SVH #94: Are We in Love?

26 May

areweinlove

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Steven Wakefield and Cheryl Thomas have been spending a lot of time together.  They get along well and Steven has been teaching Cheryl to drive (stick).  They notice that everyone seems to think they’re dating, and they aren’t sure how they feel about it.  Everyone has an opinion about an interracial relationship, and they aren’t shy about them.  Most of these opinions are super, super racist, by the way.

One night, Steven and Cheryl go to a restaurant for a bite and they’re hassled by some skinheads.  It shakes them both up, and after they leave, they embrace on the beach and then end up kissing.  Because of this, or because they feel like they have something to prove, the two start dating.  It’s clear from the start that neither one is into the other, though.  Both agonize over how to deal with this privately, because they want to prove that people of different races can be attracted to each other.

This drags on for over 150 pages.  They continue to date, mostly to prove a point, while also dealing with casual racism and ignorance at every turn.  Jessica tries to be super supportive because she loves the idea of her brother being a trailblazer, but it just makes everyone feel even more awkward.

It isn’t until the wedding of Cheryl’s father and Annie’s mother that Cheryl finally comes clean to Steven by making her toast to her parents all about love and standing up for it or something.  The point is, she’s just not into him.  They laugh it off, embrace, and decide to just be friends.  Everyone celebrates the marriage of Walter and Mrs. Whitman! Hooray!

The B-Plot involves Jessica baking the wedding cake for the wedding.  Shenanigans ensue.  I can’t bring myself to care.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Steven takes Cheryl to the Crooked Canyon Cafe, which has Mexican food and burgers.
  • Marpa Heights is a town near Sweet Valley, though this is the first we as readers have heard of it.
  • Apparently Steven has friends, because they all go with him to the Beach Disco one night, including token black friend Martin Bell
  • Jess and Liz talk about their future weddings. Liz would want Enid, Penny, Olivia, and Jessica to be bridesmaids, and they’d wear cornflower-blue dresses.  She thinks Todd would pick his dad to be his best man (WHAT?) and Winston, Ken, and Aaron would be ushers.  WHAT IS THIS?
  • Andrea Slade and Nicholas Morrow have broken up.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Look, all I’m saying is that Steven could have any girl in Sweet Valley,’ Lila defended herself. ‘Cheryl’s fine for a friend, but I think it’s kind of odd that he’d like her that way.'” (19)
  • “She looked over at Steven, feeling something like awe. My big brother is half of the very first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High!” (20) [blogger’s note: LOL WHAT?]
  • “Why is everybody so racist?” (51)
  • “She and Steven had needed to hug, to kiss. Cheryl’s eyes stung with tears. They had come together, briefly, for the right reason. But they had stayed together for the wrong one.” (130)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is the last of the regular series books.  After this, it’s all mini-series, all the time.  I’m excited for the shake-up, but this book as the conclusion to the traditional run of the series is TERRIBLE.

The problems here are myriad, but one that sticks out is that the book seems to have taken the issues of race, racism, and identity in the last book and run with them.  What was problematic (and it was super, super problematic) in the last book is off the charts bizarre here.  While readers are supposed to recognize the blatant displays of racism on the pages here, where characters talk about race in a blatant, horrible way, there’s also a lot of weird, underlying racism intrinsic to the story.

Both Steven and Cheryl think a lot about the fact that they’ve never dated someone of the other race, and they worry that it’s because they can’t be attracted to someone of the other race.  This is a theme revisited again and again by multiple characters in the book, and it is weird and oddly tone-deaf, considering the fact that the book culminates in the wedding of Walter Thomas and Mrs. Whitman, people of different races.

But also worrying is the fact that everyone keeps talking about the fact that Steven and Cheryl will be the first interracial couple at Sweet Valley High (nevermind the fact that they won’t actually appear at SVH because Steven is [allegedly] in college).

I’m sorry, but what?  Haven’t we dealt with this before?  There are at least three other coupes at SVH who are interracial.  This issue has been dealt with before.  I read this as the (presumably white) writers acknowledging their own bias in that a white person dating a black person is, in some way, a “bigger deal” than a white person dating someone who is Hispanic or Asian or whatever.  Which is totally FUCKED.

Okay, enough with the race stuff, SVH.  This is starting to really bother me.

 

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