Perfect Size Six

May 12, 2016

#26 Hostage!

Can anyone save Regina Morrow?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 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.

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