SVH#10: Wrong Kind of Girl

21 Mar

Estimated Time Elapsed: Two weeks, I think.

The Overview:

Annie Whitman is a passionate 15-year-old.  She’s graceful and beautiful and is friendly.  She tends to fall in love with every boy she meets and lacks the critical thinking skills necessary to discern when these boys are maybe a bit on the unsavory side.  Annie’s terribly lonely; she doesn’t have any close girl friends, and her mother is dating a lecherous loser.  She wants to be liked, which is why she dates as much as she does.  But most of all, Annie wants to be on the SVH cheerleading squad.  Jessica Wakefield wants this least of all.  There are two spots on the squad to fill, and she’s absolutely determined to make sure that neither one goes to “Easy Annie” Whitman.  Elizabeth tries to change Jessica’s mind, and she helps tutor Annie in math so she could get her grades up high enough to qualify for the cheerleading squad.  This infuriates Jessica.

The problem is, Annie’s really good.  She’s graceful and enthusiastic and puts the rest of the cheerleader hopefuls to shame.  Everyone is amazed by Annie’s talent, but Jessica remains firm in her belief that Annie’s reputation with guys will bring down the reputations of all the rest of the girls on the squad.  But she’s powerless to stop Annie making it through several rounds of cuts.  Finally, she convinces a few of the other girls to vote against Annie by giving them an ultimatum: it’s either her or Annie.

Which means that Annie’s out.  When she finds out she’s been cut, she freaks out.  She goes completely manic for a day and then disappears.  The cheerleading team’s manager Ricky Capaldo, who has a major crush on her, calls the Wakefield house to tell them that Annie’s being rushed to the hospital after attempting suicide.  Both twins rush to the hospital and have a bedside vigil, willing Annie to get better.  The doctor tells Jessica that Annie has no will to live, and so Jessica tells Annie that the cheerleaders mixed up and she’s on the squad.  This is, apparently, the source of Annie’s will to live, and she wakes up and all is right with the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I think I’m going to cut down on my dating,’ Annie said.  ‘I used to need a lot of attention.  You know, to make up for that empty feeling inside.  But boys aren’t always the answer.'” (62) [ed. note: That’s right, Annie.  Sometimes a giant bag of Skittles are the answer.  Or a huge donut with sprinkles.]
  • “‘When people try to take their own lives, they often don’t want to be brought back.  When you catch them in time, as is this case, they have a second chance.  But they have to want that chance, you see…Mrs. Whitman, I have no idea why your daughter did this to herself, but she seems to have no will to live.'” (120)

Trivia and Fun Facts

  • Annie’s mom had her at 16, a fact that Elizabeth clutches her pearls over.  She also looks down at the fact that Mrs. Whitman seems to drink during the day and dates a skeezeball.
  • According to this book, Lila and Cara were both on the cheerleading squad but were kicked off due to a prank.  Lila has no interest in going back, but Cara does.
  • Pop culture references in this book are scarce but include: Tarzan, Flashdance, and Pat Benatar.
  • There’s an awful lot of foreshadowing about Tricia and tragedy that might befall her.  There’s also the set-up for the next book involving Suzanne Devlin and the trip to New York.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

There are so many things wrong with this book I don’t even know where to begin, but perhaps the biggest issue apart from Annie’s attempted suicide (which is alarming, unsettling, and unbelievably mishandled) is how harshly everyone judges Annie’s proclivities for serial dating.

I’ve been keeping track of who dates who from book 1, both on the site and on a sheet of paper (the dating web graphic organizer is getting more and more complicated), and so I know how many guys Jessica has dated.  Readers have seen her flirt mercilessly with these boys, often leading them on, promising things that she never intends to do.  Rest assured that this reader is not attempting to shame Jessica for being, essentially, a cock tease, but it is important to note that she often puts herself in situations where boys have one expectation and she has another.  The fact that Jessica is allowed to serial date but Annie is not is confusing.

Whether or not Annie is sexually active is left frustratingly ambiguous.  One gets the idea that perhaps she is sexually active, but it is never confirmed.  Boys tend to exaggerate when sharing details with their friends, and there’s never any indication that the things they are saying about her are true.  In fact, much of what Annie says when confiding in Elizabeth leads the reader to believe that Annie is quite innocent not only in how she views the world but in her experience with boys.  Yet she is branded the harlot of SVH because she dates a lot of boys?

What kind of message does this send to readers of the book?  Is Jessica’s behavior considered acceptable because the reader knows she will never go all the way and in fact acts indignant when a boy suggests she should?  Annie’s behavior is considered unacceptable because there is the question of the unknown with her.  At the end of the day, we don’t know what she does with boys, but we’re led to believe that although both girls are serial daters, one of them is good while one of them is morally reprehensible.

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