SVH Super Edition: Spring Break

8 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth are going to Cannes, France on their spring break as part of an exchange trip that the SVH French Club set up.  In return, their French host family is sending a daughter to live with the Wakefields.  The twins are excited to spend their break on the French Riviera with Avery Glize, a private nurse, and her handsome son Rene.  While Avery is a sweet and gracious hostess (if a bit absent), Rene is rude, acerbic, and borderline abusive towards the twins.  It’s clear that he hates them on sight, and it comes out that Rene’s father was an American who left his young family.  As a result, Rene hates all Americans on sight, which is about as irrational as one can get.

The twins set out to have a good trip despite Rene’s rudeness, and it isn’t long before Jessica meets a very rich but plain and shy boy named Marc Marchellier.  She lets him take her to a very exclusive beach club.  Elizabeth finds a puppy that has gotten lost, and when she returns it to its owner, she meets a countess whose grandson, Jean-Claude de Willenwich, is fabulously good-looking and charming.  The two of them go off cavorting around Cannes.  Naturally, when Jessica finds out that Elizabeth is hanging around with a super rich, gorgeous guy, she’s totally jealous.

When Elizabeth runs late for a date with Jean-Claude because of an errand she ran for Avery, Jessica takes full advantage of the situation and pretends to be Elizabeth when Jean-Claude shows up.  The two of them hit it off, even though he thinks her name is Jessica, and she decides that she’s fallen in love with him.  The two of them spend several days together.  Elizabeth tries and fails to befriend Rene, who is so obstinate and mean that it’s almost painful to read.

When Jessica (pretending to be Elizabeth) and Jean-Claude get caught in a storm in his tiny sailboat, Elizabeth begs Rene to take her to the pier to see if they can find the two of them.  Rene is surprised that Elizabeth doesn’t care about Jessica’s deceitfulness, and agrees to take Liz on his moped (motorcycle danger again!), even though he hasn’t been in or near the water since the tragic drowning death of his best friend some time before.  The two of them can see the sailboat and watch as it capsizes.  Elizabeth jumps in to rescue Jessica, who fell and hit her head, and Rene dives in to help her, too.  They save the day!

After this exciting brush with death, Jessica comes clean to Jean-Claude about who she is, but he still loves her.  Elizabeth and Rene end up as friends with the possibility of something more, and the twins look forward to the rest of their vacation.

The B-Plot involves Rene’s younger sister, Ferney, who has gone to stay with the Wakefield family while the twins are in France.  Everyone is surprised with Ferney is the SPITTING IMAGE OF TRICIA MARTIN (and I do mean they are identical).  Steven Wakefield seems to take this as a sign that he is meant to be with Ferney even though he’s been dating Cara and seems to be in love with her.  He takes Ferney around Sweet Valley, and even though he speaks no French and she speaks no English, he believes she’s Tricia reincarnated or something.  Everyone around him is totally freaked out by his behavior, and Cara is naturally heartbroken, but no one can talk sense into Steven.  He finally invites his friend David down to visit, because David is a French major.  With David translating for them, Steven discovers that Ferney is not like Tricia at all, and is, in fact, kind of a ditz.  He realizes the error of his ways and he and Cara make up (while I die a little inside).

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Of course he was aware that Ferney and Tricia were two different human beings, but a little bit of pretending couldn’t be so bad, he rationalized.  After all the pain he had gone through when Tricia had died, he deserved a candy-coated fantasy every once in a while, didn’t he?” (39)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the Wakefield twins have a curfew of midnight (one that Ma and Pa Wakefield try to enforce on Jessica by saying she should be home at 11), but it doesn’t seem to ever be enforced.
  • At one point, Jessica wears velour jogging pants and a man-tailored shirt and we are supposed to believe this is fashionable.
  • Apparently Lila is also on the French trip, staying with another host family, but we don’t see or hear from her the entire book.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are so many problems with this book that it is hard to know where to begin.  There’s a lot of talk about this book being one that never actually happened–this isn’t the twin’s only (or even FIRST) spring break, and although it seems to take place between books #27 and #28, this huge trip to France is never mentioned in the regular series (well, it’s mentioned again when the twins go to London and run into Rene much later in the series, but that’s nearly a hundred books later).  Also, where did the money for such a trip come from?  Back in SVH #11 (the last spring break the twins had), the Wakefield family only had enough money to send one twin to New York, but now they can send both twins to FRANCE for 10 days?  I guess the Wakefields are financially flush and forgot to mention it.

What’s more is the absolutely appalling way that Rene treats both twins, but especially Elizabeth.  Jessica and Rene have very little interaction after the first encounter, but Liz continually tries to be nice to him.  His complete lack of regard for her and his verbal abuse cross over from general rudeness into almost sociopathic behavior, as demonstrated from the following excerpt:

“My, my, aren’t we a bit out of control today?  But then you’re not used to having people make waves, are you?  Life is supposed to be so easy for you.  You have everything you need, and you have everything you want, too.  And then some.  That’s what American girls are all about.  A closetful [sic] of clothes and nothing to wear.”

Elizabeth summoned up all her willpower in an attempt to be reasonable.  “Rene, what do you have against me?  Have I done anything to you?  Has Jessica?  Why are you treating us this way?”

“It’s not what you’ve don, it’s what you stand for.”  There was poison in Rene’s words.  “All you American girls.  You think the sun rises and sets on you alone.  That’s what they teach you.  Oh, we see your movies, get your television shows.  I know how you girls think.”

I know.  Yikes.

Finally, there’s the ridiculousness of the Steven Wakefield B-Plot.  This is technically the first book where Steven falls in “love” with a Tricia Martin doppelganger, but it won’t be the last.  The world of Sweet Valley seems to be populated with a lot of people who are nearly identical to complete strangers–the twins meet a pair of psychotic twins who look exactly like them, Steven falls for like, twenty girls who look like Tricia, Elizabeth sees a lot of boys who look just like Todd.  It’s a strange and highly unlikely phenomenon, and after a while, it starts to get old.

But even pushing the skepticism of the likelihood of a perfect stranger being identical to someone else aside, this plot hurts to read.  Steven has a history of being a total douchetruck to Cara, and the fact that she’s put up with it for as long as she has is best left for an essay on being a doormat, but his actions in this book eclipse previous behavior.  He essentially dumps Cara without even telling her, choosing to spend all his free time staring open-mouthed at Ferney.  They go out around town, and he moons over her while Cara sits at home and cries, wondering if she’ll ever see Steve again.  It was hard enough for her to try to compete with a ghost, but now she has to compete with a little French girl?  I don’t think so.

When they finally get back together at the end and Steve apologizes and tells her he sees the error of his ways, it feels like too little too late, but Cara takes him back.  And that, disturbingly enough, seems like something a sixteen-year-old girl might do.

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One Response to “SVH Super Edition: Spring Break”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. SVH #104: Love and Death in London | A Critical Analysis of Sweet Valley's Most Famous Twins - June 25, 2014

    […] and their roommates, quiet Lina Smith and snobby Portia.  When they go to tea, they realize that Rene Glize is staying there (small world?), and he totally hits on […]

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