SVH #49: Playing for Keeps

29 Jan

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks


Jessica is head-over-heels in love with new cutie A.J. Morgan and she’s convinced that the only way she can keep him interested is if she plays up her serious, contemplative side.  The problem is that she doesn’t really have a serious side, so she begs Elizabeth to help her, asking for recommendations on poets to read and clothes to borrow.  Elizabeth is worried, Jessica’s friends are both perplexed and amused, and Jessica becomes more and more desperate to keep A.J. interested in her.  But as she becomes more like the girl she thinks he wants, he becomes less interested in her and more drawn to Pamela Janson, a girl he saved from drowning at Secca Lake.  Pamela is flirtatious and forward, and while she’s not his usual type, he can’t help feeling attracted to her.

There’s also a fashion show coming up at the mall.  The prize is a new wardrobe from Lisette’s, and Jessica decides to enter the contest, even though she’s not sure A.J. would approve.  Pamela Janson also signs up.  Jessica hates Pamela and the way she talks about A.J., but she still feels trapped in her attempts to be someone she’s not.  Nothing she does seems to work the way she wants it to, though.  A double date with Elizabeth and Jeffrey is a complete disasterpiece, and she feels like A.J. continues to draw away from her.

The fashion show dawns and Jessica finds that Pamela has done everything in her power to sabotage Jessica’s chances at winning.  She messes with most of Jessica’s clothes, snagging her bracelet in a dress and bending the teeth on the zippers of another outfit.  Jessica manages to fix each disaster and make it fashionable, but when Pamela “accidentally” spills a glass of water all over her bathing suit (couldn’t she just go for the wet-look?), she freaks out and starts yelling at her.  The two girls are fighting as the curtain opens on them, and the owner of Lisette’s is so impressed with Jessica’s spunk and tenacity that she declares her the winner!  Pamela runs off crying, and A.J. decides that he actually really likes the feisty version of Jessica, so the two keep dating.  All is right in the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘That’s true,’ Lila agreed as she pushed Amy off her lap.  ‘Protocol–juniors and seniors are supposed to be more important.  Amy, you weigh about ten million pounds,’ she added with a petulant frown.” (95)
  • “Describing Jessica’s devious ways brought on a wave of nostalgia.  Sneaky, manipulative, scheming–she loved and missed that Jessica so much!” (114)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica reads A.J. an Emily Dickinson poem, and part of a Walt Whitman poem
  • Jessica wants to go to a Save the Whales meeting
  • Alice Wakefield is concerned about Ned’s cholesterol levels and doesn’t want him eating bacon in the dinner salad.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s not a lot to say about this one, really.  The moral of the story is that you should always be yourself.  Surprisingly, this is one moral that I can actually throw my support behind, but what’s problematic is that one could make the argument that Pamela Janson was just being herself, too, and yet we’re supposed to hate her.  Let’s break it down, okay?

Jessica tries to change into the kind of girl that she thinks A.J. likes.  This is upsetting not only because she works so hard to become someone that she’s not, but also because the kind of girl that A.J. likes seems to be completely passive and boring.  Not only does that sort of blow, but A.J. himself doesn’t seem to be much of a catch.  I’m not going to lie, Gentle Readers, A.J. doesn’t have much of a personality.  The fact that all of these girls are going nuts for a creepy, backwards-thinking ginger with a penchant for quiet girls is a bit of a head-scratcher.  That being said, the reader realizes just how awesome normal Jessica is when presented with pseudo-contemplative, poetry-writing Jessica.

The character of Pamela Janson serves no real purpose in the story other than to provide conflict for Jessica and A.J., which is weird because the two already have enough to face (being that Jessica is completely lying about who she is).  Pamela is aggressive and flirty and completely shameless.  In short, she’s an evil version of Jessica.  I guess she’s evil.  I mean, everything she does in the book are things that Jessica has done at one time or another in the past 50-odd books (and will continue to do for the rest of the series).  We’re supposed to sympathize with Jessica this time, though, because she’s the one getting toyed with.  I sense a disconnect.

At any rate, tune in next time for Sweet Valley’s take on diversity, featuring Chinese-American Jade Wu.  I haven’t even started reading the book yet, and I’m already uncomfortable.

5 Responses to “SVH #49: Playing for Keeps”

  1. oline February 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    hi there. i just wanted to encourage you that these are AWESOME. i’m way behind you and only just finished #16, but i think what you’re doing is fabulous. keep it up!

    • Clementine Bojangles February 3, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

      Thanks so much for the encouragement and for reading!

  2. Nikki July 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    I remember liking this book back in the day. I also remember liking Pamela (not sure if the audience was supposed to hate her, if that’s the case, the writers are delusional. I don’t remember her doing anything worse than anything Jessica ever did.) Jessica finally met her match with that one. Although I liked Jessica and was a fan of the character, I didn’t hate on Pamela (what’s the point, we all knew Jessica would end up getting the guy. I just remember finding their back and forth entertaining, Jess usually picked on people who wouldn’t stand up to her like Robin Wilson or Annie Whitman). IMO Jessica gave as good as she got. I say don’t dish it if you can’t take it, and everything Pamela did to Jessica, from what I remember, Jessica handled it and made it work in her favor.

    ◦Jessica wants to go to a Save the Whales meeting
    lol Jessica don’t give a damn about no whales

    • Clementine Bojangles July 7, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      ◦Jessica wants to go to a Save the Whales meeting
      lol Jessica don’t give a damn about no whales

      This made me laugh so hard.


  1. SVH Magna Edition: Jessica’s Secret Diary, Vol. II | A Critical Analysis of Sweet Valley's Most Famous Twins - August 21, 2015

    […] Jessica falls for A.J., she writes to Todd for advice, which also makes no sense.  As she works to keep A.J. happy, she and Todd start to get a little bit more personal in their letters to each other.  The mere […]

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