SVH #90: Don’t Go Home With John

14 May

dontgohomewithjohn

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lila has been seeing more of John Pfeifer around since he broke up with his girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell, and she’s surprised how interested she is in him.  He’s much more serious and intense than the dudes she’s used to dating, but she can’t help but be flattered when he pays attention to her.  They finally go out on a date, and it goes really well, until they go up to Miller’s Point and he won’t stop fooling around when she asks him to.  Things get a little rough, and she finally gets away from him by grabbing his keys, jabbing him in the neck with them, and then throwing them over the edge of the cliff.

Completely traumatized by the assault and near-rape, Lila blows off Jessica when she calls to find out how the date went.  She completely withdraws into herself, vacillating between thinking she should seek help from someplace like Project Youth to thinking everyone will blame her for what happened because she’s known as a flirt.  Jessica notices how drawn and pale Lila looks, and she’s seriously worried, but no matter how much she prods Lila, she can’t get her to tell her what’s wrong.

Lila throws her costume ball the following weekend (after thinking about cancelling it and making a point to uninvite John from attending), and it’s going along fine.  Lila is even having a good time until John shows up with some random sophomore in tow.  When she sees him, she completely loses her shit and screams at him in front of everyone about how he tried to rape her.  He denies it and leaves with his date, but the damage has been done in that the rumors are flowing.

The following week at school, Lila is plagued by rumors doubting her story.  It doesn’t help that John is completely weird and keeps following her around, standing in her way in the cafeteria and generally making a mockery of her pain.  Jessica asks John’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell if she can help at all and encourage John to seek help, and she basically tells Jessica that since he never tried to rape her, she doesn’t think he needs counseling.  Okay.

Lila is miserable until a sophomore named Susan Wyman comes to see her at her house and tells her that the same thing happened to her with John just before he went out with Lila.  Like Lila, she was able to get away when another couple showed up at Miller’s Point.  The two devise a plan to get John to go to the Dairi Burger where they can confront him together.  They do, and after his friends hear Susan’s story, too, everyone turns on John.  Vindication, I guess?

The B-Plot involves Jessica worrying about “losing control” when she makes out with Sam.  They never say sex but instead dance around it, and Jessica decides they need to cool things down before one of them lets things get out of hand.  She makes them date in public so they won’t be tempted until Sam finally sits her down and is like, “I love you and this is crazy.  I’m just as responsible as you are in this situation, blah blah blah.”  Whatever.  Then they make out a bunch.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • After Lila throws John’s keys over the edge of Miller’s Point, he calls her a “little witch.”  If ever there was a time for actual profanity…
  • Lila wears a black Lycra dress with a crushed velvet jacket and pearls for her date with John.
  • Jessica and Sam go as Princess Leia and Han Solo to Lila’s costume ball.  Lila goes as Peter Pan, Enid & Hugh are the body and receiver of a telephone (okay), Elizabeth and Todd are the sun and the moon.  What the hell, guys.
  • The ghostwriter refers to a sitcom as a “situation comedy” at one point, which is…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila had heard of boys acting like this, but she had thought that was only in books and movies.  She had never thought that any boy she knew would behave like, this.  That any boy she went to school with, and talked to, and saw every day–and liked–could scare her so much.” (47)
  • “Just a few days ago Lila had been one of the most attractive girls in Southern California, but now she would have been lucky to come in as a runner-up in a Miss Organic-Egg beauty contest.” (78) LOL WHAT?
  • “‘I mean, I know Lila’s telling the truth, Jessica, but I still have a hard time believing that my friend John did something like that. It’s like Dr. Pfeifer and Mr. Hyde. Anyway, there’s no way of proving what really did go on, is there?'” (112) LIZ IS THE GODDAMN WORST.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is a hard one to snark on, because given the subject matter and the series, it’s done fairly well.  Especially when you consider the fact that it was written in the early 90s.  There are still a couple of things worth mentioning, though.

In the book and in some recaps, incredulity is expressed that a person like John could ever do this to someone.  There’s a lot of, “John is a nice guy, and it doesn’t make sense for him to suddenly do this.”  And while the character development is sudden (which is not unusual for this series–consider Suzanne Devlin, etc.), I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for something like this to happen.  In fact, one could argue that having a character like John–who’s been mild-mannered for the most part, and a “good guy”–helps bring nuance to the issue.  Rapists are not all mustache-twirling devils.  They are people who appear otherwise normal, except for the fact that OH YEAH THEY ARE RAPISTS.

The other thing that really, really bothered me about this one was Liz.  It’s already well-established that she’s the fucking worst, but there’s something about her treatment of this issue that really stuck in my craw.  There’s the quote I linked to above, but there are other moments in the book, where Liz says things like, “I’d like Lila to know I support her, even though I’ve had to be polite to John,” where I just sort of rolled my eyes.  There’s so much self-righteousness there.  I don’t know.  My feelings are complicated about a stupid, poorly-written character, but they’re still my feelings.

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2 Responses to “SVH #90: Don’t Go Home With John”

  1. lemonypiecrust May 19, 2014 at 6:40 am #

    Man, the resolve for this book is pretty anti-climatic and too Sweet Valley magic for the subject matter, but that shouldn’t even come as a surprise anymore. That being said, I felt the issue was dealt with with surprising (for SV, anyway) sensitivity and poor Lila’s reactions are pretty realistic and genuine.

    Also, fuck you, Liz. Fuck you to hell and back.

    Also also, Enid’s stupid costume makes me want to punch her even more.

    ALSOALSOALSO! what the f is up with these kids and their self-enforced abstinence?? I mean, I know sex is the height of evil and all, but come on!

    ….. and I kinda want to enter a Miss Organic Egg contest now…

    • Clementine Bojangles May 19, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      The Miss Organic Egg thing made me laugh, for sure.

      I guess the abstinence thing makes me crazy because teenagers have sex (and they did in the 80s and 90s, too!) and this idea that these characters would be in long-term relationships and not have to deal with very real intimacy issues feels even more like a fantasy land than normal, by SVH standards.

      Of course, I realize that the REAL reason these characters are all abstinent is because the audience for the books was much younger than the actual age of the teens in the books. But still.

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