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!'”

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 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 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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