Perfect Size Six

October 2, 2017

#30 Jealous Lies

Filed under: Books #21-40,Uncategorized — mediumcore @ 4:54 pm
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“Someone doesn’t want Jean in Pi Beta Alpha–her best friend, Sandra.”

This is definitely one of my favorites even though it features my least favorite character in Sweet Valley-dom, Sandra Bacon. (How horrible is she? Twelve books from now, Sandra lets her boyfriend be investigated for attempted murder/arson instead of just admitting to her friends and family that she was dating a Mexican boy. Plus, just look at how fucking smug she is on this cover in her pink sorority jacket.)

Aside from just being a horrible person all around, Sandy Bacon is riddled with horrible self esteem. She’s super jealous of her best friend, Jean West, who by all accounts is prettier than her, smarter than her, and a better friend than her. (Cue my favorite Vanderpump Rules gif.) The one thing that Sandy has that Jean doesn’t is membership in Sweet Valley High’s *exclusive* sorority, Pi Beta Alpha. (Um, almost every girl at school -including Enid Rollins and Caroline Pearson- is in this so-called *exclusive* sorority. I don’t understand the big deal.)

giphy(2)_1Well, Jean missed out on the last pledge season due to her busy schedule, and Sandy intends to make her absence permanent. So the whole book revolves around Sandy plotting to fuck with Jeannie’s pledging a.k.a. hazing period.

Pledge task #1. Take Tom “maybe gay***” Mckay to the sorority party. Sandra knows that every guy would jump at the chance to take Jean anywhere, every one except Tom. The ghostwriter paints him as this sort of aloof, emotional guy who’s been burned by love (more specifically Jessica Wakefield). Plus, he already dislikes Jean due to some earlier perceived hallway snub, so Sandy thinks there’s no way he’d take her to the party.

The last girl he’d gone with was Jessica Wakefield, and a few people joked that she had turned him off the female sex forever, having strung him along until someone better came along.

***We learn much later in the series that he is sort of questioning his sexuality, when he develops feelings for Enid’s cousin, who’s visiting from San Francisco. (Subtle, Sweet Valley ghostwriter. Was her uncle from Fire Island unavailable for this story?)

giphy12Much to Sandy’s dismay, there appears to be a sort of love connection going on, & Tom agrees to be Jean’s date. Sandy being the absolute heinous bitch that she is, decides that she’ll go to Tom’s job and “accidentally” let it slip that this Jean only taking him to the sorority party as part of her pledging process. Ugh.

Tom is understandably pissed, so he wants to make Jean look bad in front of the Pi Beta Alpha girls. He’s a total dick about it, though, stringing her along for hours the night of the party, saying that he’s sick, but he’s coming. When the party’s almost over, he calls and says he’s at the hospital with food poisoning.

Jean goes to the party alone. All the sorority girls are pretty understanding of the situation, but Sandra demands proof that Tom is really in the hospital. So Jean calls the one hospital in Sweet Valley, and there, of course, is no Tom Mckay in the emergency room.

Jean comes up with a simultaneous revenge plan/alternate pledge task. She’s going to make Tom really fall in love with her. At the Friday the 13th dance, since it’s her birthday, she’s supposed to publicly call out who she wants to dance with, and she’s not going to pick Tom, which I guess is supposed to humiliate him. (Girl, your revenge skills need a little help.)

She springs into action the next morning, bringing a really nice care package to the “sick” Tom. He bumbles and stumbles over her nice gesture, thinking that he might have misjudged her. They go on a series of dates. He brings a picnic lunch for them to school. He takes her to an amusement park, & they share a nice moment on a ferris wheel. Jean confesses to Sandy that she’s fallen in love with Tom and can’t go through with the revenge plan. Sandy says nothing, because she’s a heinous bitch.

tumblr_nxoj783mNl1ug0wdso1_500Tom and Jean both confess their initial dishonesty. Tom tells Jean that Sandy clued him in on the PBA pledge task, which is why he stood her up. Jean, being the saint that she is, doesn’t confront Sandy & just waits for her to come clean.

Sandy, I guess to her credit, feels really bad about the whole situation and has a heart-to-heart talk/emotional breakdown with Mr. Collins, Sweet Valley High’s favorite English teacher/Robert Redford lookalike.

The night of the big dance comes, and Jean picks Tom to have the first dance with. The sorority girls have a total meltdown, so Sandy ends up publicly admitting her behind-the-scenes treachery. Sandy begs them to let Jean in and kick her out, but the sorority decides to keep them both. Jean and Sandy hug it out so happy ending, I guess?

Words of wisdom from the queen, Lila Fowler: “You’re incredibly lucky, Sandy Bacon,” Lila whispered as the other girls walked back to the dance area. “A lot of other girls wouldn’t have been half as forgiving.”

B-Plot: The twins’ brother, Steven, is planning on dropping out of college, so he can work/cruise around the world with his roommate. (I feel like this is total foreshadowing for when he comes out of the closet in Sweet Valley Confidential.) Instead of everyone calmly discussing their concerns about the situation, Elizabeth comes up with the “brilliant” idea to use reverse psychology to get him to stay. So everyone acts like Steven leaving to sail around the world is the best idea ever. His feelings get hurt, and he decides to say so another happy ending, I guess?

Relatable adult-shit moment: “What’s that?” Elizabeth asked him, trying hard to keep her voice nonchalant.

Steven made a face. “A bunch of junk Dad gave me this morning, insurance policies, medical plans, all that sort of thing. He says I’ll have to check out my coverage now that I’m leaving school.” He frowned again. “I never realized how much paperwork it takes just to stay healthy.”

Oh, poor, naïve Steven. Wait until you get the bill. As I tell teenagers everyday, enjoy being a kid while you can because being an adult sucks.

September 15, 2016

#28 Alone in the Crowd (or Emo Times at Sweet Valley High)

“Can Elizabeth help Lynne overcome her shyness?”

Yes, it’s that time again. Elizabeth Wakefield (patron saint of Sweet Valley’s dregs and other non-desirables) is here to save the day and rescue some drab, non-blonde, non-perfect-size-six from herself. Our cover girl in need of rescue (i.e. a makeover and a social push) is Lynne Henry.

(I love how they’re trying to make her look so unattractive by Sweet Valley standards on the cover. Her guitar, turtleneck, glasses, and hair are all the same hue of shit brown. Plus, this is Southern California. Why is she wearing a turtleneck and ski goggles?)

Backstory on Lynne: Her father died at some point (I may be really reaching, but I kind of feel like the book implies it was suicide.) Her mother is the glamorous manager of a beauty spa, who fails to find common ground with her. Lynne’s secretly a talented singer and songwriter. She comes off as really emo at best and severely depressed at worst. Lynne’s so low on the social totem pole that they don’t even know her name. This is probably a blessing in disguise. The denizens of Sweet Valley aren’t especially kind to their misfits. Just ask Lois Waller or Robin Wilson.

giphy15While walking home from school one day, Lynne meets her neighbor, Guy Chesney, teenage dreamboat and guitarist for the Droids. Guy is the first person to actually talk to her and show her even the remotest kindness or friendly interest, so of course, she becomes obsessed with him. Lynne pretty much just lets Guy talk the whole time about music.

Guy is a huge fan of Linda Ronstadt, and Lynne assumes it’s because she’s extremely beautiful, which makes her even more insecure if that’s possible. (I do have to agree that it’s an odd choice for an ’80s rocker-type. I would have gone with Debbie Harry, Kate Bush, Joan Jett, Lydia Lunch, etc. A Linda Ronstadt reference was dated when I first read this in the eighties. Damn, I’m feeling extra old today. )

Anyway, they continue walking to and from school together, and Guy even invites her to the school softball game at Secca Lake. It’s entirely platonic. The friend zone struggle is real. But Lynne’s having a great time and appears genuinely happy so good for her, I guess.

tumblr_n1igcfnwa71rosb88o1_500Inevitable sanctimonious Liz moment: (after Liz sees Lynne talking to Guy) “With a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye, Lynne Henry was actually almost pretty!”  What a bitch. As an adult, I fucking hate Elizabeth. I mean, Jessica’s a shit person too, but she at least owns her shit-ness. Elizabeth is heralded as some Mother Theresa figure. There’s even an entire book that imagined what life would have been like if Liz had never been born (a la It’s a Wonderful Life), and *non-spoiler*, every one’s life was shit. People were dead, miserable, and/or divorced because a 12-year-old had not intervened in their affairs. Ugh.

Anyway, during the game, The Droids announce a contest to find their next great song/songwriter. Lynne pens “Outside Looking In,” as an ode to her outsider status (see below for full song). She submits it anonymously because she’s afraid that she really sucks.

When the Droids listen to the tapes to find the winner, Guy falls in love with Lynne’s song (like, literally). He, and every one else, is oblivious to its origins. Guy becomes obsessed with finding out who wrote it, because he’s fallen in love with the singer now too. It’s kind of weird/creepy and oddly romantic by Sweet Valley standards.

makeoverWhile the entire school is trying to discover the identity of the mystery singer, Lynne decides it’s time for a makeover! (I am a huge sucker for a makeover in any form, time, or place.) With the help of her glamorous mom and the Silver Door salon, Lynne is able to morph from baggy sweatshirts and sweatpants to teenage fashion-plate eleganza. Oddly enough though, no one really makes a big deal out of it or really notices all that much (a lot like real life, I guess).

At some point, Liz goes to the music store and hears the same voice  from the anonymous tape and discovers that Lynne is the mystery singer. Lynne makes her promise not to tell any one, and we all know how well that will work out.

Because Liz just can’t keep her nose out of anything, she tells Guy that the singer doesn’t want to be found. Guy latches on and starts drilling her about what she knows. Liz tells him that the singer is scared that because she doesn’t look like Linda Ronstandt that she doesn’t want to come forward. Of course, Guy immediately figures out that it’s Lynne from this. Way to go, Liz.

Instead of just approaching Lynne, Guy hatches this bizarre plot to publicly unmask her. When Guy and Lynne are walking to school, he tells her that he met with a police sketch artist, and the guy is going to able to draw a picture of the mystery singer based on Guy’s description of her voice. WTF? Then, he’s going to distribute flyers at lunch with the approximated imagining of the mystery singer in order to find her. (Double WTF? That makes no fucking sense.)

princess-diaries-makeoverDuring lunch, there’s the big reveal, and Lynne is greeted by hundreds of flyers with her pre-makeover face on them, and she is revealed to every one as the elusive mystery singer. She and Guy make out, and they live happily ever after (or so I imagine since she doesn’t really appear in any future Sweet Valley books).

B plot– The cheerleading team is in desperate need of new uniforms, so Jessica decides to hold this bizarre rocking chair marathon event/ dance party wherein the cheerleaders will take turns rocking in said rocking chairs the whole night. It’s been dubbed the Rock Around the Clock relay. For every hour they successfully rock, they  will collect money from whomever was dumb enough to donate for this shit.  Plus, the Droids play and debut their new Lynne Henry written song during the dance portion of the night.

“Outside Looking In” by Lynne Henry

Day after day I’m feeling kind of lonely,
Day after day it’s him and him only.
Something in his eyes
Made my hopes start to rise.

But he’s part of a world that doesn’t include me.
I’ll never win.
This is how it’s always been.
I’m on the outside…looking in.

Night after night I’m saying a prayer
Night after night…that somebody will care!
Somebody to hear me,
Somebody to stay near me…

But nothing’s going to change. Dreams can’t deceive me.
I’m all alone. You’ve got to believe me.
I just can’t win.
This is how it’s always been…
I’m on the outside—on the outside…
Lookin’ in.

hqdefaultEnglish Major Moment: “But she still got a bad taste  when she remembered the sound of Mr. Collins’s voice, reading the Emily Dickinson poem out loud:

‘I’m nobody! Who are you?/ Are you nobody, too?’

She had sat up with a start, shaken out of her daydream, her heart pounding. ‘I’m nobody! Who are you?’ It was if Mr. Collins had found her diary and read it out loud. She could have written those lines. It was as if her own inner voice were speaking!

August 16, 2010

#12 When Love Dies (or The Other C-Word)

“What terrible secret is Tricia keeping from Steven?”

Something shady is going on with Tricia Martin. She’s been blowing off dates with Steven Wakefield, and she might even want to stop dating him. Inconceivable! Didn’t she get the memo that Steven Wakefield is a paragon of male virility and general awesomeness? Plus, Tricia is POOR. Shouldn’t she be on her knees praising the gods of Sweet Valley that he’s even deigned to date her?

So what is going on with Tricia? Is she turning into an alchie like her father or a whore like her sister? Does it have anything to do with the poodle perm she’s sporting on the cover? Uh, no. Tricia has leukemia! And she doesn’t want anyone to know.

Her mother also died from leukemia, and her death apparently turned Tricia’s dad into the town drunk that we know and loathe today. Tricia doesn’t want the same fate to befall Steven, so she decides to just stop speaking to him. Closure is so overrated.

Jessica, meanwhile, is in her usual full-on-bitch mode. She tells a distraught Steven that Tricia probably has a new boyfriend (or is fulfilling her legacy as a Martin in other seedy ways). Jess is still trying to push the irritating Cara Walker as a potential love interest. If I were her, I would be encouraging my college-age brother to stop skimming from the high school pool. To each her own, I guess.

Steven decides to find out what’s going on for himself, so he goes to visit Tricia….in the ghetto. (I always think of the Elvis song, “In the Ghetto,” when an SVH ghostwriter mentions the more craptacular areas of Sweet Valley.)

“It was only a few miles from the Wakefields’ comfortable split-level ranch house in a beautiful green area of Sweet Valley to the poorer section of town where the Martins lived, but as far as Steve was concerned, it was a completely different world. His headlights picked up the gleam of discarded cans and broken glass that littered the weeds alongside the uneven road. He pulled to a stop in front of a shabby frame house with peeling paint. Tricia’s house. As always, he experienced a pang at the thought. Sweet, lovely Tricia deserved much better than this, though he had never once heard her complain about it.”

Steven confronts Tricia, and she has no explanations for her avoidance of him. For once, I feel bad for Steven. Tricia’s just giving him this lame run-around, and he’s frustrated because he loves her and knows something’s wrong. By the end of the conversation, they’ve broken up—sort of, I guess. (Closure isn’t so overrated now, is it?)

Meanwhile, in our more-middle class milieu, Jess and Liz have decided to become candy stripers at the local hospital. Jessica, of course, has selfish motives. She’s learned a local TV talk show host, Jeremy Frank, is residing there with a broken leg. (Jessica fame-whore alert.)

Her attempts to beguile him are disastrous. First, she trips somehow and lands on his bum leg. Then, she enters his room to bring him some ice water, while he is getting a sponge bath. He’s “stark naked” for some reason, and she spills the contents of the entire pitcher onto his stomach.

Liz devises a plan to get Jessica off Jeremy’s back, front, etc…with Jeremy’s help. See, Jess likes the chase and not so much anything else about relationships. Liz thinks that if Jeremy proposes to Jessica, she will run screaming in the opposite direction. And Liz is right….until Jessica decides that being engaged to a celebrity would be fun. She goes back to the hospital and makes a big show of accepting his proposal, and Jeremy has to explain his little ruse.

It’s probably one of my favorite B-plot lines, since it actually has something to do with the main premise of the book. Back in Steven/Tricia relationship purgatory, Liz discovers Tricia’s secret, whilst performing her candy-striping duties. Trish makes her promise not to tell anyone, especially Steven, and we can already see the meddling mind of Liz wanting to spring into action. She’s torn, though, because she did make a promise. After a heartfelt conversation with Mr. Collins, Liz decides that some promises are made to be broken, so she will blatantly disregard Tricia’s wishes and tell Steven everything.

Confession time: I actually cried when Steven races to the ghetto to get his girl, and she tries to act like she has a date. He simply says, “Trish, I know,” and she collapses into him. I hate myself just a little for loving this.

But enough with the tragic Tricia descriptors. We get it; she’s fragile.

“She reminded him of a porcelain doll.”

“Each time he pictured her-  golden-haired and fragile, with those great misty blue eyes- he wanted to take her in his arms, to protect her from–”

“At that moment Tricia reminded Elizabeth of a fragile China figurine.”

“Tricia looked so pale and fragile under the fluorescent lights that Elizabeth could see the faint violet tracing of veins at her temples.”

English major moment: “‘Something strange is going on,’ Elizabeth said as she set down her tray beside Todd at the cafeteria table.

Todd looked up from his hamburger. He swallowed and said, ‘That sounds like the opening line of a mystery novel.’ His brown eyes sparkled with mischief. ‘Any clues so far, Sherlock?'”

Arthur Conan Doyle is turning in his grave.

August 14, 2010

#11 Too Good To Be True (or Bitches, Tramps, and Thieves)

“Is Suzanne as perfect as she seems?”

You know this is going to be awesome from the cover alone because Elizabeth is pulling the most intense bitch face ever. I wish Suzanne was doing something other than checking herself out (like maybe directing a good sneer or grimace at Saint Liz).

So it’s finally spring break at Sweet Valley High (the first of many), and for the next two weeks, Jessica is going to swap lives with the glamorous, angelic, beatific, altogether superlative  Suzanne Devlin from New York City. (Devlin/devil –subtle, SVH ghostwriter)

While Jessica is presumably terrorizing the upper west side, Suzanne is casting a spell over Sweet Valley. (Jessica, who?) Besides being Brooke Shields beautiful, she seems to be bordering on sainthood. She’s varnishing canoes with Stephen, scrubbing down Wakefield manor, making breakfast for the whole family, and humoring her many suitors.  Yes, Suzy has attracted the attention of four of Sweet Valley’s most eligible bachelors: Aaron “anger issues” Dallas, Tom “maybe gay” Mckay, Winston “borderline stalker” Egbert, and Bruce “date-rape” Patman. Decisions, decisions, Suzy Q.

At some point, totally out of the blue, Suzanne reveals in a dramatic inner monologue that she is a mean-spirited klepto! Unlike Lila who was ripping off jewelry/acessories from some anonymous mall outfit,  Suzanne steals from Elizabeth friggin’ Wakefield (her iconic lavaliere, no less). (I always thought that lavaliere was fug anyway. On the cover, it looks like  a golden dangling phallus, which is not cute.) What is it with these rich bitches and their sudden attacks of thievery? I guess this was cutting edge, before Winona Ryder and her Saks shenanigans. I’m sure you can see the moral of the story coming from a mile away. Money can’t buy you happiness or love or parents who give a damn. Sage, Sweet  Valley.

The only person who seems immune to Suzanne’s charm is Mr. Collins. That, of course, is a huge turn on for her. At the class picnic, Suzanne pretends to drown, so Mr. Collins, who is chaperoning/ lifeguarding will come rescue her. This is the first step in her multi-level, get-her-man plan. Mr. Collins somehow senses right away that something is rotten in Sweet Valley. I’m sure he’s used to the female students of SVH throwing metaphorical panties at him everyday, so he starts connecting the dots.

Later, Liz, Todd, and Suzy go over to Mr. Collins’ house to drop some papers off. Suzy convinces them to stay in the car, so she can have some quality seduction time with our favorite English teacher. Freudian hijinks ensue…..

“Mr. Collins was standing out on the lawn watering the shrubbery. Quietly she crept up behind him, a low, mischievous laugh escaping her. Mr. Collins whipped about in surprise, nearly dropping the hose.

Seriously, hoses are being “whipped about” in Suzanne’s presence. Then, she takes a sloppy drink from his hose, and it’s like a PG-rated wet t-shirt contest.

I remember reading that chapter over and over, just fascinated by this overt sexuality. I was really, really sheltered growing up. I went to parochial school, and I never had Sex Ed or even a basic biology class in school. I found out what a period was from Sweet Valley Twins. My fourth-grade girl scout troop took us on a field trip to Tampa General Hospital, where we watched a video about becoming a woman. That was officially it for me for sex ed. Thank God for HBO and Skinemax, or I would have experienced some real embarassment.

When I was 16-ish, my (gay male) best friend and I befriended a girl who didn’t even have the luxury of sex ed vis a vis HBO/Skinemax. One day, she asked my BFF where her vagina was/is. You know you live in a repressed society when a gay dude is having to inform you where your vagina is.

But I digress. Mr. Collins dismisses Suzanne, but there’s some blushing and flushing on his part that gives Suzy hope that she can eventually play out her seduction scene. Her next opportunity comes when she goes to his house to baby-sit (in place of Elizabeth). He rebuffs her again, so she decides to tell everyone he attacked her. Seriously, how many books can we go without mention of some sort of male predation/ date rape?

It seems like everyone at Sweet Valley High has jumped on the “Collins is a creeper” band wagon. Even Elizabeth is torn. Et tu, Liz.

True Story: When I was in high school, my 10th grade English teacher was dating a student. (they later moved in together, while she was still a sophomore. Her mom was also a teacher at our school. Awkward) Anyway, the first thing I said when I heard this was, “Dude, that’s so lecherous….” I think I was channeling this book.

“‘Well, I believe it,’ said Cara, who was passing out sodas. ‘I’ve always thought he was the lecherous type. I’ve caught him looking at me more than once. Besides, he gave me a D on my last English essay.'”

“‘Mr. Collins! What did that lecherous creep tell you?'”

Luckily, Liz discovers that Suzy had stolen her lavaliere , so that must mean that Suzy is lying about Mr. Collins too. After a visit with Mr. Collins to sort everything out, Liz prepares for a showdown with Suzy at Lila’s party.

Liz confronts her about the stolen necklace first (obviously because the lavaliere is more important than Mr. Collins). Suzy denies it, of course, but mysteriously confesses all when Liz calls her a liar. (This is what I like to call the Murder-She-Wrote ending, because at the end of every episode of that show, Angela Landsbury would confront the killer with non-existent evidence, and said murderer would describe how they committed the crime, to the very last detail—thus, ensuring their downfall.) Liz vows to expose Suzanne for the liar she is, but Suzy is a force to be reckoned with. Before Liz can say anything, Suzy starts spreading a rumor that Liz hit her head in the pool and is acting all cray-zay, like when she was in the motorcycle accident.  That was especially devilish of you, Suzanne. You would have been my new hero if you could have taken out Mr. Collins and Liz within the span of one book.

Luckily, Winston heard Suzy’s confession, so he figures that he can expose her treachery by spilling a drink on her. (????) And it works, crazily enough. When Winston soils her, Suzy loses her cool and berates him. (If some idiot who had been stalking/harassing me for two weeks had ruined my white, Halston dress, I probably would have gone batshit crazy too.) Because of  Suzy’s momentary flash of bitchiness, everyone decides that she must be lying. This is the sort of black/white dichotomized world of false conditionals that Sweet Valley is built upon. And yet I still read. What does that say about me?

On the bright side, Suzy doesn’t have an epiphany and drink the Sweet-Valley-High, bad-girl-reformed Kool-Aid. (She will eventually, but that’s another story, a special edition called Special Christmas.) I don’t understand why Suzanne didn’t just embrace her bitchiness from the beginning, anyway. She wastes so much time and energy trying to get into the good graces of people she doesn’t give a shit about. In the end, she sort of just disappears, and we get Jessica back. Joy.

Jessica’s been co-headlining throughout with her NYC adventures. I feel like the entire book was pushing this small-town, middle-class morality while critiquing the big city and its resident bitches and tramps (post-structuralist, Marxist essay is forming in my head).

Anyway, Jessica has fallen for Suzanne’s older boyfriend, Pete. Jess obviously doesn’t remember what happened the last time she tried to hook up with an age-inappropriate man (i.e. Scott “Pornstache” Daniels in #5 All Night Long). Can wine coolers and bennies ever be far behind?

At first, Pete shows no interest at all, which only fans her flirtatious flame. Finally, he kisses her, which she is into until she realizes that he wants to do more than kiss. Cue the attempted date-rape. It’s actually a fairly threatening scene. There’s this sense that Pete is trying to teach her a lesson, that she can’t swim with the sharks or that she needs to go back to the kiddie pool of Sweet Valley. While Pete and Jess are in mid-grapple, the Devlins arrive at home for the night. Phew! Every few books, there seems to be a losing-virginity-by-force scare. Hmmm.

Perfect Size Six moment: “(Suzanne) was flawlessly proportioned, with legs that seemed to go on forever, and not an ounce of fat anywhere. Suddenly, Elizabeth felt self-conscious about her own lovely size-six figure.” If perfect-size-six Elizabeth Wakefield is feeling like a heifer, we should all just kill ourselves now.

My real-life advice to fictional authority figures: Students are not your friends. It bugs me every time Liz says that she and Mr. Collins are “close friends” (hence my often used tag, “Mr. Collins is inappropriate”). It’s not okay for students to pop over to your house. They shouldn’t even know where you live.

Nerdy English major moment: “‘Remember that book we all had to read in tenth-grade English – East of Eden? There was that beautiful girl, Cathy, who everyone thought was so sweet and wonderful.’

Elizabeth shivered as if caught in a sudden draft. She remembered the book well. It was one of her favorites.

‘And underneath Cathy was really rotten to the core,’ she finished for Todd. She wraped her arms around herself in an attempt to stop shivering. ‘But that was just a book. If someone was really like that, you’d know wouldn’t you?'”

lols at Todd for comparing Suzanne to a multiple murderer/ prostitute/ blackmailer/ brothel madame. He might want to reserve this judgement for when he actually meets a 16-year-old psycho path (oh hai, Margo)

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.

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.”

July 28, 2010

#2 Secrets

“What Jessica wants, Jessica gets–even if someone gets hurt!”

Oooh, how mafioso sounding.  Jessica wants to be queen of the fall dance, and she will cut any bitch (metaphorically speaking) who gets in her way. Jess has decided that Enid “the drip” Rollins is her biggest competition. (Is this a joke? Are her next greatest foes Caroline Pearce and Lois Waller?) Jess believes Enid is a threat because she’s dating committee chair-boy and all-around asshole, Ronnie Edwards (more on this d-bag later).

Jessica decides that she just has to be the fall queen because Bruce Patman is a shoo-in for king. Per Sweet Valley tradition, the king and queen attend all subsequent school events and activities together. Jess has been creepily in love with Bruce since freshman year, and she is salivating over all this potential alone time for the two of them. As of yet, Bruce has remained immune to her feminine hover charms.

To become queen, Jessica must destroy Enid Rollins. Jess hates her anyway because she’s Liz’s new best friend. Plus, Enid was Jess’ friend first, but she preferred Liz’s company. Oooh, burn. That was an interesting turn. It explains all the hostility on Jess’ part.

Enid, meanwhile, is having an existential crisis. See, the Enid Rollins that we all know is a sham. Before she was miss goody-two-shoes second in command, Enid was a felonious druggie! After her parents divorced, she turned to crime and drugs for comfort. (more divorce propaganda, SV ghostwriter?) Anyway, she and her partner in crime, George Warren, continued with the debauchery until they were involved in a DUI, where they almost killed a little boy.

After that, Enid went straight (perhaps too straight) and became the wet blanket we all know and loathe today. George Warren was shipped out of town, but he has managed to turn his life around. He and Enid have been exchanging harmless letters, and Enid is terrified that Ronnie will find out about George and her previous shadiness.

“‘Dear Enid’ she read with a sudden, voracious interest. ‘Been so down lately. I can’t seem to get my head on straight the way you have. I can’t stop thinking about the past and trying to figure out how it snowballed so quickly. It’s like the time we took all those bennies, and before we knew it we were cooking along in the GTO doing eighty or ninety…'”

How does no one in Sweet Valley know about Enid’s sordid past?  I would think that two teenagers all hopped up on “bennies,” nearly killing a little boy would be front page news and primo gossip for these busybodies.

So Enid brings George’s letters and tells all to Liz, who is surprisingly non-judgmental. She urges her to explain the situation to Ronnie, thinking that he would understand, but Ronnie is a grade-A douchebag. His mom cheated on his dad at some point (divorce propaganda, part deux), so he has been soured on the whole of womankind. He yells at Enid when she even looks at another dude. No one seems to bat an eye at how unhealthy this relationship is.

Meanwhile, Jess discovers one of Enid’s letters detailing her drug-fueled past and sees it as the perfect opportunity to destroy Enid. Jess photocopies the letter and puts it in Ronnie’s locker. Ronnie reads it and seethes. He waits to confront Enid at notorious make-out spot, Miller’s Point. Enid is now whore #1 to him, so he roughly makes out with her and then calls her out on her past and her relationship with George Warren.

“‘What’s the matter?’ Ronnie growled. ‘I don’t rate up there with old Georgie-boy? You’re not going to give me any of the same stuff you’re giving him?'”

I’ll let that comment speak for itself. By the next day, every one in school knows, and Enid blames Liz for leaking the letter. (Misery’s about to have some company, though.)

French teacher extraordinaire, Ms. Dalton, is dating Mr. Fowler, which doesn’t sit well with his daughter, Lila, Sweet Valley High’s resident Head-Bitch-In-Charge. I actually agree with Lila on this one. It is extremely unprofessional to date the parent of one of your students. Ms. Dalton doesn’t appear to give a fuck that Lila is bothered by the Fowler/Dalton coupling. Plus, Lila’s pseudo-boyfriend for this book, Ken Matthews, is publicly crushing on La Dalton (embarrassing!), so while not excusable, it’s understandable that Lila is a bit pissy.

She suggests to gossip-mongrel, Cara Walker, that Ken’s lusting for Ms. Dalton is mutual, and before you know it, all of Sweet Valley is a-twitter with news of their affair. Scandalous! Between this and Bennie-gate ’83, Sweet Valley High is piddling itself with excitement. The hilarity culminates in the following gem written on Ms. Dalton’s blackboard:


Sweet Valley teenagers, like their real-world counterparts, are assholes en masse. Two points for ballsiness. Minus two for lameness. Let me help you out, Sweet Valley simpletons. Try, “Ken sees Paris, Ken sees France, Ken sees Ms. Dalton’s underpants.” It has a more visceral quality to it, for a PG taunt. My favorite moment of the book is the invocation of liberalism, feminism, and “women’s rights” by our resident boho hippie, Olivia. Feminism through the Sweet Valley lens.

“‘It’s the law of human nature,’ put in Olivia Davidson, who worked with Elizabeth on the paper and was known for her liberal views on every subject from nuclear war to organic foods. She was especially big these days on women’s rights. ‘A woman doesn’t reach her peak until she’s in her thirties. Men are practically burned out by then. So it makes sense, really, when you think about it.'”

Women have the right to fuck younger guys, y’all, especially underage ones. Isn’t that what the women’s rights movement is all about?  I love all of this specious reasoning on Olivia’s part and the vague idea of sexual peaking.

Enid, you are getting outshone in your own story. She’s been moping around for the last few chapters, and she desperately wants to ask Ms. Dalton for advice. (Honey, she’s got enough problems of her own.) Since Ms. Dalton has gone into hiding,  Enid naturally shows up at her apartment unannounced. (Ms. Dalton’s got a case of the Mr. Collins–boundary issues.) Students shouldn’t know where teachers live and show up willy nilly. Anyway, Enid and Ms. Dalton  bond over their similar misfortunes, and they both decided to face their problems head on. Since this is Sweet Valley, that means they’re going to the big dance!

While Enid is getting ready, none other than George Warren shows up to escort her. Rehab has done a body good, because he’s now a certified hunk. Enid goes to the dance and makes up with Liz. Ms. Dalton shows up and makes time with Mr. Collins. (What a perfectly inappropriate couple.)

Liz gets revenge on Jess for the whole letter kerfluffle. She tells the biggest gossip in school  that Jessica has fallen for the class nerd, Winston Egbert, and wants him to be her fall king. Now, Jess is poised to be spending countless hours at Winston’s side. She threatens to quit, but Liz threatens to expose what Jess did to Enid if she does. Ah, the student is now the master–nice Liz moment.

English major moment:“Elizabeth looked up from the paper on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar she was working on, then went back to it,

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of Enid,’ she unconsciously copied. She scratched out Enid’s name and corrected it to ‘earth.'”

Elizabeth even mopes pretentiously. Et tu, Liz…

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