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SVH Magna Edition: A Night to Remember

28 May

anighttoremember

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

At a Sweet Valley High-sponsored (?) beach party one night, the students are raided by a band of crazed Big Mesa High teenagers.  They toss around their food, spray them with shaving cream, and pick up some of the girls for funsies.  Everyone is super, super pissed about this and swear they will get their revenge.  Liz and Todd hope that everyone will lose interest in their quest for vengeance.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Elizabeth come up with the idea of having SVH host a jungle-themed prom.  While they disagree about whether or not the attendees should wear formal wear (Liz) or Tarzan-and-Jane outfits (Jess), they do agree that it will be the Best Night Ever.  They can’t wait to tell everyone at school about it, and once they do, the gang starts planning the affair.  Elizabeth manages to find a local environmental group to help sponsor the prom, and then they throw in a huge bonus: an all-expenses paid trip to Brazil for the prom queen.  She’ll also be a new spokesperson for the group.

Both Jessica and Elizabeth are interested in becoming the Jungle Prom Queen, albeit for very different reasons.  Everyone thinks Elizabeth is a shoe-in because she’s working so hard on the planning for the dance.  When the prom committee chooses formal-wear over the more casual jungle-look, Jessica’s PISSED even though she missed the planning meeting.  She gets her revenge when she has Caroline Pierce write an article for The Oracle that credits Jessica with all the planning ideas.  The two end up fighting about the fact that they both want to be prom queen and snipe at each other.  I’m bored, and we’re only a third of the way through the book.

The twins continue to butt heads over plans for the prom, which is fast-approaching.  When it comes time to decide whether or not SVH should invite students from Big Mesa to the prom (like, as dates, I guess), the vote is split, further dividing the twins.  Then Penny tells them that Sweet Sixteen magazine wants to do an interview and photo spread on the organizers of the dance, and the twins are super excited.  But Jessica is so late that Liz and the magazine people leave to do the magazine spread without her.  Jessica is not pleased, and the two have a huge fight that ends with each of them refusing to speak to the other one.

The night of the dance, the girls get ready alone and then go to the dance with Sam and Todd.  When Todd is crowned prom king, Jessica worries that Elizabeth will end up the queen by default.  Some kids from Big Mesa have crashed the dance, and one of them hits on Jessica.  He’s drunk, and Jessica asks for some of his vodka (or whatever clear liquid is in his flask).  She pours it into Elizabeth’s unguarded cup.  But Liz shares that drink with Sam, and suddenly they are both super, SUPER wasted.  Like, crazy wasted, dancing all over the place, slurring their words, having deep and meaningful conversations with their friends.

No one thinks that Liz is wasted because she would never do something like that.  Then she decides that she doesn’t want to be prom queen and withdraws her name.  Perfect timing, because a few minutes later, Jessica is crowned queen.  In the midst of the applause, Jessica loses sight of Sam and Liz, and before she can do anything to stop them from leaving, the two do.  She tries to run after them, but they speed off into the night.

AT BASICALLY THE SAME TIME, a riot erupts at the dance between Big Mesa students and SVH students.  Everyone runs around, and Bruce and some other dudes end up fighting on the football field.  Jessica manages to grab Todd and tell him that she thinks Liz and Sam are in trouble, and they drive off to find them.  But they’re too late! There’s been a terrible accident, and it looks like Sam and Liz are dead! CLIFFHANGER.

Other character arcs in this book: Lila is really struggling with the aftermath of her near-rape.  She’s still in counseling at Project Youth with a counselor named Nathan who tells her that she’s overreacting to situations on dates and that not every dude is a scumbag.  She’s also desperate for a mother and spends much of the book sad about the fact that her father leaves her alone a lot.  As she spends more time in counseling, she starts to formulate a crush on Nathan.  During the riot at the dance, Nathan pulls her to safety in a classroom and she freaks out, thinking he’s going to try to rape her.  The police come rushing in and arrest Nathan, I guess.

Bruce Patman becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Big Mesa and also sort of dates Andrea Slade but only when she’s not totally available to him.  He doesn’t want a girl who’s always available to him, and he tells her this.  She acts like a wounded puppy dog about the whole thing.  Bruce can’t seem to connect to people and is carrying a lot of anger, and the book deduces it’s because he’s not over Regina Morrow. Um, okay.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Big Mesa’s school paper is called The Bull’s Eye.
  • Apparently Jessica’s favorite dinner is Chinese chicken stir-fry, Elizabeth likes cold rice salad, and Ned LOVES peach cobbler.
  • The reggae band featured in this book is called Island Sunsplash
  • Nathan the counselor’s dog’s name is J.D.
  • According to Lois, who is doing a report, SVH serves the healthiest institutional food in Southern California.  Random.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “She glanced at a nearby table where Enid and Hugh were sitting with two other couples.  That was another thing she felt like challenging her sister about.  How could Elizabeth be best friends with someone who not only was a total drip, but also dated a guy from Big Mesa?” (49)
  • “Hadn’t she decided to assert herself, to be an Elizabeth Wakefield who nurtured all sides of her personality, even the part that dared to be self-centered and ambitious?” (68)
  • “‘But it shouldn’t be a popularity contest,’ Elizabeth argued. ‘I deserve the prize. I’ve earned it. Wasn’t the prom my idea in the first place?'” (191)
  • “‘But I’m telling you something, Liz. It’s not going to work,’ Jessica warned. ‘Sooner or later, everyone at Sweet Valley High will wise up to your act. They’ll figure you out. So, go ahead,’ she challenged. ‘Lie and cheat and sneak around all you want to. We’ll see who comes out on top!'” (234)
  • “A wicked smile spread slowly across Jessica’s face. What an idiot–she can’t even tell it’s spiked! It was really a hoot, Jessica decided: Elizabeth Wakefield, the most upstanding, self-righteous person at Sweet Valley High, breaking the cardinal rule against drinking!” (301)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is probably one of the most famous (or infamous) SVH books that exists.  Everyone remembers the Jungle Prom and the apparently magical vodka that ends up killing Sam Woodruff (seriously, why couldn’t it have been Liz?).  And really, there are a lot of things about this one that are dumb (mostly relating to the twins’ stupid feud about who gets to be the fucking prom queen), but the thing that is beyond weird is how alcohol is treated in this one.  So let’s break it down.

Jessica asks a random drunk dude for some of the booze in his flask.  He’s already super wasted, so he’s probably had a fair amount of the liquid in there.  While he does empty the rest of his flask into her cup, there can’t really be that much left.  But then it gets split between two people, and they’re both completely blitzed.  Also, Elizabeth’s behavior is super erratic for a drunk person.  The book goes into detail about how they’re swinging each other around and dancing faster than any of the other party goers, and…we’re supposed to believe it’s just alcohol that’s doing this?  At most, 3-4 shots split between two people?  WHAT?

Whatever.  It makes no sense.  Perhaps there was some coke in that vodka.

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.

 

SVH #88: Love Letters for Sale

7 May

lovelettersforsale

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Seriously, this book is the worst.

After Lila and Amy complain about having to write letters to relatives, Jessica gets an idea for her latest money-making scheme: a letter writing business in which people can pay her to write letters for them!  She enlists the help of Liz, who wants money to buy Todd a gift, and the two get to work setting up a post office box (so it’s anonymous) and flyers for their business.  They plan to charge $5 per letter.  Despite the fact that this is literally the dumbest thing they’ve ever done because it requires people to write letters about what they want their written letters to say, the business takes off, and the two are soon very busy with their letter-writing business.  Liz writes all the letters while Jessica supervises and handles the “books,” whatever that means.

Because they’re so busy, Liz starts ignoring Todd a lot.  This pisses him off, and he starts spending time with Shelley Novak, who is pissed at her boyfriend Jim because he’s so obsessed with photography.  Shelley gets all moon-eyed about how Todd is the perfect dude and even tells Liz this at one point.  The whole thing is creepy and weird, but whatever.  As Liz spends more time doing the letter writing business and less time doing Todd, Todd grows increasingly frustrated.

Here’s where things get extra convoluted and incredibly boring at the same time: Shelley writes to the twins to write a letter to her crush.  Jessica figures it out and instead of throwing the letter away, changes the details, thinking Liz will tell the girl in question to not pursue another girl’s dude.  Instead, she thinks that anyone as nice-sounding as the boy in question should be deserving of a doting girlfriend, and writes a great love letter.

An incredibly long story short, Shelley sends Todd the letter, Todd decides he wants a girl who appreciates him and sends the letter writing business a request to write a letter to his girlfriend breaking things off and another one to Shelley saying game on.  Jess tries to intercept the letters by not sending them and then when they get sent by pretending to be Liz and begging the mail man not to deliver the letters.  This book is literally the worst.  Of course Liz gets Todd’s letter,  freaks out, starts stuffing her face with food (this is a thing that actually happens in the book), and is generally a total mess.  Jessica asks Sam what to do, and he tells her to come clean about what’s happened.

Meanwhile, Todd and Shelley go out and don’t have that great of a time.  They both realize that they were mostly  upset about their significant others ignoring them and decide figuring out who is behind the letters will solve everything.  At this point, I’m convinced that the ghost writer has forgotten the plot and thinks that the letters are being constructed by Jess and Liz, instead of them parroting out what they were told to write.  Todd lurks at the post office until he sees Jessica go to pick up the mail and confronts her.

He writes one last letter to the business and tells Liz how great she is.  She buys him a letter jacket, they make up.  Then Todd buys her a matching jacket and I throw up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The coach of the girl’s basketball team is called Coach Tilman
  • Shelley Novak recently won a $5,000 scholarship for her basketball playing skills.  Did we already know this?
  • There’s a deli called Howard’s that has Todd and Liz’s favorite cheesecake.  Jesus these two are boring.
  • Apparently Annie Whitman and Tony Esteban are “on the outs”
  • Sick of hershey bar brown, Jessica repaints her room purple.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘He wants us to be rude,’ Elizabeth had gasped when she read the letter. ‘Look at the language he uses.'” (36)
  • “Any girl who would ignore someone as great as this guy obviously was–tender and caring, a real sweetheart–deserved to be shaken up a bit.  This guy sounds a lot like Todd, she thought. And anyone who wouldn’t appreciate a guy like Todd, Elizabeth decided, deserves the single life.” (87)
  • “‘Well?’ Elizabeth demanded. ‘Why do you want to go out with someone else?’ ‘I didn’t want to, but you gave me no choice,’ Todd replied defensively.'” (123) WHAT?!

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

…what, really is there to say?  The central premise of the business is actually kind of cool in theory.  But instead of having people call in and dictate what they want said in their letters, which makes so, so much more sense, the twins have people WRITE LETTERS TO BE WRITTEN AGAIN BY SOMEONE ELSE.  As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the client has the option of then RE-WRITING the letter they get so it’s in their own handwriting.  WHY? WHY? WHY?

Talk about middleman bloat.  Or whatever the phrase is that I’m looking for.

Furthermore, what about Liz’s response in this book is at all rational?  She wants to show her boyfriend she cares, so she spends more time away from him?  She doesn’t call Todd out on his completely ridiculous statement that she didn’t give him a choice but to go out with someone else? What?

SVH #56: Lost at Sea

3 Jul

Estimated Elapsed Time: One week?

Summary/Overview:

Mr. Russo is taking some students on a field trip to Anacapa Island as part of an extra credit assignment.  Over the course of the Sunday afternoon, students study the plant and wildlife on the island.  It must be super-extra credit, because last I remember, Mr. Russo taught chemistry, not biology.  Anyway, the kids all pile onto a boat and sail out to the island.  Once they’re there, they get split into teams and start studying tide pools.  Jessica’s pissed because she gets put into a group with Lois Waller, Winston Egbert, and Randy Mason.  She wanted to work with Ken Matthews because apparently she’s interested in him again.

A storm suddenly appears, so they cut the field trip short.  On the way back, though, the waves are so big that the boat almost capsizes.  The captain orders an evacuation into the life rafts, and Jessica and Winston get placed in one together.  When Winston tries to give Liz and Aaron an extra oar, their raft capsizes for real and they’re washed away from the group.  The storm ends and the rest of the group is saved, but Jessica and Winston are nowhere to be found.  Liz cries a lot.

Jessica and Winston both wash up on an island some time later.  Jessica sleeps through the night on the beach and then wakes up furious, blaming Winston for their predicament.  He manages to temper some of her fury by offering her a breakfast of freshly caught fish and fruit.  The two of them eat and then start building a shelter on the island.  Later, the two of them explore further up the island, where they run into a bear.  TERROR!  Winston freezes up, and Jessica saves the day by throwing blueberries at it.  This actually happens.

Meanwhile, Liz and Steven can’t just sit at home while the coast guard looks for Jessica and Winston.  They ask Nicholas Morrow to take them out in his boat.  They don’t get very far before it starts to rain again, though, so they head home.  Alice gets upset because she thought she was going to lose her other two children to the sea as well.  Much melodrama ensues.

Jessica and Winston wait out the second storm in their shelter.  Then they are rescued by the coast guard in the most anticlimactic way possible.  When they arrive home, Jessica is interviewed by reporters.  She takes credit for all of Winston’s ideas and basks in the spotlight.  The world makes sense again!

Memorable Quotes:

  • “But talk about romantic!  She and Ken Matthews, soaking wet and clinging to each other in a tiny lifeboat in the middle of a raging sea…” (34)
  • “There’s no such thing as an uncharted isle, no matter what they say.” (112)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica and Ken went to Homecoming together their sophomore year.
  • The name of the boat the field trip group rides on is Maverick.  The name of Nicholas Morrow’s boat is Nighthawk.  I wish I were joking.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

We’re talking about a book where Jessica and Winston go on a field trip only to get stranded on a deserted island.  They build shelter and cook fish and Jessica entertains ideas of wearing a palm frond skirt.  The entire plot of the book is far-fetched at best, but I couldn’t help but get tripped up on one detail: the weird response of the Wakefield family in general.

Elizabeth is understandably distraught at the idea of losing Jessica in the middle of the ocean.  It’s fair to say that the entire family is pretty upset, actually, but what’s weird is how their actions don’t seem to match up to their emotions.  The night Jessica goes missing, Alice has Jeffrey, Steven, Cara, and Liz sitting in her kitchen, waiting for word from the coast guard.  She serves them coffee and lemon bars.  It just feels…oddly formal.  Then she allows Steven and Liz to go off and search for Jessica in Nicholas Morrow’s boat.  This doesn’t really make sense, either.

Of course, one could make the argument that you shouldn’t judge another’s actions until you’ve been in their situation, but since I don’t foresee that happening, we’re going to have to assume that sending your remaining children to school the day after their sister is lost at sea is a little strange.

SVH #49: Playing for Keeps

29 Jan

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica is head-over-heels in love with new cutie A.J. Morgan and she’s convinced that the only way she can keep him interested is if she plays up her serious, contemplative side.  The problem is that she doesn’t really have a serious side, so she begs Elizabeth to help her, asking for recommendations on poets to read and clothes to borrow.  Elizabeth is worried, Jessica’s friends are both perplexed and amused, and Jessica becomes more and more desperate to keep A.J. interested in her.  But as she becomes more like the girl she thinks he wants, he becomes less interested in her and more drawn to Pamela Janson, a girl he saved from drowning at Secca Lake.  Pamela is flirtatious and forward, and while she’s not his usual type, he can’t help feeling attracted to her.

There’s also a fashion show coming up at the mall.  The prize is a new wardrobe from Lisette’s, and Jessica decides to enter the contest, even though she’s not sure A.J. would approve.  Pamela Janson also signs up.  Jessica hates Pamela and the way she talks about A.J., but she still feels trapped in her attempts to be someone she’s not.  Nothing she does seems to work the way she wants it to, though.  A double date with Elizabeth and Jeffrey is a complete disasterpiece, and she feels like A.J. continues to draw away from her.

The fashion show dawns and Jessica finds that Pamela has done everything in her power to sabotage Jessica’s chances at winning.  She messes with most of Jessica’s clothes, snagging her bracelet in a dress and bending the teeth on the zippers of another outfit.  Jessica manages to fix each disaster and make it fashionable, but when Pamela “accidentally” spills a glass of water all over her bathing suit (couldn’t she just go for the wet-look?), she freaks out and starts yelling at her.  The two girls are fighting as the curtain opens on them, and the owner of Lisette’s is so impressed with Jessica’s spunk and tenacity that she declares her the winner!  Pamela runs off crying, and A.J. decides that he actually really likes the feisty version of Jessica, so the two keep dating.  All is right in the world.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘That’s true,’ Lila agreed as she pushed Amy off her lap.  ‘Protocol–juniors and seniors are supposed to be more important.  Amy, you weigh about ten million pounds,’ she added with a petulant frown.” (95)
  • “Describing Jessica’s devious ways brought on a wave of nostalgia.  Sneaky, manipulative, scheming–she loved and missed that Jessica so much!” (114)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica reads A.J. an Emily Dickinson poem, and part of a Walt Whitman poem
  • Jessica wants to go to a Save the Whales meeting
  • Alice Wakefield is concerned about Ned’s cholesterol levels and doesn’t want him eating bacon in the dinner salad.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There’s not a lot to say about this one, really.  The moral of the story is that you should always be yourself.  Surprisingly, this is one moral that I can actually throw my support behind, but what’s problematic is that one could make the argument that Pamela Janson was just being herself, too, and yet we’re supposed to hate her.  Let’s break it down, okay?

Jessica tries to change into the kind of girl that she thinks A.J. likes.  This is upsetting not only because she works so hard to become someone that she’s not, but also because the kind of girl that A.J. likes seems to be completely passive and boring.  Not only does that sort of blow, but A.J. himself doesn’t seem to be much of a catch.  I’m not going to lie, Gentle Readers, A.J. doesn’t have much of a personality.  The fact that all of these girls are going nuts for a creepy, backwards-thinking ginger with a penchant for quiet girls is a bit of a head-scratcher.  That being said, the reader realizes just how awesome normal Jessica is when presented with pseudo-contemplative, poetry-writing Jessica.

The character of Pamela Janson serves no real purpose in the story other than to provide conflict for Jessica and A.J., which is weird because the two already have enough to face (being that Jessica is completely lying about who she is).  Pamela is aggressive and flirty and completely shameless.  In short, she’s an evil version of Jessica.  I guess she’s evil.  I mean, everything she does in the book are things that Jessica has done at one time or another in the past 50-odd books (and will continue to do for the rest of the series).  We’re supposed to sympathize with Jessica this time, though, because she’s the one getting toyed with.  I sense a disconnect.

At any rate, tune in next time for Sweet Valley’s take on diversity, featuring Chinese-American Jade Wu.  I haven’t even started reading the book yet, and I’m already uncomfortable.

Super Thriller #2: On the Run

14 Nov

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

The twins are still working at the Sweet Valley News as summer interns.  In addition to a new, annoying intern named Darcy, the whole office is obsessed with a murder trial taking place on the East Coast.  The defendant, Frank DeLucca, has been accused of a whole bunch of shit, but nothing’s sticking because witnesses keep dying and everyone’s afraid to come forward.  The office talks about the inherent goodness of people for a while, and I try not to throw up.  Anyway, at the eleventh hour, a doctor comes forward with new information about the case, and after he gives testimony, he goes into the witness protection program.

Something like a week later, Liz gets coffee and meets a barista named Eric Hankman.  Eric and his father just moved to Sweet Valley from Ohio, and the two immediately click.  She gets jealous when Darcy admits that she likes him, but she decides that Eric is too smart to like a flighty floozy like Darcy.  Liz and Eric go out, and she gets confused about her feelings for him.  The fact that Eric seems to be kind of moody and hiding something doesn’t help.  Darcy keeps trying to flirt with Eric, and steals a poem from his notebook.  She gets Jessica to pretend to be Liz so she can get more of his poems.  I am bored.

There was a murder in Ohio around the time that Eric left, and since Darcy is also from Ohio, she starts to think that he might be the murderer.  Instead of going to the police, Jess and Darcy decide to keep spying on him.  This will end well.

There’s some sort of event wherein a child starts choking in a public place and Eric’s dad, who is a businessman, performs a tracheotomy on the kid, saving his life.  Someone recognizes Mr. Hankman as the doctor who testified against DeLucca, and he, Eric, and Liz run back to the Hankman house.  Liz tries to convince Mr. Hankman, aka Dr. Ryan, that he and Eric can stay in Sweet Valley because no one would ever harm them, but he doesn’t buy it.  He and Eric begin frantically packing.

While Liz and Michael (Eric) say goodbye, some gangsters with guns come into the house.  They order Liz and Michael upstairs while they talk to Dr. Ryan.  Liz and Michael press the alarm in the house that is apparently connected to other people’s houses, too.  When the alarm isn’t deactivated, a neighbor calls Dr. Ryan for the password, and he pretends it’s a wrong number.  There’s evil afoot.  The good neighbors of Sweet Valley burst into the house and tackle the goons with guns just as the police arrive.  Everyone is safe!  Eric and his dad still have to leave Sweet Valley, though.

I hated this book.  I’m sorry that the recap is so terrible, gentle readers.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica looked distressed.  ‘You never like anyone interesting,’ she objected.  ‘You always like people like Jeffrey and Enid Rollins.'” (12)
  • “‘Darcy heard about this new fad diet that makes you lose twenty pounds a month.  All you do is eat grapefruit and rice,’ Jessica said.” (17)  [That sounds awesome and not remotely unhealthy.]
  • “The truth is I’m feeling very confused.  I am in love with Jeffrey.  But I also know that I’ve fallen in love with you, too.  Do you think it’s possible to be in love with two people at once?” (189)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Lila is apparently vacationing in Carmel with her father.
  • It’s July, which doesn’t really make sense, but whatever.
  • Eric Hankman is a Taurus.  More time is spent on his astrological sign than I’m strictly comfortable with.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Setting aside the sheer improbability of Liz and Jess meeting the people in the witness protection program after the testimony given during a trial that made national news, I’m having trouble swallowing the fact that Elizabeth finds herself in love with Eric/Michael when she’s supposedly so devoted to Jeffrey.

Part of my irritation stems from the fact that she’s always referred to as the sensible, logical twin, and there’s nothing about her hasty relationship with Eric/Michael that even hints at sense.  While I understand that we are not always in control of who we fall in love with, I find it insulting that Elizabeth looks down on Darcy’s flightiness and Jessica’s tendency to date lots of guys when she herself is guilty of being human.

At the end of the novel, Elizabeth decides she’s going to have to tell Jeffrey about Michael, but we as the reader do not get to see that conversation.  This is too bad, because there’s a lot of hilarity to be found there.  The fact that this will never be brought up again is also aggravating.  Damn these Super Thrillers and their existence outside the realm of the regular books!  Poor Jeffrey.

SVH #40: On the Edge

11 Oct

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Bruce Patman and Amy Sutton are totally hooking up, and pretty much everyone at Sweet Valley knows it except Bruce’s girlfriend, Regina Morrow.  Elizabeth worries over whether or not to say something to Regina, but Jessica convinces her that it might only make things worse.  The twins throw a barbeque, and Bruce and Amy hook up behind a tree.  Elizabeth tries to distract Regina while Jeffrey intercedes, but Regina’s not completely stupid and sees what’s going on.  She freaks out and yells at Elizabeth, Bruce, and Amy.  She storms out and goes home.

Both Bruce and Elizabeth try to talk to her in the days that follow, but Regina shuts them down.  She starts hanging out with pseud-bad boy Justin Belson, who’s on academic probation because of cutting class.  He’s friends with a lot of the shadier kids at SVH, including some druggies.  People try to warn Regina about Justin and his friends, but she’s not very receptive and thinks that she knows him better, he’s complicated and misunderstood, etc.

Regina and Justin go to a wild party at Molly Hecht’s house.  Everyone who’s there is excited about the possibility of a drug dealer named Buzz showing up.  Even though Nicholas Morrow, Elizabeth, and Bruce all warned Regina that the party was bad news, she goes anyway, despite being completely uncomfortable with the situation.  At the party, people are drinking beer and smoking the marijuana.  Regina coughs because the air is thick with smoke, and Molly Hecht and Jan Brown make fun of her.  Buzz shows up and everyone crowds around him to look at his little baggie of cocaine.

Elizabeth has been angsting over what to do about Regina being at this party.  I don’t know how it’s her business, but apparently it is, because she calls Nicholas, who thanks her and races out to his car to go to the party.  He gets pulled over for speeding, and when he can’t produce his driver’s license, the police take him to the station.  I don’t know about you guys, but here in the U.S., drivers have 24 hours to produce their license.  He finally gets the police to listen to him about the party, and they head out towards Molly Hecht’s house.

Justin can tell that Regina’s uncomfortable and promises that they’ll leave soon, but he’s worried that Buzz is trying to get Molly hooked on heroin, and so he wants to be there–to stop her, I guess?  Regina sits at the table with the cocaine and watches it get cut into lines.  She’s teased for being naive, and then she decides that it looks harmless, so she does two lines of it.  Her heart starts beating super fast and it’s clear that something’s wrong.  Justin tries to get someone to call an ambulance but Buzz is like, “ARE YOU CRAZY THERE ARE DRUGS HERE!” and Regina’s gotten pale and weak.  The cops and Nicholas burst in and Regina’s rushed to the hospital.

Bruce and Liz are called to the hospital and wait with the Morrows.  The doctors come out and tell them that Regina suffered a heart attack due to the cocaine and she’s dead.  Everyone cries.  A memorial service is held a week later, and everyone cries some more.

The almost nonexistent B-Plot involves Amy and Bruce in their attempts to gather information about drugs in Sweet Valley for a school project.  They meet up with Amy’s cousin Mimi, who tells them all about Buzz, the drug dealer who will be at Molly’s party.  Apparently he’s the biggest pusher at Sweet Valley College and the police have been trying to catch him for a while.  This seems mostly like exposition to further the plot along.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Regina knew her parents would die if they knew where she was.  As it was, they hadn’t been thrilled when Justin had shown up wearing  a leather jacket.  Even with his chiseled features, he looked slightly tough–a little older than guys she knew at school and definitely more streetwise.” (59-60) [Blogger’s note: Her parents have a problem with a leather jacket but not an attempted date rapist?]
  • “According to Justin, authority, no matter what kind, was bad.  If someone told you not to do something, chances were you should go ahead and do it–if only to show them how stupid rules were in the first place.” (90)

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Amy Sutton’s cousin Mimi, who is helping provide information for the project she’s doing with Bruce, is only 19 but is apparently a junior in college.
  • Justin Belson’s life is messed up because his dad was murdered during a robbery at the liquor store he owned.
  • The ghostwriter spells Secca Lake wrong, and then, only a page later, claims that Bruce’s vanity license plates on his car read Bruce 1.  This is a falsity and very close to blasphemy, as we know that his license plate reads 1Bruce1.
  • Molly Hecht’s party starts really early.  Like, 7pm early.  I wasn’t invited to a lot of parties in high school, but I do know that a 7pm start time would make Molly’s party the place to not be.
  • Nicholas reads “Dirge without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay at Regina’s memorial service.

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

“We don’t know exactly what happened yet,’ the internist said wearily.  ‘All we can say for sure right now is that Regina took a lethal amount of cocaine tonight and experienced an extremely rare reaction–rapid acceleration of the heartbeat, which brought on sudden cardiac failure.  It’s possible that a heart murmur she’s had since birth may have contributed to this…” (131)

It’s hard to snark on a novel that is actually pretty sad.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to, but it’s harder to do when the premise isn’t so flat-out ridiculous.  That being said, there are a few things worth mentioning in this analysis.

The first is that I’m uncomfortable with how ignorant everyone seems to be about cocaine.  Now, granted, I was born after the characters of this world (although we graduated high school around the same time in terms of publishing dates.  Haha), so I went through the DARE program in the early 90s.  I lived in a world where drug awareness and scare tactics were used from an early age.  We were warned of the dangers of ALL drugs and were told to STAY AWAY.

I’m not going to debate the effectiveness of such programs, because it’s sort of irrelevant.  At any rate, we were made aware that drugs could be dangerous.  What is surprising to me is that the teens of Sweet Valley seem to be ignorant of this.  None of the people at the party seem to think that cocaine could be dangerous.  They laugh off Regina’s questions and Buzz even says something about how he can’t believe that people are telling lies about cocaine being dangerous or addictive (I realize this is part of his business strategy, but bear with me).  At the hospital, after finding out about Regina, Bruce asks if the cocaine had been poisoned.  This leads me to believe that he can’t imagine the drug alone could hurt her.  Pssh.  Whatever.

The last thing I want to talk about is how Regina’s death is actually explained.  The doctor said that she took a “lethal” dose of cocaine and this exacerbated a potentially pre-existing condition caused by a heart murmur.  But if the dose was lethal, couldn’t that just have been it?  People can overdose on the drug.  The word “lethal” was in his description of what she took.  Doesn’t lethal mean death?  Why did they have to over-complicate her death with the discussion of a heart problem?  Moreover, how is it possible that they never caught this hypothetical heart murmur over the course of her extensive medical treatments?  I know that the treatments focused on her hearing, but you’re telling me she never had a physical?  Really?

At any rate, someone’s gonna be blamed for the loss of an innocent, and that person is gonna be Molly Hecht.