SVH #63: The New Elizabeth

19 Feb

the new elizabethEstimated Elapsed Time: 1 month

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is tired of being the boring, predictable twin, so she decides to take up a new, exciting hobby.  After deciding that hang gliding and scuba diving are both too expensive, she sees a flyer for surfing lessons at a nearby beach, and she goes for it.  There, she meets Sean Blake, who tells her that he’ll teach her how to surf and help her win a surfing competition at Moon Beach in only a month!  The two get to work, and Elizabeth turns out to be a natural on a board.

But as they spend lots of time surfing together, Liz deals with mounting pressure to tell people in her life what she’s been up to.  Everyone in her normal life thinks she’s working on an extra credit project studying marine biology, and Todd is especially annoyed by how preoccupied she is.  When he sees her come home with Sean one day, he blows up at her.

It doesn’t help that Sean seems really, really into Elizabeth.  She repeatedly brushes off his attempts to hang out after surf lessons, and she can see how much it bothers his sort-of girlfriend Laurie McNeil.  After a near-death brush with a riptide, Elizabeth is ready to compete in the competition.  At the last minute, she throws the competition by pretending to lose her balance and wiping out on her turn, making sure that Laurie, who has secretly trained and entered the competition, will win.  This secures Laurie’s place in Sean’s heart, I guess?  It’s never fully explored.

The B-plot involves Jessica getting even with Caroline Pearce for spreading stories about Jessica’s brief foray into the world of computer dating as Magenta Galaxy and Daniella Fromage.  Caroline is working at a new store called Unique Boutique, and Jessica goes in with Lila and Amy and basically makes Caroline’s life a living hell.  This is so stupid that it’s hard to care, but Caroline gets even by taking Jessica’s clothes out of the dressing room while she’s in her underwear and then quitting on the spot, leaving Jessica stranded.  Whatever.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • This book is Liz-centric, which means it’s light on the fun facts.  Liz is the worst.
  • In an attempt at continuity, there’s a joke made about Anacapa Island, where Jessica got shipwrecked that one time.
  • The local museum has an exhibit about the history of communication.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘But imagine a world full of Elizabeth Wakefields,’ Lila said.  ‘Could you imagine a duller, more predictable place? I think I’d go crazy.'” (2)
  • “‘Todd called at three-thirty, four-thirty, and five-thirty,” Mrs. Wakefield announced when Elizabeth walked into the kitchen…’My guess is that Todd misses you,’ she added.” (45)  [blogger’s note: My guess is that Todd is a creepy, controlling asshole. But hey, “potato,” “vodka.”]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

The problem with this book is that it serves as a sort of companion novel to The New Jessica, wherein Jessica underwent a crisis of conscience and tried to become someone new.  The difference there was that Jessica dyed her hair and tried to be “vaguely European,” and the result was sort of hilarious and at least a little interesting.

That isn’t the case here, because Liz doesn’t actually try to alter her personality so much as take up a new hobby, which isn’t really her problem.  She has plenty of interests and hobbies (see also: journaling, writing serious news articles, reading, clutching her pearls), she just sucks as a person.  Taking up surfing doesn’t fundamentally alter how fucking boring she is.

Actually, what stuck out to me in this reading of the novel was how uncomfortable I was with the dynamic between Sean and Liz.  It’s clear from the beginning that Sean is super into Elizabeth, but she continues to avoid the issue, choosing to spend time with him and let him sort of come onto her without ever really dealing with the issue until she feels like she absolutely has to.  This feels weird to me, and it might be situational for the time period, honestly.  Something like this occurring in a YA novel now wouldn’t be stood for, I think.  Readers would be angry at how passive Liz is, despite her disinterest in Sean.

Also, he sort of has a girlfriend and essentially drops her until she proves she can surf.  It’s gross.

Next up: BORING Steven Wakefield being haunted by another Tricia Martin doppelganger.

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3 Responses to “SVH #63: The New Elizabeth”

  1. lemonycrumb February 19, 2014 at 5:43 am #

    Loving your recaps and grateful that you’re still going after all these years. Thank you for your continuing contribution to the Sweet Valley love/hate society on this here the internet. There can never be too many SV snark blogs 🙂

    • Clementine Bojangles February 19, 2014 at 7:29 am #

      Thanks so much! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I last posted, but I have renewed vigor to see this project through!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. SVH Magna Edition: Elizabeth’s Secret Diary, Vol. II | A Critical Analysis of Sweet Valley's Most Famous Twins - August 24, 2015

    […] computer dating (this is still one of my favorites because it’s so balls-to-the-wall insane), Elizabeth’s adventures in surfing, a Tricia Martin doppelganger, and Wakefield Parent Drama for several painful books.  Very little […]

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