SVH Super Star: Olivia’s Story

11 Apr

olivia's story

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 month

Summary/Overview:

Olivia Davidson is obsessed with painting, and she’s particularly focused on abstract impressionism.  She’s taking classes at the Forester School, and it’s there that she meets devoted artist James Yates.  James is the definition of the starving artist, taking classes on scholarship and living in a tiny apartment, often forgoing dinner and wearing threadbare clothes.  All in the name of art, guys.  At any rate, the two start to spend time together, and despite the fact that James is an insufferable twat, Olivia likes him and feels challenged by his devotion to art.

But she’s feeling pressure at home to conform to more “normal” standards.  Her parents are the definition of conservative, and when her aunt June and cousin Emily come to stay with her family while Emily looks at colleges out west, Olivia feels even more like she doesn’t fit in.  It seems as though her straight-laced cousin has her entire life planned, and that freaks Olivia out.  So she asks her mom to get her a part-time job at Simpson’s Department Store, where she promptly runs into the owner’s son, Robert Simpson.  He lets her redo a display and admires her art, but when she shows him her paintings, the only ones he likes are the generic landscape ones.

Olivia continues to hang out with James, but when he brushes off their plans so he can do art, she goes with Robert to a country club party after asking her to dress down a bit.  It’s as awful as you’d expect, and she feels out of place.  However, she keeps making nearly no progress with James, and when she gives him his Christmas present (a paperweight with his initial) and he tells her it’s the emptiest and most meaningless present he’s even received, she storms out.  But then when Robert gives her a planner, she understands what James means and decides to eschew corporate life for a life of art.

Oh, I suppose it helps that her mother takes her aside one day and shows her the paintings from her youth, before she gave it up for a business degree.  She has a business degree and she’s a manager at a department store?  Really?  That was her life’s dream?  By the end of the story, Olivia and James are together because they love each other and Emily is thinking about going to school in California. I don’t know.   I hated this one.

The B-Plot, if you can call it that, involves Jessica and Elizabeth getting seasonal jobs at Simpson’s Department Store.  Jessica works in the children’s section and Liz wraps gifts.  Jessica sets her sights on Robert, but he’s really only interested in Olivia.  For whatever reason.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Olivia outfit: black leotard and leggins, pink and yellow chiffon skirt, blue checked vest, and an Elvis record in her hair.
  • As if you didn’t know the timeline was fucked: it’s Christmas AGAIN, but Jessica mentions their summer internship at the paper.  FFS.
  • Emily wears a khaki-colored suit and blue espadrilles, because she’s forty

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Paintings are life,’ James answered seriously. ‘Everything else is unimportant–money, living in a fancy house, worrying about the little things.'” (19) 

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This was a total slog for me to get through.  Sometimes I struggle with the regular books featuring tertiary characters, but this one had an extra 60 pages or so, and it was AWFUL.  Olivia isn’t interesting.  I remember her being more interesting as a child, but her wishy-washy feelings on everything in this one and complete lack of self awareness or a sense of humor make this a total bore.

Also, the twins have never felt so awkwardly inserted in a story line before.  There was no need for them to be in this one, apart from any fear that it wouldn’t be a “real” SVH novel without their presence.

Finally, is this like the 8th Christmas of their junior year or what?  I’d be willing to suspend some disbelief if there was even a mention of some of the events from past Christmas stories happening concurrently, but there isn’t.  It’s like each one of these Christmas books takes place in a vacuum.  These books are so weird!

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