his own. Lila has visions of Vanderbilts and Dukes and East-coast royalty running through her head. She’s so excited about Jack’s newly-revealed prominence that she makes the mistake of telling Cara Walker. The next day, everyone in Sweet Valley knows about Jack’s background, and Jessica becomes even more obsessed with stealing him from Lila.

When Jack calls to ask Jessica out, she thinks that he has chosen her to be his one and only. Well, Jack is a cad, and he sees Jess during the week and Lila on the weekends. Lila is totally unaware of this sketchiness. Jess becomes fully aware, and she tolerates Jack’s double-dipping because she thinks he will be dumping Lila any day now. Yes, Jessica is a bitch. What else is new?

Lila is still blissfully ignorant of Jack’s two-timing, and they even become secretly engaged. Oh, Lila. We all know something bad is going to happen. In an ordinary world, Jack would be exposed as the lying, cheating douche bag that he really is. But this is Sweet Valley. Our standards for an exposee run heavy on the melodramatic side.

Nicholas Morrow and his friend from out of town recognize Jack as one of their former classmates. Even though Jack went to school with them, he isn’t rich. (Yes, the book hammers the point home that Jack is an East-coast dreg.) Jack lied to everyone there about his family and past. Then, he couldn’t handle his own lies, so he became a druggie. (WTF?) Jack then causes his downfall by robbing his date at knife point, which results in his expulsion from school. (???) That is the stupidest shit I’ve ever heard.

Meanwhile, while this ridiculous story is being told to Liz, Jess goes over to Jack’s house, intent on discovering all his secrets. She naturally starts in the bathroom. She rifles through every drawer and cabinet, trying to dig up something revelatory about Jack’s past. Well, her plan sort of works, but instead of finding out that Jack is a Vanderbilt heir,  she finds a cache of drugs and paraphernalia. Lots and lots of drugs, in fact. Being the dumbass that she is, Jessica grabs the box o’ pills and goes to confront the druggie. When she storms out of the bathroom, she finds Jack in the process of stealing her wallet. Haha!

Because drugs are bad (Mmmkay), Jack transforms into a menacing psycho (armed with a kitchen knife). Luckily, the cavalry arrives, and Jessica is saved. Per usual, she hasn’t learned anything, and no one calls her on her bullshit. Not even Lila! In the next book, Jessica is forgiven in the span of about a paragraph. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” What about, “Fool me 137 times, shame on …?”

Lila really gets the shaft (no pun intended) in the boyfriend area. Offhand, I can’t recall any meaningful or long-term relationships (Robbie Gordon, maybe). And she has to deal with a would-be rapist in #90  Don’t Go Home With John.

B-Plot– Penny Ayala has mono, so Liz is running the Oracle. Snooze alert. Well,  during her tenure, someone starts submitting photographs anonymously to the Oracle office, and Liz vows to discovers who the mystery photographer is. (It’s Penny’s sister, Tina) Things finally  take an interesting turn when one of the photos shows Enid’s boyfriend, George, passionately kissing former-fattie, Robin Wilson. Once again, it’s open season on monogamy at Sweet Valley High.

English Major Moment: “Jessica lounged beside the Wakefields’ pool, an open copy of Strindberg’s Miss Julie next to her. She had balked at first when they’d been assigned the play in English class, but to her surprise it was turning out to be pretty good. Miss Julie was a fascinating character as far as Jessica was concerned. Rotten, but fascinating.”

Well played, SVH ghostwriter. Miss Julie traces the relationship between a wealthy young woman and one of the servants. Think class struggle and battle of the sexes.

Perfect-Size-Six moment: “Eagerly Penny picked up Robin’s article and began to read. ‘Hey, this is really good!’ she observed. ‘I didn’t know Robin could write like this.’

She used to write all the time,’ Elizabeth explained, ‘before she lost all that weight. Remember? When she was the butt of everyone’s jokes instead of the girl all the boys want to date?’

Penny nodded her head.

‘She used to write because she needed some kind of outlet, a bit of comfort,’ Elizabeth continued. ‘Then when her life did that turnaround and she got onto the cheering squad and everything, she gave it up. I’m trying to encourage her to start again.'”

Oh, isn’t it wonderful that Robin lost a million pounds and no longer has to write about how shitty it is to be overweight in Sweet Valley? Now, she can focus on more important things…like stealing Enid’s boyfriend. You have arrived at last, Robin Wilson.

August 22, 2010

#15 Promises (Be Damned)

“Somehow, Jessica will get rid of Betsy!”

On the cover we get our first look at the notorious Betsy Martin, who is the reigning slut of Sweet Valley, now that Annie Whitman’s been deposed.  She’s a lot less whorish looking than I expected.  There’s also a vague resemblance to Annie, which I think is mostly due to the short hair and the persecuted expression on her face. For an alleged boozer, user, and loser, Betsy looks 137 kinds of normal. In fact, she looks like she moonlights as a chambermaid at the Sweet Valley Hilton.

You wouldn’t know it by the cover, but Tricia Martin has breathed her last fragile breath. The deathbed scene is pretty poignant for Sweet Valley, and I did shed a few tears. Tricia’s last request is for Steven to look after her sister, Betsy (hence the title). We learn just how tall an order this is when we finally meet the queen of the dregs. Moments after Tricia’s death, Betsy races into the hospital, screaming at the top of her lungs. While Tricia’s emotional death bed scene played out, Betsy was off drinking and cavorting with the dregs of Sweet Valley. She has a breakdown when she learns that Tricia has died, and she vows to clean up her life for good.

Since Mr. Martin, the town drunk, is nowhere to be found, the Wakefields bring Betsy home, much to Jessica’s chagrin. In 1.37 seconds, Jessica goes from mourning to her usual bitch mode, and she “promises” to get Betsy out of their lives for good. Nice play on the title, SVH ghostwriter.

As we’ve been repeatedly told before, Betsy has a “reputation,” so Jessica doesn’t want to be associated with her in the slightest. Apparently, Jessica has learned nothing from the Annie Whitman incident in #10 Wrong Kind of Girl, where Jessica’s antics give rise to Annie’s suicide attempt.

I think what irritated me the most was that hardly any one in Sweet Valley gives a shit about Tricia’s death. At lunch the next day, Enid and Liz briefly discuss it…until Winston decides to have a one-man eating contest with four pizzas. This sets up an especially lame B-plot, where Winston attempts to break the world record for eating pizzas. Yes, the students of Sweet Valley High care more about some doofus’ gorging than the death of one of their own. What collective assholes. They totally deserve the earthquake that’s coming to them some 100+ books later.

To add insult to injury, hardly anyone comes to Tricia’s funeral. I can understand why Betsy began to reevaluate the reformed life. Tricia was an impossibly good human being, she dies, and no one cares. What hope is there for someone like Betsy? Oh, that’s right. She can become like Enid Rollins, the patron saint of reformed losers. Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather make time at the Shady Lady with all the other dregs. (Can we go one book without dredging up Enid’s “sordid” past?)

“(Elizabeth) was solemn as she stood near the front of the shamefully small group of people who had come to pay their last respects to Tricia Martin. Some of the Sweet Valley High teachers were there, a handful of Tricia’s classmates, and a few others. Betsy alone represented the Martin family. No other relatives had gathered for bittersweet reminiscences; no one had come to bestow one final declaration of love.”

Liz discovers that Betsy is an exceptional artist, so Steven gives her some painting supplies and tries to encourage her. He introduces Betsy to his friend, Jason, who teaches art classes at the community center. For someone who is supposedly such a man-chasing whore, Betsy has a pretty intense hatred of anyone with an X-Y chromosome, who isn’t Steven Wakefield. Jason has the misfortune of falling for Betsy. It just makes no sense within the context of their meeting. Betsy alternately ignores Jason and tells him that she’s not the slutty Betsy of yore.  It is majorly cringe-inducing how harsh she is to him, repeatedly.

“Betsy instantly recoiled from his touch, and the hard look was back in her eyes. ‘Don’t forget that this is purely a student-teacher relationship,’ she said, an icy edge to her voice. ‘It’s not going any further. So you can forget all those things you’ve heard about me. I’m not like that anymore.'”

Seriously, not every dude in Sweet Valley wants to pump you and dump you, Betsy. Maybe if she would stop continuously reminding people that she was a teenage whore, people would  stop associating her with teenage whoredom. Like with Jason, Betsy is telling someone she’s never met, who probably has no clue about the innerworkings of Sweet Valley High, about her seedy reputation. As a college student/artist, Jason should be a lot more chill about sexual mores than the denizens of Sweet Valley. I don’t know. I literally just cringe throughout these books with “slut” and “bad reputation” themes, especially since there’s no really overt references to sex. Jessica mentions that Betsy has gone to Miller Point with two guys before. Scandalous! What did Betsy do with them? Maybe they looked at the stars and discussed the meaningless of meaning.

But I digress. Jason wants Betsy to apply for art school, which I’m pretty sure would require at bare minimum a G.E.D. that high school drop out Betsy does not possess. *Suspension of disbelief* Betsy thinks that Jason only wants to nurture her art talent, so that he can nurture her in other ways. *wink, wink* Liz, Stephen, and Jason decided to enter her in the contest without her knowledge, and she wins a full-ride to some prestigious art school in L.A. That was a short admissions process.

Meanwhile, Jessica has overheard Steven telling the Wakefields about his deathbed promise to Tricia to take care of Betsy. Then, it all makes sense. Why else would Steven be a decent human being to Betsy? Jessica deftly weaves this tidbit into a conversation with Betsy, which sends her reeling back into whoreville. Betsy was under the impression that the Wakefields really cared about her, which they do, sort of, but Betsy never would have gained entrance into Wakefield manor if it weren’t for Tricia. They don’t run a half-way house, so I can’t understand why Betsy goes nuclear after Jessica’s admission.

Betsy packs up her shit and heads to the Shady Lady with “Crunch” Mcallister and Charlie Cashman. Good times–except her heart’s not really into it. Steven and Jason descend upon the bar, and Betsy tries to pretend that she’s reverted back to her whorish ways. Instead of leaving her to her own devices, Steven and Jason forcefully remove her from the Shady Lady. See, Jason is an art student/ brown belt in karate, and Betsy falls in love with him when he dropkicks Charlie and Crunch. Sweet Valley girls love their rough and tumble boys. (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Wakefield)

Armed with her art-school admission and her new man, Betsy becomes yet another reformed bad girl of Sweet Valley High. Another one bites the dust. Stay tuned, readers because another one bites the dust literally in our next book #16 Rags to Riches. The Death-a-palooza continues as Roger Barrett’s mom has a heart attack and dies. Judging by the next cover, he doesn’t look too broken up about it. Et tu, Roger.

August 18, 2010

#13 Kidnapped!

“Elizabeth’s nightmare is about to begin….”

You know this is serious business because Liz’s trademark “O” face has reemerged. (Stay tuned for my many “O”-faces of Liz collage in this recap. You’re welcome.) Props yet again to James Mathewuse, who did most of the SVH covers. He really captures the spirit of, “O hey, I’m about to get chloroformed by some creeper in a van.”

That mysterious hand reaching out for Liz belongs to Carl, a “husky***” janitor at Fowler Memorial Hospital where Liz has been volunteering.  She was nice to him once, so he falls madly in love with her-emphasis on the mad, as in crazy.

He kidnaps her from the parking lot of the hospital after one of her shifts and transports her via van to his home in the outerlands of Sweet Valley. (Unfortunately, there is no Stockholm syndrome for our dear Lizzie. That would have been an amazing plot–Patty Hearst meets #13 Kidnapped! meets #82 Kidnapped by the Cult! If only I could have been an SVH ghostwriter…). This book is a lot less thrilling than I remember. Maybe, it’s because I’ve been exposed to all the perils of real kidnappings. Except for the whole chloroform thing, Carl seems pretty harmless. He doesn’t want to torture her or turn her into a sex slave. His grand plan involves them living secluded in the mountains. As far as Sweet Valley psychos go, he’s pretty tame.

It takes the denizens of Sweet Valley awhile to realize that  Elizabeth is missing—due to Jessica, of course. See, the night of Liz’s kidnapping is also the night of a fabulous soiree at the Morrow manor. The Morrows, a new, uber-wealthy family, has moved to town, and they’re throwing this shindig to introduce themselves. And Jessica will do anything to “introduce” herself first to the fresh meat, Nicholas Morrow. Jess is supposed to wait for her sister but catches a ride with Cara Walker. Hours pass, and Jess still hasn’t concerned herself with Liz’s disappearance. When Todd confronts her about it, she lies and says Liz is baby-sitting for Mr. Collins.

Todd decides to call Mr. Collins to verify, and *surprise* to no one, Jessica was lying. (Sidenote: why would a student have a teacher’s home phone number?). Then, Todd pushes Jess into the pool before he confronts her. Nice waste of valuable time, Todd. After discovering Liz isn’t at home either, Todd and Jess leave the party and finally go into panic mode once they reach the Wakefields. After they exhaust all the leads on Liz’s possible whereabouts, they decide to call the most incompetent fictional police department of all time.

The Sweet Valley PD can’t comprehend a kidnapping on their idyllic turf, so they hypothesize that Liz ran away—never mind all the evidence to the contrary. 1) She leaves her keys in the ignition 2) Her purse is still in the car and 3) The car door is open. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out. Instead of pursuing credible leads, they arrest Max Dellon, lead guitarist for the Droids. Due to her ill-timed kidnapping, Elizabeth missed her tutoring appointment with Max. He got worried and went to the hospital to look for her. When he got there, he noticed the aforementioned signs of kidnapping and decided to rifle through Liz’s car instead of calling the police. Max is so busy snooping that he doesn’t notice that the cops have arrived to investigate. He almost deserves to be arrested for being so stupid.

Max is quickly released, but there’s this cloud of suspicion forming since he’s already known as a quasi-bad ass (for Sweet Valley, anyway). Todd confronts him, then punches him, then decides to work with him to help find Liz (all in the span of a page). Todd, Jessica, and Max head to the scene of the crime–Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital–to look for clues. Carl sees Jessica, thinks she is Elizabeth, and pushes her against the wall with a laundry cart. I’m pretty sure that the book has portrayed him as so stupid that he can’t understand the concept of twins. Fast forward a bit, and Carl is singing like a canary to the SVPD. The cops, with Jessica and Todd as backup apparently, rush into Carl’s home and save Elizabeth.

Disability at Sweet Valley High: One of my major fields of interest in literature/criticism is disability studies. This book introduces the infamous Regina Morrow, who is currently deaf. (She will soon be un-deaf by way of miraculous Swiss treatments and then soon after that will be dead from a single line of coke). She’s our go-to victim, waiting in the wings—-to be activated upon the imminent demise of our current go-to victim, Tricia Martin. Anyway, Jessica doesn’t quite get that people like her can be disabled.

“The stumble, the lack of response to Jessica–It was only natural to conclude that the Morrow girl was drunk.”

Drunk, deaf–same dif.

Perfect Size Six moment: This is the first overweight male we’ve seen in Sweet Valley. Of course, he’s deranged and illiterate and has a menial labor job, but compare the repeated references to his larger size (“stocky,” “husky,” and “heavyset” ) to say the description of a pre-anorexic Robin Wilson (“tubby”, “fatso”, “Queen Mary”). Methinks I see some gender disparities.

English major moment: “(Max) had no idea what he’d been reading. Although the book was written in English-it was Shakespeare’s Othello– for all he’d been able to understand, it might have been written in another language.

‘Sir, he is rash and very sudden in choler and haply with his truncheon may strike at you.’ Max read the words again and shook his head in confusion. No one he knew talked like that. He felt it was terribly unfair of Mr. Collins to expect him to know what it meant, let alone why Iago bothered to say it in the first place.”

The random literature reference should totally have been Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. The scene where Carl is stroking Elizabeth’s hair seems like an ode to Men‘s Lennie, the hulking, mentally-challenged farmhand who likes petting soft things.

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 7, 2010

#9 Racing Hearts (or Ew, Get Your Poverty Cooties Away From Me!)

Filed under: Books #1-20 — mediumcore @ 10:34 pm
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“Can Roger melt Lila’s icy heart?”

Even the prolonged appearance of Lila can’t save this book. It’s just bad, and not the good kind of bad that I usually associate with Sweet Valley. It is embarrassingly, shamefully, odorously bad, which means that this should be an awesome review, I hope.

The boy on the cover wanting to put a blowtorch to Lila’s icy heart is Roger Barrett. It’s not so much that Lila’s heart is icy. She just has very definite ideas of what she’s looking for in a boyfriend, and Roger doesn’t fit her heightened ideal. As we learned in the last book, Roger Barrett is POOR!!! (the worst four-letter-word in Sweet Valley), and he’s had a hopeless crush for years on Lila, the wealthiest girl in town.

Roger would normally be relegated to the Shady Lady with the rest of the dregs of Sweet Valley, but he has a slightly socially redeeming work ethic (only slightly). He’s a night janitor at the office building where Mr. Wakefield has his law practice. Roger’s boss is a shrewish man who makes him work 4-9 M-Fri and all day Saturday, which precludes him from having a life. Apparently, no one else at Sweet Valley High has to work.

Anyway, the book centers around the annual “Barton Ames Memorial Mile” race (BART, for short). Whoever wins the BART wins a scholarship to Sweet Valley college, so Liz and Olivia obnoxiously try to wave the winning prize at him like a snausage treat, since he’s POOR and desperately needs it. Besides browbeating us with Roger’s poverty, the ghostwriter likes to reiterate that Roger wants to be a doctor.

As a joke, Lila uses her overwhelming powers of persuasion to convince Roger to run at the trials for the BART race. He ends up winning and upstages Bruce Patman (yes!).

There’s this really depressingly bad scene where the principal, “Chrome Dome” Cooper,  gives Roger a Sweet Valley High sweat suit. Roger has always wanted one, but they cost $30 that he doesn’t have. After he puts it on, he is magically transformed into a dateable male. (I can’t ever see Lila Fowler dating someone who wears a tracksuit.) Au contraire,  I guess, because Lila is in full on, get-her-man mode.

Roger’s trying to soak up all the glory he can before he has to go back to his drab life. He knows he can’t run in the BART, because he can’t take off from work. He knows Lila is going to dump him hard when she finds out he’s a janitor. 99 problems, Roger.

You know what that means, I’m sure. Enter Elizabeth Wakefield to save the day. (Gag.) She gets Daddy Wakefield to throw some legalese at Roger’s boss. It turns out that said boss is breaking workplace laws about vacation and sick time. He begrudgingly gives Roger the time off to run his race.

Roger comes clean to Lila about his less-than-glamorous job as a janitor, and she dumps him cold as expected. When Roger wins the BART, Lila comes crawling back to repair their relationship (also extremely out of character for her.) It’s too late, however, because Roger has realized he loves Olivia. Meh.

Olivia and Roger are one of my least favorite couples in Sweet Valleydom. I think the SVH ghostwriter just thought that the girl who shops at thrift stores and the poor boy with raggedy clothes seemed liked an obvious match. It definitely reeks of trying too hard.

B-plot (I almost forgot): After the Splendor in the Grass fiasco, Jessica decides she needs to seriously look at her future  (ha!). She gets a job working with Daddy Wakefield at his law firm. She’s ready to climb the walls after 10 minutes, but then she meets a cute (and appropriately vanilla) boy helping his dad out next door. Yawn. Everything is going great, until Jessica discovers that he’s only 15, so she dumps him. Seriously, what’s the big deal with a 1 year difference? She’s acting like she’s some sort of cougar or something. Get over it.

(Hey! I decided that I’m going to start reviewing all the Sweet Valley High books in order, so up next will be #11 Too Good To Be True–one of my all-time favorites. I’ve already reviewed #10 Wrong Kind of Girl (another fav).

August 2, 2010

#6 Dangerous Love (or Making Mountains out of Motorcycles)

“Are Elizabeth and Todd heading for disaster?”

When I was a kid, reading Sweet Valley High books out-of-order, ten years after their initial publication date, always took the edge off these cliff-hangers. Liz and Todd fans, have no fear, things don’t start getting real until #23 Say Goodbye. Everything else is just ebb and flow.

Todd and Liz’s crisis du jour revolves around  a motorcycle. Yes, Liz is having serious anxiety over an inanimate object. See, Liz’s cousin, Rexy, died in a moto accident, so there is a blanket cycle ban in effect for all of the Wakefields.

Unfortunately, Todd has realized that he is really a bad-ass biker at heart (ha!), and he wants Liz to be his “motorcycle mama.” Yes, he really uses “Liz” and “motorcycle mama” in the same breath.

Liz hasn’t told Todd about the death of her cousin, because she’s afraid that Todd will choose the bike over her (and who among us would blame him really?). Maybe it’s my dirty adult mind, but I feel like there’s some quasi-hidden sexual agenda here. Liz won’t ride Todd’s bike, but Mandy and Enid will! And they love it too…so exciting, so exhilarating!

Phallic imagery lols: “Elizabeth looked back at the bike. She wished she could share Todd’s joy, but she couldn’t imagine how he could be relaxed and comfortable and enjoy the view when his life depended on being able to balance five hundred pounds between his legs at fifty-five miles per hour.”

This is what four years of college gets you. My mother would be so proud that I’m filtering Sweet Valley High through a Freudian lens.

Seriously, though, Liz works herself up over the dumbest things. She really starts thinking that the way to Todd’s heart is through his Yamaha (actual model, pictured at right). She and Todd both realize how stupid they’re being, in part because of my favorite Sweet Valley male character, Guy Chesney. Liz accepts a ride from Guy, who subtly (for Sweet Valley, anyway) hits on her. Todd becomes enraged/jealous, and now he knows how Liz feels. Relationship crisis averted.

Now, it’s time for Enid’s Sweet Sixteen party. Cue more drama. Jess ditches Liz to hang out with Enid’s cousin, Brian, so Liz decides to take a spin with Todd. Knowing that the bike was causing a strain on their relationship, Todd decides to sell it to Jerry “Crunch” Mcallister, high-school drop out/ frequenter of the Shady Lady bar. (Any time one of the dregs of Sweet Valley is mentioned, that means something really, really shitty is going to happen.) Liz is so touched by Todd’s gesture that she insists on going for a farewell ride.

Unfortunately for them, “Crunch” Mcallister is taking a drunken farewell ride of his own. (Sweet Valley must have the highest rates of DUI with death/bodily injury of any fictitious series.) Of course, there is a dramatic crash, and Liz’s life hangs in the balance. The book ends with Todd and Jessica squeezing a comatose Liz’s hands as hard as possible (???). This doesn’t  seem medically advisable. Maybe, that’s what causes Liz’s brief personality disorder in the next book, #7 Dear Sister.

But wait there’s more….Inaugural edition of “Mr. Collins is extremely inappropriate”

I know he looks like a young Robert Redford, but Mr. Collins is still a creeper. I had a couple of teachers like him in high school— one was fired and the other arrested for similar personal relationships that got out of hand. (Another dude did marry said student, so one happy ending, I guess. My high school had 90 something graduates, so do the math on the inappropriateness.)

Here are some examples of Mr. Collins’ creepiness:

1) “(Liz) was well aware of the divorce Mr. Collins had gone through and how his encounters with his ex-wife regarding their son left him emotionally drained.”

Why is he talking about his personal life at all—let alone his baby mama drama—with a student? I doubt that Sweet Valley has endorsed the field of psychoanalysis/psychotherapy, but LA is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

2) What is Mr. Collins doing at Enid’s sweet-sixteen party? The ghostwriter tries to explain it away by saying he’s chaperoning the after-party at a rock club, but I still say shenanigans. Maybe, if this were Liz’s party, I could sort of/kind of excuse it, but this is Enid, who has had no discernible relationship with him.

July 28, 2010

#2 Secrets

“What Jessica wants, Jessica gets–even if someone gets hurt!”

Oooh, how mafioso sounding.  Jessica wants to be queen of the fall dance, and she will cut any bitch (metaphorically speaking) who gets in her way. Jess has decided that Enid “the drip” Rollins is her biggest competition. (Is this a joke? Are her next greatest foes Caroline Pearce and Lois Waller?) Jess believes Enid is a threat because she’s dating committee chair-boy and all-around asshole, Ronnie Edwards (more on this d-bag later).

Jessica decides that she just has to be the fall queen because Bruce Patman is a shoo-in for king. Per Sweet Valley tradition, the king and queen attend all subsequent school events and activities together. Jess has been creepily in love with Bruce since freshman year, and she is salivating over all this potential alone time for the two of them. As of yet, Bruce has remained immune to her feminine hover charms.

To become queen, Jessica must destroy Enid Rollins. Jess hates her anyway because she’s Liz’s new best friend. Plus, Enid was Jess’ friend first, but she preferred Liz’s company. Oooh, burn. That was an interesting turn. It explains all the hostility on Jess’ part.

Enid, meanwhile, is having an existential crisis. See, the Enid Rollins that we all know is a sham. Before she was miss goody-two-shoes second in command, Enid was a felonious druggie! After her parents divorced, she turned to crime and drugs for comfort. (more divorce propaganda, SV ghostwriter?) Anyway, she and her partner in crime, George Warren, continued with the debauchery until they were involved in a DUI, where they almost killed a little boy.

After that, Enid went straight (perhaps too straight) and became the wet blanket we all know and loathe today. George Warren was shipped out of town, but he has managed to turn his life around. He and Enid have been exchanging harmless letters, and Enid is terrified that Ronnie will find out about George and her previous shadiness.

“‘Dear Enid’ she read with a sudden, voracious interest. ‘Been so down lately. I can’t seem to get my head on straight the way you have. I can’t stop thinking about the past and trying to figure out how it snowballed so quickly. It’s like the time we took all those bennies, and before we knew it we were cooking along in the GTO doing eighty or ninety…'”

How does no one in Sweet Valley know about Enid’s sordid past?  I would think that two teenagers all hopped up on “bennies,” nearly killing a little boy would be front page news and primo gossip for these busybodies.

So Enid brings George’s letters and tells all to Liz, who is surprisingly non-judgmental. She urges her to explain the situation to Ronnie, thinking that he would understand, but Ronnie is a grade-A douchebag. His mom cheated on his dad at some point (divorce propaganda, part deux), so he has been soured on the whole of womankind. He yells at Enid when she even looks at another dude. No one seems to bat an eye at how unhealthy this relationship is.

Meanwhile, Jess discovers one of Enid’s letters detailing her drug-fueled past and sees it as the perfect opportunity to destroy Enid. Jess photocopies the letter and puts it in Ronnie’s locker. Ronnie reads it and seethes. He waits to confront Enid at notorious make-out spot, Miller’s Point. Enid is now whore #1 to him, so he roughly makes out with her and then calls her out on her past and her relationship with George Warren.

“‘What’s the matter?’ Ronnie growled. ‘I don’t rate up there with old Georgie-boy? You’re not going to give me any of the same stuff you’re giving him?'”

I’ll let that comment speak for itself. By the next day, every one in school knows, and Enid blames Liz for leaking the letter. (Misery’s about to have some company, though.)

French teacher extraordinaire, Ms. Dalton, is dating Mr. Fowler, which doesn’t sit well with his daughter, Lila, Sweet Valley High’s resident Head-Bitch-In-Charge. I actually agree with Lila on this one. It is extremely unprofessional to date the parent of one of your students. Ms. Dalton doesn’t appear to give a fuck that Lila is bothered by the Fowler/Dalton coupling. Plus, Lila’s pseudo-boyfriend for this book, Ken Matthews, is publicly crushing on La Dalton (embarrassing!), so while not excusable, it’s understandable that Lila is a bit pissy.

She suggests to gossip-mongrel, Cara Walker, that Ken’s lusting for Ms. Dalton is mutual, and before you know it, all of Sweet Valley is a-twitter with news of their affair. Scandalous! Between this and Bennie-gate ’83, Sweet Valley High is piddling itself with excitement. The hilarity culminates in the following gem written on Ms. Dalton’s blackboard:

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A FRENCH KISS IS, ASK KEN MATTHEWS.

Sweet Valley teenagers, like their real-world counterparts, are assholes en masse. Two points for ballsiness. Minus two for lameness. Let me help you out, Sweet Valley simpletons. Try, “Ken sees Paris, Ken sees France, Ken sees Ms. Dalton’s underpants.” It has a more visceral quality to it, for a PG taunt. My favorite moment of the book is the invocation of liberalism, feminism, and “women’s rights” by our resident boho hippie, Olivia. Feminism through the Sweet Valley lens.

“‘It’s the law of human nature,’ put in Olivia Davidson, who worked with Elizabeth on the paper and was known for her liberal views on every subject from nuclear war to organic foods. She was especially big these days on women’s rights. ‘A woman doesn’t reach her peak until she’s in her thirties. Men are practically burned out by then. So it makes sense, really, when you think about it.'”

Women have the right to fuck younger guys, y’all, especially underage ones. Isn’t that what the women’s rights movement is all about?  I love all of this specious reasoning on Olivia’s part and the vague idea of sexual peaking.

Enid, you are getting outshone in your own story. She’s been moping around for the last few chapters, and she desperately wants to ask Ms. Dalton for advice. (Honey, she’s got enough problems of her own.) Since Ms. Dalton has gone into hiding,  Enid naturally shows up at her apartment unannounced. (Ms. Dalton’s got a case of the Mr. Collins–boundary issues.) Students shouldn’t know where teachers live and show up willy nilly. Anyway, Enid and Ms. Dalton  bond over their similar misfortunes, and they both decided to face their problems head on. Since this is Sweet Valley, that means they’re going to the big dance!

While Enid is getting ready, none other than George Warren shows up to escort her. Rehab has done a body good, because he’s now a certified hunk. Enid goes to the dance and makes up with Liz. Ms. Dalton shows up and makes time with Mr. Collins. (What a perfectly inappropriate couple.)

Liz gets revenge on Jess for the whole letter kerfluffle. She tells the biggest gossip in school  that Jessica has fallen for the class nerd, Winston Egbert, and wants him to be her fall king. Now, Jess is poised to be spending countless hours at Winston’s side. She threatens to quit, but Liz threatens to expose what Jess did to Enid if she does. Ah, the student is now the master–nice Liz moment.

English major moment:“Elizabeth looked up from the paper on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar she was working on, then went back to it,

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of Enid,’ she unconsciously copied. She scratched out Enid’s name and corrected it to ‘earth.'”

Elizabeth even mopes pretentiously. Et tu, Liz…

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