SVH #115: The Treasure of Death Valley

2 Feb

treasure

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 days

Summary/Overview:

Jessica, Todd, Ken, Liz, Bruce Patman, and Heather Mallone are taking part in a four-day trip into Death Valley with the Sweet Valley Survival School (SVSS).  All six teens won an essay contest, and their reward is a trek through the desert to practice the “survival skills” they picked up over the previous weekend in a training.  They get paired up with a “buddy” for the trek, and no one is happy (except maybe Heather): Liz with Bruce, Jess with Todd, and Heather with Ken.

The group sets out on what’s roughly a 40-mile hike through the desert.  They camp the first night, still sort of sniping and bickering with each other.  Liz is absolutely insufferable with her smugness over being the navigator.  She and Todd snuggle in their sleeping bags.  Heather continues to flirt with Ken to piss Jessica off.  The next day, Ken takes over as navigator and they break for lunch near an abandoned mine shaft.  Bruce decides to explore it, and because Liz is his partner, she goes in after him to rescue him or something.  Once inside, she discovers an old pickax and a satchel with pages from a diary.  Then the shaft starts to collapse, and she barely makes it outside, where Bruce is lounging.  She yells at him and then realizes Todd and Jess went in to look for her.  Panicked, she turns back to the rubble, but Todd and Jess come out, coughing a lot.

After this disaster is averted, the group worries some more about the escaped convicts from a nearby prison but gets distracted when gold nuggets fall out of the satchel Liz found.  They discover that the gold is part of the Treasure of the Scorpion, and the legend dictates that the finders leave half of the gold and follow a copy of the map to the other locations where more gold is hidden.  After some disagreement, the group decides to find the next location.

When they do, they find the gold and divvy it up, but they don’t leave some behind.  The next morning, after a cold night camping on the ground, they complain about the added weight to their packs and leave behind some canned goods. Liz is shocked that the group would give up their strictly rationed food and tries to add some back to her backpack, but it proves too heavy on the trail and she has to dump it.  The group is tired, sore, and head off on the trail towards the location that will end their hike.  But Jessica is determined to hit the last stop on the treasure map and tricks Todd into steering the group that way.  Liz blows up at everyone when she realizes what’s happened, but the group needs water, so they continue to trek in the direction of the treasure, because Liz saw a stream on the map.

The stream turns out to be a rushing river, and when the group attempts to ford the river using a method of linking arms, Heather gets scared and washed away.  It looks dire, but Ken manages to get to the other side and rescue her.  The group sets up camp to dry off, and Heather flirts with Ken mercilessly to piss Jessica off. That night, Ken and Heather sneak off and kiss.  Jessica realizes that she’s been cheated on in the morning and she’s pissed, but she’s irate when she realizes her gold has been swiped out of her bag.  She accuses Heather, but she denies it and runs off to the river to sulk.  While there, Heather overhears and then sees the escaped prisoners, and they have Jessica’s gold! When she tries to tell the group, they don’t believe her.

The group continues on to the third stop on the treasure map, but Heather falls while climbing boulders.  After spraining her ankle, the rest of the group has to help her along, slowing them down considerably.  When they reach the final cave, the group is shocked to find the bodies of six skeletons and a bag full of scorpions.  Then it starts to rain! THEY ARE DOOMED.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Heather brings a mini-TV so she can watch daytime soap Sunrise, Sunset (no relation to Fiddler on the Roof, I guess)
  • Jessica brings an air mattress to sleep on; Liz does not.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Remember, this area was mined back in the great California Gold Rush of 1849, and there are still a few mine shafts standing. It may seem really cool to explore them, but it’s extremely dangerous.  They could collapse at any moment, especially if people climb around inside them.” (18)
  • “Be serious, Liz!” Jessica scoffed.  “Who would be stupid enough to store gold in a cave?” (80)
  • “I’ll have you know, Wakefield, that I only wear pure metals,” she retorted. “Actually, my mother’s friend at Diamonds International says that all the best brides this year are getting platinum settings.  Platinum is my favorite–gold is so pedestrian.” (102)
  • Liz usually likes to discuss and dissect intense experiences, Todd thought, running them into the ground until they just about lose all their meaning. (148) [Blogger’s note: This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read in the series.]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I guess there are a lot of gripes about this book that just feel like plot fails in general.  First of all, the teens on this wilderness adventure had to submit essays to even be considered for the project, and then they had to undergo training.  Yet the only people who actually seem into it are Ken and Liz, so what a complete fucking waste of a trip, am I right?  Second of all, there is no EARTHLY WAY POSSIBLE that these teens would have been dropped into the wilderness without a trail guide.  I have a sister who does this kind of work with young people, and there is always a guide.  You would not drop teens into the nature with a weekend’s worth of training.  Without a radio for an emergency? COME THE FUCK ON.

WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? WHY ARE THERE NO CHAPERONES? Why would Ned and Alice or Todd’s parents or Ken’s parents allow these teens to venture out in a co-ed group unsupervised?  The twins are going on an unsupervised camping trip with their boyfriends.  WHAT THE WHAT?

Also, the escaped convicts/the gold/the treasure map: LOL OK.

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