Tag Archives: abusive controlling assholes

SVH #110: Death Threat

6 Aug

death threat

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 incredibly long days

Summary/Overview:

After Jeremy shows up to tell the twins that Sue is missing, they go and search for her at the Project Nature cabin.  But as the twins search, Jeremy goes up to an attic where Sue is hiding.  He’s kind of a dick to her, but it becomes clear that they’re staging her kidnapping as a way to extort the money she’s owed from her mother’s inheritance.  This makes absolutely no sense.  None, whatsoever.

The next day, the entire Wakefield family debriefs about Sue.  While talking, they get a ransom call asking for a half a million dollars–the exact amount of Sue’s inheritance.  They’re told not to go to the police, so Mr. Wakefield calls his friend Sam Diamond, who is a special detective or something to come help out.  The twins stay home from school, which makes all their friends wonder where they are and what’s going on.  SUBTLE.

Jeremy ties Sue up in the attic of the cabin because he gets pissed when she tries to warm herself by the fire.  He tells her to remember to call at 5pm to arrange the drop-off.  She wonders if her mother was right about Jeremy and feels sad. Meanwhile, Sam Diamond shows up at the Wakefield house and turns out to be a super hot lady.  Jessica and Liz debate feminism or something, which feels both misguided and out of place.  Liz tries,  once again, to tell Jessica that there’s something wrong with Jeremy.  Jessica won’t listen.

The kidnapper calls with a recorded voice (?) and tells the Wakefields because they involved a detective, the ransom has been raised by $100,000.  The drop will be made the following evening, and he wants the twins to do it.  After this, Lila calls and begs Jessica to tell her what’s happening.  Jessica tells her but covers the receiver with her hand so her voice is muffled.  The result is, as you’d guess, that Lila thinks the entire Wakefield family has been kidnapped.  She calls Todd, who immediately hatches a plan with her and Robby to save the day.  YOU ARE ALL THE WORST.

The night of the drop, Liz and Jess head off with Sam to drop off the money that Ned pulled from the bank.  Jessica films from across the street while Liz drops off the bag.  Sue is returned to the twins, and the kidnapper (who is Jeremy, by the way, who left as soon as the twins did, though he was tackled by Todd and Lila and Robby but WHO CARES) gets the money and runs.

Once back at the house, Mrs. Wakefield serves everyone cake.  It is so, so weird that they wouldn’t go to the police and have Sue inspected for signs of assault, etc.  Sue says she didn’t get a look at the kidnapper.  Mr. Wakefield reveals that the money was counterfeit and her fortune is safe.  Sam pops the recorded video into the VCR and asks for help identifying the kidnapper.  No one can recognize him, until Jessica realizes the kidnapper is wearing the ring on his pinky that she gave Jeremy just hours before.  DUN DUN DUN!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently Bruce won the costume contest at the Halloween party by dressing as a Porshe.  Oh…kay?
  • Sam “I’m totally a lady” Diamond wears a “winter-white” Chanel suit

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Ned, we’ve got to do something right away,’ urged Alice. ‘Sue is like a daughter to me.’ Jessica groaned inwardly at her mother’s words.  First Sue had tried to steal her fiance, and now she was stealing her mother” (35). WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
  • “‘Detectives are always men,’ explained Jessica.” (79)
  • “She watched with distaste as Todd began slithering across the lawn like a snake, padding along on his hands and elbows.” (122)
  • “Mrs. Wakefield gasped.  ‘But that’s torture!’ she exclaimed, slicing another piece of cake and putting it on her plate.” (187)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

Sigh.  I’ve been sitting with this book in my purse for like over a week.  That’s how much I didn’t want to read and recap it.  Once I got started, it flew by, but only because the plot is LITERALLY SO DUMB that it doesn’t require any actual attention.  In fact, the less thinking, the better.

Everyone is dumb.  But I still can’t get past how weird this entire plot is, and how quickly it has derailed from where it started.  Like, wouldn’t it just have been enough for Jeremy to be creeper who scams on underage girls and cheats on his fiance?  No?  We need to add a faked blood disease, a faked suicide, an inheritance with weird strings attached, and then a TERRIBLE ATTEMPT at FAKING A KIDNAPPING?  Really?  That’s what these books needed?

I still don’t understand why Sue and Jeremy didn’t stay apart for the 60 days needed for her to get her inheritance.  This makes no sense.  WHY.

 

 

Advertisements

SVH #96: The Arrest

2 Jun

the arrest

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1-2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Elizabeth is still maintaining that she can’t remember anything from the night of the Jungle Prom when she crashed a car and killed Sam.  The police question her with Ned present, but she isn’t able to give them any new information.  They keep her in jail overnight, and everyone FREAKS OUT about this.  When she returns to school, she feels like a social pariah.  Enid is the only person who will talk to her, but when she sees a newspaper in Enid’s bag with an article about her arrest, she assumes that Enid meant for her to see it and runs away.

Ned hires the best lawyer around for “cases like these,” but the guy is a total dick.  After meeting with Liz and Ned, Ned fires the lawyer and says he’ll defend her himself.

Jessica is still really sad about Sam, but psychotically thinks that if Elizabeth gets punished for his death, she will feel better.  She decides that no matter what happens with Elizabeth’s court case, she’s going to get her own revenge and runs crying to Todd, who decides he has to cheer her up and offers to take her to a movie.  Afterwards, Jessica begs him to take her for a walk on the beach, where Todd holds her while she cries.  The two continue to spend time together, arousing suspicion from all their friends.

Lila is so excited about reuniting with her long-lost mother that it seems all her problems have temporarily disappeared.  She obsesses over wearing the perfect clothes and obtaining the perfect look to meet her mother, which drives her friends crazy.  When her dad and Lila go to Los Angeles to pick up Grace, Lila is taken by her beauty and disgusted by her “lover,” a wiry Frenchman named Pierre.  Lila gets upset that her mother ditches their coffee gabfest to attend to Pierre’s needs and cries some more.

Margo is still going by Michelle in Ohio and generally being a crazy person.  She locks Georgie in the closet while she files her nails and then kicks him in the head a bunch.  Um, okay.  Then she has a nightmare and realizes it’s time to move on to California, where her “real” family awaits.  She takes Georgie for a picnic, drowns him, steals his mother’s jewelry, and hops a Greyhound to California.  At a bus station somewhere, she sees an old lady with a newspaper.  There’s a picture of Elizabeth on the front, and Margo realizes she looks just like her.  She presumably kills the old lady, takes the paper and some money, and continues west.

Nicholas Morrow is lamenting the fact that he’s single even though he’s like, a total catch.  He wonders what’s wrong with him and then proceeds to list off a shit-ton of his excellent qualities.  Um, maybe the problem is that you’re a raging narcissist?  Then he gets a letter telling him he’s been chosen as one of the male contestants on the new dating show Hunks, and he realizes Olivia signed him up for it.  His first date is a girl named Jakki, who wears a lot of black clothing purple eye shadow, and blue lipstick.  She also has a butterfly tattooed on her face.  Date #2 is named Susan and is a “demure” looking chick in a floral dress with minimal makeup but giggles too much.  Date #3 is Ann and she seems juuuuust right, if only she didn’t look so embarrassed.

His first date with Jakki is a disaster, as she picks him up on her motorcycle and takes him to a biker bar called Club Mud.  His second date, with Susan, is super weird. Because she chooses to wear flip flops, they can’t get seated anywhere except for a burger joint, and she laughs the whole time and acts like a child.  I’m convinced there is a mental delay here, but that never crosses Nicholas’s mind.  His third date, with Ann, actually seems to be going pretty well, because he likes her, but he keeps screwing up: he’s late to pick her up, he forgets his wallet, his car gets a flat tire, and he pukes on her when they go to an amusement park.  When it comes time to revisit the dates on the Hunks show, the first two girls eviscerate him, but Ann has lovely things to say.  They kiss in front of the live studio audience.

Steven is worked up into a tizzy about his sister’s arrest and the deteriorating state of his family.  He’s also dealing with a new off-campus apartment and a need for a new roommate.  He sees an ad for someone named Billie Winkler who needs a place, and he calls and leaves a message for Billie to come see the place.  Imagine his surprise when Billie turns out to be a GIRL!

Bruce is still obsessing about Pamela and whether or not the rumors about her are true.  She calls him and begs to hear her out, so they agree to meet so she can explain her side of the story.  They meet at the Box Tree Cafe, but the two are heckled by some dickbags from Big Mesa, and Bruce storms out before Pamela can say anything.  She cries alone in her room.  It’s not her fault that she wouldn’t put out for some dude at Big Mesa who then spread lies about her!

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, it’s the start of the spring term at Steven’s university. I’m not even sure how that works within the timeline, but whatever.
  • The ghostwriter calls Maria Santelli “Maria Santini” in this one.  CUTE.
  • Lila is going through a “Continental” phase which includes eating croissants?
  • Lila and Amy go to a nail salon called Turn of the Nail.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Even though Jessica had played that silly joke on Elizabeth and Sam, the accident obviously had nothing to do with Jessica.  It was all Elizabeth’s fault.” (25)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Everything about this whole manslaughter trial thing is so weird.  First of all, the timeline for Elizabeth’s case is so compressed that it’s mind-boggling.  Also, it is so weird that she maintains she couldn’t be drunk because she never drinks.  The police tested her blood-alcohol level and it came back way higher than the legal limit! Obviously you had alcohol in your system, Elizabeth! Use your tiny brain! People spike drinks! Why is no one suggesting this as a way to fight the charges against her?  I don’t understand.  It isn’t mentioned once as a possibility.

Margo continues to be the creepiest, weirdest psychopath ever.  She’s clearly a schizophrenic, but she’s so badly characterized it’s embarrassing.  Like, the ghost writer couldn’t be bothered to do the most rudimentary research about the disorder?

SVH #90: Don’t Go Home With John

14 May

dontgohomewithjohn

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Lila has been seeing more of John Pfeifer around since he broke up with his girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell, and she’s surprised how interested she is in him.  He’s much more serious and intense than the dudes she’s used to dating, but she can’t help but be flattered when he pays attention to her.  They finally go out on a date, and it goes really well, until they go up to Miller’s Point and he won’t stop fooling around when she asks him to.  Things get a little rough, and she finally gets away from him by grabbing his keys, jabbing him in the neck with them, and then throwing them over the edge of the cliff.

Completely traumatized by the assault and near-rape, Lila blows off Jessica when she calls to find out how the date went.  She completely withdraws into herself, vacillating between thinking she should seek help from someplace like Project Youth to thinking everyone will blame her for what happened because she’s known as a flirt.  Jessica notices how drawn and pale Lila looks, and she’s seriously worried, but no matter how much she prods Lila, she can’t get her to tell her what’s wrong.

Lila throws her costume ball the following weekend (after thinking about cancelling it and making a point to uninvite John from attending), and it’s going along fine.  Lila is even having a good time until John shows up with some random sophomore in tow.  When she sees him, she completely loses her shit and screams at him in front of everyone about how he tried to rape her.  He denies it and leaves with his date, but the damage has been done in that the rumors are flowing.

The following week at school, Lila is plagued by rumors doubting her story.  It doesn’t help that John is completely weird and keeps following her around, standing in her way in the cafeteria and generally making a mockery of her pain.  Jessica asks John’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer Mitchell if she can help at all and encourage John to seek help, and she basically tells Jessica that since he never tried to rape her, she doesn’t think he needs counseling.  Okay.

Lila is miserable until a sophomore named Susan Wyman comes to see her at her house and tells her that the same thing happened to her with John just before he went out with Lila.  Like Lila, she was able to get away when another couple showed up at Miller’s Point.  The two devise a plan to get John to go to the Dairi Burger where they can confront him together.  They do, and after his friends hear Susan’s story, too, everyone turns on John.  Vindication, I guess?

The B-Plot involves Jessica worrying about “losing control” when she makes out with Sam.  They never say sex but instead dance around it, and Jessica decides they need to cool things down before one of them lets things get out of hand.  She makes them date in public so they won’t be tempted until Sam finally sits her down and is like, “I love you and this is crazy.  I’m just as responsible as you are in this situation, blah blah blah.”  Whatever.  Then they make out a bunch.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • After Lila throws John’s keys over the edge of Miller’s Point, he calls her a “little witch.”  If ever there was a time for actual profanity…
  • Lila wears a black Lycra dress with a crushed velvet jacket and pearls for her date with John.
  • Jessica and Sam go as Princess Leia and Han Solo to Lila’s costume ball.  Lila goes as Peter Pan, Enid & Hugh are the body and receiver of a telephone (okay), Elizabeth and Todd are the sun and the moon.  What the hell, guys.
  • The ghostwriter refers to a sitcom as a “situation comedy” at one point, which is…weird?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila had heard of boys acting like this, but she had thought that was only in books and movies.  She had never thought that any boy she knew would behave like, this.  That any boy she went to school with, and talked to, and saw every day–and liked–could scare her so much.” (47)
  • “Just a few days ago Lila had been one of the most attractive girls in Southern California, but now she would have been lucky to come in as a runner-up in a Miss Organic-Egg beauty contest.” (78) LOL WHAT?
  • “‘I mean, I know Lila’s telling the truth, Jessica, but I still have a hard time believing that my friend John did something like that. It’s like Dr. Pfeifer and Mr. Hyde. Anyway, there’s no way of proving what really did go on, is there?'” (112) LIZ IS THE GODDAMN WORST.

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This is a hard one to snark on, because given the subject matter and the series, it’s done fairly well.  Especially when you consider the fact that it was written in the early 90s.  There are still a couple of things worth mentioning, though.

In the book and in some recaps, incredulity is expressed that a person like John could ever do this to someone.  There’s a lot of, “John is a nice guy, and it doesn’t make sense for him to suddenly do this.”  And while the character development is sudden (which is not unusual for this series–consider Suzanne Devlin, etc.), I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for something like this to happen.  In fact, one could argue that having a character like John–who’s been mild-mannered for the most part, and a “good guy”–helps bring nuance to the issue.  Rapists are not all mustache-twirling devils.  They are people who appear otherwise normal, except for the fact that OH YEAH THEY ARE RAPISTS.

The other thing that really, really bothered me about this one was Liz.  It’s already well-established that she’s the fucking worst, but there’s something about her treatment of this issue that really stuck in my craw.  There’s the quote I linked to above, but there are other moments in the book, where Liz says things like, “I’d like Lila to know I support her, even though I’ve had to be polite to John,” where I just sort of rolled my eyes.  There’s so much self-righteousness there.  I don’t know.  My feelings are complicated about a stupid, poorly-written character, but they’re still my feelings.

SVH #84: The Stolen Diary

23 Apr

stolendiary

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Todd tells Liz he’s afraid they’re getting too serious or maybe too comfortable with each other and thinks they should take a break.  Liz is stunned but agrees to it.  She’s in total denial about the fact that he’s clearly interested in another girl named Peggy Abbot, but when everyone starts talking about them and Liz sees them flirting out and about, she realizes it must be true.

So she proceeds to agonize about it for 100 pages.  She writes in her journal, ignores Enid’s problems, and is generally the saddest sack around.  When Kris Lynch, a senior at SVH, asks her to the dance, she turns him down and then reconsiders when she realizes it might be a way to attract Todd’s attention.  This will end well.

It’s clear that Kris is super into Liz, but she’s not interested in him at all.  She feels bad about how excited he was for the dance and agrees to a second date.  It isn’t long before people are referring to him as her boyfriend, even though they have never kissed.  Liz knows she needs to tell Kris she’s not interested, and she decides that the perfect place to do that is at Maria Santelli’s party.  Because nothing says “gentle letdown” like a crowded party, right?

Of course, it’s too noisy at the party, and when Liz tries to pull Kris into a quiet room to break it off, they run into Todd and Peggy, who look like they’re about to make out.  Liz runs out the room and ends up making out with Kris on a stairwell before pushing him away and asking to go home.  He goes totally  nuts on her in the car when she tells him she’s not interested.  After yelling and screaming at her, he pulls over when she asks, but then grabs at her as she gets out of the car.  This is scarily close to sexual assault, but that’s never mentioned.  Liz drops her bag in his car and struggles to put everything back.

The next day at school, Liz can’t find her journal but is distracted when Kris comes by with a white rose for her as a peace offering.  Then the rumors about what happened between them start up.  Kris is claiming they had a “wild night” at Miller’s Point.  Todd approaches Liz and tells her he was wrong, and they get back together.  But then Kris tells him he knows all about the kinds of fights Todd and Liz have had, and Todd blows off their reunion dinner.  Kris does the same thing to Enid, who then gets super pissed at Liz.

Jessica figures out that there’s no way Liz would have told Kris all this stuff about the people she loves, and when she confronts him about it, she isn’t even ruffled when he pulls out details about her.  It just fuels her desire to get to the bottom of whatever has happened.  So she figures out that he must have swiped Liz’s diary–and once again, she confronts him and blackmails him into telling the truth.  Then she makes Todd and Enid meet with Kris, who comes clean with them.  All is well in the world.

The B-Plot is Enid trying to decide if she wants to get back together with Hugh Grayson.  I guess things didn’t work out with Jeffrey?  There are a few missed connections, a case of jumping to conclusions, and finally a last-minute reconciliation.  I guess, good for them?  Whatever, I hate Enid.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Kris picks Liz up for the dance in a pink Cadillac
  • Kris normally drives a custom bright green Volkswagen Beetle
  • The twins are into green: Jess wears a bright green sundress, Liz wears a seafoam green dress

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica groaned dramatically. ‘I can’t believe we share the same genes,’ she said. ‘What I know about boys would fill a book, but what you know wouldn’t fill a postcard.'” (6)
  • “It was nice to know that she was pretty and popular, but it would be even nicer to know that the boy she thought was special felt the same way about her.” (55)
  • “‘It’s amazing, isn’t it?’ asked Jessica as Elizabeth disappeared back up the stairs. ‘You wouldn’t think someone like Elizabeth had anything to put in a journal. “Dear Diary, Today I went to school. I got another A. I wrote another articles for The Oracle. I went home and did my homework.”‘” (93)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are a few things that really bothered me about this one, the first of which is how desperate Enid and Elizabeth both are.  A common theme in these books is that the girls are defined by their relationships with boys, and that’s really heavily played up here.  Enid keeps joking about joining a convent because she can’t make it work with Hugh, and I guess I don’t really understand how this is at all relative to other teens.  Girl, you are sixteen years old, and you are thirsty as hell.  Give it a rest.

Liz, too, is guilty of this, thinking only of how to get Todd back and how lost she feels without him.  She uses Kris throughout the book in order to make Todd jealous or get his attention, and even though she tries to explain herself the night of Maria’s party, it’s not completely surprising that Kris doesn’t handle it well.  I mean, Liz has been using him, and he’s right about that part, at least.

The part that is surprising is how much Kris FREAKS OUT about it.  They’ve had two dates, and he seems to think they are destined for marriage.  He gets a little rough with her, too, which I didn’t like.  There’s no mention of this again, and I fear that normalizes it.  Then, when he spreads all the rumors about Liz, his crazy gets amped up.  But when Jessica confronts him about it, he’s painted as sympathetic again.  These characters are not complicated enough for this sort of thing to work.  Kris is either a sociopath or he’s not.  He can’t be both.  Ugh.

SVH #82: Kidnapped by the Cult!

18 Apr

kidnappedbythecult

Estimated Elapsed Time: 4-5 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica believes her life is super unfair because her parents grounded her after she lied about failing a bunch of tests in math class.  She feels alienated from her friends, who are having parties and sleepovers without her, and disconnected from Sam, who seems more interested in his motorbike racing than in shopping with her.  When she finally is released from her grounding, she goes to the mall, where she meets Ted, who tells her about the Good Friends and invites her to have dinner with them.  When Jessica goes to have dinner at the place where all the Good Friends live, she’s freaked out by the neighborhood and then sort of taken in with how earnest and nice all the people in the house are.  When she meets Adam Marvel, the leader of the Good Friends, she’s smitten, because he’s gorgeous.

At any rate, Jessica starts spending all her time with the Good Friends, helping around the house, participating in book group discussions, and canvassing houses and asking people for money at the mall.  She undergoes a complete physical transformation, wearing conservative clothing, and doing all her homework on time.  While her family notices this, they don’t seem bothered by it at all.  Sam is, though, because she keeps blowing him off and lying to him about where she is.

It isn’t until Ned conveniently mentions that a new cult has come to town called the Good Friends that Liz starts to worry.  Ned says that his law firm has been approached by some charities who worry this cult is using their names to collect donations that are then being used for the cult’s own selfish purposes.  When Elizabeth asks Jessica if she’s heard of the cult, she’s shocked at how defensive Jessica is about the whole thing.

Then Liz gets Sam to insist Jessica go out with him one night, and she infiltrates the cult in Jessica’s stead.  She’s amazed as she watches these “clear glass marbles” parrot everything Adam says.  When some of the members come in to report that Brian, one of the teens, has gone missing, Elizabeth sees how angry Adam is.  Turns out that Brian’s parent kidnapped him away from the cult to deprogram him.  Ned tells Elizabeth and Jessica that he’ll testify against the Good Friends once he’s healthy again.  Um, okay.

Jessica tells Adam this, and the two decide to kidnap Brian back.  Then things escalate, and Adam convinces Jessica to leave town with him and the rest of the Good Friends.  But Liz, Sam and Todd stage an intervention as Adam is rounding them up into a van.  Sam runs into the house and finds Susan, a member of the cult, unconscious, bound and gagged.  Guess she was a reporter and Adam found her out.  The police show up, Adam is arrested, and Jessica goes home with Elizabeth. Yay?

The B-Plot is all about a new bowling team that’s been started at Sweet Valley High.  Liz and Todd join the team, and it isn’t long before Liz has caught the eye of the team’s coach, Justin Silver.  He begins to basically beg her to go out with him, and while she politely declines, he eventually wears her down to the point where she feels obligated to go out once with him.  She finally gets him to stop after that, but not before making Todd a little jealous.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Apparently the SVH cheerleaders only hold practice on Tuesday afternoons?
  • There’s a new bowling team starting up at school
  • Apparently Jessica doesn’t like popcorn? But she’s eaten it in a bunch of books when she watches TV at home. Weird. Also, I hate myself for knowing this.
  • She also hates tofu and muesli, both of which she eats in this book.
  • The local bowling alley is called The Fast Lane

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Lila was telling Cara where the best dress shops were in London, and Amy was trying to talk with an English accent.” (7)
  • “There was a cafe beside the artificial waterfall at the mall that had always made Jessica think of Paris.” (15)
  • “‘This is ridiculous,’ she said out loud. ‘I’m not going to find people who understand me here. I’m going to find people who shop in thrift stores.'” (28)
  • “‘People don’t just disappear in shopping malls,’ Adam said evenly.” (117) [Blogger’s note: actually, they do. Hasn’t Adam ever read The Face on the Milk Carton?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis: 

I mean, there are tons of things that strain credulity in this one.  First of all, Jessica strikes me as someone who would be the least likely to fit the criteria for a good cult member.  Second of all, her ridiculous transformation from popular, confident teen to one who is obsessed with service never rings true.  This is not a series that prides itself of subtlety, but even by SVH standards, this is ridiculous.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this one is how ill-defined the cult actually is, though.  There’s no religious affiliation with this cult, which, fine.  Despite the fact that that’s a common trait of these organizations, I’ll let it slide.  But there isn’t anything that tells me that Adam Marvel is particularly magnetic (except for his good looks) or has a message that would really resonate with teens.  Whatever, I am definitely overthinking this.

SVH #65: Trouble at Home

24 Feb

troubleathome

Estimated Elapsed Time: About a month?

Summary/Overview:

Alice Wakefield’s firm puts forth a bid to design a new wing in the Valley Mall, and it’s taking up all her time.  This means she’s not home to cook dinner or grocery shop, which makes Ned Wakefield UNBELIEVABLY angry, and it makes the kiddos pretty nervous.  It seems like Alice and Ned are fighting all the time, and Ned is clearly professional unsatisfied.  When Maria Santelli’s dad, who happens to be running for mayor, is accused of taking bribes, Ned decides to defend him.  Alice is unsure about this, but Ned pushes forth, because he is an ETHICAL LAWYER, unlike pretty much every other lawyer he knows.

Apparently Ned holds a lot of power in Sweet Valley or they don’t have much of a backlog of cases, because within days of Santelli being accused and Ned taking the case, the trial has begun.  It doesn’t go well, and Ned is weary/crabby at home, when he is home.  The twins worry about the fact that their parents seem to be so disconnected, but Liz is much more worried than Jessica.

Ned and Alice seem to be driven further apart when the judge suspends the case due to lack of evidence.  In this blogger’s professional opinion, it sounds like the case was thrown out, but the legal terms in this book are so APPALLINGLY INACCURATE that it hardly seems to matter.  Ned is crushed by this perceived loss, and this is worsened by the fact that Alice’s firm wins the bid and is designing the new mall wing.  She’s busier than ever, and Ned is super resentful of her success.

But then Mr. Santelli pulls out of the mayoral race and Henry Patman shows up with some other guy at the Wakefield house and asks Ned to run.  Ned is flattered and seems to be seriously considering taking the candidacy.  He neglects to tell his wife this, though.

The entire family takes their “annual” vacation to a remote cabin on Lake Tahoe, and Jessica, Elizabeth, and Steven hope that this will help their parents fall back in love with each other.  But that doesn’t happen, as Alice’s firm gets a hold of her at the cabin when some things go wrong and Ned blows up about it.  He gives her an ultimatum: her job or their marriage, and she literally rides away from her family on horseback. CLIFFHANGER.

The B-Plot involves Jessica becoming addicted to calling a 900-number for teens.  This teen line is advertised as a way for teens to connect with other teens, but it costs them $1/minute.  Remember when this was a thing?  At any rate, Jessica meets “Charlie” through this teen line and decides she’s in love with him, even though he keeps putting off actually meeting.  He’s totally catfishing her.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Ned belongs to a legal fraternity called Psi Epsilon.
  • A new Italian restaurant called Toscas opened up in Sweet Valley.
  • Wakefield Family House Rule: No TV at mealtimes.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Jessica felt her cheeks get hot. This guy was terrific. If he was this great to talk to on the telephone, she could just imagine how wonderful he’d be in person!” (40)
  • “‘Out in the open,’ she repeated incredulously. ‘Jess, don’t you ever feel sorry about anything you do? Can’t you admit what you did was wrong?'” (120)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book is the worst, not only because it’s so heavily focused on Ned and Alice, but because the stakes here are so low that I can’t even bring myself to care.  Ned and Alice are not going to get a divorce, guys.  They just aren’t.  You don’t spend 60 fucking books telling readers about how rock-solid a marriage is to have it come crumbling down in the span of 130 pages over some hectic work schedules.  Give me an affair or a drug problem or something!

But what is interesting to note is how fucking sexist the undertones of the novel are.  Alice is literally expected to do it all: she’s expected to work a full-time job, keep a trim figure, take care of her children, and get dinner on the table by six o’clock (Ned FREAKS OUT when she brings home Chinese food one night).  Ned gives her endless grief about how the family doesn’t come first for her all of a sudden, and it feels really hollow, because his career has come first a lot of times before this.

Probably I’m giving this too much thought.  I know I am, because I have a blog devoted to recapping Sweet Valley High novels in excruciating detail.  But it’s interesting to see what I notice this time around that my 10-year-old self completely missed.

This is kind of a two-parter, because nothing gets resolved here, plot-wise.  However, the powers that be decided to publish Bruce’s Story between novels (maybe hoping to stall for some time and find an actual plot?), so we’ll be reading that before we get to #66: Who’s to Blame?

SVH #46: Decisions

18 Nov

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Robin Wilson has been accepted early decision to Sarah Lawrence.  The book goes on and on about how she has to have the perfect grades to get into college a year early, and I want to throw the book against the wall, because “early decision” does not mean that you decide to go to college a year early.  It means that you apply early in your senior year and you are locking yourself into attending that school if you get in.  OKAY?  At any rate, Robin’s aunt has pushed her into going to Sarah Lawrence, because she’s an alumna and will pay for Robin to go.  Robin’s mom also pushes her to go there, because it’s a full ride.  Robin isn’t sure if she wants to go.  She waffles about this without actually weighing the pros and cons for the entire book.

Things go from bad to worse when her boyfriend George Warren blows up at her about even thinking about going to college across the country.  Robin hadn’t told him, so she assumes that her best friend Annie Whitman did, and the two have a fight.  Robin feels terrible, and it’s affecting her diving abilities, which is bad, because there’s a huge competition coming up.  To add serious insult to injury, Robin’s aunt Fiona comes into town and freaks out when Robin says she isn’t sure about Sarah Lawrence.  She also disparages diving as a sport and acts like a total snob.  She tells Robin that if she doesn’t go to SL, she’ll never see another penny from her.

Robin’s not doing well during the warm-ups at the diving competition because she’s so depressed.  When she sees George pull her family into the bleachers, she feels a swell of confidence and totally rocks the diving competition.  Afterward, Robin and Annie make up, George and Robin make up, and Robin and her aunt make up.  Fiona tells her she’ll pay for college wherever she wants to go.

The B-Plot has to do with Jessica getting a babysitting job for the Kane family.  She ends up falling for Alex Kane, the little girl’s older brother.  Alex is a serious musician trying to work on his senior composition, and when Jessica can’t seem to get his attention, she decides to become a musical prodigy…using a plastic recorder.  The problem is, Jessica’s terrible.  She can’t get it to work right, and nothing seems to catch Alex’s attention.  When she fakes a fainting spell, he’s concerned, and then he starts to tell her that once he’s done with grad school, maybe they could date, she decides she’s no longer interested and that’s the end of that.

Also, Liz discovers that she’s really good at the recorder, but she doesn’t want to step on Jessica’s toes, so she angsts about whether or not she can take it up as a hobby.  Jessica doesn’t care though, so Liz decides to pursue it.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Don’t worry,’ Robin said.  ‘Every time I go to diving practice and see myself in a bathing suit, I say, “Don’t eat–don’t eat.” So far it’s worked.'” (10-11)
  • “Obviously the way to this man’s heart was through music, she reasoned.  So it was equally obvious that although she had no ear for music, sang off-key, and had never wanted to learn to play an instrument, Jessica had to become a serious musician.  It was as simple as that.” (19)
  • “Sometimes she felt like living with her impetuous twin was like being part of a soap opera!” (28) [Did they just break the fourth wall?]

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Robin has two little brothers: Troy (8th grade) and Adam (9th grade)
  • Aunt Fiona carries Gucci luggage and favors chunky jewelry with semiprecious stones

(Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

There are so many things wrong with this story that I feel overwhelmed every time I try to begin to analyze it.  Let’s start with the issue of Robin herself: her weight is still mentioned constantly, she lets people walk all over her, and she can’t seem to make up her mind about anything.  Is this the strong-minded girl who turned down PBA after they decided to take her once she was skinny?  I mean, she’s always been weird about her weight, but since when does she let George yell at her and make her feel like shit?  Ugh.

Also, the issue of Aunt Fiona: the woman is a caricature of what an overbearing adult is supposed to be.  The woman is like every bad stereotype pop culture has ever had of a wealthy, privileged woman who tries to enforce her own ideas about life onto other people.  She uses her money as a weapon and maintains her power by making everyone else around her feel stupid, small, and uncultured.  This is Sweet Valley, so we know that she’s going to have a change of heart by the end of the book, but she’s so obnoxious that the ending isn’t cathartic so much as disappointing.  I wanted Robin to push her into the pool or something.