SVH #81: Rosa’s Lie

16 Apr

rosaslie

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Because Sweet Valley is a magnet for new students no matter what part of the school year it is, this week the teens are admiring newcomer Rose Jameson.  They think she’s the bee’s knees, and everyone wants a piece.  The girls decide she’d be a perfect fit for Pi Beta Alpha, and so a new pledge season is started.  Rose is thrilled that she’s fitting in with all the cool kids and decides she has to act the part as much as possible.  This means that they can’t ever know that she’s Mexican-American (she’s actually technically Mexican, because she was born and lived there until she was three or four, but whatever, this book is a lesson about being Chicana, as the book so subtly tells us).

Rose believes that if everyone knew her name was really Rosa Jimenez (her parents changed their last name when they started their garden tool business they wouldn’t get as far ahead), she wouldn’t be accepted by the white people at Sweet Valley High.  So she lets them think she’s old-money from Boston and crafts a super elaborate lie about how her family recently took a trip to England to trace their lineage and she got to hang out with Duchess Fergie and Princess Diana.  Whatever.

Once she starts lying she can’t stop.  This becomes increasingly difficult for her as she starts to complete challenges and tasks as part of the pledge process.  The girls want to come to her house, which is fine when her parents aren’t around, but then they announce that her super traditionally Mexican grandma is coming for a surprise visit, and things get sticky.  She starts cancelling plans to have people at her house until Lila announces that she must host a PBA party as her third and final challenge.  Rosa manages to get her parents and grandma out of the house and to a concert that night, but the whole thing is nearly ruined when her grandma comes back in to tell her she made them a special cake.  Rosa throws it out and tells her friends that it was her cleaning lady. Yikes.

She continues the lie but feels increasingly worse about it, especially after her grandmother tells her stories from the old country.  Then, when the Pi Betas have a picnic by Secca Lake, they see a little girl fall down a well.  The little girl only speaks Spanish and is freaking out, so Rosa finally breaks down and speaks Spanish in front of the other girls to calm her down.  Then she finally tells them that she’s Mexican, and the Pi Betas are like, “Okay, your secret is safe with us?”  Rosa gets self-righteous and is like, “NO EVERYONE MUST KNOW,” which, okay.  Fine.

At the Pledge induction dance, PBA offers Rosa membership and she turns them down for reasons that don’t make any sense.  But she promises them she’ll be friends with them all.  Whatever.

The B-Plot: Jessica keeps blowing off studying for math tests and quizzes to hang out with Sam, and as a result, she fails a bunch of them.  After intercepting a warning letter from the school about her grade, the lies continue until Alice gets a call from the school and Jessica ends up grounded, missing the dance.

Also, Phi Epsilon recruits some new brothers and Todd and Bruce butt heads about who to include.  There are some stupid pranks and I literally could not care less, which is why I didn’t recap them.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • As much as I like Lila, she’s kind of racist: at one point, she refers to Manuel Lopez as “ethnic and working-class.”  WHAT THE FUCK?
  • I guess Sweet Valley is a small town with all the amenities, because they have a Literacy Center
  • Ms. Taylor is the math teacher at SVH?
  • Elizabeth and Enid are both reading Wuthering Heights
  • According to Rosa’s grandma, there are no shopping malls in Mexico. Um, okay.

Memorable Quotes:

  • And in the back by the pool, there are a dozen fairy-tale princesses, Rose thought, and they’re going to make me a fairy-tale princess, too…” (30)
  • “Rose slowly headed back to the living room.  Her dark brown eyes were clouded with resentment. Already, Nana was causing trouble.  Just how many fun plans was she going to ruin?” (75)
  • “Lila tossed her hair.  ‘Rose is prettier,’ she declared. ‘And that’s who you are to us, after all: Rose.  We’ll keep calling you that.'” (140) WHAT THE FUCK, LILA?

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I remember loving this book as a child, but now I think I must have just loved the dress that Rosa is wearing on the cover.  I would still wear the shit out of that.  I actually kind of want it.  Whatever, not the point.

The point is that everything about this book is so problematic that I don’t even know where to begin.  Okay, so Rosa is actually from Texas and not Boston.  Because she feels like she was lumped together with the other Mexican students at her old school and she’s passing for a white girl in Sweet Valley, she decides to go with it.  I actually legitimately understand this, because it is a real thing that happens and continues to happen in schools all over the United States.

What I don’t understand is how horrifically this was handled throughout the book.  Rosa is dealing with some major code-switching and cultural identity stuff, but the book is so ham-fisted in its portrayal of everything that this isn’t ever accurately portrayed.  Instead, Rosa comes off as an ungrateful psycho at home and as a paranoid schizophrenic at school.  There’s no nuance here, and her abrupt about-face during the whole girl-in-a-well thing (don’t even get me started on that) doesn’t make any sense.  Lots of people speak Spanish, and she could have continued to lie if she wanted to.  That part made no sense.

Also, her deciding to not join the sorority doesn’t make sense.  At least, not for the reasons given.  If she doesn’t want to join because it’s full of some racist assholes, fine, but that’s not what she says.  Ugh, whatever.  This is the worst.

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One Response to “SVH #81: Rosa’s Lie”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. SVH #93: Stepsisters | A Critical Analysis of Sweet Valley's Most Famous Twins - May 23, 2014

    […] for when Rosa Jameson lied about her ethnic heritage because she was afraid that students wouldn’t acce….  And when Sandy Bacon dealt with comments about the fact that her boyfriend, Manuel Lopez, was […]

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