SVH #11: Too Good to be True

22 Mar


Estimated Time Elapsed:
Three weeks

Overview

Ma and Pa Wakefield have a special surprise: over the twins’ 2-week spring break, they’re going to have a visitor.  Suzanne Devlin, daughter of an ambassador that Ned was friendly with in college, will be coming to stay with them.  In exchange, one of the twins will go to New York City and stay with the Devlins.  Liz wins the trip in a coin toss, but it isn’t long before Jessica manipulates her way into taking her place.

A week later, Jessica is off to New York and Suzanne is riding home from the airport with the rest of the Wakefields.  Elizabeth is completely taken with Suzanne’s beauty and feels self-conscious about her own looks, although the ghost writer is quick to point out that Elizabeth is also stunningly beautiful.  She’s also amazed at how unbelievably sweet Suzanne is.  She cooks the family a gourmet breakfast, does the dishes, and gushes over how wonderful Sweet Valley is.  It isn’t long before everyone is under her spell.  The boys fawn at Suzy’s feet, Liz has a new best friend, and everything is perfect.

But there are some strange things happening, too.  Suzy almost drowns at the class picnic, causing Mr. Collins to act the hero and save her, even though Liz remembers that she’s a very strong swimmer.  Elizabeth’s gold lavaliere necklace goes missing.  Worst of all, Suzanne comes back from a babysitting gig at Mr. Collins’ house crying attempted rape.  Liz is horrified–how could her favorite teacher do such a thing?

The truth comes out the night of Lila’s birthday party when Liz finds her necklace in Suzanne’s suitcase.  When she confronts her at the party, Suzanne laughs evilly and tells her that no one will ever believe Liz’s version of events over her own.  But when Winston “accidentally” spills punch all over Suzanne’s dress, she freaks out in front of everyone and shows her true colors.  Everyone sees what a sociopath she actually is and her reign is over.

The B-Plot focuses on Jessica’s travels in NYC.  She spends most of her vacation with the Devlins alone in their huge apartment, which is really…strange.  Suzanne’s boyfriend Pete McCafferty takes her out a few times, and he’s a total shit to her.  They go to the Empire State Building, and to a restaurant in the WTC.  That relationship culminates with him trying to rape her for real in the Devlin’s apartment (Mr. and Mrs. Devlin walk in and kick him out).  Jessica also attends a dinner party hosted by Suzanne’s friends and gets blackout drunk on some champagne, but not before she’s humiliated and bored to tears by the snobs.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She imagined herself whirling breathlessly beneath the flashing lights of some impossibly chic Manhattan disco.  Suddenly, a hand touches her arm.  She turns.  ‘Pardon me,’ Mick Jagger says, ‘I believe this next dance is mine.
  • “Mrs. Devlin was much more elegant.  She was tall and gloriously thin, with the kind of cheekbones Jessica could achieve only by sucking her cheeks in as far as they would go…When Mrs. Devlin hugged her, Jessica’s only impression was of a cool draft of perfumed air.” (39)
  • “‘Well, I believe it,’ Cara said, passing out sodas.  ‘I’ve always thought he was the lecherous type.  I’ve caught him looking at me more than once.  Besides, he gave me a D on my last English essay.'” (106)
  • “Suzanne frowned, and for an instant she no longer seemed beautiful to Elizabeth.  Her lovely eyes narrowed into mean slits.  Hatred twisted her mouth into an ugly grimace.  Then the moment passed, and Suzanne looked her old, sweet smiling self again.” (113-114)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Lots of potentially cute outfits: a close-fitting black crepe cocktail dress with a plunging back (Jessica), an off-shoulder white satin dress with cream-colored high heeled sandals (Suzanne), and a velvet skirt with a high-necked lace victorian blouse (Elizabeth)
  • Tons of pop culture references: Barbie, East of Eden, Smothers Brothers (WHOA SHIT OLD), Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley, Paul Newman, King Kong, Bo Derek (AGAIN)
  • Apparently Winston Egbert and Mandy Farmer broke up when she moved away.  Way to drop the plot thread, ghost writer.
  • Liz is apparently quite the amateur baker: she made a lemon chiffon pie in Suzanne’s honor
  • Jessica starred in My Fair Lady the year before.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis

While it is alarming that everyone in Sweet Valley fell for Suzanne’s act, it is not particularly surprising.  People in town seem to be so thick-headed in general that it should come as no shock that people buy her sweet and innocent act hook, line and sinker.  Perhaps what is worth noting, however, is that there is no explanation as to why Suzanne wins everyone over while secretly hating them.  It is true that her character revisits the town in a later book, and that some of it gets explained then, but isn’t it lazy writing to not include even the tiniest explanation as to why she acts the way she does?

But my biggest beef with the story in this book is the actions of the Devlin parents.  Why agree to have one of the Wakefield twins come to New York if they aren’t going to make time for her?  Jessica has lunch with Mrs. Devlin at the Russian Tea Room one day, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.  She spends the majority of her two weeks in the apartment alone, which is uncharacteristic of Jessica and at odds with the city she’s visiting.  Even ignoring the fact that Jessica probably wouldn’t have much interest in the museums, she’s in the shopping capital of the world.  There are tons of things to do and see, and she sits in the hotel.  What the actual fuck, ghost writer?

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One Response to “SVH #11: Too Good to be True”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. SVH #42: Caught in the Middle « A Critical Analysis of Sweet Valley's Most Famous Twins - October 19, 2010

    […] This is Lila’s second birthday party.  She has turned sixteen again?  Or is she seventeen?  I can’t tell. […]

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