SVH #116: Nightmare in Death Valley

4 Feb

nightmare

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 days

Summary/Overview:

The teens are still in the desert and they’re running out of food.  They camp overnight in the cave where the third treasure was supposed to be, and they argue over their quickly dwindling food supplies.  Heather’s ankle is still messed up from her fall while climbing, so the next morning, the group decides to leave Jessica and Heather behind and continue on, sending help when they reach the Oasis (which is still, weirdly, like 25 miles away).  It isn’t long after the remaining four set off that they argue about which fork in the trail to take.  Liz and Ken think it’s too dangerous to take the low ground, because there have been storms in the area and a flash flood could be imminent, while Todd and Bruce think it’s stupid to climb to higher ground because they don’t have enough water or food to fuel extra exertion.  The four split off into twos, which seems like a supremely bad idea.  Todd worries that Liz will cheat on him with Ken, which is a nice break from worrying if Liz will cheat on him with Bruce.

Heather and Jessica are still camping near the cave.  The two bicker and worry about what will become of them, and they’re awoken in the night by the sound of crunching gravel. The escaped convicts are rummaging through Jessica’s bag, and Heather screams, alerting the men to their awoken state.  They end up bound with ropes and held hostage while the convicts rummage through their things.  One of the men, who Jessica starts calling “Jack,” seems gentler than the other two, offering the girls water and beef jerky.  The convicts decide that sending up a flare is a good way to get the rest of the gang back, so they do that.

Meanwhile, Todd and Bruce fight and separate.  Bruce is at the top of a hill when he hears a scream and realizes that Liz is about to fall (?).  He saves her but loses his bag of gold to a bald eagle at the same time (I am not making this up).  Then Todd comes back and he and Liz make up.  They see the flare go up and decide to go back to the camp.  Ken follows behind the other three, in case it is a trap.

Which, of course, it is! The five are held hostage for a bit until Ken sneaks up and tries to steal one of the convict’s guns.  It doesn’t work, and the entire group gets bound up with rope.  BUT THEN it starts to thunder and rain! Liz convinces the men that they have to move to lower ground to avoid lightning strikes.  The men decide to leave, even though Jack expresses regret at leaving the teens alone.  The teens break free thanks to Bruce’s hunting knife and start to move to safer ground, but then they realize Jack is drowning in the river! They save him, and then he helps get Heather to higher ground (flash floods? this terrain is so confusing) by carrying her up the side of a cliff.  The group welcome him as one of their own magnanimously.

But it isn’t long before they meet up with the other two convicts, who most certainly did not drown in the flash flood.  “Moe” grabs Elizabeth and holds a knife to her throat.  Jack tries to rescue her and ends up getting shot, falling DEAD to the ground.  Moe hears a plane and goes outside of the cave they’re in to investigate, leaving the other dude to kill the teens.  Instead of killing them, he listens to Jessica’s pleas and fires the rounds into the roof of the cave, causing a cave-in.  The teens are trapped and running out of air.

After another near-brush with randomly rising water, the teens follow a tunnel towards another area.  By accident, Ken bangs a wall, and it falls away.  They manage to climb through the rock and find that they secretly discovered a shortcut to the Oasis! They are saved!

Oh, and the gold they found is really fool’s gold.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ken wears a sailor’s cap to keep the sun off his head, and Liz wears an “Indian-print bandanna.”
  • Ken and Liz see Orion’s belt in the sky, which must mean it’s winter (?)
  • Jack has a tin of brownies his lady made him, and they have walnuts in them, which makes them GARBAGE.
  • According to Jack, Moe was in for murdering a bunch of people with guns and also explosions, which would certainly put him on death row and not gen pop, but WHATEVER GHOSTWRITER

Memorable Quotes:

  • “We’re moving at the rate of an inch an hour.  It will be March of the year 2000 before we get back to the Oasis.” (37)
  • “Elizabeth, I need to say something…But you’ve made your point. So right now I wish you’d stuff a sock in it.” (52)
  • “Now it was up to her: Jessica Wakefield, sexy seductress of Sweet Valley High, was about to swing into action.” (124)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Like, where do we even begin?  All of it is so preposterous that I feel overwhelmed by choice when it comes to mocking.

It makes no sense that the group would continue to split up after leaving Heather and Jessica in the middle of nowhere.  I mean, I know they are teens and therefore impulsive, but this is why they would have a guide.  WHATEVER.  Furthermore, there are a lot of discrepancies in how much distance the group has traveled and why they keep crossing paths with the convicts.  It makes no sense and many of these moments felt like ways to push the plot forward (but made no actual logical sense).

The convicts are dumb, even Jack, who is supposed to be the most humane of the trio.  When Jessica asks him what he did to land himself in prison, he says he was talked into holding up a liquor store.  Okay, buddy.  You aren’t a murderer but you definitely made some questionable choices.  But he’s the least bad of the bunch! He has a woman waiting for him! He wants to run away to Mexico!

I guess the thing that sticks out the most in this book is how many natural disasters they face.  Cave-ins, flash floods, near-lightning strikes, and so much more.  The cave-in thing actually made me laugh because they talk about nearly running out of air and then follow a huge tunnel for a while, which would mean they had way more air than the ghostwriter thought.  I don’t know.  None of it makes sense.  I HATE IT.

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