Perfect Size Six

June 3, 2015

#21 Runaway

“Jessica’s had enough!”

Let me get this straight. Jessica’s had enough? Jessica, who has done nothing but wreak havoc and destruction upon Sweet Valley and its inhabitants for the last 20 books, has had enough? Lo, the irony!

Well, the wicked bitch of the west is sick and tired of living in Saint Elizabeth’s shadow. Jess hates being thought of as the perpetual screw up, while Liz is treated like some sort of Gandhi/Mother Teresa/Christ figure all rolled into one perfect-size-six package.

Warning: first word, white-girl problems, straight ahead.

Can I just say that I love the cover? Jessica’s serving up some ’80s Flashdance/ Jennifer Beals realness with the grey off-shoulder sweatshirt. But are we really supposed to believe that Jessica is going to run away with only 1.37% of her entire wardrobe in a half-empty gym bag? I don’t think so.

As the book opens, Jessica is feeling down after the Wakefields joke about her giving them food poisoning (which is a valid point because she totally did make them sick in the last book. Even after cooking lessons, Jessica still doesn’t understand the basics of food preparation and storage.)

While Jessica is depressed about dumb shit, Steven Wakefield is still grieving the death of his girlfriend, Tricia Martin, 9 books earlier, a time frame which is unheard of in the world of Sweet Valley. Most of the residents appear to have the emotional range of goldfish, so the extended grieving process is actually pretty refreshing/realistic. Steven’s currently taking some time off from college, and he’s just bumming around Sweet Valley which is pretty status quo for him.

giphy12In an attempt to distract him from his misery, Liz asks Jessica to ask Steven to go to Cara’s party. (It’s as convoluted as it sounds.) When Jessica tries to ask him to the party, Steven, Ned, and Alice Wakefield almost simultaneously jump her shit for being insensitive. Saint Elizabeth clarifies that it was her idea, and peace is restored to the split level ranch home on Calico Drive.

But the proverbial shit has hit the fan, and Jess is sinking further into her depression. She seeks solace in the arms of Nicky Shepard, Sweet Valley’s latest rebel without a cause. His life is sooo hard because his dad works all the time, and his mom neglects him to take care of his little brother (who’s been depicted as an invalid who needs around-the-clock care because he has asthma.) WTF? I don’t understand how administering an inhaler is all that time-consuming, but whatevs.  Yeah, it’s totally a hard-knock life for the Sweet Valley bourgeoisie.

At Cara’s party, the Sweet Valley chorus keeps singing Liz’s praises, so Jess retreats to Cara’s bathhouse where she finds Nicky smoking a cigarette and being all angsty. Sparks fly as they complain about their shitty respective lots in life, and they take their flirtation public on the dance floor.

I’m just tired of being the bad twin, Jessica thought. Sometimes, I wish I’d never been born.”

largeDo you remember that Sweet Valley Twins’ book, A Christmas Without Elizabeth, which was a rip off of It’s a Wonderful Life? It’s the one where Elizabeth saw what a bleak, sad world Sweet Valley would be if she’d never been born. I mean, the Wakefields were divorced, people were ugly and poor, and multiple children were dead. But if Jessica were never born… It’s safe to say that the world would be a better place. (i.e. Sam would still be alive, and Annie wouldn’t have tried to kill herself. Robin Wilson would probably still be overweight, though, since Jessica wasn’t around to fat shame her. But she also wouldn’t have developed an eating disorder, so… )

Anyway, Jessica goes to a house party with Nicky and the rest of the dregs of Sweet Valley. They try to tempt her with booze (gasp!) and pot (double gasp!!), but Jess successfully sidesteps their attempts to intoxicate her. Nicky has not been so virtuous, however, and he has a nice buzz going on as he drives them home.

Nicky tells Jessica that he is running away to San Francisco and invites Jessica to run away with him. She has all these romanticized notions of their new life: they’ll have a beautiful apartment, Nicky will be a successful businessman, and Jessica will return triumphantly to Sweet Valley in a few years to show off her wonderful life. (I’m sure two teenagers with no education and no money would take San Francisco by storm.) Before Jessica can give him an answer, Nicky crashes into a telephone pole to avoid a head-on collision.

The Shephards pick them up, and they are more concerned about the car than any potential injuries Nicky and Jessica might have suffered. (I won’t lie, if my shitbag son and his tramp of the week wrecked my car, I would be pissed too.) Nicky decides to move up his running-away-from-Sweet Valley schedule, and Jessica decides to come with him. She leaves a note for her sister, and I had to transcribe it in toto because it’s so ridiculous and so Jessica.

teen-angstDear Liz,

By the time you get this, I will be far away. I’m sorry if I’m leaving causes you all a lot of pain, but it will be better for all of us in the long run. There are many reasons why I’m going. It isn’t just your fault. You can’t help being the way you are any more than I can. You’re so good. It would just be better for all of you if you’d forget that I ever even existed. I’ve never been anything but trouble anyway. This doesn’t mean I’m forgetting about you. I’ll be thinking a lot about all of you as I take the bus to my new home. I love you, Liz. And make sure you  tell Mom and Dad that I love them too, and Steve, even though I know he hates me. Someday I’ll return, I promise, but not for a long time. Please don’t try to find me. My mind is made up. I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused.

Still your loving sister,


P.S. I’m leaving you my new jeans. I think they make me look fat anyway.

She’s sure that once her family sees it they’ll come rushing to find her and then subsequently take her more seriously. Unfortunately, the note falls behind Jessica’s dresser, which delays her inevitable retrieval. Elizabeth finally realizes she’s missing because her grody bedroom is actually clean for once. After visiting the super dysfunctional Shepard house, the Wakefields discover from one of Steven’s basketball buddies that Nicky is on his way via Greyhound to San Fran. They whole family drives from bus stop to bus stop until they finally locate Jessica. Tears and hugs and promises to take Jessica seriously ensue. And instead of being punished for being a total bitch, Jessica is rewarded with a new sweater.

If you skip the last few chapters, you can just pretend that Jess’ bus left the station, and she disappeared into the San Fran landscape, never to be heard from again.

3rnvk6B-Plot: Ricky Capaldo shows up again. Man, this dude can not catch a break. When we last saw him, he was saving “Easy Annie” Whitman from herself. Now, he’s forced to get a job as a waiter at Casey’s, since his parents divorced, and his dad left his mom high and dry. Since Ricky’s dad is not paying child support, his mom has decided that he can’t see his old-world Italian immigrant grandparents. Their depiction is just so fucking cringe worthy.

Well, his grandparents have decided to sue for visitation. Elizabeth is doing an article on the trial for the Sweet Valley News, which seems highly unethical (plus improbable that a family court would allow this). Ricky is on his mom’s side because he wants to punish his grandparents for his dad being such a shitbag. Elizabeth has one of her trademark talks with Ricky, and he realizes that he’s been wrong the whole time. He tells his mom that he and his sister should be allowed to see his grandparents. Ricky’s mom then drops the case (thus wasting every one’s time and money.)

Ugh, Ned Wakefield Moment #1: During opening arguments for the trial, Ned actually utters the following:

“Please, Your Honor.” He paused. “Think of the children. The children,” he repeated quietly.

Ugh, Ned Wakefield Moment #2

“You know,” their father said, laughing, ” I have never been able to teach your mother how to do justice to a salad. That woman has a master’s degree, and she still can’t mix a decent dressing.”

August 8, 2010

#10 Wrong Kind of Girl (or Slut-Shaming at Sweet Valley High)

Lesson: If at first you don’t succeed, try to kill yourself, and try again.

Gather ye limber, gather ye quick. It’s time for cheerleading tryouts (again) at ye olde  Sweet Valley High, and tragedy is sure to ensue. “Watch it, Annie Whitman! Jessica’s out to get you!” Dum, dum, dummmm!

Our protagonist/cheerleading supplicant is “Easy Annie” Whitman, so named because she has a “reputation.” Seriously, is that the best nickname they could come up with? Off the top of my head: Scarlet A, Annie love you long time, Fanny (which the Britons will appreciate), or Traînée (for the Frenchies). Anyway, Easy Annie has made this name for herself by shamelessly dating multiple boys! I never understood how she  was fundamentally any different from Jessica (or any other girl in Sweet Valley, really). The dating pool at Sweet Valley High is shallow and incestuous, and even the number of guys that Liz and Jess have shared is pretty gross (Todd, Jeffrey, Sam, Ken, etc).

Well, besides the general male population of Sweet Valley High, all Wanton Whitman wants is to be an SVH cheerleader, as if making the squad will solve all the problems in her life. We soon get an insight into said problems through (of course) Elizabeth, our resident meddler. When Liz starts tutoring Annie, it comes to light that Annie’s mom is a ho too, and we all know the ho apple doesn’t fall far from the ho tree. Ms. Mona Whitman (Moan-a–12-year-old lols–how appropriate, SVH ghostwriter!) gave birth to Annie at the tender age of 16 and is currently shacked up with a sleazy photographer named Johnny. As a grown-up ho, she is naturally drunk and chain smoking every time we see her.

(Isn’t Ms. Whitman totally channeling this VD propaganda poster from the forties???? Maybe this is who she’s modeling for…)

“Hi, kitten, we’re home…”

“Elizabeth! So glad to meet you,” Mrs. Whitman gushed, her words slightly slurred from drinking.

Well naturally, Jessica has taken it upon herself to be the morality chief of police at Sweet Valley High. She succeeds in keeping Annie off the squad by using the “It’s either her or me” approach. I always wanted the SVH cheerleaders to rise up and snatch the biatch’s pompoms, but alas, they concede to her co-captain terrorism and pick my least favorite character in all of Sweet Valley-dom, Sandra Bacon, to be on the squad in lieu of Annie.

Of course, Easy Annie is crushed, but she gets the last word and is socially redeemed when she a) tries to kill herself and b) starts dating the only unattractive guy at Sweet Valley High, Ricky Capaldo. Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather be viewed as the double-dipping whore (or who’re as my grandmother would say) than accept that fate. But this is Sweet Valley, so high-functioning hos are a definite no. And depression and a horrible home life are made better with an SVH red-and-white cheerleading sweater.

Now, Easy Annie is in a coma, and the doctor says that she has no will to live. (Sidenote: DUH! She tried to kill herself. I’m fairly certain her will to live is about as diminished as her pill supply) After Jessica relates a characteristically hyperbolic version of events to the “doctor,”  the “doctor” then decides that making Annie a post facto cheerleader will resuscitate her will to live. Cue a guilty Jessica, who tells Annie that she made the squad after all. SHAZAM, the coma is over. Happy ending time.

Annie is relegated to a somewhat negligible background role until 67 books later when she has to deal with her steroid-pumped boyfriend, Tony Esteban. (Steroids equals shrunken testicles, acne, spontaneous breast growth, sexual dysfunction, premature baldness, etc). I guess Easy Annie’s still in Sweet Valley purgatory after all.

If you can’t tell, this is one of my favorite Sweet Valley High books ever! And it’s followed by another winner, #11 Too Good to be True, where we meet New York city harlot, Suzanne Devlin. Spoiler alert: She is too good to be true.

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