Perfect Size Six

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!

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.

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