SVH #37: Rumors

6 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Susan Stewart has a pretty good life in Sweet Valley.  She’s very pretty, has nice clothes, and a comfortable life living with her Aunt Helen.  Even though she’s never known who her parents are, she’s been promised a reveal on her 18th birthday.  Not knowing hasn’t hurt her social life–if anything, it’s created a sort of mystique around her–and her wealthy boyfriend Gordon Stoddard seems to think she’s someone of importance when he asks her to the incredibly exclusive Bridgewater Ball.

Lila Fowler will attend the ball too, but she doesn’t have a date yet, so she decides to start a rumor about Susan’s parentage, telling everyone that Susan’s mother has been in a hospital for the criminally insane.  Apparently in Sweet Valley, mental illness is akin to being a murderer and child molester anywhere else in the world, because people freak out about it.  Susan loses friends left and right for no apparent reason, and when Gordon tells her he’s uninviting her to the ball, she begs to know why.  He tells her he can’t be associated with someone whose mother is totes crazy.

Meanwhile, Susan’s mother (who is really Aunt Helen) angsts about what to do. She knows that Susan is hurting, but her own shame about Susan’s conception hinders her from admitting the truth.  Apparently she got pregnant by a man who couldn’t marry her due to his career, and the shame of that has forced her to keep up a facade about being Susan’s guardian.  This angsting is interrupted by Jackson Croft, famous movie director, knocking on the door and asking to see his daughter.  When Susan arrives home, the entire story comes tumbling out in one of the most MELODRAMATIC scenes ever.

Jackson Croft is holding an open casting call for his new movie, and Liz, Enid, and Jessica go for varying reasons.  Jessica is sure she’s right for the role, and Liz is hoping to score an interview about his donations to SADD (as a result of his son being killed by a drunk driver).  At the interview/casting call, Jackson reveals that he’s Susan’s father, and her stock goes way up again.  Gordon tries to grovel and she rejects him.  This is followed up by Lila dumping a soda on his head as well.  Not a great day to be Gordon, I guess.  Allen Walters and Susan head off into the sunset, because Allen always liked her just for being her.

The B Plot has to do with Jessica suspecting that Alice Wakefield is pregnant.  There’s a bunch of small signs, like arguing with Ned about babies, Alice having cravings for pistachio ice cream, and finding baby clothes in the closet.  Jessica convinces Liz and Steve, and the three of them plot unnecessarily about how to get Ma and Pa Wakefield to confess.  This plot goes on for entirely too long until we find out that Alice isn’t pregnant; she and Ned have just been discussing whether or not they could leave the twins alone for a month while they take an extended vacation.  A month?  Really?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘What a drag,’ Lila drawled, looking around her. ‘That’s the problem with morning classes–you have less time to get the work from someone else first.'” (15)
  • “Gross, she thought with a suppressed shudder.  She didn’t even like the idea of someone in her forties having a baby.  Mrs. Wakefield was that old.” (24)
  • “A teenage girl had enough trouble finding out what she was without the extra burden of not knowing who she was.” (117) [Blogger’s note: Huh?]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Gordon’s parents are named Binky and Farley.  This is (unintentionally?) hilarious.
  • Bridgewater is apparently about 20 miles from Sweet Valley and is full of wealthy people.
  • Jessica and Lila are taking health with a teacher named Ms. Rice
  • The ghostwriter kept adding weird exposition, like “Mr. Stoddard, a florid-faced senior vice president at West Coast OilCam Corporation said” (27).  Do we really need all that?  Isn’t it a bit…clunky?

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

While choosing to ignore the total shit that Lila is in this book, I instead want to focus on the complete contrivance of the central plot.  The book was first published in 1987.  If Susan is 16, then she was born in 1971.  We’re supposed to believe that the shame of having a child out of wedlock was so severe that Helen Reister decided that pretending she was simply Susan’s guardian was a better alternative than the truth?  Really?

At one point, Susan fantasizes about her past: “Had Mrs. Reister been the trusted servant of some rich, unmarried girl who got into trouble?  Or maybe Susan was the product of a tragic love affair, entrusted to Mrs. Reister until the truth could be revealed” (38).  These kinds of plots are straight out of a romance novel, and while I can see a sixteen-year-old girl thinking about these things, I assume that they’re hardly serious conclusions to draw about one’s conception.

The shock of finding out her real parentage comes in the most dramatic fashion.  Susan walks in to find Jackson Croft sitting in her living room with Aunt Helen, and then he tells her that he’s her father.  She is incredulous, and even after he announces that he’s her father, she’s unclear about who actually gave birth to her: “The auburn hair.  The large brown eyes.  The finely molded cheekbones. How could she have been so blind?  All the years of waiting and hoping and wondering, and her mother had been there all the time!” (134).  All I can think about after this reveal is that Susan is going to end up in some seriously costly family therapy.

One more thing: I’m really tired of the completely vapid, one-dimensional characters we’re being treated to in these books that focus on “friends” of the twins.  In the last book we had the completely narcissistic and long-winded Peter DeHaven, and in this one we had the cardboard piece of shit known as Gordon Stoddard.  A little depth wouldn’t kill you, SVH ghostwriters.

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2 Responses to “SVH #37: Rumors”

  1. Leslie September 8, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    When I was a kid I really liked this book and I have no idea why. Later as an adult I reread this book, HATED IT!! I hated it for so many reasons but the big reason is I was born out of wedlock. MY parents weren’t married AND my mom was a single parent AND I was mixed (my mom was white and my father is from Nigeria) AND I live in a predominantly white area. I hate this book portrayed single parents as a bad thing and that everything is much better now that she has a daddy in her life. If my dad just showed up randomly 18 years later I wouldn’t be happy to see him I’d be like “dude where the hell have you been all this time and you want a relationship NOW!!” I really hate this book.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. SVH: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. I | A Critical Analysis of Sweet Valley's Most Famous Twins - July 18, 2014

    […] Jessica reads about how she tried to break up Steve and Cara.  That was sweet.  Remember when Jessica thought Alice was pregnant again? Because she likes pistachio ice cream and shit?  Me neither, but it happened.  Jessica […]

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