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.”

August 22, 2010

#15 Promises (Be Damned)

“Somehow, Jessica will get rid of Betsy!”

On the cover we get our first look at the notorious Betsy Martin, who is the reigning slut of Sweet Valley, now that Annie Whitman’s been deposed.  She’s a lot less whorish looking than I expected.  There’s also a vague resemblance to Annie, which I think is mostly due to the short hair and the persecuted expression on her face. For an alleged boozer, user, and loser, Betsy looks 137 kinds of normal. In fact, she looks like she moonlights as a chambermaid at the Sweet Valley Hilton.

You wouldn’t know it by the cover, but Tricia Martin has breathed her last fragile breath. The deathbed scene is pretty poignant for Sweet Valley, and I did shed a few tears. Tricia’s last request is for Steven to look after her sister, Betsy (hence the title). We learn just how tall an order this is when we finally meet the queen of the dregs. Moments after Tricia’s death, Betsy races into the hospital, screaming at the top of her lungs. While Tricia’s emotional death bed scene played out, Betsy was off drinking and cavorting with the dregs of Sweet Valley. She has a breakdown when she learns that Tricia has died, and she vows to clean up her life for good.

Since Mr. Martin, the town drunk, is nowhere to be found, the Wakefields bring Betsy home, much to Jessica’s chagrin. In 1.37 seconds, Jessica goes from mourning to her usual bitch mode, and she “promises” to get Betsy out of their lives for good. Nice play on the title, SVH ghostwriter.

As we’ve been repeatedly told before, Betsy has a “reputation,” so Jessica doesn’t want to be associated with her in the slightest. Apparently, Jessica has learned nothing from the Annie Whitman incident in #10 Wrong Kind of Girl, where Jessica’s antics give rise to Annie’s suicide attempt.

I think what irritated me the most was that hardly any one in Sweet Valley gives a shit about Tricia’s death. At lunch the next day, Enid and Liz briefly discuss it…until Winston decides to have a one-man eating contest with four pizzas. This sets up an especially lame B-plot, where Winston attempts to break the world record for eating pizzas. Yes, the students of Sweet Valley High care more about some doofus’ gorging than the death of one of their own. What collective assholes. They totally deserve the earthquake that’s coming to them some 100+ books later.

To add insult to injury, hardly anyone comes to Tricia’s funeral. I can understand why Betsy began to reevaluate the reformed life. Tricia was an impossibly good human being, she dies, and no one cares. What hope is there for someone like Betsy? Oh, that’s right. She can become like Enid Rollins, the patron saint of reformed losers. Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather make time at the Shady Lady with all the other dregs. (Can we go one book without dredging up Enid’s “sordid” past?)

“(Elizabeth) was solemn as she stood near the front of the shamefully small group of people who had come to pay their last respects to Tricia Martin. Some of the Sweet Valley High teachers were there, a handful of Tricia’s classmates, and a few others. Betsy alone represented the Martin family. No other relatives had gathered for bittersweet reminiscences; no one had come to bestow one final declaration of love.”

Liz discovers that Betsy is an exceptional artist, so Steven gives her some painting supplies and tries to encourage her. He introduces Betsy to his friend, Jason, who teaches art classes at the community center. For someone who is supposedly such a man-chasing whore, Betsy has a pretty intense hatred of anyone with an X-Y chromosome, who isn’t Steven Wakefield. Jason has the misfortune of falling for Betsy. It just makes no sense within the context of their meeting. Betsy alternately ignores Jason and tells him that she’s not the slutty Betsy of yore.  It is majorly cringe-inducing how harsh she is to him, repeatedly.

“Betsy instantly recoiled from his touch, and the hard look was back in her eyes. ‘Don’t forget that this is purely a student-teacher relationship,’ she said, an icy edge to her voice. ‘It’s not going any further. So you can forget all those things you’ve heard about me. I’m not like that anymore.'”

Seriously, not every dude in Sweet Valley wants to pump you and dump you, Betsy. Maybe if she would stop continuously reminding people that she was a teenage whore, people would  stop associating her with teenage whoredom. Like with Jason, Betsy is telling someone she’s never met, who probably has no clue about the innerworkings of Sweet Valley High, about her seedy reputation. As a college student/artist, Jason should be a lot more chill about sexual mores than the denizens of Sweet Valley. I don’t know. I literally just cringe throughout these books with “slut” and “bad reputation” themes, especially since there’s no really overt references to sex. Jessica mentions that Betsy has gone to Miller Point with two guys before. Scandalous! What did Betsy do with them? Maybe they looked at the stars and discussed the meaningless of meaning.

But I digress. Jason wants Betsy to apply for art school, which I’m pretty sure would require at bare minimum a G.E.D. that high school drop out Betsy does not possess. *Suspension of disbelief* Betsy thinks that Jason only wants to nurture her art talent, so that he can nurture her in other ways. *wink, wink* Liz, Stephen, and Jason decided to enter her in the contest without her knowledge, and she wins a full-ride to some prestigious art school in L.A. That was a short admissions process.

Meanwhile, Jessica has overheard Steven telling the Wakefields about his deathbed promise to Tricia to take care of Betsy. Then, it all makes sense. Why else would Steven be a decent human being to Betsy? Jessica deftly weaves this tidbit into a conversation with Betsy, which sends her reeling back into whoreville. Betsy was under the impression that the Wakefields really cared about her, which they do, sort of, but Betsy never would have gained entrance into Wakefield manor if it weren’t for Tricia. They don’t run a half-way house, so I can’t understand why Betsy goes nuclear after Jessica’s admission.

Betsy packs up her shit and heads to the Shady Lady with “Crunch” Mcallister and Charlie Cashman. Good times–except her heart’s not really into it. Steven and Jason descend upon the bar, and Betsy tries to pretend that she’s reverted back to her whorish ways. Instead of leaving her to her own devices, Steven and Jason forcefully remove her from the Shady Lady. See, Jason is an art student/ brown belt in karate, and Betsy falls in love with him when he dropkicks Charlie and Crunch. Sweet Valley girls love their rough and tumble boys. (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Wakefield)

Armed with her art-school admission and her new man, Betsy becomes yet another reformed bad girl of Sweet Valley High. Another one bites the dust. Stay tuned, readers because another one bites the dust literally in our next book #16 Rags to Riches. The Death-a-palooza continues as Roger Barrett’s mom has a heart attack and dies. Judging by the next cover, he doesn’t look too broken up about it. Et tu, Roger.

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.

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