SVH#16: Rags to Riches

8 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: Two weeks

Summary/Overview:

Roger Barrett is now a Patman, and his life has been turned upside down.  Ever since his mother died (you know…like a week ago), he’s been trying to adjust to his new name and his new life living in the Patman mansion with his cousin Bruce and aunt and uncle.  Living with the Patmans is really hard, the reader learns, because there are all sorts of new etiquette rules to learn, like which fork to use at dinner.

Roger’s girlfriend Olivia is worried that she won’t fit into Roger’s new life, and so she vows to change so he’ll still want her.  When Jessica offers to help Olivia, things go from bad to worse.  Olivia seems to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, and wear the wrong thing, no matter what.  Frustrated with not fitting into Roger’s new world, Olivia breaks up with him a week before the formal party being held in Roger’s honor at the Patman’s country club.

All of this is perfect for Jessica’s scheme, of course, because she’s decided that Roger is desirable now that he’s somebody.  Her offers to “help” Olivia serve to embarrass and humiliate her further, and she’s there to swoop in after the break up and convinces Roger to take her to the dance.

Of course, Roger finds out what Jessica’s done, cancels his date with Jessica hours before the event, and makes up with Olivia.  The two attend the party in all their quirky glory, and Olivia is happy.

The B-Plot centers on Regina Morrow sneaking off with some older man after school.  Lila Fowler is convinced that the two are having some sort of sordid affair, but some snooping/spying/stalking brings her to a modeling agency where Regina has been discovered.  Regina’s scheduled to be on the cover of Ingenue Magazine, and Lila instantly decides she’d be better suited for it.  But her meeting with the talent scout doesn’t go well, and he tells her that her face is to “flat” for print work.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Well, that’s awfully nice of you, Jess.’  Elizabeth shook her head, staring at her twin’s innocent face. Maybe Jessica really was becoming more considerate of other people’s feelings.” (61)
  • “‘Jess, I just ran into her downtown,’ Elizabeth told her sister, ‘and she looked absolutely terrible!’ ‘Really? What was she wearing?’ Jessica asked, looking interested at last.” (113)
  • “‘Lila, try not to be too disappointed about the modeling job.  You’re a pretty girl, but you don’t really have the right facial structure, I believe.  You wouldn’t like how flat your face would look in photographs.'” (121)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Olivia’s “unusual” look is described a lot: oversized cotton sweater belted with an Indian sash over a fringed skirt, oversize army pants with a bright yellow t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up and sandals, and a gauze wraparound skirt with an Indian shirt and leather sandals
  • The Wakefields are the recipients of a brand new Video Cassette Recorder, commonly referred to as a VCR
  • Olivia’s house has a garden in the middle of it with a glass dome surrounding it

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The biggest bone to pick with this book is the handling of Roger’s mother’s death.  That is to say, the mishandling of it, because it is hardly mentioned.  It’s been a week since she died, and Roger seems to have moved on completely.  His worries, frustrations, and fears all revolve around using the right utensils at dinner and wearing clothing that is appropriate for his new lifestyle.  There is no mention of the fact that he’s just lost his mother and should be sad, upset, or inconsolable.

Not only does this huge oversight seem to clash with what readers know about Roger’s character already, but it is so unrealistic that it’s jarring.  Roger has spent the past several years taking care of his mother by working as a janitor.  Now that she’s dead, he’s completely forgotten about her?  Doubtful.

The best guess this critic can make is that the ghost writers/production team decided that focusing on the death of a parent would be too much of a downer when dealing with a rags-to-riches story.  Everyone wants to hear about the poor kid who strikes it rich.  Very few want to hear about the poor kid who loses his mother at 16.  If they do, they can read Jodi Piccoult or Lurlene McDaniel.

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