SVH #34: Forbidden Love

29 Sep

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


So basically what we have here is a modern day Romeo and Juliet, or at least, that’s what the author wants us to think.  Maria Santelli and Michael Harris are dating, but the whole thing has to be kept very hush hush, because their families are feuding as a result of some business deal that went bad.  Maria and Michael date in secret and then, naturally get engaged, because what 16-year-old doesn’t want to get married like, immediately?  Elizabeth thinks they’re making a huge mistake, Jessica thinks it’s super way totally romantic, and even though it’s supposed to be this HUGE secret, the entire school seems to know about it and Maria is showing off her engagement ring at cheerleading practice.

Coincidentally (or not), the teens are all taking part in a special project for social studies (as an ACTUAL social studies teacher, I find this particular project dubious at best) that pairs them up into pretend marriages.  The duos will be given jobs and incomes and must negotiate budgets for their new households.  Jessica is with Winston, Liz is with Bruce, and Maria is with Michael.  How completely hetero-normative, SVH.  This is obviously going to end well.

Because Maria is apparently a really ambitious girl, she’s managing Winston’s campaign to be the student council representative for the PTA.  This is such an in-demand position that there’s a campaign?  One probably shouldn’t look too closely at this, as it seems to be just a plot device to further the problems in Michael and Maria’s relationship.  Once they’re engaged, Michael seems to be demanding more and more of Maria’s time.  One might even go so far as to say that he’s being controlling.  He wants her to stop helping Winston all together so that she can go shopping with him and attend every single one of his tennis matches.  Maria is conflicted about all this, because she really likes helping Winston, but Michael doesn’t like the way Winston looks at her.

It’s not just that Michael’s a control freak, though.  He’s just an all-around douche bag, as Maria finds out through the marriage project.  They don’t seem to agree on anything having to do with their relationship, and she starts to really question whether or not they should even be together, let alone dating.  They fight some more.

The climax comes at the surprise engagement party thrown for the couple at Lila Fowler’s house.  When Michael sees Maria dancing with Winston, he makes an announcement that he’s also going to run for student council PTA representative, and Maria’s going to help him.  Winston runs away, hurt.  Michael and Maria fight and break up.  Plot contrivance, plot contrivance…the Santellis and the Harrises find out about the engagement and rush to the party, demanding an explanation, and then the two fathers make up.  Maria finds Winston and explains what has happened, and they kiss.  Winston wins the student council position.  All is right in the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I can’t,’ she admitted. A sudden pang seemed to strike her. ‘You don’t think I’ll end up an old maid, do you?’ she asked. ‘So far I haven’t been very good at long-term relationships.  You’re the one who’s good at that.'” (38-39)
  • “‘Why not?’ Jessica asked gaily, cutting herself a piece of cake.  ‘I’m sure it was just a little spat,’ she added.  ‘It happens on my favorite soap opera all the time.  No engagement counts unless it’s been broken at least twice.'” (104)

Trivia and Fun Facts:

  • Maria’s engagement ring is a small round diamond with a slender gold band.
  • Lila went heavy on the desserts at the engagement party.  Jessica and Liz both have wedding cake and then split a strawberry tart.  (This is me, totally jealous.)
  • Michael drives a trans-am, which makes him a douche truck automatically.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The entire plot is dubious at best.  The idea of two sixteen-year-old kids getting engaged for no apparent reason, even in the mid-eighties, is completely ridiculous.  There’s nary a mention of religion or sex, which are two powerful motivators for early marriage.  The two of them simply get engaged because…they love each other?  I love donuts, but you don’t see me getting engaged to one.

I also have a bone to pick with the social studies project that the kids participate in.  These types of projects seem to happen a lot in books and on TV shows, but do they ever actually happen in real life?  Even if they do, wouldn’t they be better-suited to a home economics class (I realize that these classes are now referred to as FACS–Family and Consumer Science–but give me a break, people, it is what it is) where these types of subjects are actually studied?  What self-respecting social studies teacher would agree to such a terrible project?  Also, all of the pairs were boy-girl, which like I mentioned before, is totally hetero-normative, but also unrealistic–there were gay couples in the 80s for sure, but there were also a lot of single parents.  Why wasn’t that explored in this terrible plot device.

Ugh.  I’m just glad this one is over.  It’s hard to recap the books with these ridiculous tertiary characters when I hardly even care about the main characters, let alone some sad sack who’ll probably never get mentioned again.


4 Responses to “SVH #34: Forbidden Love”

  1. Nikki July 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    Is it complete foreshadowing or just coincidence that Liz is paired w/ Bruce for the social studies/couple/marriage project considering they end up together in later books? Were the writer’s planning all along for those 2 to end up together? Guess that’s not likely, that would take forethought and consistency on the part of the writer. Jessica is paired with Winston lol, that’s funny.


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