SVH#19: Showdown

20 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Lila’s dating a new guy, a construction worker named Jack (no last name), and she throws a pool party at her mansion to show him off to her friends.  Jessica catches sight of him and decides he super-cute and worth pursuing relentlessly, so she flirts with him outrageously at the party, going so far as to write her phone number in a matchbook with the charred end of a match.  Classy.

Jack is pretty classy too, because he starts dating both girls–Jessica during the week and Lila on the weekends–and keeps dropping little information nuggets that make him seem like he comes from a lot of money but is trying to make it on his own.  Both girls eat this shit up and it isn’t long before Sweet Valley High is buzzing with gossip about who Jack is, ranging from a millionaire’s son to a secret prince.  During this time, Jack manages to also convince both girls that they’re the only one for him, and does a bunch of cheesy stuff like naming stars after them.  He also proposes to Lila but tells her they must keep their engagement a secret.

Elizabeth is weirded out by Jack and is worried about Jessica dating him while he’s also dating Lila, but her attempts to convey this worry to Jessica aren’t very successful.  She keeps trying to brush off her doubts about Jack, which worsen when she runs into him and he acts erratically and seems to have red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes.  When Jessica tells her that he’s breaking it off with Lila, some of her fears are quelled, but not totally.

Things come to a head one night when Jessica goes out with Jack and they run into Nicholas Morrow and a friend of his visiting from Boston.  Both boys seem to recognize Jack but can’t place him, and when Jack pulls Jessica out of the restaurant in a hurry, Nicholas focuses on where he knows him from.  The boys figure out that Jack is the same boy who was expelled from their prep school a few years back.  Apparently he had robbed a girl at knife-point (his own girlfriend), and although she chose not to press charges (WHAT?), he got really heavy into drugs and was totally dangerous.  He had never been the same since his entire family was killed in a tragic boating accident.

The boys race over to the Wakefield’s house in hopes of catching Jessica before it’s too late, but she’s not there!  Elizabeth is, and when they fill her in on the situation, she races along with them as they try to find Jessica.  Lila supplies Jack’s address when she finds out he’s been two-timing her, and the three of them go over to his apartment, bursting in as Jack holds a knife to Jessica’s throat after she discovers his drug stash in his bathroom.  They tackle Jack and Jessica is rescued.

The Wakefield family goes to the police station to file a report and press charges.  While they’re there, they hear a distress call come over the radio about a small plane over Secca Lake.  Elizabeth screams because it’s Enid and George’s plane!

The B-Plot involves a mystery photographer submitting photos to the school newspaper.  The photos are great: they’re funny, smart, and sneaky, and Liz is determined to figure out who the mystery photographer is.  She catches Tina Ayala, sister to Penny Ayala (the SVH newspaper editor out sick with “mononucleosis”), dropping pictures off late one night.  One of the pictures she has is of Robin Wilson and George Warren at the air field, locked in a passionate embrace.  Liz promises to help Tina get on the paper and begs her to keep quiet about the information about Robin and George.

She worries about what to do about Robin and George, and when she confronts them, they admit they’re in love.  George tells Liz that he was planning on telling Enid but promised her the first ride in a plane with him after he gets his pilot’s license.  This will end well.

Trivia/Pop Culture:

  • Jack tends to favor neutral clothing: khaki walking shorts, green La Coste shirt, top-siders; a brown crew-neck sweater, and wheat-tone button down shirt.
  • Jessica wears a slinky blue dress with buttons down the back that falls just below her knees with slits up both sides.  Scandalous!
  • Lila has a pale-blue princess phone, a detail that I find awesome.  She also brings a butter-and-caviar sandwich and shrimp salad to lunch at school.
  • Pop culture references include: The Twilight Zone, Never-Never Land, Fantasy Island, The Maltese Falcon, and The Police

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The entire book is so ridiculous that I have a hard time even trying to critique it in a serious manner.  The fact that both girls would be interested in dating a construction worker is laughable; the fact that we are supposed to believe that sixteen-year-old princess Lila Fowler would enter into a secret engagement with one after dating for a week is absolutely ludicrous.

The character of Jack is also pretty ridiculous.  He is never given a last name, and the fact that Jessica’s parents are okay with her going out with some older guy they know nothing about is further testament to their terrible parenting.  Jack is supposed to be a character the reader both fears and feels sympathy for, and yet it is difficult to do either because we know so little about him (aside from the fact that he likes to wear top-siders). Lazy writing and sloppy plotting alert.


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