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!

SVH #123: Elizabeth’s Rival

11 Mar

elixabethsrival

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley YET AGAIN, and Jessica and Elizabeth, along with Lila for some reason, are about to head off to Montana for a month long gig as junior counselors at a performing arts camp.  Liz is excited because one of her best friends from middle school, Maria Slater, is moving back to Sweet Valley and MIRACULOUSLY also joining the fun as a JC at the camp in Montana.  Jessica’s excited because she’s sure it’s her chance to finally become famous after being discovered.  She also makes a vow that it’s a summer with no boys, because she’s back to being sad about the death of Christian.  Lila hopes to only meet dudes, so the girls are at odds off the bat.

Things move along at a nice clip.  Within minutes of arriving, Liz has met Joey Mason, a super cute counselor who leads the acting workshops.  She’s attracted to him immediately.  Jessica starts to tire of Lila’s constant whining and wonders if she’ll manage to last the month listening to her complain.  When Maria shows up, Liz is overjoyed and then horrified when she realizes that Maria’s new best friend, Nicole Banes, is a total snot whom Elizabeth hates immediately.

Although Liz thinks that there must be something redeeming about Nicole since she’s Maria’s best friend, she plays like a total parody of a villain. She hides her own diary under Liz’s mattress and then accuses her of stealing it, then she steals the disk Liz has saved her script for the camp play on and passes it off as her own.  It seems that no one believes Liz, and it’s also clear that Joey is totally favoring Nicole over Liz.  It isn’t until Jessica accidentally sees evidence of Nicole taunting Liz about the play on camera (one of her campers is a little filmmaker) that she realizes what’s going on.  She shows it to the whole camp and Liz not only wins back Maria’s friendship but also the affection of Joey, who is now totally into Liz.  She tells him that she and Todd are in an open relationship, which backfires when Todd shows up at the camp.

Meanwhile, Lila falls for a guy named Bo, who comes off as a brave adventurer.  Lila tries to pretend she’s one, too, but is confused by how cowardly Bo actually seems to be.  Finally he comes clean to her: he’s actually the son of a millionaire.  They have tons in common! They kiss!

Jessica reluctantly falls for Paul, the older brother of one of her campers.  I AM SO BORED AND THERE ARE TWO MORE BOOKS IN THIS MINI-SERIES.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Robbie Goodman moved away to attend art school.  Did we know this? I literally can’t remember.
  • Jessica’s in charge of the dance classes, Liz is put on sailing duty, and Lila’s got arts and crafts covered.
  • Lila wears a periwinkle blue raw-silk romper with pearl buttons for her first day as a counselor, because of course she does.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Now that we’re both wet, come here and give me a hug!” The girls hugged for a long time, rocking side to side. (39)
  • Do I look like the kind of girl who would cheat on her boyfriend? she asked her reflection. No, she answered herself. (56) [Are you fucking kidding me?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Analysis:

I don’t know, haven’t we already done the camp thing to death already?  Lila and Jessica were counselors at Lila’s uncle’s resort that one time, and all of these people worked as JCs with overly-precocious kids in the far-superior Todd’s Story.  So yeah, I’m totally over the camp counselor thing they have going on.

What’s also distressing is that there isn’t even enough story here to sustain the 200-page book, let alone 2 more books.  It just doesn’t make any sense, and it isn’t fun.  UGH.

Also, what’s up with Nicole?  Why is she so terrible?  Why doesn’t she have any actual motivations?  How is it so completely out of the realm of possibility that anyone could hate Liz for an actual, legitimate reason?  I hate Liz and I like to think my reasons are wholly rational and air-tight.

SVH Super Edition: Falling for Lucas

4 Mar

fallingforlucas

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

It’s spring break and the twins are going on a ski trip to Colorado.  Along with them, Lila, Todd, Enid and Winston are all going (there are 16 fallinglucas2students and 2 chaperones in total).  Jessica and Lila are both committed to finding the cutest skiing outfits they can.  Todd is looking forward to some alone time with Liz, who keeps reminding them that there will be chaperones and also they will have roommates.  But Todd’s hormones must be on overdrive, because he tries to climb into Elizabeth’s bunk on the chartered bus before they even get to the resort.  Mr. Collins and Liz both freak out, and Todd shuffles back to his bunk.

Once they arrive at the ski resort, it’s clear that everyone has goals they want to meet on the trip.  Winston is not a good skiier and doesn’t want people to know; Enid is determined to hook up with a guy and buys a book to help her snag a hottie on the slopes; Lila & Jessica are in competition to find the cutest dude; and Todd is laser-focused on getting Liz alone in a hotel room.  I am already bored.

Jessica and Lila meet a super cute ski instructor named Lucas King and decide that they both want him.  They pretend to be really bad at skiing so he’ll pay attention to them.  Then they place a bet: whoever gets to kiss him first wins.  The loser has to ski down the most dangerous double black diamond run at the resort.  Jessica finagles an entire day’s worth of private lessons from him and Lila is pissed.  She demands to be let in on the lesson, and Jessica tells her what time it’s at only to cancel Lila’s wake-up call and sneak out when she’s still sleeping.  Lila gets back at her by going to a party thrown by Lucas without Jessica, and she ends up getting him to walk her back, where she kisses him under the window where Jessica is watching.  Jessica loses the bet but dumps snow on Lila’s head.

When Lucas finds out that Jessica is about to ski the hardest run, he rushes off to stop her, and Lila goes along, determined to keep Jessica from getting alone time with him.  Jessica and Lucas end up crashing into one another on the hill, and Lucas ends up with a sprained ankle while Jessica fractures hers.  She sidles up to Lucas in the lounge while Lila is skiing, and then Lila flips her lid on Jess in front of Lucas, who takes that moment to disappear.  He’s totally done with both of them.

While Lila and Jessica are fighting over the same boring dude, Enid is trying to get lucky on the slopes.  She keeps trying out advice from the book she bought, but it keeps attracting the wrong types of dudes.  WHO CARES.

Meanwhile, Todd convinces Winston to sleep elsewhere and gets Liz into his room.  They start making out, and she puts the brakes on their session only to find out his plan, complete with a “do not disturb” sign.  She’s pissed and ends up dumping a cold glass of water on his lap, which might be one of the coolest things she’s ever done.  Todd doesn’t get it, and he also doesn’t have the courtesy to tell Winston that Liz isn’t sleeping over, which pisses him off when he shows up the next morning sore from trying to sleep on a couch in the lounge.

Liz and Todd have a fight on the mountain and part ways.  There’s a storm brewing, and Liz watches as Todd skis past her into a different area.  Then there’s an avalanche and the two are separated! Liz thinks that he’s been trapped in the snow, and she runs to a nearby ski patrol station and tells them that she thinks Todd might be in danger.  The man, a dude named Dirk Roman, tells her they’ll send out a search party.

But Todd is fine, and has been brought to a cabin by an older woman named Cassandra Lee, who is very attractive, according to Todd.  He manages to reach the ski patrol station on a CB radio, but he doesn’t hear Liz and worries she might be trapped outside.  He loses contact with the patrol, and Cassandra convinces him that it’s too dark to do anything until the morning.  Todd gives her the bed and sleeps on the couch and wakes up in the middle of the night to find Cassandra kissing him.  This is seriously creepy.  He brushes her off and thinks about Liz.

Liz demands to stay the night in the patrol cabin even though it’s against the rules.  Dirk is very comforting.  He keeps bending rules for her, even allowing her to come on the rescue mission to find Todd.  They take a helicopter up to look for the cabin and finally find it.  When they clear the door and enter, Liz finds Todd in Cassandra’s embrace.  Liz storms off and when she’s back at the hotel, Dirk tries to comfort her by kissing her.  Todd walks in at that moment and is upset.  I DO NOT CARE.  It hardly matters because they make up at Winston’s second attempt at a “welcome back” party.

Enid hooks up with Lucas at the party and everyone goggles at it.  Enid feels like the punchline even when she gets the guy.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica’s new ski outfit is purple spandex pants with a color-blocked pink and purple parka.
  • Enid is rooming with Liz; Todd is rooming with Winston, Lila is rooming with Jessica, and Olivia is rooming with Caroline Pearce.
  • Winston wears a shoe size 13. FYI.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “No, it wasn’t. Not exactly,” Elizabeth said, trying to be fair to her sister. “I don’t think that’s how she meant it. She made romance and love sound like one big, fun game.  The object is to have a great time. And to see who wins–the guy or the girl.” (27) [This is fucked.]
  • “You didn’t even ask me what I wanted last night! You just assumed that I would want whatever you wanted. Well, I didn’t! And right now I don’t want to talk.” (98)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are two major issues with this book, and they both deal with sex.  The first is obviously Todd’s desire to take things further with Elizabeth without actually talking about it, which is problematic in and of itself.  But it’s also totally tone-deaf.  This is a couple that discusses everything, and we are to believe that they haven’t talked about whether or not they’re ready to have sex?  I find it unrealistic that the furthest Liz and Todd have gone is making out, especially because neither is religious (I’m sure I’ve written about this before), but I find it even more ridiculous that he wouldn’t know how to talk about it with the Queen of Over-Analyzing.  It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s utterly ridiculous.

The second issue has to do with the portrayal of Cassandra, and her overt advances towards Todd.  It’s okay, if a little creepy, that she hits on him, but it’s another thing entirely to start making out with him while he’s asleep.  That is sexual assault, lady, on the way to rape town.  She sort of apologizes later for hitting on him, claiming she thought he was a “big boy,” but that doesn’t excuse making sexual advances while the other person was unconscious.  It is totally bonkers to me that this was included in the book as a thing that is not a big deal at all.  BONKERS.

SVH #122: A Kiss Before Dying

2 Mar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth watches a bunch of dudes get arrested in the aftermath of the fight against Palisades, including Bruce Patman.  Todd has already been carted away.  Bizarrely, Liz feels guilt at having called the cops even though it’s pretty clear someone could have died if she hadn’t intervened.  She, Enid, and Maria take Winston Egbert to the hospital, and it turns out he’s got a broken nose amongst his other injuries.  Jessica has run off with Christian, and they make out and cry about how no one understands their love.

At school the next week, Todd is out of jail but won’t speak to Elizabeth, Ken is furious with Jessica and basically tells her she’s garbage, and the boys are pissed at the Wakefield twins because they’re Palisades sympathizers.  Liz has had enough and tells the dudes that none of the females at SVH will have anything to do with them until they call off this stupid war.  Bruce thinks she’s bluffing, but then all the girls agree.  I guess we’re in a warped version of Lysistrata now? (This actually gets mentioned by Liz in a super didactic moment later, but when I wrote this, I hadn’t gotten that far in the book.)

Liz and Enid meet with Caitlin and Marla at Palisades and convince them that the no-dude-contact is the way to go.  They agree, and then surfer girl Rosie Shaw comes up.  Despite Caitlin and Marla telling Liz point-blank that she can’t be trusted and Liz’s own feelings that she’s a bad seed, Rosie tells Liz that the two of them can come up with a plan to save their schools from the war.  This will end well.  She keeps pushing Liz to find out where the SVH guys are meeting.  Liz finally finds out from Todd and Rosie tells her to meet at this divey diner so they can go meet both groups of guys and convince them that the other side wants peace.  Liz thinks this is the best plan ever.

Liz and Enid show up and the diner and it takes them a very long time to realize that Rosie isn’t showing.  Enid reads some articles from the Palisades paper about SVH and Liz realizes that Rosie made up their shared interests from the articles.  She calls Jessica to warn her that Rosie’s up to no good and that she knows about her and Christian.  Then she realizes that it’s probably too late and Palisades is already on their way to beat down the SVH boys at Bruce’s house.

Indeed they are, as Rosie taunts Todd and the others before the Palisades dudes come out wearing warpaint on their faces and brandishing weapons like brass knuckles.  There’s a standoff, and Christian arrives to try to keep the peace, but at the exact moment that Liz, Jess, and Enid arrive, a terrible fight breaks out.  Christian tries to protect Ken from a particularly brutal blow and ends up getting knocked down, cracks his head on concrete, and falls into the deep end of the pool.  Jessica dives into save him and tries CPR, but when the ambulance arrives, it doesn’t look good.

At the hospital, a doctor comes out and tells the teens that Christian has died.  Everyone feels terrible and Todd announces that the war is over.

A few weeks later, Jessica is visited by Christian’s mother, who gifts her with his prized surfboard.  Jessica uses it to compete in the surfing competition that I had forgotten about and wins, dedicating the trophy to Christian’s memory.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Rosie is Danish, and this gets talked about for a long time, which is weird.
  • Elizabeth claims her favorite poet is Christina Rossetti

Memorable Quotes:

  • Elizabeth had known Bruce since childhood. He did have a hot temper and a reckless side, but it shocked her to see him treated like a dangerous criminal. (2) [LOL OK LIZ]
  • “One thing this whole rivalry mess has shown me is that people don’t always act the way you’d expect. Who would have ever thought Todd could be so violent?” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

What can even be said about this tonally-bizarre book, or the two that preceded it?  If it’s trying to make a commentary on the state of gang warfare, it fails at every level.  Nothing about the formation of the two schools’ gangs makes any sense, and even though one could argue that gangs don’t make sense to begin with, it still doesn’t make sense in this situation.  Gangs evolve for a variety of socioeconomic reasons, none of which are at play here.  The two groups hate each other over a football game.  Even West Side Story had more going on in terms of conflict.

And while it’s sad that Christian died, it’s not like it was a shock, what with the cover, the title, and the way he and Jessica kept talking about their “forever” love.  I don’t know.  This entire thing has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and in a different way than usual.  Something about all of this is just gross.

Also, LOL forever at Liz’s ideas about what “dangerous” criminals look like and also her complete inability to look at Todd’s history of PUNCHING PEOPLE OUT and relate that to how violent he’s become in these books. Jesus, Liz.  Get it together.

SVH #121: The High School War

27 Feb

high school war

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica actually faints at the sight of the fight happening at the warehouse.  The police show up and the two groups of guys scatter, but not before Ken sees Christian say something to Jessica.  He’s sure it was something lewd, even though it was just Christian begging her to meet him at the beach the following morning.  Jessica meets Christian and they agree that they can never see each other again.  That’ll last.

At school, Principal Cooper announces a new task force to help promote peace between the warring schools, and tells students that they aren’t allowed to wear their official school colors.  Liz, of course, is on board with it right away.  She butts heads with Todd over what’s happening and can’t believe how pig-headed he’s being about the entire thing.  She worries about whether or not their relationship will survive this fight, because her friends at Palisades are being dumped by their boyfriends over the war.

Jessica finally confesses to Liz that she’s been practicing surfing but begs her not to tell anyone.  Jessica and Christian manage to avoid each other for a couple of days but end up making out at the beach one morning before school.  Liz is worried when Jessica is late and enlists the help of Ken to go make sure she didn’t drown or something.  Liz manages to reach Jessica before Ken and sees her macking on Christian.  Christian runs away, and Jessica promises to fill Liz in soon.

The girls have a crisis meeting with Marla and Courtney from Palisades and worry over what’s happening to their men.  Maria lets it slip that the boys aren’t just having a GNO (guy’s night out) but are planning to crash the Palisades football game and slash some tires.  The girls are understandably upset but don’t think that they can do anything about it.  Because a phone call to the police wouldn’t help? The SVH dudes do indeed slash some tires.  Winston nearly gets caught by a Palisades guy but escapes.

Liz corners Jessica at school and asks about the guy she’s seeing at the beach.  Jessica cries a bunch and tells her she can’t tell her who he is for everyone’s safety, and Elizabeth accepts this with worry.  Of course, Ken is right outside the room the twins are talking in and overhears Jessica admit to seeing another guy.  He’s…upset, but instead of confronting Jessica, he acts like a total neutered creeper.

Todd throws a party to help dissipate the bad feelings.  Elizabeth stupidly invites Marla and Courtney and everyone is super rude to them.  She leaves the party with the girls and then fights with Todd on the phone the next morning, before finally agreeing to go out with him the following night.  She watches Jessica get ready for a date she’s pretty sure isn’t with Ken, and she’s right, because Ken is creeping outside their house and follows Jessica’s car.  He engages in some light stalking and continues to follow her after she gets in Christian’s car.  Then he sees them kissing at the restaurant, and Jessica sees him seeing her.  He runs away.

Winston goes to meet up with the GNO group at an abandoned warehouse but ends up getting jumped by the Palisades dudes who set him up.  They beat the crap out of him and it takes a long time for his friends to put the pieces together, but Maria finally does, and then they rush the warehouse to help him.  The dudes start fighting the Palisades guys while the girls literally stand there and scream.  Elizabeth calls the cops, and they come and arrest Todd.  He is furious that Liz called the police.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • There’s a mention of Olivia still being with Rod, but they broke up ages ago.  WAY TO FACT CHECK, GHOST WRITER.
  • The Palisades High principal is named Mrs. Chang
  • Mr. Collins is making his students read Crime & Punishment
  • Christian drives a powder blue VW van and keeps an inflatable mattress in the back.
  • Weirdly, this book assigns an address to Todd’s house: 1010 Country Club Drive. Why, though?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Testosterone,” Lila Fowler drawled, brushing imaginary lint off her chair before sitting down.  “The root of all evil.” (33)
  • She did what he asked–she tried to see his point of view.  But it still didn’t make any sense.” (114) [this whole book, summed up in one line]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a lot of weird things happening in this book, and it’s hard to sort through them all.  One thing that struck me again and again was the use of the word “thug,” by Elizabeth and others to describe the actions of the boys on both sides of the turf war.  The term “gang” is also used, which is obviously laughable.  But there’s something deeply disturbing about the use of the word “thug” because of how it’s used as a code word today for people’s racism.  That’s not totally what’s happening here–basically everyone in the world of these books are white–but it still feels unsettling to read this in 2015 and associate it with what’s happening now.  Also, the idea that these boys would get so worked up over what amounts to a lost football game is the dumbest thing possible.

The other thing that made me feel uneasy throughout the book is Jessica’s inability to consider the fact that she has the agency to break up with Ken.  She’s clearly not into him at all anymore, which is fine, but she continues to string him along while recognizing that he makes her feel cold inside.  It’s a transparent way to ramp up the melodrama when he follows her on her date with Christian and sees them kissing, and it’s something that doesn’t payoff the way it’s supposed to because anyone reading this is screaming at her to just get it over with already.

One more book in this mini-series.  Will someone die? Will I even care?

SVH #120: In Love with the Enemy

25 Feb

inloveenemy

Estimated Elapsed Time: 8-10 days

Summary/Overview:

SVH is playing Palisades High in an important football game.  The Palisades team plays unfairly according to SVH, but they still win, leaving Ken Matthews feeling particularly unhappy about the outcome.  There’s tension between the football players on the opposing teams, which is too bad, because Liz and Enid have made friends with Marla Daniels and Caitlin Alexander, both Palisades High students, and the foursome plan to hold a joint dance for the schools.

Jessica, Amy, and Lila are at the beach one day and watch a surf contest happening. At the end of the contest, it’s announced that another competition will be held in a month, and the winner gets an interview on RockTV and a trip to Hawaii.  Jessica decides to enter, despite the fact that she doesn’t currently surf.  This is met with derision from not only Lila and Amy, but also from the surf contest’s champion Rosie, who tells Jessica that cheerleaders can’t surf and she’ll never make it.  This only fuels Jessica’s desire to win even more.  She bets Lila that she’ll win, or she’ll wear a wet suit to school, and Lila takes the bet, swearing she’ll wear pink sunscreen on her nose if Jessica does indeed take the trophy.

Elizabeth and Enid continue making plans for a charity dance with the girls from Palisades despite the fact that tensions between the guys at both schools continue to ramp up.  They decide on a masked dance to help encourage co-mingling, and Elizabeth is stunned when Bruce and Todd have violent reactions to the idea of the dance.  Things continue to escalate after both groups of dudes play pranks on the others, and they decide to “have it out” at the dance.  Liz decides that the only course of action is to call the dance off completely.  But then Jessica tells them that the guys are going to meet at the warehouse where the dance is being held regardless of the status of the dance, and the girls think their presence might help calm tensions.

Meanwhile, Jessica starts taking surfing lessons from a mysterious surfer dude named Christian Gorman.  The two meet nearly every morning before school to surf the waves and reveal secrets to one another.  They kiss a bunch, and Jessica feels more distant from Ken than ever before.  It doesn’t help that he’s become obsessed with getting even with Palisades.

The Oracle’s attempt to run a feature on Palisades to highlight their good qualities backfires and only serves to ramp up feelings of hostility.  The night of the dance, the two groups of dudes meet and start a fight.  Jessica runs outside to tell Ken and Todd that Liz is calling the police, and she sees Christian beating the bloody hell out of Ken.  And…scene.

 

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Ocean Bay is the most popular beach in Sweet Valley
  • The Palisades High School newspaper is called the Pentagon.
  • The Droids dress up as the Flintstones for the dance

Memorable Quotes:

  • “This whole world is a boys’ club. Girls need to stick together.  Otherwise, we just spend all our time hating each other and ourselves and competing for boys’ attention.” Jessica took a breath.  The words had come out in a rush. (57)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

It feels redundant to point out how dumb and unnatural the rivalry between Palisades and SVH is in this book.  There are a couple of sporting events where bad feelings are bred, and all of a sudden, both schools have dangerous gangs of dudes wearing black jeans and black leather jackets and totally living up the Sharks vs. Jets thing without any of the fancy dancing.  It feels very obvious and very forced, and none of it works on any level.

Another clunker of a plot point is the SHOCKING reveal that Christian is a Palisades High student, which is obvious from the book’s title alone but also makes no sense within the confines of what Jessica and Christian have been doing.  They’ve been meeting every day, have professed their love for one another, and yet never bothered to mention that they go to newly-rivaled schools?  I don’t buy it.

This whole book is dumb, dumb, dumb.  I don’t have high hopes for the two books that follow in this little mini-series.  Talk about stretching out a topic already worn thin.

SVH Magna Edition: Return of the Evil Twin

18 Feb

return twin

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3  weeks

Summary/Overview:

It’s Christmas time in Sweet Valley yet again, and the twins are excited about vacation.  Jessica and Elizabeth are working with some arbitrary inside twincharity group to raise funding for a new children’s wing at the Fowler Memorial Hospital, and they get the brilliant idea to host a New Year’s Eve party at the traveling carnival that will be in town over the holiday.  The owners of the carnival agree to donate all profits to the charity, which is super convenient to the plot.

To celebrate the start of the holiday, the entire gang throws a caroling party.  The group meets at Secca Lake for a bonfire before heading out to sing carols to the unsuspecting Sweet Valley citizens, but Jessica and Todd are both very late, and Elizabeth worries about them.  On his way to the lake, Todd’s car spins out after he sees something move across the road and he slams into a guardrail, fading into unconsciousness.  Jessica sees his car on the road as she approaches and jumps out, saving him just in time, as his car goes over the side of the cliff and blows up.  This is obviously big news, and Todd’s gratefulness for Jessica’s heroics lead him to start to have romantic feelings for her.  This is probably exacerbated by Liz’s completely irrational feelings of jealousy over Jessica saving her boyfriend’s life.  It doesn’t help that everyone wants to ask Jess about it, and the paper even runs their picture on the front page, calling Todd her boyfriend instead of Liz’s.

Things continue to go badly for Liz, who has started dreaming about Margo again, even though she’s totally dead, right?  Also, Todd and Jess are totally into telling their story about the harrowing experience near Secca Lake, and Liz and Ken both feel shunted aside.  Jessica and Liz argue a lot.  Jessica starts having nightmares about Margo.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, Georgia, a moody girl named Nora Chapelle has just lost her father.  Because her mother died years ago, this makes her an orphan.  This is especially true when her evil stepmother offers her $5o,ooo to disappear from her life.  She also lets the bomb drop that Nora had an identical twin sister who was so evil that they gave her up for adoption.  Nora takes off to New York to track her sister’s whereabouts and it isn’t long before she manages to trace Margo’s life from there to Ohio to Sweet Valley.  Despite providing the readers a solid recap of the first evil twin saga, this book also adds information about the ambulance carrying Margo’s body never reaching the hospital, and that it ended up in a river (Margo’s body wasn’t found).  Convinced it’s all the Wakefield twins’ fault, Nora hops a plane to L.A. to get revenge for her sister.  She books a room at the Sweet Valley Inn and starts spying on the Wakefields.

One night, she goes to visit the gravestone that a local teen shelter erected in Margo’s honor.  This makes no sense whatsoever, but neither does what comes next: Margo appears in the cemetary, and the girls realize that the other still exists.  Nora takes Margo back to her hotel room and cringes a lot because Margo is messy and Nora is pathologically clean.  Margo convinces Nora that the Wakefield twins’ lives are rightfully there, and it’s time to claim their dues.

Jessica and Liz make up, but then Margo and Nora mess with their heads one night at the most spectacularly attended screening of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Liz and Enid go, and Ken and Jessica go, but Nora, posing as Elizabeth, goes with Todd and makes out with him.  Liz and Enid see it and assume it’s Jessica, and Liz FREAKS OUT and screams at Jessica and Todd (separately, and later, instead of confronting them at the theater, which makes way more sense).  The twins stop speaking and go to the New Year’s Eve carnival at odds with one another yet again.

Meanwhile, Nora and Margo fight over who has to be Elizabeth once they take over for real. Margo tells Nora that she should be, since she’s so neat, but Nora also wants to be Jessica.  If this isn’t the most perfect encapsulation of the Liz/Jess dynamic, I don’t know what is.  At the carnival, Liz sulks and Jessica goes into the house of mirrors for a good spook.  After the carnival, Jessica goes home to sleep and Liz stays to clean up.  Nora realizes that Margo has left her to do her own spying and decides to go and kill Jessica before Margo can so that she can take over the twin’s life.  She sneaks into the Wakefield house, stabs the sleeping form of Jessica, and is nearly out the window when Liz walks in and sees it all happen.  Liz collapses onto Jessica and blacks out.  Nora takes off but is seen escaping by Alice and Ned on their way home from party.

The doctors can’t save Jessica, and it’s a few days later when they have a memorial service for Jessica at SVH.  Despite telling the detectives that she knows it was Margo, no one believes her.  When she’s standing in the auditorium, she suddenly realizes that Jessica is still alive and needs her help.  No one believes her about this, either.   She furiously works out the clues Jessica has sent her in dreams.  When the police come to question her again, she steals one of their guns and goes back to the school.

Nora is convinced she has to kill Margo so that she can take over the only remaining Wakefield twin’s life.  She becomes convinced that Margo’s hiding in the basement at SVH and goes there to kill her.  But it’s Jessica! Elizabeth arrives and points the gun at both girls, then makes a decision about which is which.  Nora spills the beans about how she’s not Margo, realizes that she killed her own sister and seems sad about it (even though she was prepared to do that again right here), and then cries.  The police come and arrest her, and all is well again.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Outfit alert: Jessica “borrows” Liz’s candy-striped sweater, white pants, and Christmas tree ornament earrings for the caroling party.
  • Liz and Ken go to see The Shining
  • According to Margo, she’s able to hold her breath for up to 3 minutes underwater

Memorable Quotes:

  • “I have a librarian friend–a former paramour of mine.” (75) [this just made me laugh because i’m a librarian]
  • “Elizabeth is such a prude, she makes me want to throw up.” (182)
  • “Do you know that in all this time Todd has never even managed to get Elizabeth out of her clothes? It’s positively sick!” (210)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s something deeply unsettling to this reader about the idea of a father giving away one of his daughters to an adoption agency/foster care because of clear psychotic tendencies.  The family clearly has money, and it is astounding to me that they wouldn’t even consider psychiatric help before throwing in the towel on a toddler.  I’m choosing to ignore the idea that the Wakefield twins have not one but two doppelgangers, though.  I just can’t handle it.

My favorite part of this book is when Elizabeth steals a gun from the police and faces literally no repercussions.

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