Shelley Novak is Sweet Valley’s star basketball player. She’s great at basketball but sucks at interacting with the opposite sex. SVH is in the playoffs, and there’s a big Varsity Club dance coming up. Shelley angsts about not having a date and no boy wanting to take her because she’s so tall. I guess sometimes people call her the “Towering Inferno,” which she finds really offensive. As far as nicknames go…I think it’s kind of clever. Shelley would really like to go to the dance with her neighbor Greg Hilliard, whom she’s had a crush on forever, but he seems to only see her as a friend. This is confirmed when she works up the courage to ask him to the dance and he seems completely flummoxed. She’s mortified.
Shelley plays a bunch of basketball games. She plays pretty well, and then she plays terribly, and then she plays well again. It all seems to depend on how she’s feeling about the boys in her life. At one of the games, Jim Roberts snaps a great picture of her, but Shelley freaks out because she doesn’t like to have her picture taken. She makes him promise not to show it to anyone.
Shelley and Jim start to hang out and realize that they actually like each other. There’s a photo competition happening at school, and Jeffrey encourages Jim to enter with a picture of Shelley. Jim is reluctant because of his promise to her. When he does enter the contest, Olivia sees the photo and tells Shelley how great she looks. Shelley FREAKS OUT and breaks up with Jim. When her friend calls her on her ridiculous behavior, Shelley calls Jim to apologize, and he tells her he had the photo removed. Imagine his surprise when he wins the contest. Shelley told Mr. Collins to enter the photo. Jim and Shelley still aren’t talking, though, so at halftime at the big game, Shelley writes him a note asking him to the dance. SVH wins the game, and Shelley wins Jim’s heart.
The B-Plot involves dance lessons being held at Sweet Valley High. Jessica, Lila, and Amy all sign up. Amy and Jessica both end up crushing on the dance instructor, a young man named Patrick McLean. Both girls fight over him and try to seduce him but don’t make much headway (this is because the man is clearly a homosexual). Eventually they make a bet about who will get the first dance with him at the Varsity Dance. Both girls show up in the same exact dress and are further humiliated when Patrick shows up with a beautiful woman on his arm.
- “I wouldn’t mind winning a video camera. I can think of someone I wouldn’t mind taking movies of!” He winked at Elizabeth. (3) [Blogger's note: In a post-celebrity sex-tape world, as well as a world where underage sexting is a a crime, a comment like this takes on a whole new meaning.]
- “All those movie stars in the thirties knew how to waltz. You can’t fall in love and go on big luxurious cruises and be totally romantic unless you know how to waltz.” (8)
- “Maybe after Patrick and I get engaged, we can tour all over, doing the tango and the cha-cha, and our picture will be plastered all over the place.” (124)
- Patrick McLean has a diamond stud in his ear.
- Shelley’s visit to Mr. Collins’s house is rationalized by the fact that she’s babysat for him before.
- Amy and Jessica’s dress is described as being a pale lilac while Shelley’s dress is a silvery gray.
(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:
What is it with these stories about female athletes who lack confidence in themselves? I suppose that in some ways, this one is worse than the story with Kristin Thompson because Shelley requires the attention of a male in order to validate herself. It’s only after she sees herself through the lens (pun intended) of Jim’s affection that she decides she might just be pretty after all. What kind of message is that to send to girls? You’re not important or pretty if you don’t have the attention and desire of a boy?
Part of me feels that at this point in the series, the book packagers were playing with the trends that were starting to appear in popular culture. Females can be strong athletes. Girls can do anything that boys can do. In all honesty, I think these story lines are supposed to reflect the prevailing trends of society at the time, but in true Sweet Valley fashion, they get it all wrong.
Up next: Jessica and Winston get shipwrecked in the most implausible story line yet.