SVH #15: Promises

7 Apr

Estimated Time Elapsed: 1 week


The twins are called away from a party at Cara’s to hold a bedside vigil at Tricia Martin’s hospital room.  She’s finally dying, and the entire Wakefield family is there to say goodbye.  There are no other family members or friends to see her off, which strikes me as really depressing.  For all the hot air that gets blown out about Tricia being a “very special person,” they couldn’t invent at least one friend to come and say goodbye?

After everyone says goodbye and cries, Steven says his own choked goodbye, agrees to the promise Tricia asks of him to take care of Betsy, and cries a lot before watching “the light go out of Tricia’s eyes,” and he and the rest of the Wakefield clan leave.  On their way out, Betsy Martin comes tearing into the lobby, screaming about her sister before collapsing in Steven’s arms.  Ma and Pa Wakefield take Betsy home with them, which pisses Jessica off.

With the support of the Wakefield family, Betsy vows to turn over a new leaf, leaving her boozing, whoring ways behind her.  She loves to draw and is encouraged to take a class at the local community center.  Steven’s friend Jason Stone teaches it, and he thinks Betsy’s got real talent.  He’s also got a crush on her, but Betsy freaks out and tells him he’s only after one thing.  Besides, Betsy’s apparently fallen in love with Steven, which is like, transference or something.  Steven Liz, and Jason enter Betsy’s artwork in a contest for a 4-year scholarship to the L.A. Academy of Fine Arts, and she’s selected!  This bothers me, because wouldn’t the girl need a high school degree to even qualify?

Meanwhile, Jessica manages to make the Betsy situation all about herself and worries about what other people will say about such trash living in her house.  She schemes and lies her way into convincing Betsy that Steven is only helping her because of a promise he made to Tricia.  Betsy freaks out and runs away to a bar with some bad boys where she drinks a rum and coke and flirts before Steven and Jason come to her rescue.  They tell her about the scholarship, and then Jason does some karate on the bad boys and Betsy’s super-impressed and suddenly is into him.

The B-Plot centers around Roger Barrett’s mother needing open-heart surgery in Houston.  He doesn’t have the money for that, obviously, but then Bruce Patman’s dad steps in and has her transported to the hospital for it.  She dies anyway, and Roger cries in the cafeteria.  Then it’s announced that Roger’s the illegitimate son of Paul Patman, Henry Patman’s brother.  Roger’s rich!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Jessica, they’re burying the girl Steven loved.  How can you be so concerned about the way you look?'” (31)
  • “‘No!’ exclaimed Lila. ‘How positively awful–having to share your home with such low-class trash.  Why, our stable boy has more class than Betsy Martin.'” (43)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This is the first book that seems to have breached the swear-word wall.  Jessica says “Damn” several times.
  • The Wakefields have a weekly family Sunday brunch, which isn’t as hard to swallow as the idea that the school board would hold a meeting on a Sunday.
  • Outfits include: a lavender sweater-dress with buttons up the back, an indigo-blue pair of cropped pants, with a matching blue-striped t-shirt and navy espadrilles
  • Food consumed by the twins: mini pizzas, apple juice, brownies, milk, muffins, root beer, sausage, deluxe pizza, and raisinettes

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Where does one start with a story like this?  Setting aside the fact that Tricia’s illness is as ridiculous as ever, ending with her looking beautiful and doll-like in the hospital as the light goes out of her eyes (there’s a euphemism for you) when in fact an illness like Leukemia would not end like that, the entire idea that Tricia would be surrounded only by the Wakefield family at her moment of death is ludicrous.

Although her family is small and considered quite trashy, Tricia has to have other friends, right?  She has to have other people in her life than just Steven and his family.  For that matter, we’re supposed to believe that Alice and Ned have grown very fond of Tricia and have spent oodles of time with her when in fact we’ve never even seen them in the same room before?  Lest the ghostwriter forget, Steven doesn’t live at home and when he visits, he’s usually out with Tricia.  This point bugs.  The Wakefield Parents’ presence seems like a cheap plot device to invite Betsy home with them.

The issue of Betsy is almost too big to tackle in a short critical analysis.  One can’t begrudge her desire to change her lifestyle, but the ease with which she does it rings false.  She’s able to turn her life around in the span of like, an hour.  Aside from one phone call from Rick Andover, Betsy doesn’t drink, drug, or sleep around after her declaration of change.

If the reader is to believe that Betsy Martin is as bad as she’s cracked up to be, wouldn’t one assume that some withdrawal might be shown?  Or perhaps some temptation?  There is none of that.  There is only her drawing, and her absolutely infuriating propensity for weird, undeserved outbursts of anger at people (poor Josh Stone).  She is a C- or D-list character that should be forgotten as soon as she moves out of the Wakefield house.


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