SVH #128: Kiss of a Killer

16 Apr

“It does seem unlikely that a town the size of Sweet Valley would have two deranged killers,” Winston chimed in.

svh128kissofakiller.jpg

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

We begin with Elizabeth coming to from her fainting spell in the previous book to discover that Katrina is still dead and that everything is still terrible. She takes a moment to appreciate being in Todd’s arms before attempting to perform CPR on Katrina, but Jonathan comes downstairs with Jessica and pronounces her really really dead. The cops arrive and bust the party, because not only is there a dead person in the house, but everyone is out after curfew.

Todd drives Elizabeth home and it seems like they might get back together until he sees Joey’s car in the Wakefield driveway, so Todd storms off again. Elizabeth and Joey make out and Elizabeth wonders if her heart’s in it. She’s surprised to find that Jessica didn’t come home and tries to wait up for her, but Jessica spends the night with Jonathan, who literally turns into a raven in front of her and transports her to the beach (?) before sucking on her neck and giving her an orgasm (?) and then transporting her to her own bed before the morning. She is unable to listen to reason when Elizabeth tries to tell her again that Jonathan is bad news.

Ned and Alice ground both twins for going to the party, and tell Jessica she has to stay away from Jonathan’s house. She FLIPS OUT and throws an actual tantrum, begging them to let Jonathan come over for dinner the following night so that they can see how wonderful he is. Ma and Pa Wakefield relent, and remind the girls they’re still grounded, but somehow Jessica gets Ned’s credit card and is allowed to go shopping for new clothes for the dinner. Y’all, I cannot.

Jonathan manages to charm both Ma and Pa Wakefield at the dinner and no one notices that he’s not eating. Elizabeth tries to grill him, but it doesn’t really work. Jessica and Jonathan make out in the den after dinner until Ned cock blocks them and sends Jonathan home right before he was about to tell her that he’s a vampire. This is what passes as suspense in the book.

A funeral is held for Katrina Sutton, although she lived in San Fransisco and was just visiting Sweet Valley. Everyone goes to the reception afterward except for Enid, who sits at Katrina’s grave and cries about how sad her own life is. Jonathan sneaks up behind her and attacks her, and then when she’s almost dead has a change of heart and rushes her to the hospital. Enid winds up in a coma, and Elizabeth stays at her bedside, absolutely sick over it. Enid wakes for a moment only to utter the word “Jonathan,” which Elizabeth takes as admission of his guilt. She rushes off to solve the mystery.

This involves convincing Maria to break into Jonathan’s house with her, and then discovering a hidden room that is full of vampire books. Elizabeth steals a bunch of them and brings them home and decides Jonathan must be a vampire. While Maria isn’t convinced, the two spend some time on the school computer doing research and discover a rash of murders in Northern California in the late 1930s and a mysterious guy named John Cayne. Elizabeth needs no further convincing.

Meanwhile, Jessica sneaks out to see Jonathan, and Liz tattles on her. Ned and Alice call the police, and the police find Jonathan and Jessica in a cave by the water, where they’ve found evidence of the killer. Jessica still hasn’t pieced any of the puzzle together and cries about being found by the police before being taken home and seriously grounded (for real this time?). It doesn’t really work though because Jessica still sneaks out to see Jonathan and then decides to run away to be with him. She shows up at his house and begs him to take him with her so they can be together forever.

At the same time, Maria shows up at the Wakefield house and tells Liz that she believes her now. She shows her a bunch of research she pulled off of the internet, and the two meet up with the rest of the gang and after like two minutes have them convinced that Jonathan is a vampire. The group decides to burn his house down and kill him, and Elizabeth is horrified. Then Enid’s mother calls with news that Enid has woken up and named Jonathan as her savior. Elizabeth calls Joey to help her stop the mob, and he breaks up with her, but luckily Todd is hanging around right behind her, and the two rush to the beach to try to stop them from killing Jonathan.

They intercept Jonathan and Jessica right before he’s going to change her into a vampire (?) and Jonathan realizes how much love surrounds Jessica and leaves her with his ring (but then the ring disappears from around her finger a bit later, so I guess he wanted it back after all). He flies away just as the mob shows up. So he escapes, I guess. Todd and Elizabeth make out. Jessica cries. Enid wakes up and feels a strange sense of loss. All is normal in Sweet Valley again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently there’s a place called Season’s Gourmet Shop where residents of Sweet Valley can get fancy food groceries. Did we know this?
  • Jessica’s new outfit for the dinner with Jonathan consists of a lilac silk dress, a silver chain belt, “dressy” leather sandals, and mauve lipstick.
  • She also buys a new outfit for Katrina’s funeral: gray and black striped dress with a black satin vest.
  • The school has a psychologist named Ms. McLean

Memorable Quotes:

  • Some party! Enid raged to herself. Katrina Sutton dropped dead,and Jessica stole Jonathan away from me. The night was a total bust.” (9)
  • “‘I understand what you mean,’ Lila said. ‘Right now it doesn’t matter that the girl has no fashion sense or style whatsoever. I feel sorry for her anyway.'” (83)
  • “He gazed pensively at the fire. ‘I grew up in a tiny coastal village in Prussia.’ Jessica frowned. ‘You mean Russia?'” (123) [I AM DEAD]
  • “She knew from past experience that computers were very useful when it came to confirming suspicions about a person.” (143)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Y’all, I don’t know. I feel like this recap was extra-long, but I also couldn’t figure out what to cut without the story making even less sense than it already does. There was a lot of plot in this one, which makes me wonder why they didn’t put some of it in the previous book where nothing at all happened. At the same time, this plot didn’t make a lick of sense. Like, none.

My favorite thing about this book was the weird references to computers and internet searching. It’s so dated, but you can tell that the ghostwriter was trying to explain the wonders of the world wide web to an audience who probably had more experience with computers than they did. How quaint.

When I was prepping this post, I read somewhere that the series was in danger of being cancelled around the time this book was published (I don’t have a source. I’m a bad librarian, I know). That tidbit of gossip helps illustrate why they might have thought suddenly introducing supernatural elements into the series was a good idea, though it still doesn’t make sense given the history of the series. I never thought I’d say this, but it makes me miss poor Luke, who just thought he was a werewolf.

I’m a rambling, incoherent mess, just like this book. All is well.

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SVH #127: Dance of Death

12 Apr

“I could use your mother for a few other things as well,” Jonathan replied. “Like disciplining you.”

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Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Jonathan are right where we left them: making out in his creepy, crumbling mansion. He’s drinking red wine (or blood, it’s unclear), and he makes some more vaguely threatening comments about how much danger Jessica is in when she’s near him. He gives her a half-hearted tour of the house, and she notices that there’s a painting of a young man bearing a very similar resemblance to Jonathan, only the painting looks very old. They banter a bit, make out a bunch, and then when Jonathan tells her they can’t do what they’re doing, Jessica has a little temper tantrum and runs out the door in tears.

Enid is hiding in the shadows, having watched them make out. She’s insanely jealous of Jessica and doesn’t understand why Jonathan doesn’t love her. Then she lets herself into Jonathan’s house, and he’s totally cool with it because they start making out and then he feeds on her while she has an orgasm? She’s surprised to find herself in her own bed the next morning with no memory of how she got there.

Jessica finds out that Enid has a “hickey” that was given to her by Jonathan, and she freaks the fuck out. She threatens Enid, who sort of sneers at her, and then yells at Jonathan about how she knows he has feelings for her and demands him to deny it. He can’t, and while she’s satisfied by this, she’s also royally pissed.

She calls him up a week later, and he tells her it’s a bad time because he’s sick. So she makes him soup and shows up at his house to find Enid there, looking glassy-eyed and smug. Jess literally throws the thermos of soup at Jonathan and runs away crying. Things go from bad to worse when she finds Jasmine the kitten dead and drained of blood in the back yard. The twins tell their parents Jasmine was hit by a car and bury her.

Bruce and Todd convince Jonathan to have a party at his house, despite the fact that Jonathan seems very unenthusiastic about it, and despite the fact that the town has enacted a citywide curfew requiring everyone to be home by 10 o’clock. Everyone goes and is dressed to the nines. Todd dances with Amy’s cousin Katrina, and Elizabeth cries about it. Enid cries about Jonathan ignoring her. Jessica sneaks upstairs to a black bedroom and waits for Jonathan, and then the power goes out. Jonathan finds her, and they kiss and he tells her he wants to be with her forever.

MEANWHILE, Elizabeth tries to explain to Todd why she was embracing Joey when he showed up, but he storms off. So Elizabeth convinces Joey to go with her to investigate the dead body at Secca Lake. The police officer lets her through to see the body when she explains that she’s Jessica Wakefield’s sister, but luckily the body isn’t her twin’s. What a relief! Which is a thing that Elizabeth actually says. I guess that the dead girl doesn’t count when it’s not your sister.

She continues to wring her hands about whether she wants Joey or Todd, but she can’t make up her mind. Todd is full out ignoring her, and some of Joey’s comments and behaviors are beginning to grate on her. Maria Slater encourages her to make a pro/con list, and she still isn’t sure. Then she decides to go out with Joey, and realizes she’s totally not into it. He gets pissed when she neglects to tell him about the upcoming party and bails, mid-date.

At the party at Jonathan’s house, she convinces Todd to help her try to find the fuse box to turn the power back on. He resists at first, but then follows her to the creepy basement, and after a bunch of testing of switches, they figure out how to get the power back on. They hear groans of disappointment upstairs, and then silence. Liz knows that something is wrong, and when she rushes upstairs, she finds that there’s a dead body in the middle of the floor. It’s Katrina.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Joey drives a Land Rover
  • Pop culture references include Bride of Frankenstein, Florence Nightingale, a Greta Garbo movie, and Sabrina (Hepburn & Bogart, natch)
  • Mr. Jaworski’s classes are studying the Civil Rights movement
  • Enid wears a black cotton miniskirt, a cropped leather jacket,and a silver skull-and-crossbones pendant

Memorable Quotes:

  • I wish I’d never met either Wakefield, Enid thought angrily. They’re both totally self-centered.” (21)
  • “Jonathan closed his warm lips around the side of her throat. Enid moaned as she felt a sharp sting. The sensation was exquisite: intense pain and a searing pleasure mixed into one.” (59)
  • “‘Troubled, yes. Artist, no,’ Elizabeth responded. ‘I don’t know why i think I can be a writer. I can barely get out a coherent sentence.'” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps the biggest issue with this book, and this mini-series as a whole, is that the mechanics of the vampire are…confusing. He seems to be drinking blood without ever actually puncturing his victims. At one point, one of the wounds is described as a “bluish mark” on the neck, and that doesn’t seem right? Like, if it’s just bruising, the blood couldn’t leave the body. So what exactly is happening?

At any rate, the character development is so poorly done and the writing is so unclear that it’s hard to know what exactly is going on. It’s clear that we’re supposed to believe that Jonathan has some sort of influence over everyone, but it’s hard to tell if it is something like mind control, general supernatural magic, or something else. It’s also unclear why it doesn’t seem to have an effect on Elizabeth (or Maria). Do they eat more garlic than other people? Does garlic even work on this kind of vampire?

I’m tired of the insta-love shit. The best moment of this entire book was when Jessica threw the thermos of soup at Jonathan, and that was like a five-second interaction. The rest of this was pretty interminable.

This is the most bloodless vampire tale ever.

SVH #126: Tall, Dark, and Deadly

8 Apr

talldarkdeadly

Jessica raised her eyebrows. “It’s garbage. How do you expect it to smell?”
“There’s so much of it,” Lila whined.

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks, in the loosest sense.

Summary/Overview:

One night at the Dairi Burger, Jessica loses one of her new earrings and decides the best place to search for it is in the dumpsters out back.  She drags Lila along, but she doesn’t find the earring. Instead, she finds a live kitten, which she decides to adopt and name Jasmine, and then, more horrifyingly, she finds a dead body.  The body, belonging to a teenage boy from Big Mesa, appears to have been drained of all its blood. The police are called, everyone is shocked, and Jessica, ever the sociopath, plots on how to turn her discovery into fifteen minutes of fame.

Everyone at school is abuzz over the news of the body, and there’s a special assembly called to discuss it with students.  At the same time, Chrome Dome Cooper announces that there’s a new transfer student, a dark-haired, gorgeous senior named Jonathan Cain. Jessica, like most of the female student body, is immediately transfixed by him.  Elizabeth is not, having seen him act like a total jerk in the hallway earlier. But she’s in the minority, as Enid also decides that he’s her soulmate. It isn’t long before nearly all of the girls in school are dressing in black and wearing dramatic makeup in an attempt to catch Jonathan’s attention, but he remains an enigma.

Even though he never seems to interact with any of the other students, Jonathan becomes the topic of conversation at school. Apparently he’s super good at advanced chemistry, knows more about European cultures than the teacher, can sink baskets from across the gym, and drives a motorcycle. All of the girls–and then, hilariously, most of the dudes–at school begin to dress in all black and wear dramatic makeup in an attempt to get his attention. Enid loses her mind completely and has her hair chemically straightened and dyed black, and completely changes her makeup look.

Despite all this, Jonathan ignores everyone. Jessica is not deterred and continually tries to win his affection, attempting a bunch of different stunts like draining her car battery and passing him flirty notes in French class. He doesn’t take any of her bait, which just makes her want him even more. She buys a bright red minidress and hops onto his motorcycle at the mall, and he takes her for a ride before dropping her off and telling her to never do that again. Then he totally returns her missing diamond earring by dropping it off on her bedroom windowsill, but Jessica doesn’t see him do it.

When Jasmine, the new kitten, escapes one night, Jessica finds her up another tree, and Jonathan is nearby. He tells her to listen to her kitten, who is freaking out, and avoid predators. Jessica doesn’t get his heavy-handed meaning, because she’s an idiot. Instead she thinks about kissing him.

Both Enid and Jessica seem to be particularly obsessed with Jonathan, and when Enid tells Jessica that she followed him home one day, Jessica manages to get the address out of her. Jessica tricks Elizabeth into thinking that she’s home, steals the Jeep, and heads out to Forrest Lane, where Jonathan lives. The house is a crumbling mansion, creepy as fuck, and just before she loses her nerve, Jonathan answers the door, and then they kiss. Then he threatens her life. Romantic.

The B-Plot, as it is, involves Liz still struggling with her waning feelings for Todd while pining for Joey, the boy she dated while she was a camp counselor. While she’s not sure she’s ready to throw in the towel with Todd, she is worried to learn that Joey is transferring to UCLA, and he won’t stop writing her letters and doing weird things like putting a canoe paddle in her locker (what the actual fuck, Joey?).

Because Maria Slater was at Camp Echo Mountain with Elizabeth and saw the entire thing with Joey unfold, Elizabeth confides in her. This bothers Enid, who seems to be undergoing another psychotic break. She lashes out at Elizabeth and is super bitchy to Maria, and then cries about how no one understands her. She loves Jonathan, and she needs to be near him.

Elizabeth and Maria Slater seem to be the only two people who have not fallen under his spell, though it’s unclear why they are immune to whatever magic is happening. When Jonathan appears at The Oracle office after school one day and warns Elizabeth that if she loves her sister, she’ll keep Jessica away from him, her feelings about the danger everyone is in are solidified. When another body is discovered near Secca Lake, Elizabeth becomes convinced that it’s Jessica and calls Todd in a panic. As he tries to get to her house, Elizabeth opens the door to find Joey on the steps. They embrace, and of course Todd sees them. DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica and Elizabeth’s grandma sent them each a pair of diamond stud earrings, and Jessica regales her friend group with the anecdote that her grandmother was the first girl in her town to get her ears pierced at age 12.
  • Jessica considers the color purple to be a “power color”
  • Lila wears a designer called Pierre Jove
  • Mr. Fellows is teaching his students about Spanish settlers in the Americas.
  • When Maria was a child actress, she starred in a movie called The Visitor, and commercials for Crystal Drops, Feathersoft, and was something called The Macaroni Princess.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Experience had taught [Elizabeth] to listen to her gut feelings; more often than not, they were right.” (38) [Ed. note: This is 100% inaccurate but ok]
  • “‘French is one of the few classes offered at SVH that’s worth attending,’ Lila declared. ‘Bo says that French novels are the most lushly romantic in the world, but unless you read them in the original language, you miss most of the subtle richness of the text.'” (62)
  • “Her face was different, too. Her eyebrows had been plucked into thin, glamorous arcs.” (107)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

So after a super, super long hiatus, I’m back at it. The truth is that I’ve been thinking about trying to finish the series for a long time, and then I looked at how many I have left and was all, “That’s IT?!” as if it’s completely accomplishable. But these books are so, so bad.

I jumped back in with almost no refresher on what’s happening in the series. The book spends the first few minutes having Jessica’s friends razz her about her breakup with Ken, telling her that when she cheated on him it made him into an asshole. Jessica almost cries because it was such a painful breakup, but I’m left confused because she’s dated like at least half a dozen dudes since they broke up, including Poor Dead Christian.

It’s obvious that the series has completely dispensed with trying to make sense in terms of a timeline, which is maddening but weirdly understandable? The book refers to their time at Camp Echo Mountain as being during the previous summer, but they’re a.) still sixteen, b.) still juniors in high school, and c.) on their fourth or fifth summer vacation? I DO NOT GET IT AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY IT BOTHERS ME SO MUCH.

Apart from that, the most bizarre parts of this story revolve around Jonathan’s magical charisma that seems to make everyone want to be like him or near him, despite the fact that he doesn’t ever interact with anyone. Jessica has to literally jump onto his bike while he’s on it to get him to interact with her, and we never see him talk to anyone else, apart from when he vaguely threatens Elizabeth.

Yet everyone wants to be like him. I suppose we’re supposed to believe that there’s a supernatural element at play, but the writing is so bad and the plot and character development so flimsy that it completely relies on a suspension of disbelief that’s staggering. Nothing about this greasy, brooding, goth douche canoe indicates that he’s charismatic or even interesting, and yet everyone is losing their goddamn minds over him.

The other weird thing is that readers are suddenly treated to Jonathan’s thoughts three-quarters of the way through the book. This shift in character perspective is lazy writing, but it’s also jarring and doesn’t make sense. It’s clear that he’s conflicted about hurting people, and there’s a lot of angst about ignoring his “needs,” but if this is true, then why would he choose to start attending class at a local high school? What fucking sense does that make?

I guess we’ll find out in the next installment. I know I can’t wait.

 

SVH Magna Edition: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. II

24 Aug

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, as this is a recap of books #55-70

Summary/Overview:

The book starts off with Liz on a date with Todd Wilkins, who is distracted.  When she presses him for what’s going on, he tells her that his friend from Vermont, Michelle Thomas, is coming to visit him.  Liz freaks out about this, because Michelle is the girl who called Todd “cute buns” in a letter to him that one time, and she runs away from their date.  When he shows up at her house with Michelle a few days later, Liz is a raging bitch to them both and then cries to Enid about how sad she is while they eat cookie dough.  She goes to reconcile with Todd and sees him kissing Michelle.  She freaks out, runs home, and cries a lot. Then she picks up one of her journals and starts reading and reminiscing…

These are painful to recap, but not as painful as it is to read them.  Liz quickly recaps books 55-57, mentioning Olivia’s crush on their teacher from the mini-courses before getting to her real interest: herself.  She angsts over Todd moving back to Sweet Valley and her waffling over her feelings for him and her current boyfriend Jeffrey French.  When she decides to ditch Jeffrey and hook back up with Todd, we’re treated to a recap of that gloat-fest, too.  But the diary presents this as Liz actually second-guessing her decision to get back together with Todd and being shocked when Jeffrey rebuffs her attempts to reconcile.  It seems we’re supposed to believe that Liz really misses Jeffrey, which this reader doesn’t buy for a second.

We continue on with inane recaps of books 61-70, which are largely focused on other people’s problems, so I’m not sure why the team behind these books thought this was the section of books to focus on.  Readers are treated to reminders about Patty Gilbert’s problems, Jessica’s adventures in computer dating (this is still one of my favorites because it’s so balls-to-the-wall insane), Elizabeth’s adventures in surfing, a Tricia Martin doppelganger, and Wakefield Parent Drama for several painful books.  Very little insight is provided to readers that they didn’t already know.  There is one “scandalous” scene that is supposed to take place around The Parent Plot, where Jeffrey climbs up a trellis near Liz’s room (is this a thing that existed before this diary?) and they make out.  But conveniently, Todd shows up that same night for some smooches, so Liz literally shoves Jeffrey into the closet so she can make out with Todd before sending him on his way.  Jeffrey is super mad about having to listen to the smooth make out noises of Liz and her actual boyfriend, and he storms off.

But wait, there’s more.  Liz and Todd break up again, and then Sweet Valley deals with both racism (and actual hate crimes but whatever, right?) and sexism.  This might be the most pointless of the secret diary series yet, and I HATED the first round.  There’s no point to these whatsoever.

At any rate, the book ends with Liz seeing Jeffrey out on a date with some rando and Liz realizes that he never looked at her the way he’s looking at this girl, so she thinks they weren’t right for each other after all.  She realizes that she still loves Todd and that they’ve both made kissing mistakes with other people.  She calls him and they make up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • I don’t have any trivia to provide this time.  The twins do love to wear blue-green items to match their eyes, though! This is a recurring theme that is starting to really grate on me.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Ooh,” Jeffrey joked. “You get me all excited when you say things like ‘male-female ratio!'” (29)
  • Sometime during the week (who cares what day it is?)” (56) [If this doesn’t sum up the way time lapses in this entire series, I don’t know what does.]
  • “Don’t punch things?” I asked. “Or don’t hold it in?” (211) [Too bad this was directed at Jeffrey and not Todd]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

“I’ve been such a hypocrite,” I whispered. I’d judged Todd for kissing Michelle in his backyard. But how many times had I kissed Jeffrey behind Todd’s back? I had no right to criticize him. And it was time to make it up to him. (325)

I’m including this quote because it’s what I’d like to focus on for this analysis.  What’s striking about this quote is not only how clunky it is, shoe-horned in at the last minute, in the literal last couple of pages of a 300+ page book, but also how hilariously tone-deaf it is when considered with the series as a whole.  Throughout these recaps, I’ve harped on and on about the fact that both twins cheat on dudes they are dating REPEATEDLY, despite the fact that Jessica is supposed to be considered the twin who can’t commit.  Liz tends to be the worst offender when it comes to this, because she’s the one who is in a “monogamous” relationship throughout the majority of the series.

But this is supposed to be a huge revelation for Liz at the end of this book, after doing a great deal of self-reflection while reading through old journal entries.  It never ceases to astound me how quickly she flies off the handle about Todd’s behavior when she literally cheats on him any time she goes out of town (or he goes out of town).  It is weird to suddenly have this be the standard for which she can forgive him his trespasses.

I don’t know.  I’m thinking about this too much.  Liz is the worst because she’s self-righteous AND boring AND oblivious about how boring she is.  At least Jessica is practically sociopathic in her denial about her behavior.

SVH Magna Edition: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. II

21 Aug

Jessica Secret Diary 2

 

Estimated Elapsed Time: N/A, because this covers books #42-56

Summary/Overview: 

Lila and Jessica are hanging out in Jessica’s room one day, totally minding their own business, when they overhear a fight between Liz and Todd nearby.  Todd and Liz break up (so, must be a day that ends in “y”) because he’s irate that she went to a movie with Jeffrey.

That night, Jessica gets home from a party and answers the phone to find Todd wondering if Liz and Jeffrey had gone to the party together.  Jessica tells him that they didn’t.  This is riveting stuff. He asks if he can come over and talk.  Jessica rushes to put on a sexy nightgown (what 16-year-old doesn’t own at least one of these?) and meets him at her bedroom window.  He tells her he wants to get back together with her.  What’s interesting (perhaps the only interesting thing to note here) is that Todd isn’t talking about that one time they hooked up after Sam’s death, nor is he talking about how they dated back at the start of the series, when Jessica falsely accused him of attempted rape.  He’s talking about…some other time, I guess?  Jessica is unsure if this is a good idea, and decides to consult the diaries she keeps that no one knows about.  Why not just use a Magic 8 Ball, bitch?

We are treated to an absolutely fascinating and not at all tedious rundown of some previous books, all from Jessica’s point of view:

While Sandra and Michael are thinking about eloping at 16 because their parents just don’t understand, Jessica plans a surprise party for Lila and gets a friendly letter from Todd in the mail, even though they are not friends, are often openly hostile about one another, and didn’t hang out before he moved away.  Jessica uses the letter as an excuse to tease Liz about Todd, which seems mean.

Enid might be grappling with generational issues in her family, but who cares? Jessica helps Liz make a documentary about Sweet Valley for an arbitrary contest and Jessica writes back to Todd for whatever reason.  Then, when Steven and Cara are sort of starting something up if only Steven can get over dead Tricia Martin, Jessica hears back from Todd.  This is seriously so boring.  Thank god for email, amirite?  Then Jessica reminds us that the Wakefields have a cousin who could basically be their sister, and she’s kind of effed up over some family drama.

We continue to be treated to recaps of books that really have nothing to do with Jessica and especially have nothing to do with her secret non-relationship with Todd.  Jessica reminds us about how smart Robin Wilson is (she got into Sarah Lawrence a whole year early despite that not being how it works at all).  Then Jessica gossips about Julie Porter and Bruce Patman, and while doing so, provides the readers with a bizarre alternate-history version of when she dated him.  She claims it was one date, but that’s not really how this reader remembers it.  It hardly matters, because who cares?  Jessica and Todd are still writing to each other, which is weird.

When Jessica falls for A.J., she writes to Todd for advice, which also makes no sense.  As she works to keep A.J. happy, she and Todd start to get a little bit more personal in their letters to each other.  The mere idea that Jessica would stick with a tedious activity like long-hand letter-writing for this long is completely unfathomable to me, but there you have it.  As her diary entries progress, Jessica continues to insist she’s into A.J. but gets all atwitter when she gets another letter from Todd.

The sequence of books chosen for this diary make no sense because they are extremely focused on other people’s problems, just like the second volume of Liz’s diary, but the book continues to plug on, as if the readers really want to rehash the stories of C and D-list characters (Ronnie’s gambling issues, totally-not-a-rapist-yet John Pfeifer and his jealousy over Jennifer Mitchell, Kristin Thompson and tennis).  Jessica recounts cheating on A.J. with some dude and subsequently breaking up with him.  Oh, and there’s also the basketball book with Shelley Novak.  BORING.  While Jessica recounts all of these people’s various melodramas, things with Todd start to escalate.  He asks if he can come visit her in secret, and actually buys a plane ticket and does just that.  The two make out at Secca Lake, which is supposed to be romantic (Jessica also thinks about Todd sneaking into her room and doing “intensely romantic things” with him, which is almost lukewarm in its attempt at steamy sex writing).  The two recognize that what they’re doing could really hurt Liz (I don’t know why that seems to matter considering what will happen in the future, but ok).

The final recap we’re treated to is the equally bizarre Lost at Sea, where Jessica gets stranded on a deserted island with Winston Egbert after their field trip boat capsizes or whatever.  Her big revelation here is that she briefly considered kissing Winston before they were rescued.  The hormones, they rage.

At the end of the book, Jessica comes to the realization that she and Todd aren’t meant to be.  She thinks he’s better suited to Liz, and that’s that. What a fucking waste of time.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica’s sexy silk nightgown was a gift from her cousin Kelly, who totally still exists.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Observation of the day: Mr. Collins is a god. (49) BARF.
  • I have a special feeling for Todd, I thought, fingering the cardboard cover of the notebook, and I always will.  But it’s nothing like the feeling he shares with Elizabeth. (326)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I fundamentally understand the rationale behind these books (everyone loves a good secret diary, people love the voyeurism, the regular rabid readers of SVH would have gobbled these up just because they were new, etc), but I don’t understand why they did them the way they did.  Instead of picking what seems like an almost arbitrary sequence of books, why didn’t they choose to jump around in the series and pick the ones where the twins had a lot of romantic drama happening? It would have been way more interesting to read if the focus of these diary entries wasn’t so unbalanced.

As it stands, it reads like a weird first-person recap of stories that weren’t very interesting the first time around and now seem awkwardly shoved into a story they don’t belong to. I don’t get it, and I don’t enjoy reading it.  I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would.

SVH #125: Camp Killer

14 Aug

camp killer

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

I’m back! And this book is just as boring as when I abandoned it MONTHS ago.  Without further ado:

Camp is winding down, but Liz decides it’s the perfect time to be super spooked out by the camp’s urban legend.  The legend goes that a long time ago, a counselor fell in love with a woodcutter (lolwut), but they were forbidden to see each other by the camp owner.  The girl ran away into the woods to be with her lumberjack, but she was never seen again.  The legend says that you can still hear the sound of wood being chopped every once in a while.  Liz actually based her super-special play on this legend, but now she’s totally creeped out and has a psychic-like feeling that Something Bad will happen.

At a bonfire one night, Joey tells the story of the camp legend but adds on a bunch of stuff about an ax murderer named Crazy Freddy that scares all the super annoying campers.  Liz makes out with Joey, Nicole is super jealous and plots a bunch of dumb stuff, and Liz worries about Jessica’s safety when she stays out super late to make out with Paul.  The two have to borrow one of Paul’s neighbor’s horses and that lands Paul in trouble with his parents, throwing a wrench in their plans to see as much of each other as possible.

A camp color war is one of the final camp events, and Liz and Nicole are pitted against each other as opposing team captains.  Nicole is still obsessed with Joey, who has the personality of cardboard toast, but she still works hard to mess things up for Liz.  She writes Todd a letter, including a picture of Liz and Joey kissing, but Maria won’t let her send it.  Nicole also sneaks out into the woods and makes woodcutting noises to freak Liz out, because she is actually insane, but whatever.  Maria begs Nicole to take it down a notch.

On the day of the color war, Jessica flakes so she can go see Paul, forcing Liz to cover all of Jessica’s activities as well as her own.  Jessica and Paul decide that pretending to be Crazy Freddy and scare everyone at camp is a really great idea and will in no way go badly or even further draw attention to the fact that she isn’t performing the basic duties of the job she was hired to do.  This doesn’t even matter, because an actual ax murderer shows up and drags Jessica off.  Tanya the camper sees this happen and tries to stop it, but the crazy guy just grabs her too and brings the two girls to a remote cabin in the woods.

When the campers start to notice that one of their own is missing, Joey runs off into the woods to rescue her.  The counselors pair off and start searching the woods.  Nicole and Liz pair up and have to work together.  They run into Paul, who tells them that Jessica is also missing.  There is a super convoluted plan where the girls will act as bait while Paul rescues Joey (now also captured?), Jessica, and Tanya.  Liz almost dies but doesn’t, and everyone gets away after a scuffle.  I literally don’t care and would gnaw my arm off if it would speed up the conclusion of this inane story.  Nicole gives Joey and Liz her blessing after a change of heart.  That’s…great?

The B-Plot involves Lila and Bo getting lost in the woods and spending a night sleeping on a dirt road.  They meet a crop duster pilot the next morning who wants to give them a lift back to camp but his boss says no.  After grumbling about how he’s so close to starting his own crop dusting business, Lila and Bo (both super rich, remember?) decide to invest in his company and he gets them back to camp.  No one knew they were missing, which sort of drives home the pointlessness of this entire book.

 

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Bo performed in his high school’s production of South Pacific.
  • The color teams for the color war are blue and red.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘We’re talking about a thousand dollars, kids.  Do you have any idea how much money that is?’  The insult stung, and Lila’s temper flared. ‘Of all the nerve!’ she said, raging. ‘I’ll have you know that I’ve got a dress back at camp that cost nearly twice that.” (185)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

Why did the series feel the need to unleash another homicidal maniac?  Why would they bring in that story this far into this mini-series and have it not make any sense?  Why does everyone continue to act like total idiots, despite the ever-increasing experience they have with kidnappings, attempted murders, hostage situations and the like?  Why is everyone the worst?

I don’t really have the energy to dissect this one further.  I keep hoping one of these will be interesting, but the further we get into the series, the worse it gets.  And it was a low bar to clear to begin with.  Good grief.

SVH #124: Meet Me at Midnight

25 Mar

meet me midnight

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Picking up right where we left off, Todd greets Elizabeth with a huge hug, completely oblivious to the fact that she looks guilty as hell and is still holding Joey’s hand.  He’s planning on staying with Winston because it’s been a whole week and he can’t live without Elizabeth.  He doesn’t notice the fact that Liz is not into this at all.  Joey tells Liz that it’s clear she’s not in love with Todd and tells her to cut him loose.  Liz agrees but backs out when it comes time to do so, telling herself she’ll just keep her summer fling a secret.  This will end well.  But Nicole tells Liz that she’ll tell Todd and blackmails her into breaking up with Joey so she can date him.

Meanwhile, Jessica nabs the lead in the camp play (shouldn’t this be for the, um, campers?).  She’s stoked about this until she gets a letter from Paul, who tells her he doesn’t want to see her again.  He calls her a dumb blonde and Jessica is pissed but sees it as a challenge, especially after she finds out that he had his heart broken by another counselor the year before and has sworn off those cheating, flighty camp counselors for his entire life.  THEY ARE ALL ALIKE.  Jessica calls him out and he tells her he’ll date her just to prove he isn’t afraid of women.  What a catch.

Apparently Jessica thinks he is the cat’s pajamas because she does stupid stuff like stealing the camp owner’s car to sneak into town to see Paul.  Of course she gets caught returning it and can’t risk sneaking off again, so she sends him a letter telling him to meet her later.  Do these people not have access to phones?  She ends up going into town to meet Joey on the day of the play and misses her own performance. Liz steps in for her and crushes it.  Joey comes up to Liz after and kisses her, telling her he knew it was her all along.  So that’s back on.

In other news, Winston is moping over the letters his girlfriend Maria (not to be confused with Maria SLATER) who is gushing over her experiences at her grandmother’s ranch and the fieldhand she’s met there.  Winston is sure she’s cheating on him with this rando cowboy, so Todd and Aaron get him gussied up as a cowboy so he can learn to ride horses or whatever and impress her when he sees her.  But he also starts dealing with a 15-year-old camper named Lara who “looks old for her age” and is totally hot to trot with Winston.  They make out a lot because whatever happens in Montana stays in Montana.  Then Winston gets a letter from Maria that includes a picture of the field hand and he’s an old dude who she is definitely not into.

I AM SO BORED.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila is still dating that dude but I don’t care.
  • Lara wears a burnt-orange baby doll dress to seduce Winston and that is the single best moment in the entire book.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She was attracted to someone else. She had to break up with Todd.  Just the thought made her feel like the most disloyal girlfriend on earth.” (54)
  • “As Winston smoothed the lotion on her delicate skin, he bit his lip.  It was hard to remember that Lara was just a camper.” (104)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

I cannot believe there’s still another book in this mini-series.  I know I’ve hated books before in the series, but something about this story is just slowly killing me with it’s complete banality.  Like, who the fuck cares about any of this?  I sure as hell don’t.  I don’t even get the sense that the characters in the book do.  The fact that they felt the need to stretch this paper-thin story across three books is boggling to the mind.

Two things bothered me about this book, though: Elizabeth’s weird mental gymnastics around her own cheating and Paul’s obvious misogyny.  It’s weird that the book frame’s Elizabeth’s guilt over having feelings for someone else as this terrible thing, because it is perfectly natural and happens all the time (in real life and in these books).  This is not the first time she’s cheated on Todd.  It’s like the 500th time, so I’m not sure why we’re supposed to be so scandalized by it.

But also, Paul’s whole “all women are alike/I’m not afraid of them” bullshit is tired, gross, and worrisome.  Are we supposed to be into the idea that Jessica has the tenacity and wherewithal to break him down into liking her?  Girl, throw that fish back.  There are plenty more out there!