SVH #93: Stepsisters

23 May

stepsisters

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Annie Whitman’s mom has been spending a lot of time in New York as part of her work as a fashion model (strictly catalog work, Annie is quick to tell her friends), and when she comes back from her latest month-long trip (leaving Annie alone, I guess?), she tells her that she’s been seeing a man in New York–a photographer named Walter Thomas, and the two of them are getting married! Walter has a daughter about Annie’s age named Cheryl, and the two of them will be moving to Sweet Valley.  Oh, and they’re black.  Annie is stunned but works hard to not be prejudiced about the fact that her new family will look different from her.  Whatever, I hate this book already.

In the span of like a day of this news, Annie’s mom buys the house next door to the Wakefield twins, and within the week, the new family is moving in, Walter and Cheryl already in tow.  The twins are excited about the new neighbors and are totally cool about Cheryl.  They help the girls unpack and notice that things between Annie and Cheryl are already tense, despite the fact that it’s clear Annie is trying as hard as she can to make Cheryl comfortable.  The problem is, Annie’s so concerned with not being a racist that she ends up being super, super racist, obsessing over color and inviting a bunch of students of color to the party she throws in Cheryl’s honor even though she’s not good friends with them.  She also doesn’t tell anyone that Cheryl is black before they meet her, making the situation even weirder.

Annie keeps trying to include Cheryl in her life, but everything keeps going wrong.  She encourages her to join Pi Beta Alpha and go to football games, even though neither is Cheryl’s scene. The two continue to resent one another but neither one is willing to admit it out loud.  At a pool party at Suzanne Hanlon’s house, Cheryl makes a little speech thanking the PBAs for considering her for membership, but then declines to even pledge.  She also accuses Annie of trying to make her fit in by turning her white.

Eventually, the two figure out a way to talk to one another, but it takes a trip to the hospital to do so.  Annie’s mother had appendicitis–but she’s fine now.  The girls decide to allow them to be themselves or something, and all is well with the world.  Cheryl also starts flirting pretty seriously with Steven Wakefield.

Oh, and Annie and Tony Esteban get back together.  YAWN.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Cheryl’s friends spend their summers at Blue Water, a place for musicians
  • Cheryl is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian
  • Rhomboid is a new up-and-coming band.  The name is literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
  • Annie throws a party for Cheryl at their house the DAY AFTER they move in.  Jesus, that’s fast.
  • Apparently Annie is quite the cook?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Annie thought carefully about the question. She was friends with Patsy Gilbert and Andy Jenkins, who were black, and Rosa Jameson and Manuel Lopez, who were Hispanic, and she could honestly say that she didn’t think about their skin colors or ethnic backgrounds any more than she did about, say, Jessica and Elizabeth’s English and Swedish background.” (13) [Blogger’s note: Are you fucking kidding me?]
  • “‘You actually have sororities in high school here?’ Cheryl asked, sounding surprised. ‘Sweet Valley sounds like something out of a 1950’s beach-party movie–football, cheerleaders, sororities, surfing. I suppose you have a burger joint, too?'” (75)
  • “‘And there’s something else I wanted to ask you about,’ Cheryl went on, looking a little troubled. ‘What gives with all these black, Asian, and Hispanic kids here? I don’t think I’ve seen this many people of color since I got to Sweet Valley, and certainly not in place.'” (86)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Guys, this book is fucked.  Like, seriously, seriously fucked.  It’s hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure that the underlying message of the book is that skin color doesn’t matter and that people who worry about whether or not it does are doing the real anti-racist work, but the message is so, so wrong and so convoluted it’s hard to tell.  Annie’s obsession (and seriously, she is OBSESSED) with the fact that Cheryl is black is so hard to read, because I think we’re supposed to identify with Annie?  We’re supposed to think that because she’s worrying about it, it means she’s not racist?  When the reality is that she comes off as more racist than anyone else, even Suzanne Hanlon, who is clearly a racist little twat?

There were so many moments when I laughed out loud because I was completely incredulous about what was being said or done in the book.  Take this quote, for instance:

‘I’m sure you have less to worry about than you think,’ Elizabeth suggested. ‘Maybe you should talk to Patty or Tracy Gilbert, or maybe Andy Jenkins. I know Andy did have that trouble with Charlie Cashman, but aside from that I don’t think he or any of the other black kids have had much reason to feel uncomfortable at Sweet Valley High.’ (40)

She’s talking about that time that Andy Jenkins was jumped by five guys, punched in the stomach by his best friend, and was hospitalized.  You know, “that trouble” where Andy was the victim of racialized violence.  But apart from that, students of color at Sweet Valley don’t worry about racism in their high school or their town!

Except for when Rosa Jameson lied about her ethnic heritage because she was afraid that students wouldn’t accept her.  And when Sandy Bacon dealt with comments about the fact that her boyfriend, Manuel Lopez, was Hispanic and she was white.  Except for those incidents.

Also, how completely fucked is it that Liz is speaking on behalf of students of color to begin with?  YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, LIZ.

Ugh, I just can’t.

 

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2 Responses to “SVH #93: Stepsisters”

  1. snarkvalley May 23, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    Excellent recap of a crap book! I agree with your observations! And isn’t it totally fucked that Liz is up there brushing aside “that trouble” Andy had and acting like she knows all about what it’s like to be a student of color? She’s so ridiculous! She just assumes that if no one has come crying to her personally about it, it can’t exist. And even if they have, it’s just “that trouble”!

    • Clementine Bojangles May 23, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Thanks!

      Probably the thing that has bothered me the most out of all of these books is the racial violence against Andy and the weird way the books continued to talk about it after the fact. Maybe because it feels incredibly true-to-life, still? I’m not sure.

      Either way, Liz is the absolute WORST, hands down.

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