SVH #75: Amy’s True Love

26 Mar


Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks


Amy Sutton has always been pretty boy-crazy, but lately, it seems like she’s been going overboard.  Jessica and Lila think she’s too obsessed with getting a boyfriend, and this is confirmed when she tells Jean West that she wants to go after her brand-new ex, Tom McKay, like, the second after they’ve broken up.  Jessica and Lila decide to give Amy the cold shoulder in an attempt to teach her a lesson.  What that lesson is is unclear, but whatever.

Things aren’t going super well for Amy, though.  She gets a failing grade on a paper for her sociology class, and to make up for it, Ms. Jacobi tells her she can volunteer at a teen clinic called Project Youth.  Facing the pressure of volunteer work, Amy’s parents start to get on her case about finding focus and starting to think seriously about college.  Amy believes that  the answer to all her problems is to get a steady boyfriend like Tom McKay, despite the fact that he’s clearly not interested in her.

It turns out that Amy’s a natural at Project Youth, and she particularly excels at answering phones for the teen line.  While working the phones, she meets Barry Rork, who totally has a crush on her.  He’s friends with Tom because they play on the SVH tennis team together, and so Amy asks him to help her get closer to Tom.  He reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Enid’s cousin, Jake Farrell, is visiting Sweet Valley for a long weekend.  Everyone practically creams their pants trying to get his attention, including Lila and Jessica, who have both developed crushes on him from glimpsing his photograph.  But Jake doesn’t seem interested in them at all.  Instead, he seems to be clicking really well with Tom, whom he has a lot in common with.  When Jake reveals to Tom that he’s gay, Tom is flummoxed–and then later, privately, starts to wonder if he might be gay.  He grapples with this for the rest of the book and never comes to any final conclusion, but the feeling this reader is left with is that he’s totally gay.

Amy can’t get it through her thick skull that Tom could not be any less interested in her and Barry couldn’t be any more interested.  She continues to pursue Tom to an embarrassing degree, begging him to dance with her at the Beach Disco and at the party Enid throws for Jake.  Tom keeps begging Barry to help fend her off, but she’s determined.

Finally, Barry tells Amy that Tom is never going to be interested in her.  Amy snaps at him and storms off.  When she approaches Tom in the cafeteria the next day to invite him to a concert, he says no, and when she persists, Kirk Anderson makes fun of her.  It seems as though she finally understands, and it isn’t long before Barry confesses his feelings for her and the two end up going out.  Yay?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Twilight Zone makes a pop culture appearance.
  • Amy wears an all-white outfit to the Beach Disco: white jeans, a white halter top, and tons of silver jewelry.
  • Jessica bleaches her tightest pair of jeans and then sits in the bathtub in hot water to shrink them further.
  • This book was advertised in the last one as “Amy’s First Love,” but it looks like it got a title switch by the time this one went to print.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘I don’t want to be tacky or anything, Jean,’ she interrupted, ‘but the truth is, I’ve always had a little bit of a crush on Tom.  In fact, I’ve had my eye on him for weeks now. Now that you’ve broken up with him, you wouldn’t mind if I tried to get to know him a little better, would you?'” (9)
  • “I wonder why reactions to important news tend to be so selfish.” (89) [Blogger’s note: Enid says this to Liz after confiding in her that Jake came out before the party. This is actually really true and weirdly authentic.]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Again, we have a book that is trying to be fairly honest and open about its themes.  The fact that Jake is gay is pretty obvious early on, but it wouldn’t necessarily be to the average young reader, especially in 1991.  There are several references made to what a snappy dresser he is, but he’s also so incredibly charming and charismatic with boys and girls it sort of cancels it out.

What is problematic about this one, though, is the pervasive and nearly constant use of the word “choice” when talking about Jake’s sexuality.  The word “gay” is used maybe 2-3 times, but the word “choice” keeps coming up:

It’s who he is that matters for our relationships, not the kinds of choices he makes about his other relationships. (90)

It shouldn’t be so hard for Jake and other people who are gay to make the choice they have to make. (91)

Tom was not a bigot. He didn’t have any fixed, narrow ideas about the kinds of private choices people should make. (91)

It might be nothing, and it could just be that I prickle at even the slightest suggestion that sexual orientation is a choice we make, but it still sort of rankled me.  That being said, I liked that Tom sought out adults to talk to, and both were incredibly supportive and open-minded.  So, props on that.

Even so, we still don’t have an openly gay character at Sweet Valley High.



One Response to “SVH #75: Amy’s True Love”


  1. SVH #76: Miss Teen Sweet Valley | A Critical Analysis of Sweet Valley's Most Famous Twins - March 28, 2014

    […] The book ends with Frazer McConnell finally asking Jessica out.  Like this was going to end any other way–we already have our ambiguously gay dude in Sweet Valley. […]

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