SVH #86: Jessica Against Bruce

30 Apr

jessicaagainstbruce

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2-3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Bruce Patman declares that life at SVH is boring and then he starts a secret club that everyone seems to know about called Club X.  He says it’s only for real men, which really pisses off Jessica.  She hounds him repeatedly in public until he agrees to let her try out for it.  Her initiation dare involves driving her Jeep down a hill at night with her lights off, and after she accomplishes this, she’s given a black leather jacket, her sign that she’s in the club.  The other members are Tad Johnson and Ronnie Edwards, so I have no idea why she’d want to be in this club, apart from the fact that Bruce says a bunch of vile, sexist shit at school.

At any rate, Jessica and the rest of Club X continue to cause havoc at school.  They glue lockers shut, pull the fire alarm, etc.  Jessica notices that the wheel of pranks they use to decide who has to complete a dare seems to land on her a lot, but she chalks this up to probability, at least at first.  When Bruce looks surprised when it lands on someone else’s name, Jessica starts to get really suspicious.  She hotwires Bruce’s car and drives away in it, which is kind of cool, I guess.

Bruce dares her to walk across some rail road tracks, telling her that the train won’t come because he knows the schedule.  But of course it does, and Jessica barely makes it over the tracks before the train goes roaring by  It’s dangerous, and Jessica realizes she wants out of the club.  But not before she gets revenge, because it’s Jessica Wakefield.

At the next meeting, Jessica creates a diversion to get the rest of the guys out of the room so she can examine the wheel.  Turns out there’s a magnet under her name, which Jessica promptly switches out with Bruce’s name.  That’ll show him. As predicted, the wheel lands on Bruce’s name, and she dares him to broadcast a radio station during a school assembly.  He gets caught, the club gets disbanded.  Jessica gets grounded but still manages to convince Liz to pull a twin switch so she can go see Sam.

The B-Plot involves the International Federation of Teachers coming to visit Sweet Valley High.  Liz and a couple of other goody-two-shoes get put in charge of showing the teachers around.  Of course, this coincides with the height of Club X’s pranks, which doesn’t make SVH look very good.  Liz is mad at Jessica for ruining it all, but it seems pretty low-stakes to me.  Also, vaguely racist/ethnocentric in how the teachers are portrayed from other countries.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Sam is apparently in Colorado for close to a month for a special college-immersion program.  But, in the middle of the school year?  Really?
  • Shoehorned literary reference: Elizabeth’s English class is reading Silas Marner.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘You are the biggest sexist pig in this school, Bruce Patman,’ Rosa said. ‘No, scratch that.  The biggest sexist pig in California.'” (15) And Elizabeth Wakefield’s future husband, natch!
  • “She didn’t feel as if she were being manipulated by Bruce. But was she?” (110)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I don’t have a lot of strong feelings about this one, for various reasons.  It might be that I’m slightly burned out on the Sweet Valley books, which was bound to happen. It might also be that this one just felt sort of boring to me.  I don’t care about a secret club, we knew that it would never last more than one book, and the stakes were supposed to be high, but come on–Jessica wasn’t going to get seriously hurt.

The thing that I found weirder about this one was the concept of the visiting teachers.  Everything about them was so stereotypical that it was cringe-worthy.  Their shock at how “American” students behaved felt so been there, done that?  But that might be part of the books not holding up years later.

Thoughts?

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