Perfect Size Six

May 22, 2015

#1 Double Love

“Share the continuing story of the Wakefield twins and their friends- their laughter, heartaches, and dreams.”

Where, oh where, do I even start with this book? It seems like there are 137 different things going on, and so much of it is snark-able gold!

In honor of the book that started it all, I have a few embarrassing confessions about my lifelong love of Sweet Valley. 1) My driver’s license says I’m 5’6″, when in reality I’m 5’4″. 2) In seventh grade, I forgot that I had a book report due, so I did an impromptu retelling of Sweet Valley Super Thriller, Murder in Paradise. Yeah, that’s the one where an old acquaintance of Alice Wakefield’s plans to murder her and steal her face. It went over surprisingly well, and I got an A (and a warning that I needed to tackle more serious fare in the future). 3) My high school extreme diet regime was based on Robin Wilson’s in #4 Power Play. I did not, however, become a cheerleading co-captain or Olympic-calibre diver because of it. 4) My dream job was Sweet Valley ghostwriter. I now work at one of the top 100 high schools in America and wish it even mildly resembled Sweet Valley High.

giphysIn grand Perfect-Size-Six style, the book opens with  gorgeous Jessica Wakefield looking into a mirror and lamenting to her twin sister, Elizabeth, about what a fat, hideous beast she is.

“‘I’m so gross! Just look at me. Everything is totally wrong. To begin with, I’m disgustingly fat….’ With that, she spun around to show off a stunning figure without an extra ounce visible.”

Jessica and Liz are lusting after the same boy, basketball captain, all-around dream boat, Todd Wilkins. Jess actually does something about it and relentlessly pursues him. Liz alternates whimpering and pining for him, when she’s not sobbing on the shoulder of heart-throb teacher and Robert Redford-lookalike Mr. Collins.

Todd only has eyes for Liz, but that doesn’t do much to deter Jessica. After all, she’s the Jessica Wakefield. She can’t understand why Todd’s not interested. After one particularly pointed rebuff, Jess decides to walk saucily down the street in an effort to get some much-needed male attention. It takes approximately 1.37 seconds for tattooed, high-school dropout Rick Andover to pull up along side in his beat-up Camaro. And he wins her over with the following pick-up line.

“‘Pardon me, Heaven–which way to Mars?'”

giphy4Just, ugh. Jessica agrees to go on a date with him the next night, but she’s ill-prepared to deal with Sweet Valley’s resident bad boy. He takes her to Kelly’s a wild, Roadhouse-type bar, and he gets drunk in ten minutes off Boilermakers. (Yeah, this is totally not a 17-year-old boy drink.) A fight breaks out, the police are called, and Jessica has to be escorted home by a local patrolman, who thinks she’s his niece’s friend, Elizabeth. Jessica does not correct him. *Shocker* Unfortunately, school gossip and Wakefield neighbor Caroline Pearce witnesses the Sweet Valley Police Department bringing “Elizabeth” home, and she promptly tells every one at Sweet Valley High.

For some reason everybody believes that old, reliable Elizabeth Wakefield is now a tramp and capable of being involved in a bar fight. (It seems totally far fetched, but Liz does become a “tramp” just a mere 6 books later after a motorcycle accident-induced head injury. So I guess for Sweet Valley this isn’t so far fetched?)

And Liz is just abso-fucking-lutely dense throughout the entire book. She doesn’t demand that Jessica tell everyone the truth and clear her name. Her philosophy is basically, if they would believe these lies, then they’re not her friends anyway. How noble truths of you, Liz.

Jessica actually has a rare flash of guilt and admits the truth to Todd, and he thinks she’s trying to be some sort of martyr and take the blame for Elizabeth. So he kisses her and asks her to the fraternity dance. Soon, the walls of Sweet Valley are buzzing with the news of their coupling.

3a17331a7810f3eda4aacae2aa5f2828Jessica’s really fucking pleased with herself…until the fateful night of the dance. Todd just isn’t that into her, and he politely declines her near-constant advances. Plus, he stares at Elizabeth throughout the night, which, of course, is unforgivable. Being the budding psychopath that she is, Jessica will not be ignored, so she schemes to punish Todd and keep him away from Elizabeth. She tears at her clothes, makes herself generally disheveled, and cries (attempted) rape. Now, Elizabeth thinks Todd is some date-rapey creep, and Todd still thinks Liz is some Roadhouse Rhonda.

A week or so passes, Liz is wallowing in self-pity about her broken heart. (Oh my God, Liz, you never even dated the dude. Get over it!) One day, she and Jessica are driving the Fiat, and a car starts following them. When they stop at a light, none other than a drunk Rick Andover pulls up along side the Wakefield Fiat and carjacks them! (I guess he just leaves his car at the light? Also, why doesn’t Rick get arrested for carjacking/kidnapping/dui/assault?) He takes the terrified twosome on a drunken tour of Sweet Valley, including through the Dairiburger parking lot, where Todd just happens to be standing. He somehow sees the terrified looks on Liz and Jess’ faces and follows them in his Datsun.

For some reason, Rick is taking them to Kelly’s. (I guess to do a little day drinking.) Todd pulls his POS car in front of the entrance, blocking it. Rick sucker punches him, but Todd takes him out with a flurry of gut punches. Liz and Todd reignite their relationship after they realize that Jess is a liar.

giphy-3B-Plot: Sweet Valley High’s lease on the football field has expired, so the two wealthiest families in town are waging a legal battle for property rights. The new-money Fowlers want to build a computer-chip factory. The old-money Patmans want to restore the football field to its former glory as a Victorian garden. Blame it on my bourgeois upbringing, but I still really don’t get the old money vs new money hullaballoo. Money is money is money.

The twin’s father, lawyer extraordinaire Ned Wakefield, is leading the charge for the status quo. As he spends more and more time on the case, the twins come to believe that he is having an affair with his co-counsel, Marianna West. Their only evidence? 1) Marianna and Ned having been working overtime on a case. 2) Marianna is beautiful, and (most convincingly) 3) Marianna is a divorcee! Apparently ridding yourself of a failed marriage puts you on the next train to Whore-ville.

Of course, the only merger between Wakefield/West is in the boardroom, as Marianna (with Ned’s help) has become a partner in the firm. With that crisis averted, Jess and Liz are free to meddle in the love life of their brother, Steven. Jess discovers somehow that he is dating Betsy Martin, the trashiest girl in Sweet Valley and the undisputed queen of the dregs! Steven’s really dating her sister, Tricia, who is more like the goodwill ambassador of the dregs.

Their relationship is on the rocks, though, because Steven is embarrassed of Tricia’s family and won’t tell any one he’s dating her. After a weekend of moping, Steven realizes he’s been a grade-A jerk and races to the bad part of town to get his girl.

TouchofthepoetEnglish Major Moment: “And right above the table was a theater poster of Jason Robards in A Touch of the Poet. She didn’t think she would ever be as good a writer as Eugene O’Neill, but it was a terrific-looking poster—and she was, after all, a writer.”

(Hey, some enterprising Sweet Valley fan posted a pdf link to read the entire book, which you can access here.)

April 28, 2015

#24 Memories

svh024
“Can Cara make Steven forget Tricia Martin?”

So this was definitely a clunker book to get through. There are three story lines going on (involving all of the Wakefield children), and none is particularly interesting. First, we have the cover story of Steven Wakefield, who is still trying to come to terms with the death of his first love, Tricia Martin, and his new feelings for Cara Walker. Every one in his life says that he needs to get over Tricia’s death, because it was, like, months ago already. The only person who is against him moving on is Tricia’s sister, reformed bad girl, Betsy.

Personal aside: I HATE Tricia Martin story lines now. One of the reasons I took such a long break from this blog was my stage 4 cancer diagnosis, treatment, and general life upheaval. I had to move in with my grandparents, who took care of me, while my former live-in man friend told me not to come home on weekends any more because he had a new girlfriend now. (This bitch (his now ex-girlfriend) even sent me a get well card with an AMC gift certificate inside. Yeah. Kind of a bitchy since I didn’t have a date anymore for the movies, and I couldn’t physically go out by myself.) So as you can see, it’s hard for me to be impartial about this, even in the fictional world.

giphy2Well, it appears that Betsy and I are the only cancer cock blocks around in Sweet Valley. Jess thinks that Steve and Cara are sooo right for each other since they’ve both just recently gone through major life upheavals. While Steve lost the love of his life, Cara’s parents got divorced!! Our Ghostwriter du jour hammers home the fact that Cara isn’t the flighty Jessica-lite of before because her dad dumped her mom and took her brother to the East Coast. Ugh, more divorce propaganda. At least, Cara got some character out of it, I guess.

Throughout the book, Steven leads Cara on and treats her like shit. At Lila’s party, he abandons her on the dance floor after a cutting remark from Betsy. At the charity dance, he stops talking to her midsentence after Betsy shows up. But then Steven gets all jealous and huffy when his friend, Artie Western, shows the slightest interest in Cara, so he asks her out on a combination zoo/ picnic “date.” But he makes her bring the food! After treating her like shit for the last few weeks, you would think that he could spring for the Dairyburger at the very least.

Well, the bring-your-own-picnic/zoo date is a success, if only because Steven doesn’t dump Cara at the monkey habitat. They continue this secret, non-relationship relationship for the rest of the week by talking on the phone and watching TV together. *Yawn* They make Liz and Todd look like regulars at Studio 54.

Since Cara’s birthday is coming up, Steve tells her that he will take her anywhere she would like to go to celebrate. Cara tells him when he shows up that she would like to go to the Valley Inn. She doesn’t know that this was Steve and Tricia’s special place. Steve is already kind of freaked out being on a more formalized date with Cara, but he goes completely over the edge when the restaurant plays his and Tricia’s song. Steven just leaves Cara alone (again!) on the dance floor without an explanation and drives home! So she gets dumped…again… on her birthday and has to take a cab back to her place.

“Steven slammed his fist on the counter, ‘I’ve told you, Jess, stay out of it. I’ll live my life the way I want.’
‘OK,’ Jessica said. She shrugged. ‘But remember Cara’s got one advantage over Tricia. She’s alive.'”
clueless-way-harsh-tai

Thankfully I guess, Elizabeth steps into to save the day. She has a come-to-Jesus talk with Betsy Martin about Steven.  Betsy finally admits that she puts such a stranglehold on Steven, because she wants to keep Tricia’s memory alive. Since Betsy was such a shitty sister while Tricia was alive (what with being a boozer, user, and a loser), she wants to make amends for it on the flip side. Betsy realizes that Tricia would have wanted Steven to move on with Cara, so she and Liz hatch a quirky plan to get these two kooky kids together again (because straight talk is so overrated).

Anyway, Liz/Betsy arrange for Steven/Cara to unknowingly meet up at the high school. When they realize it’s a set up, eight-year-old Teddy Collins comes out with two envelopes from Betsy with hand-drawn pictures and a letter enclosed giving her blessing to their relationship.

Dear Steve,

I have finally come to realize what Tricia knew long ago: a wonderful person should be looking toward his future, not his past. You made my sister so happy while she was alive. Now it’s time for you to bring your kindness and affection to someone else. Do what Trish wanted, Steve: embrace life and all the beautiful things it has to offer.
Fondly,
Betsy

Since this is Sweet Valley, all is forgiven, and they live happily ever after. (Spoiler alert: Just kidding, of course. Steven falls for two different Tricia doppelgangers in the not-too-distant future. And more importantly, he actually comes out as a gay man in Sweet Valley Confidential.)

tumblr_ngca2xhsUY1r2a5ywo1_500B Plot– There’s a big charity volleyball match/dance between Sweet Valley High and their archrivals, Big Mesa (with a dance to follow, naturally). One of the players, Michael Sellars, is a doppleganger for Todd, so Elizabeth (like so many other Sweet Valley characters before and after her) thinks that if they look alike they must have the same personality too. There are seriously at least 5 books with this exact theme.

There are extended scenes of Liz being so dazzled by Michael that she can’t even play volleyball, and he takes full advantage of her ineptitude. It’s cringe worthy. Even though this guy is a doucebag extraordinaire, Liz agrees to go to the dance with him.

She soon finds out Michael is nothing like Todd. He plays football (not basketball) and is a total narcissist asshole with anger management issues. He shit talks the food at the dance and won’t even let Liz dance with harmless class clown, Winston Egbert. Liz has had enough at this point and dumps him for good.

C Plot- Jessica overhears her mom talking to Mrs. Egbert about her famous film director brother, who’s secretly coming to town for a visit. Jessica plots to meet him (by any means necessary) and become a famous actress. (Yes, it’s another Jessica will do ANYTHING to be famous plotline.) Her idea of ANYTHING is to cozy up to head nerd, Winston, by working together on a book report. Her logic follows that she will go over to his house, dazzle his uncle, and then depart for Hollywood. But as it turns out, movie producer brother can’t make it, but sanitation engineer brother does. Jessica is so mortified by her mistake that she listens to his boring garbage removal plans for hours. Better luck next time, Jess.

MarielHemingwayEnglish Major Moment:

“When the bell sounded, Lila came up to Jessica as she was collecting her books. ‘Jessica, what’s going on?’ she asked. ‘What made you team up with the king of comedy?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jessica answered breezily. ‘I’m just interested in Fitzgerald, I guess.’
“But I thought we would do Hemingway together.’ Lila pouted. ‘He’s Mariel Hemingway’s grandfather, you know.’
‘I don’t think that’s the kind of information Mr. Collins is looking for,’ Jessica said as the two of them headed toward the door.”

April 15, 2015

#23 Say Goodbye (Ta-ta, Todd!)

svh023“Can Elizabeth survive the heartache of losing Todd?”

When we last left off, Todd had announced his imminent departure from Sweet Valley via a melodramatic poetry reading at the high school talent show. Instead of just straightforwardly telling every one that he’s moving, Todd recites a 19th-century Victorian, death-centric poem ,”Remember” by Christina Rossetti**, and tearfully announces the news. Now, the great white mope is really and truly departing Sweet Valley forever (or at least for the next 35 books), so Elizabeth feels like her world is ending.

Liz and Todd have decided to do the bi-coastal romance thing. They agree to write letters and call as often as possible. (And you thought long distance relationships were tough in modern times. Lest we forget, there’s no texting, sexting, skype-ing, emailing, or unlimited calling. Their relationship is basically being conducted pony express and Ma Bell style. Todd even says that he’s going to have to get a job just so he can afford his phone bill. (although both of them are so boring that I don’t even know how they would be able to talk for hours on end.)

unnamedElizabeth goes to 3 people for support 1) Steven, whose girlfriend DIED not too long ago 2) Enid, whose long-time boyfriend just dumped her for another girl and 3) Jessica, who just doesn’t give a shit. Every one basically says the same things: that things are going to be different now and that Liz and Todd should take a wait-and-see approach to their relationship. Surprisingly mature, denizens of Sweet Valley.

Jessica decides that Elizabeth needs to date handsome, wealthy Nicholas Morrow to quickly get over Todd. She convinces Nicholas that Liz and Todd are finito and urges him to move in quickly. Nicholas has harbored a not-so-secret crush on Liz ever since she was kidnapped by Carl the orderly, so he’s eager to swoop in.

Jessica then tells Todd that the long distance relationship is ruining Liz’s life, and that if he really wants her to be happy, he’ll set her free. That’s great and all and pretty good advice, but Todd doesn’t inform Liz about any of this. He just cuts off all contact without a word of explanation. Liz is devastated by Todd’s silence and decides to move on to Nicholas. Hello, rebound.

unnamed1Liz realizes after a couple of weeks of dating Nicholas that she really loves Todd, but she doesn’t want Nick to be sad and dateless to Lila’s party. So she postpones dumping him. Todd shows up to surprise her at the party, sees her looking comfy in Nicholas’ arms and runs away pouting. Liz eventually finds him at his old house, and they confess their undying love for each other. But this time they acknowledge the harsh realities of being separated by 2000 miles.

I’m a little confused at their ultimate decision. They love each other and are still sort of dating, but they won’t get in the way of meeting new people. And hopefully, one day they’ll find their way back to each other. ??? Ugh, what does this even mean? Even one-dimensional fictional relationships are confusing. (Future spoiler alert: they both move on quickly. Liz’s future beau, Jeffrey French, is only slightly more palatable than Todd.)

Oh, and I feel so bad for Nick Morrow at the end. He tells Liz that this is her last chance to be with him because he can’t have his heart trampled on again, and she says that she’s ok with that. Sorry, Nicholas! For some reason, he never really has much luck with the ladies, while a douchebag/date rapist/ serial cheater like Bruce Patman and even ultra nerd Winston Egbert find continuous love.

B-Plot: Jessica racked up almost $100 in charges at Lisette’s (without her parent’s knowledge), so they’re making her get a job to pay them back. Even though Jess’ work history is poor/negligible, she somehow manages to become the second in command at a local dating agency. It’s a disaster on par with Tofu Glu, so it’s one of my favorite B plots ever.

While “working” one day, Jessica decides her brother, Steven, needs to start dating again to get over the death of his last girlfriend. She picks three random dates for Steven out of the dating agency’s files. (Hello, conflict of interest. And although there are apparently photos in the files, Jessica does not preview any of Steven’s dates.)

composite_14289608274939Our first single gal is Beatrice Barber, a 43-year-old divorcee, who relentlessly pursues Steven throughout the week, phoning him, and propositioning him for dinner and movies. He is really confused at this point and just assumes he met her at a party. No love connection here.

Jessica is convinced that Steven didn’t give Beatrice a chance because he didn’t get to meet her, so she decides to give the next prospect the Wakefields’ home address!! So one random night, Elizabeth opens the door to find Jordan “Jody” Maguire, a leather-clad punk rocker with assorted piercings, who *gasp* smokes, and talks about Plato’s theory of love. Strike two, and Steven finally discovers what Jessica’s been up to.

But Jess won’t be deterred so she invites the third girl, Melissa Porter, to be Steven’s surprise date to Lila’s party. I just love the ghostwriter’s description of this girl. Her hobbies are “cooking, restaurants, eating—as well as all sorts of traditional things around the house.” I totally had this feeling of dread that a morbidly obsese person was going to show up at his dorm room or something and just be utterly embarrassed. But we never get to meet her, because she calls to cancel and leaves us with my favorite line from the book:

“‘I’ve decided I prefer food to men,’ she’d told Jessica on the phone.”

Jessica’ not really remorseful, but she gets her comeuppance when she invites one of her clients, Spence Millgate, to be her date to Lila’s party. He claims in his profile to love sports, movies, and having a good time. Of course, when he shows up, he looks nothing like his picture and has the air of a young serial killer about him. He wants to be an undertaker, because he thinks embalming is fascinating. This totally sounds like the setup for a future Thriller edition about a crazy coroner who’s obsessed with the Wakefield Twins and wants them all to himself….forever.

Must Watch: I found this amazing video that features various men’s dating-video profiles of the ’80s, and it makes modern dating seem downright delightful in comparison. 

SONY DSCEnglish Major Moment: “‘How could he be mad at you?’ Jessica demanded. ‘You’ve been exactly like—what’s the name of that Greek woman who sat around for ten years weaving things while her husband was away?’

‘Penelope.’ Elizabeth laughed. ‘Well, I don’t know if that’s exactly true. But I still think something weird is going on.’

Hmm. Am I really supposed to believe that Jessica’s familar enough with Homer’s The Odyssey and/or Greek mythology to make this comparison? Lols. no. For those unaware, The Odyssey details Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan war. His wife, Penelope, is facing rowdy suitors who want to take her husband’s kingdom. So she tells them that she won’t marry until she finishes her tapestry. So she weaves it by day and un-weaves it by night until her husband’s return. (Check out Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad for a retelling from Penelope’s point of view.)

 

**In Memoriam: Sweet Valley’s first/worst couple, Todd and Elizabeth…

Remember by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

 

 

August 30, 2010

#17 Love Letters

Filed under: Books #1-20 — mediumcore @ 12:58 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

“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 6, 2010

#8 Heart Breaker (or Surf’s up, Bitch)

“Will Jessica break Bill’s heart, too??”

Once upon a time, Jessica had a crush on Bill Chase, so she asked him to go to the Sadie Hawkins dance with her. Bill turned her down, since he still wasn’t over his dead ex-girlfriend, so Jessica, being the sociopath that she is, has vowed to get her revenge. Mwahaha!

It all started in the last book, #7 Dear Sister. Bill originally had a crush on Elizabeth, and during her breakup with Todd/hoedown, she agreed to go out with him. Liz ended up ditching Bill for Bruce, so Jess went instead, pretending she was Liz.  She then revealed at the end of the date that she was Jessica, so Bill’s affection shifted accordingly.

Wow. That was a lot of set up. I solemnly swear the rest of the book is a lot less complicated.

Bill and Jessica have snagged the leads in Sweet Valley High’s spring production of Splendor in the Grass. (That’s an interesting choice. I love the movie and all, but I would think that the topics therein (including suicide, abortion, mental breakdown, and implied gang rape) would be a tad controversial/ awkward in the world of Sweet Valley. Can you just imagine Jess, the drama queen, delivering these lines:

“No, mom! I’m not spoiled! I’m not spoiled mom! I’m just as fresh and virginal, like the day I was born, mom!”

Plus, it seems like the only scenes they ever rehearse are ones that involve Jess and Bill making out.

At stage left, we have DeeDee Gordon, who’s continuously mooning over Bill. I don’t blame her. He’s definitely one of the dreamiest Sweet Valley males, but remember, this is a world where attempted date-rapist Bruce Patman is the #1 stud. So all bets are off.

To summarize our love quadrangle, DeeDee likes Bill, Bill likes Jessica, and Jessica’s got the hots for (pre-gay) Tom Mckay (he doesn’t “come out” per se, but he becomes “confused” once he meets Enid’s hot, gay cousin in #75 Amy’s True Love. )

DeeDee appears to be making some headway with Bill, after he starts giving her surfing lessons, but Jessica won’t let someone half as beautiful and half as popular steal her manservant away from her!

It’s like whenever Jessica sees the two of them together, she pulls out her bag of tricks and reduces Bill to a puddle. Then, she alternately ignores him and flirts with Tom Mckay. DeeDee, meanwhile, hangs in there, like the masochist she is.

Things sort of come to a head when DeeDee’s Hollywood agent father comes to town. He watches the play rehearsal and declares that one member of the cast has huge star potential. He won’t say who, because he doesn’t want to make them nervous (???) for opening night, when he will bring one of his producer-friends who discovered Matt Dillon. So instead of making one person nervous, he makes them all petrified by default. Nice, Mr. Gordon.

Jessica knows that she’s the only one who could be a Hollywood star, so she starts operating under the belief that she will be the next Jessica Lange.  Who cares about Bill or Tom, when there’s Richard Gere?

A distraught Bill takes DeeDee for more surfing lessons during a storm. He’s so distracted by thoughts of Jessica that he doesn’t notice right away when DeeDee crashes and gets hit by her board.

He realizes he’s in love with DeeDee after a daring mid-sea rescue. He drags her unconscious body to the beach and can’t believe how beautiful she is. He starts performing CPR on her, but it quickly turns into a makeout session when she opens her eyes and says his name. I thought this was soooo romantic as a kid, but it seems really creepy in retrospect. How about you make sure she’s actually okay before you stick your tongue down her throat, Bill? Within five minutes of the near-death experience, they’re both saying “I love you” to one another. That was fast. (Maybe, this is foreshadowing for #22, Too Much In Love, where DeeDee becomes a Stage-5 clinger.)

Fast forward to opening night of Splendor in the Grass. The play’s a hit, and Mr. Gordon announces that the next Hollywood star will be……Bill Chase. Ooooh, burn Jessica.

Jess makes a last-ditch effort to win back Bill, but he very publicly lets it be known at Lila’s party that DeeDee’s his gal. Awww.

B-Plot: Todd’s ex-girlfriend, Patsy Webber, has moved back to Sweet Valley, and Elizabeth becomes extremely insecure because Patsy is so beautiful. She also dated Todd before Liz, which doesn’t help. Instead of discussing her insecurities with Todd, she just freaks out at all of Todd and Patsy’s interactions. Todd is just as inappropriate. If you have a girlfriend, you shouldn’t be spending all your time with your supermodel ex-girlfriend, giving her sunscreen rubdowns and conciliatory hugs.

I’m so tired of the Liz/Todd drama. It seems like they’re on the verge of breaking up over something stupid in every book. Countdown to Todd’s move to Vermont: 15 books.

Oh, hey, it’s Lois Waller (the poster child of Perfect Size Six): “(Liz) was reluctant to confide in Enid in front of the other girls. Lois Waller made her a little uncomfortable—always trying so hard to impress people, to be in the center of things.”

Perfect-size-six propaganda moment: “DeeDee knew she was running off at the mouth, making jokes to cover up for what she was really feeling. It was an old defense that dated back to when she’d been a chubby little girl and the only way she could keep the other kids from making cracks about her was to make them laugh first.”

(As a bonus of sorts, here’s one of the most dramatic scenes in Splendor in the Grass. Jessica would be playing “Deanie,” the girl in the bathtub. Lila would be playing her mother (haha!) Lila always gets the shaft in the plays.


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 2, 2010

#6 Dangerous Love (or Making Mountains out of Motorcycles)

“Are Elizabeth and Todd heading for disaster?”

When I was a kid, reading Sweet Valley High books out-of-order, ten years after their initial publication date, always took the edge off these cliff-hangers. Liz and Todd fans, have no fear, things don’t start getting real until #23 Say Goodbye. Everything else is just ebb and flow.

Todd and Liz’s crisis du jour revolves around  a motorcycle. Yes, Liz is having serious anxiety over an inanimate object. See, Liz’s cousin, Rexy, died in a moto accident, so there is a blanket cycle ban in effect for all of the Wakefields.

Unfortunately, Todd has realized that he is really a bad-ass biker at heart (ha!), and he wants Liz to be his “motorcycle mama.” Yes, he really uses “Liz” and “motorcycle mama” in the same breath.

Liz hasn’t told Todd about the death of her cousin, because she’s afraid that Todd will choose the bike over her (and who among us would blame him really?). Maybe it’s my dirty adult mind, but I feel like there’s some quasi-hidden sexual agenda here. Liz won’t ride Todd’s bike, but Mandy and Enid will! And they love it too…so exciting, so exhilarating!

Phallic imagery lols: “Elizabeth looked back at the bike. She wished she could share Todd’s joy, but she couldn’t imagine how he could be relaxed and comfortable and enjoy the view when his life depended on being able to balance five hundred pounds between his legs at fifty-five miles per hour.”

This is what four years of college gets you. My mother would be so proud that I’m filtering Sweet Valley High through a Freudian lens.

Seriously, though, Liz works herself up over the dumbest things. She really starts thinking that the way to Todd’s heart is through his Yamaha (actual model, pictured at right). She and Todd both realize how stupid they’re being, in part because of my favorite Sweet Valley male character, Guy Chesney. Liz accepts a ride from Guy, who subtly (for Sweet Valley, anyway) hits on her. Todd becomes enraged/jealous, and now he knows how Liz feels. Relationship crisis averted.

Now, it’s time for Enid’s Sweet Sixteen party. Cue more drama. Jess ditches Liz to hang out with Enid’s cousin, Brian, so Liz decides to take a spin with Todd. Knowing that the bike was causing a strain on their relationship, Todd decides to sell it to Jerry “Crunch” Mcallister, high-school drop out/ frequenter of the Shady Lady bar. (Any time one of the dregs of Sweet Valley is mentioned, that means something really, really shitty is going to happen.) Liz is so touched by Todd’s gesture that she insists on going for a farewell ride.

Unfortunately for them, “Crunch” Mcallister is taking a drunken farewell ride of his own. (Sweet Valley must have the highest rates of DUI with death/bodily injury of any fictitious series.) Of course, there is a dramatic crash, and Liz’s life hangs in the balance. The book ends with Todd and Jessica squeezing a comatose Liz’s hands as hard as possible (???). This doesn’t  seem medically advisable. Maybe, that’s what causes Liz’s brief personality disorder in the next book, #7 Dear Sister.

But wait there’s more….Inaugural edition of “Mr. Collins is extremely inappropriate”

I know he looks like a young Robert Redford, but Mr. Collins is still a creeper. I had a couple of teachers like him in high school— one was fired and the other arrested for similar personal relationships that got out of hand. (Another dude did marry said student, so one happy ending, I guess. My high school had 90 something graduates, so do the math on the inappropriateness.)

Here are some examples of Mr. Collins’ creepiness:

1) “(Liz) was well aware of the divorce Mr. Collins had gone through and how his encounters with his ex-wife regarding their son left him emotionally drained.”

Why is he talking about his personal life at all—let alone his baby mama drama—with a student? I doubt that Sweet Valley has endorsed the field of psychoanalysis/psychotherapy, but LA is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

2) What is Mr. Collins doing at Enid’s sweet-sixteen party? The ghostwriter tries to explain it away by saying he’s chaperoning the after-party at a rock club, but I still say shenanigans. Maybe, if this were Liz’s party, I could sort of/kind of excuse it, but this is Enid, who has had no discernible relationship with him.

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