Perfect Size Six

December 5, 2016

#29 Bitter Rivals

Filed under: Books #21-40 — mediumcore @ 7:12 pm
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“Will Elizabeth be forced to choose between Amy and Enid?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

September 27, 2010

#20 Crash Landing!

“Will Elizabeth lose her best friend?”

When the girls of Sweet Valley aren’t otherwise engaged in stealing each other’s boyfriends, at least one of them seems to be in some sort of mortal peril—motorcycle accidents, kidnappings, murderous boyfriends, etc. Next up on the chopping block is the most boring girl in Sweet Valley, Enid Rollins.  (They really should have picked someone awesome like Lila for us to root for. I’m sure all of two people care about Enid’s well being.)

For myriad reasons, this book is just bad, and not the so-bad-it’s-good bad that I usually associate with Sweet Valley.  It’s just a straight-up hot mess. The plot is like a poor reworking of #7 Dear Sister. Instead of Elizabeth on a motorcycle with a head injury that turns her into a slut, we have Enid on a plane with a back injury that turns her into a victim.

And this cover is a total no-no for dealing with people who’ve suffered spinal injuries.  I know that James Mathewuse, the SVH cover artist, is contractually obligated to show off Elizabeth in all her do-gooder glory, but even Saint Liz’s delicate touch can’t maneuver around the physical laws of the central nervous system. Thankfully, this scene never happened in the book, as Elizabeth was still saving Jessica from a knife-wielding construction worker at the time of the crash. Although had Liz actually been there, I’m sure she would have attempted some heroic posturing, per usual.

A little recap is needed before we can proceed. Elizabeth found out in the last book that Enid’s boyfriend, George, has been cheating on her with Robin Wilson (who he met in flight school). George says that he will tell Enid the truth after he takes her up for his maiden voyage. (Yeah, because getting your heart broken is so much easier after you’ve been in a rickety private airplane.)

As the cover and title indicate, shit goes awry with the plane, and George has to crash land in Secca Lake. Enid drags his unconscious body out of the plane. Yes, she saves his life, and at some point, she becomes paralyzed. (Don’t worry. No one stays disabled long in Sweet Valley.)

George decides that he won’t break up with Enid until she can walk again, because he doesn’t want to ruin her life further. Apparently, losing a douche bag like George would be the straw that broke the camel’s back–now metaphorically, since he already took care of that physically with the titular Crash Landing!. He tells Robin Wilson the same thing, putting their relationship into a holding pattern.  I’m fairly certain that college-attending George has to tread the high school dating waters, because girls at Sweet Valley College wouldn’t put up with this crap.

Jessica discovers that George has been having an affair with Robin, so Jess convinces everyone to avoid her like the plague for Enid’s sake. Say what? Jessica has been nothing but a heinous bitch to Enid throughout the entire series, and now Jess is acting like her great protector. Plus, Jessica is the patron saint of boyfriend stealing. Robin’s a straight-up lay person in comparison. Of course, George gets a free pass for his boorish behavior. Hypocrisy much, Jessica? And no one ever calls her out on her never-ending cycle of bullshit.

George vows to stay with Enid even though he’s miserable. Being the douchebag that he is, he can’t contain his misery, so he directs it at Enid, who has enough shit to deal with without worrying about a derelict boyfriend. Enid can sense he’s pulling away, so she just wallows in victim mode. And it’s just another unhealthy relationship at Sweet Valley High.

Robin is so miserable without George (*groan*) that she gains ten pounds in ten days! That is 35,000 calories for you calorie counters playing at home or 50 Dairyburger Sundaes. I totally eat my feelings too, so I can’t snark too hard. Of course, gaining weight doesn’t help Robin with her social leprosy problem, so she gets more depressed and consequently eats more. It’s a vicious cycle, y’all. Robin’s only a few Dairiburgers away from total pariah status.

Perfect-Size-Six moment: “I’m making a mess of everything, Robin thought unhappily. To top it all off, she was beginning to gain weight. The only thing she’d been able to find in her closet that fit her that morning was an old wraparound shirt, left over from her ‘fat’ days. No more food for awhile, Robin had promised herself when she stepped on the scale. She’d gained ten pounds, and she hated the way she looked. It took too long to get myself thin. I’m not going to let my figure go because my whole life is falling apart.”

The climax, of course, is at our weekly dance. Thank God. I don’t think I could have taken any more of this Debbie-downer book. Unfortunately, the dance is 137 kinds of ridiculous–mostly because the student body at Sweet Valley is treating Enid like a side-show attraction. I really think Enid is the first person in their little world to ever be in a wheelchair. I bet getting around would be a bitch, since you know there aren’t any ramps or anything. (Yes, I realize how sad it is that I’m musing about accessibility in a fictional town.)

Bitchiest moment of the book (courtesy of Lila): “‘How inappropriate,’ Lila said coldly. ‘Who’d ever dream of showing up at a dance in a wheelchair! What does she think she’s going to do all night!'”

Hmmm, I don’t know, Lila. Dance, maybe. Just because someone is in a wheelchair, it doesn’t negate their capacity for boogey-ing.  It’s called working what you got. Seriously, this whole dance scene is just painful. George and Robin are making googly eyes at each other all night. Everyone is staring at Enid, who has dared to show up at a dance in a wheelchair. Elizabeth is lamenting that she can’t have any fun, because she has to stay by Enid’s side to protect her.

‘”I must look like a real idiot,’ (Enid) whispered to Elizabeth. ‘Who ever heard of a cripple coming to a dance?’

‘Enid Rollins,’ Elizabeth snapped, ‘you are not a cripple! And you don’t look one bit foolish. You have as much right to be here as anyone else does.'”

Enid feels bad that George is stuck with a date who can’t dance. (Seriously, George doesn’t even go to Sweet Valley High. What else is he missing out on?) Enid tells him that he should go dance with someone, thinking that someone would be Elizabeth or another neutral pal. Since George is a jerk, he seizes the opportunity to cozy up to puffy Robin Wilson, and it’s obvious to everyone that they are totally in love with each other.

Now that the George/Robin relationship is out in the open, Enid is even more determined to hold onto her man. She knows that George will have to stay with her as long as she’s in the wheelchair, so she is in no hurry to walk again. I guess self respect and mobility aren’t good enough reasons.

Elizabeth is up in arms because Enid still can’t walk. Seriously, I know Sweet Valley is farfetched and everything, but Enid has been in a plane crash and has had subsequent back surgery. It should take more than two weeks to get back on her feet. Dr. Elizabeth Wakefield believes Enid’s paralysis is psychosomatic and that one well-meaning scheme is all it takes to get Enid back on her feet. (Do not try this at home, kids.) Liz devises this potentially dangerous plan. Mr. Collins’ eight-year-old son, Teddy, will pretend to drown, so Enid will be motivated enough to get off her ass and rescue him. Disability be damned.

You’ve gotta love the crappy parenting in Sweet Valley. What kind of father would involve their kid in these unsupervised shenanigans? There are 137 things that could have gone wrong with this little pool-rescue scenario. Luckily, Liz’s schemes always go off without a hitch. If this were Jessica’s plan, Teddy would be in the intensive care unit at Fowler Memorial Hospital fighting for his life, and Enid would be in the morgue.

Well, it’s miracle time again, because Enid Rollins is healed! Oh, and George and Robin are dating before Enid can even complete a victory lap. Here’s hoping you don’t become fat, disfigured, or disabled, Robin, because this is a sneak peak of how it will play out. Enid’s pretty damn stoic about their relationship, and she pardons and blesses the union. Uh-huh. Here is a more likely scenario in the real world, courtesy of Jazmine Sullivan, Bust Your Windows Out Your Car.

B-Plot: Jessica is taking cooking lessons (ha!) and falls for the teacher/chef. She throws herself at him, per usual, until she discovers he’s married. I really doubt that would have stopped her, but I digress. Jessica also tries to cook a meal for her family to prove that she’s not the worthless twin, but she only succeeds in giving everyone food poisoning. This sets up the next book #21 Runaway, where Jess does, in fact, runaway. (Unfortunately, not for good. I think I can speak for the rest of Sweet Valley when I say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, J.”

Random note: Mr. Collins is officially dating Ms. Dalton. Hello, potentially uncomfortable working environment when you eventually split up. Plus, it’s really unprofessional to flout this in front of students, which probably wouldn’t concern Mr. Collins since he’s always in everyone’s business.

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.

September 6, 2010

#18 Head Over Heels

“Can Bruce Patman really fall in love?”

Like so many girls before her, Regina Morrow has flipped her shit for Sweet Valley’s resident bad-boy, Bruce Patman. Poor, myopic Regina. Besides being deaf, she also appears to be short-sighted when it comes to boys and relationships. The SVH ghost writer du jour continuously hits us over the head with the fact that Regina is disabled and special and wants anything to be normal. Well, normal in Sweet Valley is getting used and abused by a Patman, so get ready, girl.

At the present moment in time, Bruce and Regina are in love and happy as clams. We know it’s real love because he buys her expensive presents, takes her home to meet the folks, and tells her he loves her. Apparently, a couple of chapters are supposed to negate Bruce’s douchey past, because Bruce is a new man….(for the time being, before Trampy Sutton moves to town and pulls Bruce back to the dark side.)

Because Jessica and Lila can’t bear to see anyone else happy, they make a bet over the status of Bruce and Regina’s relationship. If they break up before the centennial, Lila has to write Jessica’s history paper. If they’re still together, Jessica must write Lila’s. (That’s a lose/lose situation if there ever was one.)

Plus, Lila’s in rare alpha-bitch form in this one. She’s pretty much the only person in Sweet Valley who hasn’t joined Regina Morrow’s fan club.

“‘Just look at her,’ Lila seethed, pushing her food away in disgust. ‘She looks ridiculous in that purple dress. You’d think she was color blind, not deaf, the way she dresses.'”

Oh, and Jessica’s a dumbass yet again. “Elizabeth shook her head in disbelief. Only my twin, she thought, would ask to speak to a deaf girl on the phone. It just figures.”

Sweet Valley High isn’t known for its adroit handling of serious issues, and the theme of disability is no exception. This is an especially touchy issue with me since I grew up with a physical impairment that couldn’t magically be cured like Regina’s deafness. And I wasn’t able to convert the highschool douchebags I liked into decent human beings through the sheer power of my goodness and beauty. (Changing people in general is pretty impossible, even though it’s like second nature in Sweet Valley.)

My first irritation is the cause of her disability. She wasn’t just born deaf. Oh no, that wouldn’t be melodramatic enough for the world of Sweet Valley. Her disability is caused by her own mother’s vanity (which also doubles as a Perfect-Size-Six moment).

“But a few weeks after (Skye Morrow) learned she was pregnant, one of the most glamorous magazines in New York offered her a spectacular assignment. They wanted Skye to appear in their special summer issue, modeling bathing suits and resort wear. After long discussions with Kurt, Skye decided to take the job. It would be her last modeling assignment, and she wanted it to be perfect.

There was only one catch. The magazine told her she would have to lose ten pounds in less than a month. Ignoring what her doctor told her, Skye took diet pills and lost the weight. The assignment went perfectly, and in the magazine’s summer issue, Skye looked more beautiful than ever before.

But the consequences were grave. The pills Skye had taken had damaged the delicate tissue in the ears of her unborn child. After Regina was born, it became obvious that she wasn’t responding to noises the way Nicholas had. The doctors’ pronouncement was grave: Regina had suffered permanent damage to her ears. She would never be able to hear normally.”

Yes, my eyes are still rolling out of my head after reading that. What kind of shitty mother takes diet pills while pregnant? Um, Skye Morrow, that’s who. Well, she does feel adequately guilty, I guess. And redemption appears to be right around the corner!

Miracle of miracles, a Swiss medical team has invented some sort of therapy that will allow Regina to hear, after a year or so of treatments. Well, Regina is so besotted with Bruce that she doesn’t want to leave, even if it means she will never be able to hear. Granted, Bruce would be a lot more attractive to me with a mute button, but he is sooo not worth it. Well, Regina is new to dating, and she picked Mt. Everest as her first mountain to climb.

The Morrows try desperately to change Regina’s mind. They don’t know about her puppy love with Bruce, so they go about it all wrong. There’s a lot of fighting and arguing. Regina just comes off as really bratty and immature throughout most of the book. And helpless and in need of protection, of course. Mrs. Morrow even enlists Saint Liz to help, but even Elizabeth Wakefield can’t overcome the lure of Bruce Patman. (I hate Bruce, and I would still pick him over Liz.)

Cue Jessica and her scheming, bitchy ways. She finds out that Bruce is campaigning to be the Centennial king, so she tells Regina that Bruce is only dating her to up his popularity and win votes—because dating a disabled person is the surest fire way to win friends and influence people. Regina is so painfully naive that she believes Jessica and breaks up with Bruce with no explanation. (Please kill me now because I actually feel sorry for Bruce effing Patman.)

“I never would have believed it in a million years, (Elizabeth) thought. Bruce Patman is crying.”

OH MY GOD. Sweet Valley has frozen over. Patman, down! Bruce is so upset that he has gone to Elizabeth Wakefield, the girl he tried to rape 11 books earlier, for help! And she is deservedly dubious of the reformed Bruce until he unleashes the waterworks. (Sucker!) Liz has told him everything, so now Bruce is faced with a moral dilemma. Should he be selfish and get Regina back? Or should he leave things as they are and let Regina go to Switzerland, unfettered by him?

Bruce chooses a little of both. He has Liz plant a letter in Regina’s luggage explaining what really happened and how much he loves her. So Regina will go to Switzerland, but she won’t think he’s the son of a bitch that he actually is. Awww. I am totally rooting for these two crazy kids to make it work right now. Luckily, Regina does REALLY well with the inscrutable hearing therapy, and she’s back home in 8 books. (Well, 9 books really. I don’t know if I would count her kidnapping as a homecoming.)

Bruce is in a love-sick holding pattern until then, so girls of Sweet Valley can finally enjoy a cup of wine without fear of Bruce Patman taking advantage. Don’t we all love a good, bad-boy redemption story?

The B-plot is pretty negligible. Lila is lusting after a construction worker at her father’s office building. How déclassé! She’s convinced that he’s not really a construction worker, that he’s really a blue-blood in disguise who’s slumming it for some romantic reason. Sorry, Li. He’s just pauvre and psycho, which is fleshed out in the next book, #19 Showdown!.

Sorry about the delay with this review. I had to edit out a lot of my passionate opinions on the social construct of disability. I’ve also been studying non-stop for the GRE Literature subject test, so I will probably be posting less until the date of the exam, which is October 9th. Wish me luck!

August 30, 2010

#17 Love Letters

Filed under: Books #1-20 — mediumcore @ 12:58 am
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“Is Caroline’s romance for real?”

Oh, hey, it’s a book starring Sweet Valley High’s least favorite student, gossip-hound Caroline Pearce. She would be the redhead on the cover. I love that Liz is throwing an especially bitchy stink eye in Caroline’s direction, the likes of which we haven’t seen since #11 Too Good To Be  True. (Maybe it’s because they’re wearing the same shirt.)

You and I both know this isn’t going to turn out well. Let me warn you in advance. This is the most cringe-inducing story-line in all of Sweet Valley-dom. Seriously.

See, Caroline is living in the shadow of her perfect, model-slim, passive aggressive bitch of a sister, Anita, who is a freshman at Sweet Valley College. Caroline is tired of being the least popular girl at SVH, so she thinks that by concocting a fake boyfriend, she will become BFFs with the high school A-list and simultaneously earn her sister’s respect.  The sad part is that it sort of/kind of works.

Caroline has dreamt up “Adam,” a paragon of teenage male perfection (who coincidentally resembles Todd). He’s 6’2′ with wavy brown hair, and he plays basketball for Cold Springs High, which is a safe couple of hours away–close enough so it’s plausible they date, far enough away so that he can’t visit. He also writes amazing love letters (hence the title), which Caroline plagiarizes from the works of Robert Browning. I’m sure Browning is turning in his grave, because his romantic odes have been commandeered by the YA lit set.

This should have been the first clue that something was rotten in Sweet Valley. No teenage boy in the ’80s, ’90s, or today writes like this.

“‘My dearest Caroline,’ she read out loud. ‘Your letter came this morning, and the promise it contained of another made me restless all day…'”

“‘Now I will go out and walk where I can be alone, and think thoughts of you, and love you. I will look in the direction of Sweet Valley, and send my heart there…”

“‘My beloved Caroline, I was happy, so happy before. But I am happier and richer now. Caroline, no words will do, but there is life before us, and I will live and die with your beautiful vision comforting me, blessing me…'”

Even though a few people have me pegged as a man-hating bitch in my day-to-day life (because I suffer no fools), I’m a mushy romantic at heart. The closest I’ve ever gotten to a poetry reading is when this guy found out that my favorite poet (age 18) was Sylvia Plath. He later gave me a spirited reading of “Daddy,” which was 137 kinds of hilarious.  Is the following too much to ask?

Anyway, no one seems to care about Caroline’s mystery man one way or the other until Jessica becomes pissed off at Caroline. After popping up uninvited to the Wakefields, Caroline just happens to go through their trash can outside and finds a letter indicating the Wakefields are moving to San Francisco. Caroline naturally takes the letter out of the trash to keep for her own personal records. When Jessica insults her later that day, Caroline uses her tidbit of information to cut Jess down, as she had no idea about her family’s impending move.

Jessica naturally makes it her mission to destroy Caroline. It also sets up the super-annoying B-plot where Jess and Liz try to convince their parents not to move. When whining and temper tantrums don’t work, they invoke the powers of the Sweet Valley chamber of commerce and have every manner of brochure which glorifies Sweet Valley mailed to the Wakefield house. They also cut out articles which show the horrors of big-city San Francisco–crime, earthquakes, and death–oh my! As we all know, the Wakefields aren’t going anywhere, so Jessica is free to terrorize Caroline some more.

Jessica discovers that the letters are fake, and she and Lila plot to publicly expose Caroline as a fraud. They plan a party in Adam’s honor, so Caroline will have to either bring him or admit that she lied.  Caroline only confesses to her sister, Anita, and Liz.  Anita tries to make Caroline see why everyone hates her. Plus, she throws in a makeover as a bonus. Anita’s like a bitchy fairy godmother. Eventually, Caroline sees the error of her gossiping ways and vows to change for the better. (Don’t worry, gossip lovers. Her  conversion is short-lived.)

Fast forward to the night of Lila’s party. Caroline still hasn’t told the rest of Sweet Valley High about her deception. She decides to show up to Lila’s looking fabulous, so she can make a public confession. Cue Saint Liz to the rescue. She convinces one of Todd’s out-of-town friends to pretend he is Adam, giving Caroline an out. Well, reformed Caroline decides confession is good for the soul or something and tells everyone the truth. Plus, she ends up making out with Todd’s friend by the end of the night, so win-win situation for Caroline.

Perfect Size Six Propaganda: “‘Do you want a waffle?’ Caroline asked cheerfully, popping a frozen one into the toaster for herself and holding the box out to her sister.

‘No thanks.’ Anita yawned. ‘I’m watching my weight,’ she added pointedly. Caroline blushed. Anita was model-thin, and Caroline could tell from the insinuating tone in her voice that she was really giving her little sister a hint.

Whenever Caroline complained that Anita was picking on her appearance, her sister looked wide-eyed and innocent. ‘I’m only trying to help,’ she’d say. But I don’t have a weight problem, Caroline reminded herself, fighting to keep her self-control. And even if I lived on melon and ice water, like Anita does, tings wouldn’t be any better. I’d be weak and miserable, instead of just miserable. No, Adam is the only hope I’ve got. And not even Anita is going to wreck how good I’m feeling now that I’ve got him.”

Random thought: How is Caroline a member of Pi Beta Alpha, the most exclusive sorority at Sweet Valley High? She’s one of the least popular, generally disliked girls in the whole school. At this point, I’m pretty sure the only girls they would actually deny are the non-perfect-size-six ones. (oh, hey Robin Wilson and Lois Waller).

And one of the worst Sweet Valley High books is officially behind me.

August 26, 2010

#16 Rags to Riches

“Look who’s after Roger Barrett!”

First Lila in #9 Racing Hearts, now Jessica. How is POOR Roger managing to attract the snobbiest girls at Sweet Valley High? Well, as we’re told in a super clunky first chapter, he’s Roger Patman now and RICH to boot. He is totally embracing his inner Patman douchebag on the cover, with the layered polos/popped collar/sports jacket ensemble he’s sporting.

How does this transformation occur? Roger’s mom dies in between books, and  he discovers that he’s the bastard scion of Paul Patman. He totally looks broken up about his dead mom too. I’m sure he shed a few tears when he bought his Lacoste shirts and Italian loafers. Note to readers: Being a bastard is okay if one of your parents is rich and/or famous.

“‘Well according to Uncle Henry, this is the story. When my mother first moved to Sweet Valley, she took a job working for the Patmans. That was before Uncle Henry was married or had a family. He was living with his older brother, Paul, who was married to this woman everyone hated. Well, I guess my mother fell in love with Paul Patman, and they sent more and more time together, amd -‘ Roger stopped, his face turning red.

‘I understand, Roger,’ Olivia said softly.

‘Well, I guess my mother moved away when she found out she was going to have a baby. While she was gone, Paul tried to divorce his awful wife. He wanted to marry my mother. But nobody ever found out about it because he was killed in a plane crash flying down to Mexico on business.'”

I love how Roger justifies the cheating because Paul Patman’s wife is so horrible, and everyone hates her. How many dudes in real life use this line to lure chicks into becoming their mistresses? (And yes, I’ve had someone try this out on me, unsuccessfully I might add.)

Roger’s dad was probably flying down to Tijuana to experience transnational hookers and donkey shows. If I were Mrs. Barrett, I wouldn’t have held out hope for Paul Patman sweeping me off my feet in the assembly line, à la Richard Gere in Officer and a Gentleman.

And seriously, Roger can’t even discuss the events leading to his birth without blushing. On behalf of every character in Sweet Valley, S-E-X!!! I can only imagine what their sex ed would be like.

I work at a public high school in a non-instructional capacity (thank god), and I had the distinct displeasure of walking into a classroom during a sex-ed lesson. I didn’t know this at first. Everyone had their crayons out, and they were going to town. When I looked to see what they were coloring, I noticed that it was line drawings of the male and female reproductive systems. How is coloring  a penis lime green teaching them about sexual health? The most depressing part is that most of the students in there were 18-years-old, two were pregnant, and one already had two kids. Methinks that’s a little late to hear about the birds and the bees and the penises and the vaginas. End rant.

Anyway, Jessica is in gold-digger mode now that Roger claimed his share of the Patman fortune. The only one standing in her way is Olivia Davidson, Roger’s present girlfriend and Sweet Valley’s resident boho hippie. I’m not condoning Jessica’s shenanigans by any means, but I’ve just always disliked the whole Olivia/Roger pairing. They just seem asexual and boring.

Jessica’s first plan of attack occurs at the Patman bar-b-q. Jess thinks that by ingratiating herself with Mrs. Patman that she will somehow gain an advantage with Roger. It’s how she ingratiates herself that doesn’t make any sense. Jess is acting like she’s the Patman scullery maid–clearing dishes,  running errands, etc. Well, I guess Jess was onto something because Mrs. Patman jumps on the Jessica bandwagon and completely dismisses Olivia.

Jessica decides the next course of action is to blow Olivia out of the water–by becoming her new best friend. Jess preys on Olivia’s insecurities about Roger’s new situation by giving her some well-aimed, horrible advice. Why any one trusts Jessica at this point is a mystery to me. Olivia and Roger break up. Roger eventually realizes that Jessica was behind all the drama in their relationship, and he goes to Olivia (with interloper Liz, of course) and wins her back. Still don’t care about their relationship.

Awesome B-plot: Ms. Lila Fowler is jealous of the new rich girl in town, Regina Morrow. See, Regina is just as wealthy as Lila and nice to boot so that sort of dulls Lila’s lustre. When Lila sees Regina seemingly cavorting with a hot, middle-aged man, she makes sure that the Perez Hilton of Sweet Valley High, Caroline Pearce, has the exclusive. That means Regina is on the fast track to a bad reputation! Quelle horreur!

No worries. Regina doesn’t have daddy issues. She’s just moonlighting as a covergirl, and she doesn’t want any one in Sweet Valley to know. Apparently, she’s nervous because her mom was a supermodel, and her mom didn’t think that Regina could follow in her footsteps because she’s deaf. uh, okay.

When Lila discovers that Regina is going to be on the cover of Ingenue magazine, she goes down to the modeling agency that hired Regina. Lila thinks that once the agent meets her that he will immediately put her on the cover instead of Regina. Haha. How do I love thee Lila? Let me count the ways.

Anyway, the director royally dismisses Lila, which is the highlight of the book.

“‘It’s my business to meet pretty girls,’ he told her. ‘Lila, try not to be too disappointed about the modeling job. You’re a pretty girl, but you don’t really have the right facial structure, I’m afraid. You wouldn’t like how flat your face would look in photographs. Anyway,’ he told her, seeing her to the door, ‘modeling is hard work. You’ll probably thank me a few years from now.'”

English major moment: A few minutes earlier (Elizabeth had) gotten home from the library, where she’d been doing research for the playwright’s competition. After several days of thought, she’d decided to write about her favorite poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.”

I bet the only reason Elizabeth Barrett Browning is her favorite poet is because they share the same first name.

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 4, 2010

#7 Dear Sister (or Wakefield Gone Wild!)

“Can Jessica face life without Elizabeth?”

Here we are announcing the imminent death of Liz, and she’s out of the coma before the second chapter begins——Sweet Valley melodrama at its finest.

Anyway, when Liz wakes up, she seems to have a completely different personality, Jessica’s personality to be exact. I thought this was such bullshit growing up, but it’s a medically-verifiable phenomenon. After head injuries, people have even woken up speaking different languages.  It’s really fascinating if you’re into the subconscious  and the construction of identity.

Now, Liz is like a hyper-Jessica, and her sights are set on anyone with an XY chromosome, unless it’s Todd. (haha!) She’s hitting on doctors while still in her hospital bed. She flirts with Winston, so she can plagiarize his paper on the Punic Wars. She plants fake items in her gossip column to break up Ken Matthews and Susan Stewart. She even throws some inappropriate remarks Mr. Collins’ way. Generally, she makes “Easy Annie” Whitman look like she just left a nunnery.

Jessica meanwhile is having an existential crisis. I think the Sweet Valley High universe would explode with two Jessicas, so everyone’s treating Jess like the new Elizabeth. Jessica just wants the Sweet Valley status quo back. Even though this Freaky Friday plot is entertaining, I miss boring, old Elizabeth.

Next up is Lila’s pick-up party. Everyone gets dressed up in costumes and comes without a date. Then, they ostensibly “pick up” whoever catches their eye. Leave it to Lila to come up with the awesomest party idea ever! Well, Bruce Patman, armed with only a flask and his charm to guide him, manages to pick up Liz, the reigning ho of Sweet Valley, and he thinks it’s some sort of grand coup on his part.

“For the twentieth time that night, Bruce Patman wondered how he had gotten so lucky. Elizabeth Wakefield was about to melt in his arms. It would take just a little more to drink and just a little more time.”

Classy as ever, Bruce. Luckily, Todd is there to physically remove Liz from the situation. (Sidenote: I hate that the Jersey Shore has ruined the word “situation” for me.) He throws her over his shoulder, and she passes out from drinking too much of Bruce’s social lubrication. But Liz is more determined than ever to get her man!

Seriously, chapter 14 is gold; it’s oh so quotable. Liz sneaks out to Bruce’s house, and they get right down to business. Bruce actually gets to second base with Elizabeth! Who would have thought that Elizabeth, of all people, would have reached this milestone first?

“‘You like this, don’t you, Liz?’ He let one hand slide lightly onto her breast, waiting to see if she would protest.”

Everything is blue skies and butterflies in Bruce’s bedroom, until he makes the mistake of leaving for a minute to grab some more wine. Liz hops out of the bed in the dark, so she can fix her face for her man and then proceeds to fall head first into a table. The resulting head injury thus negates her first injury, and she’s boring, old Elizabeth again! She also has some sort of convenient, retrograde amnesia because she can’t remember cutting a swath through the male population of Sweet Valley High. ha! It’s probably better that way; she would have been traumatized for life.

Unfortunately, Bruce is back, and he doesn’t care much for her sudden enlightenment, since it invariably means he won’t get laid. I really don’t understand all the love that Bruce’s character gets from Sweet Valley fans. His behavior is just so consistently shitty.

Bruce uses every trick in the book to get Liz to sleep with him–my favorite being the “you-might-as-well-sleep-with-me,-because-I’ll-tell-everyone-you-did-anyway” approach. Stay classy, Patman.

“‘I’ve got real strong hands, Liz,” he said. “From tennis, see? Now, you listen to  me. You give me what I want, or I’ll tell this whole thing all over school. You want that? What would all your friends think of you then?'”

Oh, Bruce, you are such a douche. I’m dedicating this song to you.

Liz bites him (yeah!) as he roughly kisses her, and then, she runs out of Bruce’s sex dungeon right into the loving arms of Todd. Awww. For the moment, I’m actually rooting for these two crazy kids to make it work.

I forgot how many Sweet Valley books had date rape overtones. Seriously, outside of SVH, I didn’t really hear about date rape in real life until I got to college. During my first year, there was this fraternity affectionately known as the date-rape house. I never could understand why it was this longstanding joke that **haha**, don’t drink anything inside there, those rascally Pikes and their dateraping. These girls in my hall invited me to go with them to some theme party at said “date rapist” house. It was something really stupid like pimps ‘n hoes or schoolgirl fetish. They were actually laughing about the house’s reputation and the fact that you had to watch your drinks so scrupulously. What the fuck?

Perfect-size-six propaganda moment: “‘Good thing you lost those two pounds, Jess,’ she told herself. ‘Dan wouldn’t want to put his arms around a blimpo.'”

Favorite line in the whole book, which I don’t wholly understand: (Mr. Collins to the new Liz) “Uh-huh. I thought you and I were never going to dish each other applesauce.” ??? I understand it from the context. Applesauce = bullshit in a PG rated world, but it’s just weird coming from a grown man.

Nerdy English major moment: “Did you hear that, Dr. Frankenstein?” Jessica muttered. “You’re not the only one who created a monster.”

August 1, 2010

#4 Power Play (or Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels)

Power PlayThe Wakefield twins have taken sides ——against each other! (This cover has a bit of a twincestuous air. Like, I expect making out in 1.37 seconds.)

Eventual Moral of the story: If you can’t beat ’em, get really skinny, beat ’em, then join ’em.

If you weren’t drinking the “perfect-size-six” kool-aid before, let me pour you a drink, for it’s time for#4 Power Play. Robin Wilson has set her sights on becoming a member of Pi Beta Alpha, the most exclusive sorority at Sweet Valley High (and the only one ever mentioned. How awesome would it have been to have some some sort of upstart sorority rivalry?)

Robin is somehow under the delusion that she and Jessica, the president of Pi Beta Alpha, are best friends. This could never be because Robin is a fat, fat, fatty. There are literally dozens of catty references to her size. Even Liz isn’t above commenting on her weight. I especially wanted to vomit when Liz notices, for the first time, that behind all the layers of fat, Robin had a “pretty face.”

The reason for her obesity is obvious to the  perfect size sixes around her. She doesn’t have a metabolic or thyroid disorder, and she’s not big boned. Our girl Robin just likes to eat and always has the equivalent of a dessert buffet in her bag. In fact, if you were stranded on a desert island with Robin’s purse (much like Jessica in #56 Lost at Sea), you’d probably survive an extra week on all the food that appears to be in there. To make fat matters worse, she wears tent dresses. The horror!

To get into Pi Beta Alpha, Robin has to accomplish three might-as-well-be-Herculean tasks. 1)Run laps with the entire Sweet Valley High populace looking on 2) Wear a bikini to the beach and play a spirited game of volleyball and 3) get Bruce Patman to take her to the dance (!!!) It’s as bad as it sounds. It’s like a several-chapters-long exercise in embarrassment.

Illustrative quotes:

“Don’t fall down, Wilson. You’ll dent the track!”

“Don’t you think dear Robin looks très chic in her gray sweat shorts and tank top?” Lila contributed. “So perfect for that round body, n’est-ce pas?” Et tu, Lila!!

“Way to go, Wilson,” Bruce jeered. “Anyone into blubber would call your moves awesome.”

Of course, Liz interferes at every turn, in the guise of “helping” Robin. She bribes Bruce into accepting Robin’s invitation to the dance. His price: an article in the Oracle (with picture, natch) detailing his exploits on the tennis field.

We all know that this is not going to end well, which is quickly confirmed when Bruce ditches Robin at the door of the dance and says to everyone:

“OK, that’s it. I brought you to the dance, Tubby. I’ve got better things to do now. Hey! Anybody want to steer the Queen Mary around the floor tonight? She’s all yours!”

OH NO HE DIDN’T!

Seriously, Robin is just continuously shit upon for 3/4 of the book. After passing the PBA hazing ritual with flying colors, Robin is still blackballed from the sorority (by Jessica, of course). Seriously, if any Sweet Valley book should have had a Carrie ending, it was this one. Instead of taking revenge on the sorority girls, Robin goes on the most exhaustive, physically insupportable diet ever. It involves engaging in continuous exercise and enjoying meals of lettuce, two slices of tomato, and a hard-boiled egg. Subsequent editions should have had a warning: Do not try this at home, kids.

Finally, she reaches a satisfactory weight and instantly transforms into one of the most popular girls at school. Now, she’s Miss Sweet Valley High and co-captain of the cheerleading squad, and she gets to tell Pi Beta Alpha to shove it (so to speak). She’s also dating one of the only nerds in Sweet Valley, Allen Walters. Happy ending? Apparently not, because Robin develops a wicked eating disorder in #74 The Perfect Girl.

B plot line: Lila is a klepto! Liz suspects that something is rotten in Sweet Valley when Lila keeps giving Jessica expensive presents. Lila is wealthy, and Jessica is her best friend. I don’t really understand why this would be a matter of concern. Well, Liz’s school reporter’s instinct is never wrong, so it turns out that Lila has been pilfering expensive, imported goods from the Valley mall. How déclassée, Lila! Cue the poor-little-rich-girl defense. Daddy Fowler is always away on business, so Lila’s stealing is a cry for help. I snark, but this is probably one of my favorite B plots of the whole series.

Nerdy English major moment:

“Robin, I know it’s none of my business, but how are you doing?”

“Fine. In fact, super. Do you remember when we had to read The Iliad? Remember the part where the Greeks and Trojans are under the spell of one of the gods?”

“Excuse me?” Elizabeth stammered, wondering if Robin really was falling apart.

“You should read it over again,” Robin said. “Especially the part where the person comes out of the spell and finally sees clearly.”

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