SVH #21: Runaway

24 Apr

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:
Jessica is fed up with her family not taking her seriously.  They’re still grumbling about the accidental food poisoning from the last book.  At dinner, when Jess tries to cheer Steven up by inviting him to a party, everyone jumps down her throat until they find out it was Liz’s idea, and then they’re okay with it.  The Wakefields don’t listen when she talks and yet hang on Saint Elizabeth’s every word.

Because of all this, Jessica is feeling more than a little unappreciated, and for once she’s right to feel so.  She feels alone and misunderstood, so when she meets pseudo-bad boy Nicky Shepard, who feels the same way about his own family, it’s kismet.  Nicky understands Jessica’s pain because his family doesn’t have time for him, either.  His father is a workaholic and his mother devotes all her time to his sick little brother.

When Jessica starts spending all of her time with Nicky (the twins have a week off of school, which is unexplained and unfathomable, given that they just had a two-week long spring break), Elizabeth is concerned, but she’s also so wrapped up in her own drama that she doesn’t have a lot of time to worry about it.  She justifies her half-assed worry by thinking that the rumors about Nicky might not be true–he hangs out with a fast crowd, but he might be okay.  Jessica notices that Nicky’s friends seem to be pretty tough, too–at a party, there’s a lot of beer-drinking and marijuana-passing, but Nicky is different from them, Jessica thinks, because he’s so sensitive.  Besides, no one knows him like she does.

Things come to a head when they crash their car into a telephone pole on the way home from the party.  Nicky’s father comes to pick them up from the accident (they’re both unhurt) and freaks the hell out on Nicky.  He berates him the entire way home.  Later, Nicky asks Jessica to run away to San Francisco with him.  He plans to leave Sweet Valley that very week!  After the fight with his father, Nicky leaves even sooner than planned, and Jessica decides to follow him the next day.

She packs her bags and leaves a note in an envelope on her dresser.  When she leaves her room, she slams the door dramatically, knocking the letter behind the dresser.  The Wakefields don’t find out that Jessica’s left (the tip-off is how clean her room is) until later, and then they race around, calling her friends and searching the airport and the bus station.  Liz and Steven miss Jessica’s bus and chase after it towards the next stop, and when they get there, they hijack the bus and beg Jessica to stay.  Everyone cries, and Jessica comes home.

Once she’s settled back at Casa Wakefield, Jessica writes a letter to Nicky telling him she’s sorry, but she belongs in Sweet Valley.  She also tells him that he figures his shit out (but not in so many words), and that she’ll always love him, which strikes me as false, since she’s known him like a week.

The B-Plot involves a grandparent’s rights case that Ned Wakefield is trying involving Ricky Capaldo and his siblings.  Since his parents’ divorce, Ricky’s dad skipped town and refused to pay child support/alimony.  In an attempt to compel him to pay, Ricky’s mom has forbidden Ricky’s paternal grandparents from seeing their grandchildren.  Yes, it’s that convoluted.  Elizabeth offers some great insight into how it’s affecting the children, and Ned encourages her to come watch the trial.  She decides to write a series of articles about the case for the Sweet Valley Newspaper, which is so unethical I can’t even begin to fathom it.

Ricky is understandably pissed at first, but then he speaks at the trial about how unfair it all is, and the case is dissolved when both sides reach an agreement.  I’m so bored I can hardly care.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Oh well, Jessica muttered to herself, Elizabeth Wakefield, savior of the world, defender of the oppressed, strikes again.” (29)
  • “‘Well, she’s a young girl, about five feet six, very pretty with blue-green eyes and…’ Steven sighed.  ‘Wait a minute.’  He took hold of Elizabeth and pushed her toward the window.  ‘She looks just like this.'” (154)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • At Cara’s party, she serves chips, dip, and two different kinds of punch.  There’s also dancing, mingling, and a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit going on.
  • My favorite outfit in this book belongs to Todd: pleated gray linen slacks with a tweed coat over a polo shirt.
  • Steven takes Elizabeth out for ice cream at Casey’s.  They each order a hot fudge sundae with double-fudge ice cream, and I’m officially hungry while being simultaneously grossed out.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The issue I’d like to focus on isn’t Jessica’s lame attempt at running away but rather the complete lack of professionalism that both Ned Wakefield and Elizabeth demonstrate.  First of all, there’s the issue of Ned talking about his case at the dinner table.  He starts off by saying, “I shouldn’t really talk about this, but…” like that preface to what he’s about to say makes it okay.  If he’s not supposed to talk about it, he shouldn’t talk about it.  End of story.  There’s no gray area there.

What’s worse than that is the fact that it concerns a classmate of the twins’.  That alone makes it absolutely none of their business, and it’s a major breach of client confidentiality to divulge information about the case to the girls.  Ricky Capaldo’s family situation is painful, complicated, and above all else, private.

Adding serious insult to injury is the fact that Elizabeth decides that the family court case is newsworthy and decides to write a series of articles about it for the local newspaper.  Okay, Elizabeth.  Never mind the serious breach of ethics so long as you can further your own amateur career.  When Ricky gets mad at Liz for writing these articles, she thinks about it for a half second, like she’s really considering the ethics behind it before deciding that the story is more important.  Pretty cut-throat for a pearl-clutching hypocrite.

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