Perfect Size Six

August 21, 2015

#25 Nowhere To Run

“Will Emily lose everything she loves?”

Ever since Todd Wilkins left Sweet Valley for the greener pastures of Vermont, Elizabeth has had to occupy herself with helping the less fortunate students of Sweet Valley High solve their problems. Liz’s charity case du jour is Emily Mayer, fellow junior and drummer for the school’s new-wave rock band, The Droids.

See, Emily’s father has remarried an absolutely horrible woman named Karen, who isn’t much older than Emily. She’s your archetypal bitchy step-mom. She thinks that everything Emily is doing is horrible and wrong. She hates her drumming and her bandmates. She thinks working on the school newspaper is a more respectable hobby. And now that Karen has given birth to little baby Karrie, she’s come completely unhinged. She keeps changing the house rules and threatens to send Emily to some far off boarding school.

Meanwhile, Emily is just trying to do everything she can to get in her stepmother’s good graces. She babysits every weekend, misses band practices, and agrees to a new restrictive curfew. One day, Emily invites her bandmate/crush Dan Scott over to her house to hear her new cymbals. It’s completely innocent, of course, but Karen storms in and throws out a few “tramp” accusations, which completely humiliates Emily. (Even moms aren’t immune to slut-shaming in Sweet Valley.)

pulpnovelTears filled Emily’s eyes as Karen’s words rang again in her memory. “I am not going to permit you to turn out like your mother!” Karen had said. “I will simply not have my baby grow up in a house with a tramp!”

A tramp, Emily thought dully. That’s what my mother turned out to be. Who’s to say I haven’t already taken after her? Maybe I don’t have a choice.

(Ugh. I love how Emily’s all worried about slut-dom being some sort of biological imperative, like the very nature of a tramp is being passed down from one generation of sluts to another.)

Thanks to Karen’s big mouth, Emily’s secret is out of the bag. She’d previously told every one that her mother died when she was a child, when in reality her mother just left one morning with no warning or forwarding address. There’s a vague implication that the former Mrs. Mayer had serious problems, but they don’t go into any real detail besides the whole tramp thing.

Emily runs away to the Wakefield residence and pours her heart out to Elizabeth. The Wakefields make her call her dad to let him know her location and relay that she’s safe. Mr. Meyer, being the daddy dearest that he is, says that he will put Emily’s beloved drums out on the street unless she comes home immediately.

Emily rushes home but later decides to sell her drums to keep the peace. Unbeknownst to Emily, her crush, Dan Scott, secretly buys them to keep them safe for her. (Awww. How sweet.). Sadly, it seems like Emily is destined to become some Cinderella/Stepford daughter, whose sole purpose is cleaning and childcare

Soon after the drum debacle, Karen buys baby Karrie a teddy bear with glass eyes that are poorly attached. Emily tries to warn her about the potential choking hazard, but Karen ignores/insults her. Of course, all hell breaks loose a minute later. Karrie’s half swallowed the bear’s eye and is now choking. Karen is wailing and clinging onto Karrie for dear life, preventing Emily from performing some life-saving first-aid. In what is perhaps the most satisfying moment of the book, Emily slaps her stepmother, grabs the baby, and saves her life via the Heimlich maneuver.

tumblr_n3xz2xmhUd1qg4blro2_500Of course, Mr. Mayer walks in during this shit storm and comes to the conclusion that Emily tried to hurt little Karrie. Karen is still freaking out in the corner and doesn’t tell him otherwise. So Mr. Mayer kicks Emily out of the house! (We officially have a new candidate for worst parent in Sweet Valley, y’all.)

Emily goes to the Wakefield house again and tells them that she is going to go live with her mother in Chicago (her mother’s last known whereabouts). When Emily tries to reach her m.i.a. mom, she finds out that her mother re-married a couple of years ago and moved to Mexico. (Ouch! Double fail in the parenting department.)

Luckily, the Wakefield’s grandparents are in town, and Grandma Wakefield tells Emily about her own struggles with being a step-parent 40 years or so ago. She says that she was pretty awful at being a step mom, but in time they became once big, happy, cliché family. Because this is Sweet Valley, this little pep talk works, and Emily is excited to start anew with her family. (Seriously, Emily, fuck those people.) As if on cue, the Mayer clan appears on the Wakefield’s doorstep. Karen is all sweetness and regret and apologizes for all of her step-parenting sins. After tears and an impromptu party, the Mayers sail off into the sunset, never to be heard from again.

B-plot – In what is perhaps the lamest sub-plot in Sweet Valley history, Jess and Liz’s grandparents are in town from Michigan, and the twin’s mother, Alice, is feeling jealous and insecure about their close relationship. Alice feels like a shitty mother because she’s part of the workforce and not helicopter parenting her children at all times. Liz somehow realizes that Alice is feeling down, and she schemes to make her feel useful by getting her to help organize a going away party for her grandparents. Of course, Liz’s plan works, and Alice once again feels like a useful member of the Wakefield household. (Seriously though, how can a grown-ass woman with her own design firm actually be this insecure?)

April 4, 2015

#22 Too Much In Love (or Stalker, Ahoy!)

“Will DeeDee’s dependence chase Bill away?”

Yeesh. Pictured in prime stage 5 clinger mode on the cover is one DeeDee Gordon. The object of her obsession is her surfer boy beau, Bill Chase. See, they’ve been dating for awhile, (14 books!), and that new relationship bloom has fallen off the rose. DeeDee wants Bill’s constant love and attention, but Bill just wants to swim, pass history class, and surf. Well, the more he distances himself from her, the more obsessed she gets. She waits for him before, during, and after school. She shows up at his house unannounced. She cries when he blows off their double date for an important swim meet.

Why is DeeDee acting so crazy all of a sudden? Of course, it’s because her parents have just gotten divorced. Her mom worked and went back to school, so of course, her Hollywood agent father’s eyes and penis wandered. Plus, DeeDee’s art teacher/mentor was dumped by her hubby, who left her for an uggo with no career. Well, DeeDee has decided that being a strong, independent woman is the kiss of death for a good relationship, so that’s why she’s hellbent on being the most submissive girl at Sweet Vglennclosealley High.

Different time and demographic and all, but I don’t get it. Everybody  in Sweet Valley is getting divorced– Why is there even a stigma? Just off the top of my head, the children of divorce at SVHigh include Enid Rollins, Ricky Capaldo, Bill Chase,  cousin Kelly, Cara Walker, Aaron Dallas, and the *fabulous* Lila Fowler. Oh and add every one’s favorite inappropriate teacher, Mr. Collins, to the single dad’s club. Even Alice and Ned get sick of each other’s shit periodically, so why, pray tell, would any one feel a  perverse sense of shame that their own parents couldn’t make it work? Plus, the high school break up rate should be something like 137 times worse.

Bill is so over DeeDee’s neediness. Ugh, that scene where she leaps from the bleachers, screaming, at the regional swim meet and runs into Bill’s embarrassed arms after he wins his race. Ugh. Instead of having an actual conversation with her about it, he avoids her and agrees to go see a movie with Droids front woman, Dana Larson. (But they’re just friends, ok, even if he doesn’t tell DeeDee about it.)

Dana is punk-y, spunky, and independent. She even likes to go to the movies by all by herself. Bill compares the two throughout the afternoon, when he’s not wallowing in the death of his previous girlfriend. Basically, it all “why can’t DeeDee be more like this? She’s always crying. And I want to enjoy the little free time I have and not be miserable.” It’s nothing you would want your boyfriend to think of you.23951918

I won’t lie. Dana is one of my fav characters. She’s New Wave,  loves Hitchcock and Truffaut, and old movies in general. She’s in the heppest bank around, the Droids. Her wardrobe is the ultimate in alternative 80’s fashion. A prince will eventually fall in love with her! I always imagined her as a young Debbie Harry from Blondie. Bill, of course, doesn’t tell DeeDee about this non-date date. But he runs into Jessica and Cara, who easily sniff out his treachery and can hardly wait to tell DeeDee. Jess has a long memory, Bill! DeeDee angrily and publicly confronts Bill at school. She says she will change, but Bill says they need a “break.” Ugh.

Let me play devil’s advocate here for a minute. I know DeeDee’s supposed to be the crazy, psycho stalker with dependence issues, but doesn’t she raise some valid points? Bill is allegedly too busy for her what with school, swimming, and the special history research project. School is the requisite 8 hours/day I’m assuming. Swimming practice is 10 hours per week, per the book. And what is with this special Civil War Project for Mr. Fellows? What is it, and why does it require that Bill go over to his history teacher’s house? Inappropriate. And if Bill is soooo busy, how does he have time for an afternoon with Dana? And if it’s soooo innocent, why doesn’t he tell DeeDee about it casually in conversation? Not defending DeeDee or anything, but why doesn’t Bill get any of the blame? (And can you tell I’ve dealt with a Bill Chase or two in my life, and I’m a very independent woman, thank you.)

DeeDee had agreed to help Liz with the set design for the talent show before the big breakup, but she’s just a total basket case now. She can’t do anything on her own. Plus, all she wants to do is lament to our Saint Liz about her love troubles.  Elizabeth muses about Poor Bill having to put up with this and no wonder DeeDee got dumped. Rude.

Since Liz can’t leave anything alone, she decides that she must help DeeDee help herself. Of course, she does this in the most convoluted way possible. Elizabeth fakes an illness (even tumblr_mn9mdclARi1s5ruqso1_500skipping school to add to the realness of it all) to force DeeDee to take over the reigns as talent show director. And it works! DeeDee is so busy putting this shindig together that she doesn’t have time to moon over Bill. And she turns back into that independent girl who Bill fell in love with, so Bill wants her back! Shockingly enough, DeeDee doesn’t go running back into his arms. She decides that they needed to keep that break going and take things slowly, so whatever happens, happens. Shockingly sage, Sweet Valley.

Our B-plot has Ned going to Mexico City to get some documents for a case about the illegal importation of goods into the US. (Pre-NAFTA, y’all) He and Alice are turning this into a 10-day-vacay, so the twins will be home alone. In the Sweet Valley world, anything can happen (stalkers, serial killers, werewolves, vampires, doppelgangers). But since this is relatively early in the series’ run, the twin’s hijinx are super tame (and all Jessica’s doing). She stuff too many sheets in the washer and floods the basement, while she simultaneously leaves an unattended grease fire in the kitchen.

Of course, Jessica decides to throw a small soiree later in the week, which turns into a full-blown house party when Lila’s new college boyfriend invites his beer-swilling frat bros over. One of them spills beer all over Mrs. Wakefield’s important interior design plans, and newly-independent DeeDee uses her two weeks of art school training to make them good as new.

Minority Report:  This book is notable for introducing our first Person of Color (POC), Patty Gilbert. She’s pretty, popular, and DeeDee’s best friend. That’s about it. She doesn’t really get to do much else in Sweet Valley until she has relationship problems of her own in #61 Boy Trouble. (Yes, Elizabeth has to come to her aid.)
English Major Moment: “‘We’ve been studying the Bronte sisters in Mr. Collins’s class,’ Jessica added slyly. ‘And Mr. Collins said they were truly remarkable women because they had vivid imagination and they took risks all the time.’
‘Just what have you got in mind?’ Elizabeth asked warily. ‘Are you planing on running through Sweet Valley at midnight screaming ‘Heathcliff’?'”
I love Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” Any excuse I can ever have to play “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush I will take!!

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