Perfect Size Six

June 20, 2016

#27 Lovestruck

 “Will Suzanne succeed in changing Ken?”

Oh, I love how pretentious this book is! (I mean, just to give you some idea of how hipster-rific it is, a college beatnik and an Ingmar Bergman movie serve as major plot devices.)

Sweet Valley’s star quarterback, Ken Matthews, is dating uber-wealthy Suzanne “Hands-Off” Hanlon, and every one seems to have a problem with it. Jessica hates Suzanne, presumably because she’s beautiful, smart, and rich. Liz dislikes her because she’s “aloof & snobby,” but she admits that she finds every one in their high school sorority to be like that.  (Um, every girl in Sweet Valley High except like 5 nerds/dregs/ poor people are in Pi Beta Alpha, so she must dislike most of the female population of SVH.)

What amazes me the most is that: 1) Some one who knows Jessica Wakefield in all her lazy, sociopathic glory still decides to put her in charge of the charity picnic. 2) Jessica easily convinces a non-concussed Elizabeth Wakefield to man the kissing booth! (first base all day!) and write poster copy (and probably do all the work). Jess gets Ken to man the other kissing booth. Seriously, the idea of kissing booths is so gross, both for the kiss-er and the kiss-ee.

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Well, the whole shindig might be ruined because Ken Matthews is failing English, and he might not be able to play in the big football game against Palisades High. Even Jessica is mystified at how stupid Ken must be to be getting an F in Mr. Collins’ creative writing class. Ken is embarrassed because Suzanne is extremely smart, so he doesn’t mention it to her. But the more time he spends with her, the more time he spends neglecting his schoolwork. It’s a vicious cycle of stupidity.

That night, Suzanne invites Ken to dinner with her family at their palatial,  southern-plantation style home (imagine Gone with the Wind). The décor is all white (think Miami Vice drug dealers.) They’re greeted by the surly butler, who Ken mistakenly thinks is Suzanne’s father, and the evening pretty much goes downhill from there.

Suzanne tells Ken not to mention football at dinner because her father hates sports, and he thinks schools focus too much on them. A-fucking-men, Mr. Hanlon! What will Ken talk about, though? The entirety of his thought process is the o-line or d-line or whatever.

tumblr_nfwx97TOJ81ql5yr7o1_500Meanwhile at the table, Suzanne’s family is busy quoting Shakespeare for fun. Dinner is ultra formal, with fine silver, china, etc.  Ken apparently eats like a savage, has an unrefined palette, and can barely hold even the most basic of conversations. Thank goodness he’s hot and can play football.

The next night, Suzanne and Ken go with her hipster friends to see The Seventh Seal at the Plaza Theatre. (It’s a black-and-white, existential Swedish film set during medieval plague times that serves as a meditation on life, death, and God.) Ken thinks it’s a total joke, while Suzanne and her friends are moved to contemplative silence. One of Suzanne’s friends is Sweet Valley’s own hipster beatnik, Mark Andrews, a pony-tail sporting film student at Sweet Valley College, who’s obviously trying to woo Suzanne. He’s a total asshole. (I hate when people use intelligence and culture as some sort of weapon.) Mark makes Ken feel like shit because he doesn’t understand the movie and confuses director Ingmar Bergman with actress Ingrid Bergman. (Yeah, what an asshole.)

The next night Suzanne and Ken are attending the literary evening that Suzanne has helped organize. It’s more like a glorified open mic night for bad teen poetry. Liz proceeds to shit talk 99% of the roster, while she is, of course, the star of the night.

Elizabeth is shady as shit: “Elizabeth was happy for Suzanne that there had been such a good turnout, but she wondered whether it was because of the readings or because there wasn’t much else to do on a Wednesday night.”
tumblr_magk2fKZyc1qiw26mAnd lest we forget, Ken is still failing his English class and hasn’t even written so much as his name on a sheet of paper. Liz, of course, decided to stick her nose in Ken’s business earlier in the book and offered to tutor him. Liz’s idea of helping Ken is to give him one of her stories (and its notes, rough drafts, etc.) for inspiration. Titled “The New Kid,” it’s five pages about a boy moving from New York City to Sweet Valley, who realizes what a wondrous utopia he’s stumbled onto. (*Gag*)  Liz makes Ken promise not to show it to anyone, because she’s shy about showing this side of her writing. Ken decides to totally disregard her feelings,  and he turns in the story as his own. To be fair, I guess, he feels really bad about it.

Well, the story is a hit with Mr. Collins, and he decides to publish it in the special edition Centennial edition of the Oracle. Elizabeth is furious but doesn’t rat him out. Ken decides that he’s going to make things right by replacing Liz’s story with one of his own. It plays out like creative non-fiction, and it’s essentially a confession to stealing Liz’s story.

Suzanne dumps him because she’s embarrassed that she told every one what a great writer he was, when in fact he’s a fraud. Every one else is supportive, and Mr. Collins even gives him a good enough grade to pass and play football. Sweet Valley wins the big game, and Suzanne comes crawling back. Ken dumps her for good when he realizes that she’s still an uber-snob, who wants to change him.

B-Plot: Jessica’s in change of the charity picnic, and everything naturally goes wrong. The hundreds of posters she ordered to advertise the event have the wrong date on them (her fault, of course.) She forgets to confirm the food order with catering, so now they have no food for all of the paying customers. She proceeds to make hundreds of PB&J sandwiches, which unintentionally cuts the food budget to almost nothing, meaning more money for the charitable cause. They actually publicly recognize her for her cost-cutting! And she proceeds to make a speech saying that this was her plan all along. Ugh.

hemingway_stamp_700English Major Moment: “‘I know you can pull that grade up, Ken,’ Jessica said brightly, ‘With old Hemingway Wakefield helping you, you can’t miss.'”

April 28, 2015

#24 Memories

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“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.

 

 

September 27, 2010

#20 Crash Landing!

“Will Elizabeth lose her best friend?”

When the girls of Sweet Valley aren’t otherwise engaged in stealing each other’s boyfriends, at least one of them seems to be in some sort of mortal peril—motorcycle accidents, kidnappings, murderous boyfriends, etc. Next up on the chopping block is the most boring girl in Sweet Valley, Enid Rollins.  (They really should have picked someone awesome like Lila for us to root for. I’m sure all of two people care about Enid’s well being.)

For myriad reasons, this book is just bad, and not the so-bad-it’s-good bad that I usually associate with Sweet Valley.  It’s just a straight-up hot mess. The plot is like a poor reworking of #7 Dear Sister. Instead of Elizabeth on a motorcycle with a head injury that turns her into a slut, we have Enid on a plane with a back injury that turns her into a victim.

And this cover is a total no-no for dealing with people who’ve suffered spinal injuries.  I know that James Mathewuse, the SVH cover artist, is contractually obligated to show off Elizabeth in all her do-gooder glory, but even Saint Liz’s delicate touch can’t maneuver around the physical laws of the central nervous system. Thankfully, this scene never happened in the book, as Elizabeth was still saving Jessica from a knife-wielding construction worker at the time of the crash. Although had Liz actually been there, I’m sure she would have attempted some heroic posturing, per usual.

A little recap is needed before we can proceed. Elizabeth found out in the last book that Enid’s boyfriend, George, has been cheating on her with Robin Wilson (who he met in flight school). George says that he will tell Enid the truth after he takes her up for his maiden voyage. (Yeah, because getting your heart broken is so much easier after you’ve been in a rickety private airplane.)

As the cover and title indicate, shit goes awry with the plane, and George has to crash land in Secca Lake. Enid drags his unconscious body out of the plane. Yes, she saves his life, and at some point, she becomes paralyzed. (Don’t worry. No one stays disabled long in Sweet Valley.)

George decides that he won’t break up with Enid until she can walk again, because he doesn’t want to ruin her life further. Apparently, losing a douche bag like George would be the straw that broke the camel’s back–now metaphorically, since he already took care of that physically with the titular Crash Landing!. He tells Robin Wilson the same thing, putting their relationship into a holding pattern.  I’m fairly certain that college-attending George has to tread the high school dating waters, because girls at Sweet Valley College wouldn’t put up with this crap.

Jessica discovers that George has been having an affair with Robin, so Jess convinces everyone to avoid her like the plague for Enid’s sake. Say what? Jessica has been nothing but a heinous bitch to Enid throughout the entire series, and now Jess is acting like her great protector. Plus, Jessica is the patron saint of boyfriend stealing. Robin’s a straight-up lay person in comparison. Of course, George gets a free pass for his boorish behavior. Hypocrisy much, Jessica? And no one ever calls her out on her never-ending cycle of bullshit.

George vows to stay with Enid even though he’s miserable. Being the douchebag that he is, he can’t contain his misery, so he directs it at Enid, who has enough shit to deal with without worrying about a derelict boyfriend. Enid can sense he’s pulling away, so she just wallows in victim mode. And it’s just another unhealthy relationship at Sweet Valley High.

Robin is so miserable without George (*groan*) that she gains ten pounds in ten days! That is 35,000 calories for you calorie counters playing at home or 50 Dairyburger Sundaes. I totally eat my feelings too, so I can’t snark too hard. Of course, gaining weight doesn’t help Robin with her social leprosy problem, so she gets more depressed and consequently eats more. It’s a vicious cycle, y’all. Robin’s only a few Dairiburgers away from total pariah status.

Perfect-Size-Six moment: “I’m making a mess of everything, Robin thought unhappily. To top it all off, she was beginning to gain weight. The only thing she’d been able to find in her closet that fit her that morning was an old wraparound shirt, left over from her ‘fat’ days. No more food for awhile, Robin had promised herself when she stepped on the scale. She’d gained ten pounds, and she hated the way she looked. It took too long to get myself thin. I’m not going to let my figure go because my whole life is falling apart.”

The climax, of course, is at our weekly dance. Thank God. I don’t think I could have taken any more of this Debbie-downer book. Unfortunately, the dance is 137 kinds of ridiculous–mostly because the student body at Sweet Valley is treating Enid like a side-show attraction. I really think Enid is the first person in their little world to ever be in a wheelchair. I bet getting around would be a bitch, since you know there aren’t any ramps or anything. (Yes, I realize how sad it is that I’m musing about accessibility in a fictional town.)

Bitchiest moment of the book (courtesy of Lila): “‘How inappropriate,’ Lila said coldly. ‘Who’d ever dream of showing up at a dance in a wheelchair! What does she think she’s going to do all night!'”

Hmmm, I don’t know, Lila. Dance, maybe. Just because someone is in a wheelchair, it doesn’t negate their capacity for boogey-ing.  It’s called working what you got. Seriously, this whole dance scene is just painful. George and Robin are making googly eyes at each other all night. Everyone is staring at Enid, who has dared to show up at a dance in a wheelchair. Elizabeth is lamenting that she can’t have any fun, because she has to stay by Enid’s side to protect her.

‘”I must look like a real idiot,’ (Enid) whispered to Elizabeth. ‘Who ever heard of a cripple coming to a dance?’

‘Enid Rollins,’ Elizabeth snapped, ‘you are not a cripple! And you don’t look one bit foolish. You have as much right to be here as anyone else does.'”

Enid feels bad that George is stuck with a date who can’t dance. (Seriously, George doesn’t even go to Sweet Valley High. What else is he missing out on?) Enid tells him that he should go dance with someone, thinking that someone would be Elizabeth or another neutral pal. Since George is a jerk, he seizes the opportunity to cozy up to puffy Robin Wilson, and it’s obvious to everyone that they are totally in love with each other.

Now that the George/Robin relationship is out in the open, Enid is even more determined to hold onto her man. She knows that George will have to stay with her as long as she’s in the wheelchair, so she is in no hurry to walk again. I guess self respect and mobility aren’t good enough reasons.

Elizabeth is up in arms because Enid still can’t walk. Seriously, I know Sweet Valley is farfetched and everything, but Enid has been in a plane crash and has had subsequent back surgery. It should take more than two weeks to get back on her feet. Dr. Elizabeth Wakefield believes Enid’s paralysis is psychosomatic and that one well-meaning scheme is all it takes to get Enid back on her feet. (Do not try this at home, kids.) Liz devises this potentially dangerous plan. Mr. Collins’ eight-year-old son, Teddy, will pretend to drown, so Enid will be motivated enough to get off her ass and rescue him. Disability be damned.

You’ve gotta love the crappy parenting in Sweet Valley. What kind of father would involve their kid in these unsupervised shenanigans? There are 137 things that could have gone wrong with this little pool-rescue scenario. Luckily, Liz’s schemes always go off without a hitch. If this were Jessica’s plan, Teddy would be in the intensive care unit at Fowler Memorial Hospital fighting for his life, and Enid would be in the morgue.

Well, it’s miracle time again, because Enid Rollins is healed! Oh, and George and Robin are dating before Enid can even complete a victory lap. Here’s hoping you don’t become fat, disfigured, or disabled, Robin, because this is a sneak peak of how it will play out. Enid’s pretty damn stoic about their relationship, and she pardons and blesses the union. Uh-huh. Here is a more likely scenario in the real world, courtesy of Jazmine Sullivan, Bust Your Windows Out Your Car.

B-Plot: Jessica is taking cooking lessons (ha!) and falls for the teacher/chef. She throws herself at him, per usual, until she discovers he’s married. I really doubt that would have stopped her, but I digress. Jessica also tries to cook a meal for her family to prove that she’s not the worthless twin, but she only succeeds in giving everyone food poisoning. This sets up the next book #21 Runaway, where Jess does, in fact, runaway. (Unfortunately, not for good. I think I can speak for the rest of Sweet Valley when I say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, J.”

Random note: Mr. Collins is officially dating Ms. Dalton. Hello, potentially uncomfortable working environment when you eventually split up. Plus, it’s really unprofessional to flout this in front of students, which probably wouldn’t concern Mr. Collins since he’s always in everyone’s business.

August 7, 2010

#9 Racing Hearts (or Ew, Get Your Poverty Cooties Away From Me!)

Filed under: Books #1-20 — mediumcore @ 10:34 pm
Tags: , , , ,

“Can Roger melt Lila’s icy heart?”

Even the prolonged appearance of Lila can’t save this book. It’s just bad, and not the good kind of bad that I usually associate with Sweet Valley. It is embarrassingly, shamefully, odorously bad, which means that this should be an awesome review, I hope.

The boy on the cover wanting to put a blowtorch to Lila’s icy heart is Roger Barrett. It’s not so much that Lila’s heart is icy. She just has very definite ideas of what she’s looking for in a boyfriend, and Roger doesn’t fit her heightened ideal. As we learned in the last book, Roger Barrett is POOR!!! (the worst four-letter-word in Sweet Valley), and he’s had a hopeless crush for years on Lila, the wealthiest girl in town.

Roger would normally be relegated to the Shady Lady with the rest of the dregs of Sweet Valley, but he has a slightly socially redeeming work ethic (only slightly). He’s a night janitor at the office building where Mr. Wakefield has his law practice. Roger’s boss is a shrewish man who makes him work 4-9 M-Fri and all day Saturday, which precludes him from having a life. Apparently, no one else at Sweet Valley High has to work.

Anyway, the book centers around the annual “Barton Ames Memorial Mile” race (BART, for short). Whoever wins the BART wins a scholarship to Sweet Valley college, so Liz and Olivia obnoxiously try to wave the winning prize at him like a snausage treat, since he’s POOR and desperately needs it. Besides browbeating us with Roger’s poverty, the ghostwriter likes to reiterate that Roger wants to be a doctor.

As a joke, Lila uses her overwhelming powers of persuasion to convince Roger to run at the trials for the BART race. He ends up winning and upstages Bruce Patman (yes!).

There’s this really depressingly bad scene where the principal, “Chrome Dome” Cooper,  gives Roger a Sweet Valley High sweat suit. Roger has always wanted one, but they cost $30 that he doesn’t have. After he puts it on, he is magically transformed into a dateable male. (I can’t ever see Lila Fowler dating someone who wears a tracksuit.) Au contraire,  I guess, because Lila is in full on, get-her-man mode.

Roger’s trying to soak up all the glory he can before he has to go back to his drab life. He knows he can’t run in the BART, because he can’t take off from work. He knows Lila is going to dump him hard when she finds out he’s a janitor. 99 problems, Roger.

You know what that means, I’m sure. Enter Elizabeth Wakefield to save the day. (Gag.) She gets Daddy Wakefield to throw some legalese at Roger’s boss. It turns out that said boss is breaking workplace laws about vacation and sick time. He begrudgingly gives Roger the time off to run his race.

Roger comes clean to Lila about his less-than-glamorous job as a janitor, and she dumps him cold as expected. When Roger wins the BART, Lila comes crawling back to repair their relationship (also extremely out of character for her.) It’s too late, however, because Roger has realized he loves Olivia. Meh.

Olivia and Roger are one of my least favorite couples in Sweet Valleydom. I think the SVH ghostwriter just thought that the girl who shops at thrift stores and the poor boy with raggedy clothes seemed liked an obvious match. It definitely reeks of trying too hard.

B-plot (I almost forgot): After the Splendor in the Grass fiasco, Jessica decides she needs to seriously look at her future  (ha!). She gets a job working with Daddy Wakefield at his law firm. She’s ready to climb the walls after 10 minutes, but then she meets a cute (and appropriately vanilla) boy helping his dad out next door. Yawn. Everything is going great, until Jessica discovers that he’s only 15, so she dumps him. Seriously, what’s the big deal with a 1 year difference? She’s acting like she’s some sort of cougar or something. Get over it.

(Hey! I decided that I’m going to start reviewing all the Sweet Valley High books in order, so up next will be #11 Too Good To Be True–one of my all-time favorites. I’ve already reviewed #10 Wrong Kind of Girl (another fav).

July 30, 2010

#3 Playing With Fire

“Can Jessica play Bruce Patman’s game and win?”

Surprisingly, no. Jessica Wakefield, the bitchiest girl in Sweet Valley, loses her edge and embraces the doormat side of life when matched with her male counterpart.

All-around asshole, Bruce “1BRUCE1” Patman, gets his first starring turn here playing the ultimate preppy boyfriend from hell. (By the way, nice chokehold on the cover, Bruce. Maybe some 1BRUCE1 devotee can enlighten me, but I don’t understand the now-adult fanbase of Bruce Patman. Is this like a wink and a nod in support of emotional masochists everywhere?)

Well, Jessica has been besotted with Bruce since freshman year, but he has ignored her in favor of almost every other girl at Sweet Valley High and beyond. That means he’s also dated all of her friends (classy!), and none of them has anything positive to say about the experience.

So how do these two crazy kids get together? Well, Jessica is forced to attend the 5th Annual Rockin’ Dance Party Contest with class clown/nerd, Winston Egbert (as part of her Fall Queen duties). During one especially horrible dance, Jess is elated to have Bruce Patman rescue her from Winston’s oafish arms and clumsy feet. Jess and Bruce win the dance contest and become inseparable ever after.

After the dance is over, everyone heads over to Ken Matthews’ house for the after-party. Bruce and Jess get better acquainted in the pool, and we get a closer look at Bruce’s seduction techniques. He doesn’t really have to do much, and the girls of Sweet Valley are throwing panties at him. Bruce and Jess are making out in the pool, and he unties her bikini strings, exposing her breasts to the elements. When she puts up the slightest form of protest, Bruce calls her a tease. His attitude is pretty much: If you don’t like it, there are plenty of other girls who will. Touché, Bruce.

Meanwhile, Saint Elizabeth, our favorite over-protective twin, knows that Bruce is bad news from empirical evidence alone. (She’ll get to experience it firsthand in #7 Dear Sister, when Bruce tries to date rape her.) Liz finds Jessica and Bruce rolling around in the leaves, in the midst of some bushes (classy again!), and she begs Jess to come with her. Well, twin-be-damned, because Jess is standing (or laying, really) by her man! To make matters worse, Jessica doesn’t come home until dawn.

Oh yeah, Jess is now hooked like a bass trout on old Brucie. She is lust’s bitch. She sits by the phone waiting for Bruce to call. She starts dressing conservatively. She drops off his dry-cleaning. Feminists of the world, shed a tear. Jessica even loses a game of tennis on purpose so as not to bruise Bruce’s ego. And what does she have to show for it?Even though she’s in a long-term, monogamous relationship (on her side, at least), Jessica has now been branded with a “bad reputation.”

“‘I didn’t want to tell you,’ (Todd) began, ‘but (Jessica) is getting quite a reputation around school. Bruce has been making it very clear that he’s getting everything he wants out of her. And whenever he wants it, too.'”

Hello, Sweet Valley double standards. Bruce is the biggest slut in Sweet Valley, and he’s treated like some rock-star/royalty hybrid. His female counterparts, however, are held to Virgin-Mary levels of virtue. It seems like almost every girl at Sweet Valley has had to suffer the stigma of a bad reputation at some point (even the “good” girls like Liz, Enid, and Regina. How many times has goody-two-shoes Liz had to clutch her pearls and defend her honor over some potentially life-ruining rumors?)

Plus, while Jessica is dedicating her life to Bruce, her grades begin to suffer. Her first strategy is to cheat off Emily Mayer, but that doesn’t work because Emily bombs the test too. Then, Jess decides to get Robin Wilson to steal the chemistry test for her. Instead of using the test for herself, Jess has Robin put it in Emily’s locker. Now, since Emily has the right answers, Jessica can cheat off her and pass. That is some convoluted cheating, for real. Why doesn’t Jess just use the test for herself? Cheating is cheating, whether it’s direct or third-party. Of course, the chemistry teacher changes the test, and Jessica fails anyway.

This book marks the first appearance of Robin Wilson, an overweight new girl in town. Don’t worry, she undergoes the Perfect-Size-Six makeover in the next book. Until then, her function hovers somewhere between Jessica’s lackey and comic relief. And it seems like everyone is trying to couple up Robin with aforementioned class clown/nerd Winston Egbert. Because she’s overweight, I guess, he’s her only viable dating option, and he’s having none of it!

“Winston studied Elizabeth affectionately. ‘That was nice of you. But Robin…well, she’s OK. We really don’t have much in common, though. I get nervous around people who eat all the time.'”

Et tu, Winston. I would have thought that someone on the lower rungs of Sweet Valley’s social ladder would have had a little bit more empathy. Robin really does have it rough. Interspersed throughout the book are cutting comments about Robin and her weight. Jessica, of course, is the main offender.

“‘Oooh, Jessica, you look gorgeous!’ Robin gushed.

Jessica couldn’t  force herself to return the compliment. Wearing a pink-and-white striped dress–horizontal stripes, no less–Robin looked like the poster girl for a cotton candy company.”

Does anyone else think that the ghostwriters relished writing these insults? Maybe, it was the extent of the creative freedom given to them. Anyway, I guess Bruce hasn’t totally worn down Jessica’s bitchy side, so there’s hope yet for a recovery from codependency overload. As time wears on, Bruce gets more obsessive and possessive, and he flies his asshole flag high. His strategy is the “It’s either them or me” approach, and Jessica starts dumping activities left and right. Even Jess’ beloved cheerleading is on the chopping block.

“‘Football bores me. And if you know what’s right for us, you’ll find a way to miss this game.’ (Bruce) put his hands firmly on her shoulders. ‘Tell me, baby, who’d you rather be with? Me, or a bunch of chicks with fat thighs in short skirts?‘”

Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, so help me god. The sadist in me loves watching the queen bitch brought down a peg or two, but this is becoming a slow torture to read. Thankfully, we’re in the home stretch.

Bruce turns what was supposed to be a private birthday celebration with Jessica into an open invitation, party extravaganza. To add insult to injury, he totally ignores Jess when they get there. She’s sitting alone at a table while he dances with every other girl at Sweet Valley High. Bruce even jilts Jess to dance with Caroline Pearce! Seriously, are Enid Rollins and Lois Waller next on his dance card?

Then, Bruce moves the party to Guido’s pizzeria. After a slice or two, Bruce tells Jessica that his grandmother is on her deathbed, as an excuse to ditch Jess. Liz and Todd are wise to Bruce, so they offer to take Jess home.  They drive around looking at stars and other nonsense to stall for time. Liz makes up an excuse to go back to Guido’s for her ‘forgotten” keys. Of course, Bruce is still there, making time with a beautiful redhead. FINALLY, Jess realizes what we’ve known all along. Bruce is an asshole! She smashes some pizza in his face and washes it down with a pitcher of soda over his head. The bitch is back!

B-Plot: A slimy agent from Los Angeles is telling Sweet Valley’s High’s hottest rock group, The Droids, that he’s going to make them stars. Instead, he gets them gigs at dive bars and hits on lead singer, Dana Larson. (Where are their parents, by the way? Any adult with half a brain would have sniffed this sleazeball out.) Anyway, it’s soon revealed that the manager is a fraud, and all returns to normal.

Not-So-Subtle, Sexual Subtext: “Taking his right hand off the stick shift, (Bruce) ran it down Jessica’s half-covered thigh.”

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:

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A FRENCH KISS IS, ASK KEN MATTHEWS.

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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